external and internal link building

Link Building 101 - History and Function

6 min read

Links are the backbone of the Internet. Given that their primary function is to enable easy navigation throughout the Web, it is not a surprise that they play a major role when it comes to determining the overall quality of every single page on the Web.

This is why processes such as link building are an integral and irreplaceable part of search engine optimization (SEO). But what exactly is link building, what types of links are there and why is linking so important? Let’s dive right in and answer these questions!

What is Link Building?

Link building is the process of obtaining hyperlinks to a page on your website from other pages across the Web.

The Web is essentially a directory of documents that need to be interlinked in order for us - the users, to be able to find what we are looking for. Additionally, resources need to be discoverable for people to utilize them, meaning that creating links is an absolute must.

As we already mentioned, the primary function of any link is to provide navigation for a given visitor, reader or user in general so that they can reach the information that they need. Links, however, are not only used by people, they are also utilized by Web crawlers and search robots to map out the Internet and understand what each page is about so that they can later on display that information to those who are searching for it.

They do this by generating a backlink profile for every page and website, which is then combined with a number of other unknown factors and used as a ranking signal when it comes to determining a given page’s presence in the search engine results pages (SERPs). These factors remain unknown due to the complex nature of the algorithms as they utilize a plethora of different ranking signals.

Some are more widely known like content relevancy, quality and timeliness, an active SSL certificate, as well as user experience factors such as page loading speed and overall accessibility, while others remain a well-kept secret. However, links remain an irreplaceable and very integral part of the crawling algorithms. After all, if a page is linked to from many different domains and pages, then it must contain relevant information and useful content, giving it authority and credibility.

Difference between internal & external linking

When it comes to the Web, there are 2 separate types of links - internal and external.

Internal links are those that are linking from one page on your website to another on your website. While they might not seem that important at a first-glance, internal links play a pivotal role when it comes to gaining your website authority for a particular topic, which is why you should link appropriate and topically-close content together.

The second type of linking is external links. External links are hyperlinks from other websites and pages that link back to your website. These types of links are crucial for your content, helping your pages build up authority and viability as long as the links come from pages that are trusted and relevant to the content on your pages.

It is important to mention that trying to trick the system by using sneaky and unethical tactics for getting backlinks will result in penalties for your website and content, which can range from warnings to complete website takedowns! You should always aim to present useful content and make sure to build your links appropriately with the end user’s best interest in mind - people want relevant information, not useless text that has been linked to!

Why pages on the Web need to have authority

The answer is quite simple really - the incredible volume of websites and content that currently populate the Web.

Search algorithms need to filter through a substantial amount of pages when displaying results for a given query. Each time you search for something on Google for example, you receive a small extract of all results that can be found on the Web. While this selection is deemed to be the most useful for you by the algorithms, it is impressive to see the sheer amount of pages that they need to sift through in order to show you the most relevant answers to your request.

number of search engine results

The incredible volume of pages and content made it a requirement for search engine algorithms to develop a way in which they could evaluate everything in a matter of seconds and extract the most relevant results.

In the beginning of the Web, crawlers weren’t able to make a difference between SPAM and quality content, hence why some websites in the early stages of the Web were able to exploit the algorithm by stuffing their pages with keywords and getting a high number of backlinks.However, through the years (and after many consecutive updates focusing on quality, relevance and authority) search engine algorithms have finally reached the stage where they are intelligent enough to filter out irrelevant information while also providing us as users with what we need to know with AI being ready to soon usher in a new era for search in general. Despite this, links remain one of the most important signs when it comes to finding good, relevant content.

Finally, anchor tag text is also very important. This text is also used by crawlers as a signal to determine what the linked to page is about and what a given user can expect to find when they follow that link.

How to approach link building

The task of obtaining high-quality links from relevant websites in your field can seem quite daunting and the truth is that the process is by no means easy. You will be faced with a lot of rejection along the way, but you should always strive to continue moving forward with your link building attempts as they will definitely pay off in the long run.

Generally speaking, there are 2 ways in which you can approach link building - organic and through manual efforts.

Organic links

Building links organically involves creating high-quality, relevant content that provides useful information, research or a new perspective on a given topic. Such content is very interesting and naturally linkable.

Manual outreach

While incredibly beneficial, organic link building is something that most websites will struggle with due to them lacking authority and the appropriate platform to promote their content, especially if they are just starting out.

This is where manual link building comes in. As evident by its name, this type of link building involves you having to manually reach out to relevant websites and ask them to link back to your content as it is useful, relative and interesting, which will bring value to their page as well.

This can be especially difficult if you don’t have the reputation and credibility, which is why you need to create a very strong pitch and promote your content in such a way that others can also see the benefits.

Don’t be discouraged if you get rejected - just keep trying, work on your pitch and you will be getting backlinks in no time! Just remember that your content needs to be up to par with the standard of the websites that you are reaching out to! But if manual outreach can’t get the job done, you can also give other strategies a try.

Guest posting - a good way to gain some reputation

Guest posting involves producing content for a website in the form of a guest post. This method can be quite useful for reaching audiences and presenting your content to them through a different platform from your own.

You will also attract more attention to you as an author, which can then result in getting more visitors for your own website!

Broken link building - fast & easy

Broken link building involves finding links that are no longer functional and informing website owners that a particular link has been ‘broken’, offering them to link back to your content instead. While this seems easy, you need to be able to provide content that is relevant, rather than just offering a random page on your website.

You will also need a tool that can help you find such links like SemRush, Moz or Ahrefs.

How important is link building?

Just like any aspect of the search algorithm, the impact of external and internal links remains unknown. However, is it safe to say that external links in particular play a substantial role in your website gaining more credibility and topical relevance.

Because of this, regardless of the strategy that you decide to use, you should definitely focus on putting in a lot of effort towards building high-quality, relevant links as they will not only give your website more exposure and traffic, but also more credibility and reputation.

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