February 15, 2023

Why Link Building Still Matters

By: Mary Hiers

Link building is a proven way to build authority. When the content from a high-quality website links to your content, you are likely to receive additional traffic, if nothing else. Moreover, Google appears to evaluate your website’s authority at least partly based on the websites that link to it.

As businesses use AI tools to create more content, backlinks signal that a particular content piece has quality. A top-authority domain like Microsoft or The New York Times isn’t going to link to content without thoroughly vetting it first. 

Link building may not be as important as it was ten years ago, but don’t make the mistake of believing that it doesn’t matter. 

Why Backlinks Lost Their Luster

In the roughly 2010 to 2011 time frame, link building was all the rage. Naturally, people came up with ways to get backlinks that were less than honest. Once bad content could have just as many backlinks as good content, suddenly backlinks had significantly less clout.

Google’s 2012 Penguin update and its later Panda update strove to do away with all the backlink chicanery. Since then, many webmasters have considered link building a relatively unimportant element of search engine optimization (SEO).

But backlinks still matter. 

Research by ahrefs shows that two-thirds of websites have no backlinks at all. Adding backlinks automatically places your site in the minority of sites with these valuable features. 

The difference in 2023 is that how you obtain backlinks and where you get them from matter significantly more than they did before 2012. Here’s what that means for you, the typical business website owner.

Quality Link Building Beats Quantity

Trying to get as many backlinks as possible is foolish now. Quality means far more than quantity. One link from Apple will boost your website traffic more than 20 links from low-authority websites would.

So there is no reason to write content motivated by how many backlinks it can earn. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t write content worthy of being linked to. You should. But link building by writing content solely based on how linkable it is won’t do much for SEO.

Some Content Types Build Links Better

That said, some content types attract links more readily than others. For example, the following content types tend to attract links better than the “standard” blog post.

  • Original research results
  • “Catchy” content, such as tables, graphs, visualizations, and infographics
  • Distillations that explain complex subjects in plain language for lay readers

Original Research

If you conduct original research from which you derive useful data or statistics, you are likely to attract links from websites that would have interest in that data. Your research should be sound and should explain how you arrived at your results.

For example, suppose your research reveals that X% of American households had not cleaned their carpets for over two years. In that case, carpet cleaning companies will likely find that data useful and link to it.

Catchy Formats for Link Building 

Having a colorful, professionally-designed infographic in place of your usual blog post may attract more attention than you expect. These captivating ways of curating and presenting information often attract links from relevant websites. 

A graph or table showing, for example, how the price of roofing materials has changed over the past 15 years could be useful to home improvement businesses. They may link to your graph to help customers better understand how services are priced. 

Complex Subjects, Simple Language

People generally like learning new things. But few people have the patience to buckle down and do all the tangential research necessary to learn about a complex topic. 

A business that created, for example, a page explaining blockchain technology in terms that the average person could understand may find more backlinks than usual to this content. People want to learn, but few have time to dive deep into a complex topic.

Claim Links That Should Belong to You

While you don’t have to pursue backlinks with great fervor, there is no reason not to claim links that ought to belong to your business. If someone else’s website talks about your brand without a link to your website, you should contact them and ask for a link from the initial mention of your brand name.

You may be surprised at how many brand mentions your business gets without backlinks. Many social listening tools will help you find brand links, and some of these tools are free to use. 

Don’t Forget Internal Link Building

Internal link building strengthens your SEO. Relevant links within your various web pages help people learn more about important topics. Internal links also help search engine crawlers understand how you structure your website. 

Your website navigation should be the primary tool for getting around your site. But internal links can add auxiliary navigation for users who need information at the moment without having to work through the navigation menu.

Finally, check for broken internal links regularly and ask your team to report or fix any broken internal links they find. Broken links disrupt the user experience, and while fixing them may not do much for your SEO, keeping the links working indicates professionalism and attention to detail.

What Not to Do

Don’t even consider buying backlinks. Google will find out, and your site will likely incur a penalty, which can wreck your SEO.

Likewise, don’t enter into any “link trading” agreements with organizations designed for that activity. Google sniffs these out easily, too, and will apply penalties. 

The State of Link Building in 2023

In the past 15 years, link building rose rapidly in importance for SEO, then dropped precipitously in importance when people started abusing link building. Link building still matters, although it will probably never go back to being as big a ranking factor as it was before Google’s Penguin update. 

That’s good news for most bloggers and content creators. They don’t have to spend excessive time chasing as many backlinks as they can get. 

Link building today primarily means creating content of such high quality and integrity that it naturally attracts backlinks. And when it happens, these backlinks will probably be high-quality links that will boost SEO. 

Link building still matters. The importance of backlinks has changed significantly over the past 15 years. Abuse of link building and other bad practices like keyword stuffing caused Google to rethink its strategy and fine-tune its algorithm to punish underhanded SEO tactics. 

Backlinks to your site from high-quality websites are good for your SEO. Whether or not they push you up in the search rankings, they almost certainly drive more traffic your way.

It All Comes Back to Quality

The bedrock of your link-building strategy should be creating high-quality content. If you do original research, make compelling infographics, or otherwise create content that informs and answers questions skillfully, you’ll find that you attract more high-quality organic backlinks. 

If you have any questions about creating web content that will fulfill your SEO goals, why not set up a call with our team? We design and build websites complete with SEO-fortified content, and we stay on top of the latest SEO developments.

Your business website is too important an asset to exist low in the search results where people are unlikely to find it. Let us show you how to use link building and other SEO techniques to get your website the attention it deserves. 


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