What is Link Building

by a Philadelphia SEO Agency

What is Link Building & HOW IS IT USED BY AN SEO AGENCY?

Inbound links to your website have been the backbone of search engine optimization for a long time. Ever since Google cofounder Larry Page invented PageRank back in the late ’90s, links, and link building have been the primary way that the Google search engine has determined it's rankings.  Twenty-plus years later, getting high-quality inbound links to your website is still an important element in any SEO campaign. The need to understand and implement high-quality link building campaigns is essential if you're going to compete online, and that isn't going to change any time soon.

Definition of link building

Link building is the process of acquiring hyperlinks from other websites back to your own.  To the search engines, links are like up-votes for your website.  The more positive votes, the better your site will do in search. Search engines use hyperlinks to crawl between the individual pages on your website, and they will crawl the links between various websites.  Search engines keep track of the number of links to your site, and give you a score called PageRank.

How Link Building Started

Larry Page - Co-Founder of Google
Larry Page - Co-Founder of Google

When Larry Page developed Google’s PageRank algorithm, each hyperlink back to your website acted as a vote of confidence for that page.  This was groundbreaking stuff, and it meant that Google could look at more than just your website's content in order to determine which site should rank where in their search index.

The premise was that websites will naturally recommend high-quality resources to their readers. For example, a site with content about Search Engine Optimization would link to tools that are commonly used by SEO Agencies. It was so effective because it was based upon the idea that a link could be seen as a vote of confidence about a website.  Bad sites would get links if they didn't deserve to, and good sites would. The theory is that when someone links to another website, they are effectively saying it is a good resource. Otherwise, they wouldn't link to it. Much in the same way that you wouldn't send a friend to a bad hotel.

Every page on your website and every keyword that is used is like a mini-popularity contest. Usually, the top spots in Google's index go-to sites that have collected the most inbound links to their content from relevant websites.

Good LInks & Bad links

However, Google is smart, and they realized that SEO agencies would quickly reverse engineer their algorithm and create farms of links that they could direct other own websites and their client's websites.  So Google needed to create a system where only good, relevant links counted.  At one point, Google encouraged website owners to garner links from directory websites, however, later when the process because abused, the rolled out a series of updates that reduced the value which these links passed back to a website.

Therefore, they designed the PageRank system to give every backlink a different score. Backlinks from relevant, well-respected websites would have positive impacts.  Backlinks from link farms or non-relevant sources would have a negative impact on your ranking.

  • Good backlinks: These links come from websites in your field which contain the same kind of content that you do.
  • Neutral backlinks: Links from unrelated websites don’t do you any good as their website's content does not relate to your keywords. Sometimes these links may use the "nofollow" attribute.
  • Bad backlinks: Links the originate from link farms, spam sites, or otherwise nefarious sites known to sell links.  These low-quality links can actually cause your site to drop in your rankings.
  • Best Link - from Nintendo the Legend of Zelda!
How to get Links?

An SEO link building campaign is a process of actively trying to increase links that your website has.  A successful SEO link building campaign will always rely on creating and promoting assets that are deemed high enough quality in which they will garner a link back to your website on their own merits.  These assets can take any number of forms, but will normally fit into one of the following categories.

  • Website Content
  • Industry Data
  • Products
  • Unique Services
  • People & Profiles
  • Online Tools
  • PR Notices - (events/charity/news/awards)

While you may find it relatively easy to get people to visit your website, it is a whole new level of engagement for them to actually link back to it. Linking to a website requires substantially more trust and effort from someone. You will need to build a level of trust and emotional connection for them to take this step. the five steps of link building

One - Identify your audience.
Two - Create uniquely awesome and sharable content.
Three - Find an angle
Four - Outreach and Promotion
Five - Follow up


Oftentimes identifying linking targets is challenging.  However, we have come up with two ways that are very easy and also very effective.  In fact, Google has built them right into their search engine.  You can use the Google search bar to do an "inURL" search, or a "site:" search.

inURL EXAMPLE:  "inurl:philadelphia"
In the example above, the inURL search parameter tells Google to only show results that have the word "philadelphia" within the URL.

site: EXAMPLE: "site:www.iqnection.com"
In the example above, the "site:" search parameter tells Google to only show results from the website "www.iqnection.com.

"intitle:" site: EXAMPLE: "inTitle:Philadelphia SEO agency"
In the example above, the inTitle search parameter tells Google to only show results that have the word "apple" within the page titles.

For a long list of all of Google's search parameters, take a look at this great resource.

Managing Your Website's Backlink Profile

Virtually every site that has been on the internet for some time will start to acquire links.  These links are typically from directory websites that are looking to add you to their index.  There are some very important and popular directory websites that your will want your site included in, for instance a Search Engine like Google!  However, most links that come from smaller directory websites do not carry much positive weight and serve little or no purpose in being part of.

Many times people try to get backlinks to their website by paying a service to provide them.  Sometimes SEO Agencies purchase these services for their clients hoping to improve their ranking.  These services claim to provide lots of high-quality backlinks to your site for a very reasonable fee.  A word of warning.  Paying for backlinks will most likely cause you to acquire poor quality links, which will ultimately hurt your SEO ranking.

if you want to see which websites have links in their content that point back to your website, we recommend using the following tool.

When looking at the data provided, here are several areas to focus on.

1. The Total number of backlinks

The first thing to consider is perhaps the simplest, the total number of backlinks pointing to your site.  A simple quantity amount can indicate how competitive your site is. A large quantity of strong, relevant links is a great indicator that your website has a healthy backlink profile.

IQnection's backlink profile.

2. The number of Unique domains with backlinks

The more domains that provide backlinks to your website the better. If one website is providing 50 backlinks to your site, that still counts as a backlink from a single domain.  Multiple links from the same unique domain are worth less than the same number from different websites.

IQnection's backlink profile.

3. Page performance of backlinked URL's

The page performance data in your backlink profile shows which URLs on your website have the most backlinks pointing to them. This data can show you which pages have acquired the most links and can indicate the performance of various sections of your website.

If you notice that your highest-priority pages have weaker backlinks pointing to them, you could consider:

  • Improve the content on the pages
  • Make sure the page loads fast
  • Adding images and infographics.
  • Improving the page’s keyword optimization
  • Do link-building outreach
5. quality of the backlinks

The quality score of a backlink indicates how good, or bad, a backlinking website is. Disavowing these backlinks will prevent your site from being associated with their spammy ones, cutting the chances of your beloved website being penalized due to the association.

6. Relevance

It is important for you to acquire backlinks from websites that are similar to yours.  If not, then Google will see them as not being relevant. Having backlinks that aren’t relevant to your industry won’t improve your SEO. Google will see you as a generalized site, not one suited to longtail, industry-specific keywords.

7. Backlink placement

Search engines love editorial-type links that look natural on the page. Backlinks that blend right into the content look more natural—and tie in with a lower spam score!—unlike backlinks that have been disguised behind the white text, tiny font, and code.

What Does Google & an SEO Agency Have to Say About Backlinks?

How do you get high-quality links back to your site? 
  • Creating content that’s both unique and relevant to your industry gives people a good reason to link their site to yours.
  • This includes blog posts, as well as images, videos, and infographics.
  • Look for the chance to comment on other people's blogs, taking care to include helpful information, and link back to your website for even more info.
  • Seek out high-quality sites that are within your industry, but don’t compete with your business and see if they’ll link to you. These links can often come in the form of pages about partner relationships, or directories.

Before you request links from outside sources, make sure they are a website that’s relevant to your industry. Ask yourself how much authority these websites have. A site that you came across on the sixth page of search results might have good material, but it won’t be your best bet in terms of boosting your authority.

All of this can take some work. We spent a lot of time here on link building and making sure the connections we make are ones that will get our clients their ideal customers.

Should you Link to Other Websites

Yet there are some good reasons for linking to other websites: A study published last year by the British marketing firm Reboot found that there is a positive relationship between the outbound links on a web page and its search engine ranking.

If you link to other websites, you improve your chances to be seen on social media.The company created 10 new sites that targeted the same keywords. Each site contained similar, but not identical content.  However, only half of them included links to “very high authority” sources. Sites like the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and the Genome Research Institute.

After a five-month period, the study concluded that search engine algorithms do take outbound links into account. The five pages that included these links all ended up ranking higher than the pages that had no external links.

When you link to other websites, it sends them a message that you’re not operating in a bubble.  We recommend that you become part of a larger community. When you link out to another website make sure you do it in a consistent and thoughtful way.  Doing so will increase the chances that other sites will link back to you.

And if they don’t link back to you right away, don’t fret. You’ve at least gotten their attention, which means you have a greater chance of networking with them down the road.