Links have been the subject of great contention, amongst both search engines and search engine optimisers.
The problem is search engines still have to be wary of link-building because it’s used abusively for SEO and webmasters doing honest link-building are tired of either having their link-building rendered redundant, or worse yet, actually being punished for it.
In general, your link profile can be divided into three categories:
• Valuable links – Links which seem relevant to the page and aren’t added excessively just for optimisation’s sake.
• Worthless links – Google should completely ignore links when they aren’t seen as deliberately misleading but aren’t specifically trying to give more value to users. They may also be manipulative even if they aren’t in excess.
• Spam links – link building which is geared to fool search engine algorithms and isn’t giving visitors any kind of valuable new content.
Let’s have a look at some general link strategies and what effect you can expect them to have on your optimisation.
Links in Content
Let’s start with the best. Having websites link to your content directly from the body of their content is the most valuable type of link.
This link says to search engines that another website considers your content as an authority on a subject in theirs. Which indicates that you are somewhat respected in that community. This would of course depend on the quality of the website linking to you.
This is when you and another site –or a number of sites- make an agreement to link to each other. Depending on the thematic aspects of the respective sites, this will either be ignored or penalised.
If you’re both computer-tech sites it will be seen as logical, but if it’s seen as a straight reciprocal link, it may get flagged. Reciprocal links should only really be used to stimulate traffic, rather than SEO.
A link on a website which houses a range of links, divided up into a respective industry category. Search engines don’t like these as they were one of the first black-hat link building strategies.
There are still ones which are quite respected and might bring in some link juice, but the sites and the SEO benefits are limited. Although to generate traffic, having your website on a relevant industry directory makes a lot of sense.
Footer and Side-bar Links
Links below content or in a site-wide sidebar. As these were also very early optimisation offenders, Google isn’t a fan of them either. They will either ignore them or penalise the site, if they seem like paid links.
Forum Post Links
Most links placed in forums posts will be changed into no-follow links by the website so that they can avoid any negative SEO implications.
Some forums still get their links counted but it’s limited and they probably won’t count links in the signature.
Keyword Rich Links
If your link are above-board and seen as adding value then having keywords in the anchor text can be very effective.
Traditionally, most sites linking to you will include either your branded keyword in the anchor text or a useful call-to-action like ‘click here’. But having a generally topical keyword can greatly benefit your power in those more generic keywords.
With that said, there is some evidence recently that having anchor text that is too targeted may lead to assumptions of over-optimisation from Google. With that in mind, the best strategy here is probably to keep a natural mix of keywords, URLs and generic anchor texts in most cases.
Social Media Links
Every time a user on a social media website shares, likes or posts links to your content, it creates a social signal
With the growing importance of social signals in search engine indexing practices, this can be a very effective link-building strategy. Creating sensational content which is designed to entice social media users is often referred to a link-bait.
Links in large pictures which present a specific subject matter (usually in the form of statistics) in a concise and visually interesting way.
Search engines are starting to become wary of these as the information can often be inaccurate and just targeted towards link-baiting.
High Authority Links
Having a highly respected academic or government website linking to you can be a very powerful indicator of the value of your content, as these bodies are generally seen as objective.
This is also why it’s a particularly difficult link building effort.
Links on Article Sites
Placing links in content and then posting them on free article websites used to be a popular link building strategy, which is why Google stopped weighing links to or on these websites as heavily quite a while ago.
This isn’t to say that article links are useless, but they’re certainly not a strategy that has anywhere near the value it once did.
Links in Blog Rolls
A blog roll is a list of other blogs on a blogger’s page, which he likes or suggests. Depending on the blogger, this may have limited SEO value. Although it can do wonders for your traffic, particularly if the blog has high reader numbers.
Content Network Links
A content network is a website which collects a specific piece of content and distributes it to a variety of subscriber websites. Having your links included in this content used to have big SEO value but with duplicate content measure and the ease with which these networks can be identified, you could be penalised quite heavily.