What is Link Building? How Does It Work?

Harry Hawkins 13th November 2017
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What is link building?

When Google first started their algorithm was much more simple than it is nowadays. Google would look at all of the websites on the web, look at the words on there, and base their decision based on a number of times it uses a keyword. For example ‘this best coffee shop in Bournemouth is the best coffee shop in Bournemouth, offering the best coffee in Bournemouth.’ A website with this content used to be expected to rank for the search term ‘the best coffee shop in Bournemouth’. Obviously, this wasn’t ideal, for both the users that can potentially come across a website that isn’t relevant to them and for Google who is providing the user with a website that isn’t relevant to them. Google then decided to get a bit smarter, penalise websites that overuse the keyword in their content, and then ‘blackhat’ SEO’ers started to spam the back-end of the website using ‘Meta Keywords’ with the keywords, once again, not ideal. Google then decided to stop using Meta Keywords as a ranking factor, and this is the story of how Google got smarter and smarter. Every time Google introduces a new ranking factor or takes away another ranking factor SEO analysts will change their behaviour in an effort to get their clients ranking highly.

So, now it’s 2017, coming into 2018… What is Google now looking at to rank websites? Well, Google uses a large variety of different, and secretive ranking factors, all of them revolve around providing relevant content to the user. The main three things we can summarise them to is:

  1. Relevant Content (Not duplicated, unique, reads well)
  2. A healthy site (fast, responsive, up-to-date code)
  3. A great back-linking profile (natural)

Just to clarify, this list is very broad, there are a lot more ranking factors that we haven’t touched on, and we would advise you look into them – but for now, let’s focus on point 3. A great back-linking profile.

Back-links are links from websites that are linking to your website. It seems like a really trivial thing to do, but the effects can be pivotal to your Google rankings.


How does it work?

Google have realised, that all of the most relevant websites on the web are the most talked about, they are receiving a huge number of links from very reputable companies websites. Before we go any further with an example of how this works, it would be worth noting that when this ranking factor was introduced, as always, it was abused. Black-hat SEO analysts found a way to abuse the system by adding links back to their client’s websites on as many websites as possible, not caring what the site was as long as it had a link back to their client, that’s all it would take for it to build ranks on Google. Google’s response, was by applying a ‘score system’ which can now be known as Domain Authority, or Domain Equity (there’s probably some more names out there). Google also applied a spam score to websites, usually, websites that were made to contain links to other sites were marked with a high spam score. Google classed any website being linked to by spam websites, as another spam websites – running off the philosophy of ‘Spam links to spam’. Google, therefore, penalises any websites with a ton of links back to their site from websites with a high spam score.

So, let’s think of a big brand like ‘Apple‘. Apple’s domain authority is pretty much maxed out. This is because Apple is constantly being talked about by small-time tech bloggers, all the way to larger web entities! Building a back-linking profile such as one like Apple’s can have you easily outranking many of your competitors. Notice how we have linked back to Apple’s website on this blog, Google will look at the link and give a bit of ‘kudos’ (known in the SEO world as ‘Link Juice’) to Apple from our website, not that they need it! In a similar aspect, any website that Apple links to from their site will probably see some great benefit in their rankings on Google.

And this is how link building works! Having websites with a high domain authority, talking, and linking back to your website as naturally as possible! I would caution, that Google is very thorough at determining what links are natural and what links have been paid for or are being forced onto a website for the sake of trying to rank highly. I would advise researching how to link building more specifically before commencing any link building, or by trusting a White Hat SEO Agency, such as ourselves to develop a Link Building strategy for you.


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