How Important is Link Building Today

The basic components of online marketing, what makes a website popular and how it is listed in the search engines, have not changed much over the past ten years. Generating relevant, high quality, inbound links is as important today as it ever was.

The number and nature of sites linking into your website will impact on how high you rank in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERP). This will, in turn, dictate both the quantity and quality of visitors to your site.

This blog post will examine ways of creating links, also known as backlinks, which will bring high quality traffic. You will also learn about schemes that can get your site banned from the SERP.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the term that describes how web marketers design a web page in order to attract the Search Engine “spiders” that trawl the World Wide Web, ranking web pages that will be of interest to people searching particular subjects. Note that individual pages are ranked, as opposed to a site.

A key component in ranking a web page is based on the number and relevance of inbound links from other web pages. In the past, website builders have used a number of methods to create links, with the hope of increasing the site’s SERP ranking. Indeed, a whole industry has sprung up around link building.

There are a number of ways of building inbound links:

Exchanging links with owners of other websites is a popular activity. The search engines will not, however, put much value on an inbound link if there is a reciprocal link to the website that provided the inbound link. This is to stop people from building large numbers of inbound links in order to create an artificially high search engine ranking. The search engines also aim to discourage the practice of creating links between sites that have the same owner.

The best way to build links to your site is to offer high quality written content, which web users will find informative and interesting. You should request links, preferably one way, from owners whose sites relate to yours in content. Even if you accept a reciprocal link from such a site you will be creating a community of sites that will be of interest to visitors. Contacting individual site owners for links can be time consuming but will, in the long term, provide you with visitors who are interested in what you have to offer, and consequentially will bring your page rankings up.

Web based directories offer a solution to gaining those valuable inbound links. Many are free but the major, well known providers may charge for a listing. You should take extra care when choosing directories to which you submit your site address. There are many sites on the internet that act as “link farms”. These sites will generally provide you with hundreds of “guaranteed” links. Many of these links will be worthless, created automatically by humans or software, but will add no value to your page. They certainly won’t bring potential customers; you may even find your site blacklisted by the major search engines, such as Google, Bing and Yahoo.

So, the answer to the question “How important is link building today?” is “Very.” Links between web pages are what the internet is built on. When done properly, creating inbound links will bring high quality potential customers to your website. If you are tempted to get quick results from those who promise much, you could fall foul of the search engines, even being banned from their listings, as opposed to benefitting from a high ranking.

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Omar Kattan is Chief Strategy Officer at Sandstorm Digital, the MENA region's first specialist content marketing agency headquartered in Dubai. His experience includes 10 years in traditional marketing and advertising in the Middle East and a further 10 years at two of the largest media agencies in the UK. Follow Omar on Twitter for updates on the latest in digital, branding, advertising and marketing.

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