Good practices in link building

Understanding the right way to build links for SEO

By Rhian Harris

By now you should be starting to understand best practices in on-page content for SEO and off-page optimisation for SEO, so it’s time to look at building an inbound link strategy from good quality sites.

Why do you need links?

As discussed in the off-page optimisation chapter, link building starts with creating rich content that other site owners perceive to be of value and therefore want to link to.

If good quality sites choose to link to your content, search engines perceive trust. The greater trust there appears to be, the better the page will rank in SERPs.

But there is more to it than just buying links. To repeat the key point from the previous chapter:

You are looking to acquire links from a diverse portfolio of good quality websites of relevance to your content.

What is a link?

In simple terms, a link is a piece of HTML code that when clicked, points the user to some content.

This content could be anything from an image, a web page, a pop-up, to a log-in button and can come in 2 forms: a button or a text link.

Buttons can be either an image with an embedded destination page URL and alt text, or a text overlaid over a coloured cell or background image.

Amazon button

Amazon button – image 

Amazon button

PayPal button – image 

Text links are exactly what they say. They are links with HTML properties so that the actual word is the link.

For example, contact Rhian here.

In both image and text links, anchor text is important as this is what search engines will read to assess the relevance to a search term.

For example, if a site uses ‘click here’ to link to your site, it tells the search engine that the word is a link, but it doesn’t give any context about it.

Compare it to if a site links to you through ‘order books at Waterstones bookshop‘.

The latter with the targeted keywords ‘books’ and ‘bookshop’ will likely rank more highly in search engines.

Why to be careful in link building?

There have been major advances in search engine algorithms to target websites using low-quality link building strategies. For Google, these specifically include Panda and Penguin, with algorithm updates coming soon.


Panda was designed to target low-quality sites, such as article marketing sites with ‘thin’ content or a lot of advertising, promoting sites of high-quality content.

The first update happened in 2011 and each release has been significant because changed the viability of low-quality content sites who had depended on these link building tactics as their business model.



Penguin targeted websites employing over-optimised techniques, such those too frequent keyword-based anchor text from low-quality sites.

It also further targeted sites involved with directories, article / advertorial marketing, or paid link exchanges built with the purpose of creating poor quality back links.

And there are some major players who have been hit by these updates, including Interflora dropping off natural SERPs one week prior to Mother’s Day! Oops.

The Dos of link building


  • Create corporate blog articles of interest and relevance to users (like this one!) that users genuinely want to link to
  • Guest blog for other sites of authority to create trust – I guest blog for Econsultancy, don’t you know?
  • Create visual content – image and videos that users want to share e.g. infographics
  • Create an RSS feed to syndicate fresh content to subscribers when you add it to your site
  • Create a link or resource page – read my jargon buster here
  • Ask verified site owners for links e.g. your bedding suppliers if you are a hotel
  • Look at your competitor liks using a tool like SEOmoz’s Open Site Explorer
  • Write and ebook or whitepaper that others find of interest and can download from your site
  • Add a ‘link to us’ tool to your site to facilitate easy linking

Using Twitter or Google+ to promote this content will allow people to find your content.


  • Use bad quality directories – use renowned web directories such as Yahoo or dmoz
  • Submit your website to every bookmarking service – use only good quality sites such as de.lici.ous or Digg
  • Include links in blog comments as this can be detected as spam
  • Buy links
  • Link from fake videos just to drive traffic
  • Spam forums with back links

So now you know how to legitimately drive links. But what about the role of social media in SEO?

Jump to:

What is SEO and why do you need to do it?
Setting the framework and understanding your objectives
The basics of onsite search engine optimisation
The basics of offsite inbound marketing
Good practices in link building
Not forgetting the role of social media in SEO