Aug 182014

by Robert E. Kennedy Library at Cal Poly

Every online marketer can benefit from a basic understanding of link building. From understanding how Google works and how links can drive traffic (Get 10000 free hits) from search engines to their website.

It’s especially useful to have a basic understanding before outsourcing link building.

Link building is a tactic to increase the number of external links pointing to a website or webpage.

Over the years, Google has gotten smarter. The importance of link building is starting to diminish a little bit more every couple of months, it seems.

For those non-SEO marketers or newbies out there wanting to understand the basics of link building, let’s take a look.


The benefits of a successful link building campaign can be massive. Think of it as a successful PR campaign: the opportunity to get exposure in front of a huge audience.

Link building can result in an increase in referral traffic (Get 10000 free hits) to your website from relevant websites. So, you can look at it as an increase in potential customers walking into your electronics store, in search of buying a new TV.

These links on external websites also mean exposure for you. Like a positive review of your store in your local newspaper and the potential customers it attracts as a result.

Sometimes a link acts like an advertisement in your local newspaper.

With popularity and high-quality links, your website can climb up in Google’s search results. Which in turn exposes the site to even more potential customers.

A Link = A Vote

Looking at it like that, a link is often seen as a vote.

When you get a link from a newspaper, a big industry magazine, or an authoritative figure in your industry it’s a recommendation from them. That signals to Google “this a quality website, please rank it higher”.

Difference between DoFollow and NoFollow

There are two ways a website can link to you.

One is a clean link that gives you benefit. This is a “DoFollow” link.

The other is a “NoFollow” link. This type of link tells Google that it should not influence the landing page’s ranking in their search results.

The original intention when Google created this attribute in 2005 was to devalue certain types of links. Paid links and comment spam were the big offenders.

Anchor Text

One of the key ranking factors in Google is the actual text in a link. This linked text is called ‘anchor text’.

So, if you had links from authoritative sites with the anchor text “buy flowers in Toronto”, and your landing page was optimised for those keywords, then there was a good chance you would appear at the top of the search results.

Brand Mentions

Brand mentions and keyword associations with brand names have a big influence on rankings these days.

This has reduced the emphasis on using exactly matching keywords in links.

Quality over Quantity

For a long time the quantity of links overruled the quality of links. This led to lots of web spam and purchasing of links Google always wanted webmasters to avoid.

When this got out of hand, Google devised penalties for sites working this way.

Nowadays no-one doubts the important of quality over quantity in link building. Building a large number of low quality links has much more risk than reward than it ever had.


“Penguin” is an automated Google penalty as the result of too much link building. It has been in force for over 2 years now.

As a result your site or a specific page can drop in the rankings for a keyword. But you can even get kicked out altogether.

Besides such an algorithmic penalty, your site can receive a manual penalty. To find out if your site has a penalty you can check in your Google Webmaster Tools.

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