Back in 2001 ~ 2002 and thereabouts link building was simple. If you wanted to rank for widgets, all you had to do was spam some guestbooks with links pointing to your web page with widgets as the anchor text.
Seriously, rankings were easier to pick than apples from a tree.
As Google’s algorithm advanced, search engine optimization professionals who were stuck in 2002 found their techniques to be ineffective and even counterproductive. Some SEO’s started claiming that links didn’t matter anymore, even though all evidence is to the contrary.
You see, Google is still running link based algorithms. Google, however, wants to count links which were meant to be legitimate “votes” for a web page. Google does not want to count links as votes if those links were placed on a web page for monetary reward, or as spam.
Google would ideally prefer it if website owners did not buy links.
Website owners, on the other hand, have an obligation to promote their sites and be responsible stewards of their investment.
So how do we buy links intelligently?
1. Buy links from websites which exercise editorial integrity.
Google themselves recommend webmasters submit to Yahoo! Directory, which is nothing more than buying a link.
From Google’s Webmaster Guidelines:
Submit your site to relevant directories such as the Open Directory Project and Yahoo!, as well as to other industry-specific expert sites.
When evaluating whether or not you should buy a link from a website – whether it be a web directory, or any other site – browse a few pages or more. If they sell links to Viagra sites or debt consolidation sites, even though the site at hand has no connection to those topics, then it’s fairly obvious that the website owner is not exercising editorial integrity. Buying links there could trip a filter.
2. Vary Your Anchor Text
A good rule of thumb is to never buy the same link twice. If you are targeting “web hosting”, you can vary your anchor texts like so: web hosting provider, reliable web hosting, quality web hosting, PHP web hosting, affordable web hosting, etc.
One of the easiest filters for a search engine to put in place is one which detects and devalues links with identical anchor texts.
3. Buy Non-Keyword Links
One of the hardest things for the simpleton SEO to do is to buy non-keyword links. If only he could see for himself the rewards of those SEO’s who buy non-keywords links.
But of course, anybody can see those rewards. Just do a search on Google for the keyword of your choice, and then analyze the backlinks of the websites in the top ten. You’ll most likely discover that a surprising majority of those links do not contain keywords.
Click here. <- A fine example of a non-keyword link.
Domain authority rules the SERPs. It has for some time now. Don’t think of links for web pages; think of links for the domain and for establishing domain authority.
4. Avoid Site-wide Links
Footer links aren’t necessarily evil. They just don’t help as much as you might think, and footer links can trip those pesky link spamming filters.
5. PageRank Zero Can Pass Link Weight
Yes, PR0 pages can still pass link weight. In one test, I linked to a webpage with a made up word as the anchor text, from a PR0 page. On the basis of the PR0 link, the linked-to page outranked the linking page on Google.
6. Avoid Automated Link Spamming
People are lazy. Search engines love it.
Automated link spam such as referral log spam, blog comment spam and automated web directory submission to hundreds or thousands of web directories; these all have one thing in common. Automation. They most often duplicate spam and create patterns that are easily detected and devalued by search engines.
Sure, I know it’s tempting, but don’t do it. You might as well just send Google a certified letter confessing to your spam.
7. Image Links And ALT Text
Don’t forget about image links and the attached ALT text. From my experience, image links are not subject to all the scrutiny and filters that text links are subjected to. And ALT text is treated the same as the anchor text of a text link. Yummy.
8. A Link On A Page Is Not The Same As A Link On A Page
Search engines have the ability to see pages like a human would. Google is able to evaluate links with regard to their placement on a web page. Links that are placed in the footer or in an area that is unlikely to be seen by a human visitor carry less weight than links that are placed above the fold.
9. Do NOT Rent Links
One of the first things Google started looking at when they began being more critical of links is the age of those links. Links appear to not pass full link juice in the beginning. It’s like a link is on probation. Once that link stays where it’s put for a while, then it;s given full credit. Or I should say, the web page it links to is given full credit.
Rented links should not form the basis of your link popularity. Permanent, stable links should account for 75% or more of your link profile.
10. Google Tells You Where To Get Links
Do you want to rank for web hosting? Get links from these sites, especially those first ten.
Google has patent’s for algorithms which rerank results based on links within the initial subset, and Google shows you that initial subset.
Links remain the most important part of any search engine marketing campaign. Links are SEO. The difference between link building in 2002 and link building in 2007 is that the search engines are better equipped to evaluate those links, and this forces website owners to up their game.
Keep building links, just be smart about it.