Link building is the process of having other sites linking back to your domain. It helps to improve your site’s authority and overall ranking potential on the web, transferring link equity from external sites to your own.
Black hat and white hat link building
There are two main SEO processes that help to build backlinks, ‘black hat SEO’ and ‘white hat SEO’. Black hat SEO is a more ‘spammy’ way of optimising your site for search engines, i.e. hidden links and keyword stuffing. White hat SEO is the process of optimising a site with quality content that makes sense and provides purpose to users.
When it comes to link building, the white hat process is best practice, providing quality content in exchange for a backlink, utilising influencers with authoritative blogs, etc. Before Google rolled out the Penguin update, link building was a bit of a free-for-all and many businesses would build ‘spammy’ links in order to manipulate themselves onto the first page of search results. Penguin targeted this type of link building and, therefore, there has since been a marked decrease in businesses employing these tactics.
In the past, some larger sites, which can have thousands of links pointing back to them, have blamed ‘toxic’ backlinks for sudden drops after algorithmic updates. However, a recent tweet from John Mueller has given an interesting insight into the topic. He’s confirmed that there’s no concept of toxic domains and that, with Penguin 4.0, Google will ignore bad backlinks. His tweet, in reply to the question around what to do if your SEO tool is showing a large number of toxic links, also suggested that you shouldn’t “blindly follow” results from these types of tools. It’s more important to understand how they work and interpret the data they provide.
Follow vs. no-follow backlinks
Google’s algorithm constantly changes, and therefore, so does the weight of each link your site gains. With follow and no-follow, it used to be best practice to target solely followed backlinks when developing a linking strategy. However, many PR and link building campaigns target blogs and publications with high authority, which tend to add no-follow tags to links. It was thought that having an even followed and no-followed link ratio was recommended, but John Mueller has said this isn’t the case. Google’s algorithm will still see domains as valuable, regardless of whether the link they provide you with is follow or no-follow, as the link equity is still transferred and will benefit your domain.
When it comes to link building in 2020, keep it simple and targeted. Don’t worry too much about whether you have a toxic backlink profile, unless you feel you’ve been penalised. To build a quality backlink profile for your website, blog, or business, ensure you target high-quality domains and provide content that people want to link back to. Remember, if larger sites are talking about you then smaller sites, which may be deemed as toxic, will also link back to you. Don’t overthink it, just always make sure you follow a white hat strategy when developing a link building campaign – your site will thank you later.