The number of inbound links leading back to your website has been used as a quality measure since Google begun. Today, building up links requires a lot more work than it used to, but with Google still listing inbound links as one of the three most vital factors for ranking in search results, and with some research suggesting links impact ranking more than any other factor, having a link building strategy is more important as ever.
So what can we expect to see in the near future? This blog will examine the emerging trends in this vital, yet often misunderstood area of SEO.
To plan for the future, learn from the past!
There have been many changes since the connection between Google results ranking and inbound links was first made. Originally, the quality of the links had no effect on rankings. To boost their rankings, sites and digital marketing companies used software, bots and offshore companies to create an avalanche of cheap backlinks from poor quality websites.
Google struck back in 2012 with a key update to their algorithm, known as Penguin, which penalised sites found to be using low quality links. Since then, Penguin has been updated over 4 times, and in 2016, it was integrated into the core search algorithm.
While there have been some changes, Google’s policy on backlinks has remained consistent, if not specific: once they become aware of loopholes or strategies being used to manipulate their algorithm to improve site rankings, they crack down and move to close the loophole.
So what strategies will work in 2019?
Given that Google updates their algorithm over 100 times a year, new strategies for link building continue to be trialed and tested. Some of the most successful strategies we’ve seen recently have focused on the following.
As always, quality over quantity
Building your links with authoritative, highly sited pages has a much bigger impact on your ranking than links from low quality, no-name bloggers. Studies in the area have suggested the authority of a site that links to you, and its relevance to your content are the most important factors in your rankings.
To stay relevant, savvy digital marketing providers are moving away from treating links as a volume-based commodity. Sourcing backlinks from high-authority sites and key industry publications is much harder than building up a list of low quality, gamed links, but the payoff is significant.
For now, link spamming still works (though significantly less than it used to) but comes at the risk of penalties should Google catch on.
Many SEO experts predict that the difference in effectiveness will become even more pronounced in the future, as Google may soon develop updates that nullify the positive effect of linkspam and low-quality links all together.
Continue Collaborative Relationships
Developing ongoing relationships with influencers and experts is becoming a vital part of SEO. This doesn’t mean sending a spammy request for links, the focus is turning to collaboration and matching your content to their interests.
Finding and contacting people that are likely to link to you can be time consuming, so developing a script that can be easily personalised is a good way to scale up your outreach.
There are already tried and true strategies for initiating these relationships, such as:
- Checking a site for broken links, then contacting them to let them know, and offering a link to your (relevant) content as an alternative.
- Asking questions and opinions from industry experts, quoting them as contributors and asking them to share once your content is live.
- Finding relevant websites that feature resource pages and requesting your content be included.
On wards to 2019!
The best way to plan for the future of effective link building strategies is to understand the direction Google is moving in. The risks associated with black hat SEO are increasing with every update of Google’s algorithm, and this is not likely to change any time soon.
Cultivating relevant backlinks from trusted sites and sources may take more time and effort than black hat SEO strategies like linkspam, but they are highly effective and long lasting. The trend in changes to Google algorithms has been the same for some years now, and marketing that follows this path, rather than shoves back, is more likely than ever to pay off.