Search engine algorithms have changed considerably over the years. With each change, optimizing your website for search gets more and more complicated and, as a result, best practices for SEO and marketing are continuously changing. One of the most notable changes to the search algorithms has been the effect inbound links have on website ranking.
In the "olden days," the more links you had to your website, the better. Companies would buy thousands of unrelated inbound links in an effort to “trick” the system and rank higher. But this is no longer the case.
Now, the quality of the inbound links is far more important than the number of links. Quality AND quantity now come into play. Those same companies that tried to trick the system by purchasing links have been punished and even removed from search engine results (e.g. JC Penney). Why are companies being punished for purchased links and why is this bad?
Inbound Links in Layman’s Terms
To put this into more simple terms, think of your website as an electoral candidate and inbound links as people that would vote for your candidate.
It makes sense that the more people you have supporting your candidate and voting for him or her would be good, right? Well there a few issues with this general assumption.
- Not all votes are considered equal. The popular vote of larger states like Texas, California or my home state, Florida, make more of a difference in the final results. Larger and more popular websites like news sites are like the larger states. Inbound links from these more credible, more trafficked sites mean more to the search engines. The smaller sites and blogs still count but not as much.
- Not everyone can vote. Non-citizens and anyone under the age of 18 cannot vote. So although those people WOULD vote for your candidate, they simply aren't eligible. Just like those people who cannot officially vote, there are many websites out there that essentially aren't "eligible" when it comes to your inbound links. These websites are often the websites used when purchasing inbound links. Their sole purpose is to provide inbound links, and many serve as unfocused directories or repositories of links. Inbound links from these sites can hurt you. Besides, why would you want a random Joe Shmoe coming to your website if he isn’t a good fit for your product or service?
- Buying votes is illegal. Google takes the same mentality to purchasing inbound links. You could be arrested for buying votes. Similarly, Google penalizes websites for purchasing inbound links even to the point where websites will be removed from search indexes.
When in Doubt, Use Inbound Marketing Principles & Common Sense
When it comes specifically to your inbound link strategy, keep the following in mind:
- Purchasing links is never a good idea. Don’t do it.
- Don’t seek out opportunities to put inbound links on unrelated websites.
- If it is possible to get mentioned or included on a highly trafficked website, make the effort.
- At the end of the day, links, mentions, or guest blogging opportunities on other websites in your industry are great opportunities to pursue.
All of these tips follow the general principles of inbound marketing. And the beauty of inbound marketing is that its principles and methodology work not only when it comes to gaining leads and customers, but it also supports healthy and safe SEO tactics.