Link Building 101
A “link” or “backlink” refers to when another website “links” to yours. Generally speaking, a link is used as attribution – similar to a footnote in a research paper.
For example, let’s say you have a website that sells organic dog food and the Huffington Post writes an article about the “best organic products for dogs” and includes your website in the article. Generally speaking, they will place a “link” in that article that refers visitors to your website.
Google essentially counts “links” as a vote of popularity for your website – they are widely agreed upon to be a top ranking factor with search engines.
However, “links” come in different shapes and forms – not all of them are created equal.
DOFOLLOW vs NO FOLLOW links
As soon as SEO professionals realized links were a major ranking factor, we began to spam the crap out of them.
To fight back, Google released guidance for websites to add a piece of HTML to outbound links that would tell search engines not to “follow” that links, i.e. not to count it towards SEO rankings (Search Console Help, 2019).
This HTML is known as NOFOLLOW – if a website sets a link to “NOFOLLOW”, it does not pass SEO equity to the linked website.
A lot of major publishers now use NOFOLLOW links as a standard practice to beat back people who want to abuse their websites as link sources (INC, Forbes, etc).
All links from social networks are set to NOFOLLOW – so before you get any ideas, links from social networks have no [direct] impact on SEO rankings (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, etc).
While there are some benefits to NOFOLLOWED links, generally speaking, seeking them out is a waste of resources when it comes to SEO.
The “type” of link impacts the equity it passes on
For example, the Huffington Post example is what we call a “contextual” or “editorial” link. These types of links to pass the most “ranking equity”, as the linking website wants to refer traffic to your website. An editorial link will pass much more SEO equity than a link from the comments section of a website.
The “placement” of link impacts equity passed as well
The Huffington Post example is what we would call a “contextual” or “editorial” link. These types of links sit within the body text of a page are also known to pass a high amount of “ranking equity”, as the linking website wants to refer traffic to your website.
The “quality” of the website linking to yours is critical
If you’re getting links from low quality websites, you’re running the risk of getting penalized by Google. When engaging in link building, it’s critical that you only aim to land on websites that are relevant, real (aka not link farms) and authoritative.