Link Building for SEO: A Beginner’s Guide



Links are strong ranking signals, and proper link building can harness them to the fullest. Link building can be performed through link outreach, foundational links, or just leaving the decision to link your content to the user.


Key Takeaways:

  • Links are “votes of confidence” on a site or page. The more links it has, the more credible it appears in the algorithm’s eyes.
  • Despite Google downplaying their importance, links remain a strong signal for ranking because of the convenience they bring to the user.
  • Link building is still a viable SEO method, provided it adheres to Google’s search quality guidelines, especially regarding link spam and linking.

Our agency may be known for its unique approach to SEO, but if there’s a specific service that defines us, effective link building is it. Back when NO-BS Marketplace was still known as Studio 56, Tristan and I learned that the SEO doctrine at the time was severely lacking, especially in the off-page SEO department. As a result, the first few digital campaigns we made for clients were underwhelming, to say the least.

Such days are behind us, fortunately, thanks to the never-ending progress of technology. Our signature platform has provided business owners and marketers with the means to perform link building as it should be done from the get-go. With emphasis on more user control, clients are free to choose the kind of link building campaigns they want.

It might seem like we’re putting a bit too much faith in one practice, considering that we treat SEO as a system. But what if I told you that links are how the Internet vouches for a content’s existence, let alone quality? There’s more to them than meets the eye, and if I’ve piqued your interest enough, stick with me to learn more.

What is Link Building?

A great way to define link building is through voting – and I’d say it’s timely, considering that over 60 countries will be holding elections this year. A person’s vote is, for all intents and purposes, a measure of faith in a candidate. After all, if you can only vote once, it’s in your best interest to make it count as much as possible.

Source: Adobe Stock

On the other hand, links are so-called “votes of confidence” in a particular content. People share links to content they find interesting and helpful, whether they’re content creators or consumers. Search engines, serving as the vote-counting machines in this context, pool all links in content and weigh them relative to others.

Of these links, the ones with the most weight are quality backlinks, also known as inbound links. These manifest when a website other than your own links to your content, be it a product page or on-site blog posts. Other sites have no reason to link to your content unless they find it relevant or helpful to their own content.

How to Do Link Building

There are three clean ways to get links – and no, you don’t beg, borrow, or steal for them. Rather, you ask, add, or earn, sometimes all three.


Link outreach is when you contact a site and ask to link their content to yours. This can be in the form of guest blogging or contributing guest posts complete with optimised links, replacing broken links with one from your site, or linking mentions of your business in the content.


This involves building so-called “foundational links,” adding your links on third-party sites like social media pages, online directories, and discussion boards. In some cases, Google adds these links automatically via their Knowledge Graph, but it pays to be proactive.


This approach is the most passive, leaving the choice to link to your content to circumstance. If people find your content helpful, they’ll link it to their content or share it over social media. That said, your content has to be worthy of such praise for this to work.

Some link builders argue of a fourth approach, which is buying links. But as we’ll learn later, it isn’t worth relying too much on for good reasons.

What Does Google Think of Link Building?

You’d think Google would be okay with, if not endorse, something as vital as link building. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case.

During the last Pubcon Pro in Austin, Texas, Google analyst Gary Illyes pointed out that links aren’t as important in search rankings today as they were years ago. He even said ranking high is possible even without links, essentially downplaying the role they play.

“I think they are important, but I think people overestimate the importance of links. I don’t agree it’s in the top three. It hasn’t been for some time,” Illyes said during the event’s AMA, though he later clarified that there’s no such thing as a “top three.”

That isn’t even a one-off. People at Google have been playing the same tune for the past decade, starting with Matt Cutts in 2014. Then again, it’s hard to blame them, given that Penguin was created in response to different websites tricking the algorithm by flooding their content with links, most of them being of questionable quality.

While we can’t totally dismiss such an argument, it’s important to note that link building is anything but dead. Whether or not it’s among the top three important ranking factors, high quality links are still a strong signal. For one, they help the target audience validate certain details by being directed to the source, which goes a long way in improving user experience.

Seeing that websites aren’t disappearing left and right from search results, it’s safe to say that Google’s still cool with link building strategies. It isn’t about how many links you stuff into your content but rather where you’re getting your links from.

What Google Doesn’t Like When Link Building

Source: Adobe Stock

Of course, Big G has to draw a line somewhere. This is embodied in their Google Search Essentials, widely considered the universal SEO rulebook, specifically the section talking about link spam. Here are some practices to avoid.

  • Buying or selling links with money or equivalent value in goods
  • Excessive cross-linking (i.e., “Link to me and I’ll link to you”)
  • Using automated techniques for link generation
  • Embedding low-quality links in a site’s widgets
  • Comments and forum posts containing optimised links
  • Any link building practice that aims to game the algorithm

A quick note about buying and selling links: while Google considers them link spam, it also understands that it’s necessary for advertising. As long as the links contain the appropriate Rel attributes (e.g., nofollow, sponsored, UGC), it won’t be considered a violation of their search quality policies.

Additionally, it has guidelines on proper linking to aid in crawling. Not complying with them won’t necessarily lead to a penalty, but you may as well be shooting yourself in the foot by denying search engine bots from indexing your great content. To be on the safe side, avoid:

  • Structuring your link outside the <a href> attribute
  • Linking to anything that doesn’t resemble a URL
  • Forgetting to integrate or match anchor text into the link
  • Leaving the alt text empty
  • Making the anchor text longer than five words
  • Placing too many links close to each other

As indicated by the <a href> attribute, these methods may require delving deep into the content’s code. This is entering technical SEO territory, and unless you have extensive coding experience, it’s wise to get a professional to work on it instead.

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