SEO Insights: Understanding The Inbound Link Building

Paid Links
Link Building: Inbound Link

Aside from the on-page factors that include internal linking of a websites pages, external links are also important for organic search acquisition. They are often described as “the streets between webpages” for search engine bots and crawlers. Knowing what it takes to create a natural backlink profile for your website is vital to avoid wasting time and more importantly, risking to be penalised by the search engines. When Google founders published their thesis “The anatomy of a large scale hypertextual web search engine” at Stanford University, they concluded that link popularity of webpages was the basic criterion for evaluating and ranking them when a search query occurred. The result? PageRank algorithm.

Since then, many have changed in the algorithmic function of search engines and currently beyond PageRank there are more than 200 factors that the current search algorithm takes into account in its quest to identify the value of webpages and respond with the most relevant and authoritative results for each search query.

The Way Google Evaluates Links

Search engines constantly weave over the web in order to identify and measure the attributes of links between webpages. While the knowledge of link attributes by the search engines remains an estimation, years of experience and hands on testing have contributed to some intelligent assumptions that apply in the real world. Here is a list of important factors that the search engines consider when assessing link equity:

  • Global link popularity.
  • Freshness, sustainability and growth in the number of links.
  • Diversity of linking domains.
  • Domain of the linking site.
  • Page & Domain Authority of the linking site.
  • Trust of the linking site, whether it is from trusted or “bad” neighborhoods.
  • Relevancy of the linking site. Search engines tend to look for typical content with the biggest relevancy.
  • Anchor text of the link. The diversification of anchor texts, with 10-20% of exact match keywords is considered ideal.
  • Purpose of the link: editorial, navigation, or paid textlinks.
  • Age of the link.
  • Links from social sharing (Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.)

The most important factors are related to the quantity and quality of inbound links. On the other hand, while quantity may have no negative effect on rankings, link quality is a factor that Google has been focusing on over the last years.

Negative SEO and Google Penalty

The principles of negative SEO are closely related to the intentional triggering of Google penalties. In online markets with harsh competition, competitors often implement strategies such as spammy link injection, through which they target their competitors websites by attempting to trigger a Google penalty. In general, here are several types of links that “bug” Google:

  • Links from irrelevant websites in terms of content relevance.
  • Link farms and parked domains stuffed with links.
  • Links from bad neighborhoods and spammy anchor texts.
  • Private link networks.
  • Linking websites from the same IP or the same person.

In specific, Google’s guidelines for “link schemes” outline which link building tactics are considered as violating and subject to penalty. In brief presented below:

  • Large-scale article marketing
  • Reciprocal linking
  • Use of link building automation software (the core of black hat techniques)
  • Buying and selling links
  • Anchor text over-optimisation
  • Low quality bookmarking and directory submission
  • Widely distributed links in site footers, webdesign templates, embedded widgets and infographics.
  • Low quality comments in forums and blogs
  • Guest blogging (recently declared as “done” by Google’s evangelist Matt Cutts, but still in debate among industry experts)

The picture below illustrates which tactics should be avoided in link building and defines the correct implementation for a natural backlink profile. Please note that all tactics mentioned here are subject to change due to the high volume of updates in search algorithm:


Google Webmaster Disavow Tool

For websites that have long been infected with numerous bad links, Google offers the Disavow Tool in Webmaster tools. Basically, it is a tool that is used to cut off a selection of “toxic” inbound links to a website. Disavowing links is a radical action and the tool should be used with caution as recall is impossible especially in cases when you are using it to disavow all links from a domain. A key point here is that Google expects from the webmasters who decide to use the tool, to show determination and use it like a machete rather than a scalpel trying to disavow individual URLs from a domain that include toxic links.


Whether you like it or not, modern link building is in transition. It is a natural phenomenon and we should adapt to the alterations of the search algorithm in a proactive manner. This way, it will help our websites grow by maintaining natural backlink profiles.