Few SEO strategies are as important—or as hotly debated—as link building. It’s virtually impossible to rank meaningfully without external links pointing back to your site. That being said, there are dozens of considerations you’ll have to bear in mind when building links to your website—after all, Google’s Penguin algorithm makes it impossible to build a spammy or manipulative link and get away without a penalty.
Trying to keep all these quality factors in mind to build “perfect” links can be exhausting—and you’ll end up limiting your capacity in the process. Ideally, you’d be able to follow all best practices for link building simultaneously, but since it’s exceptionally hard to pull that off, what is the biggest priority in link building? What are the factors that are valuable, yet forgivable to omit, versus the factors that are absolutely indispensable?
Ideally, your link will be embedded in a piece of valuable content as a citation or reference. This is your chance to show Google and other search engines your worth—if your content is good, relevant to your brand, and appropriate for the site, your link will serve as a strong anchor for your domain’s authority.
Content quality should be your most important consideration, because it affects your chances of getting published, the quality of your link, and your reputation in the eyes of readers. The drawback is that it’s subjective—there are many degrees of “quality,” which unfortunately, I can’t get into here. You can, however, check out The 12 Essential Elements of High-Quality Content.
Your next biggest priority should be the level of authority your source carries. The higher the link source domain authority, the more value a link will pass. For example, a startup local newspaper won’t pass as much authority as an international source with decades of history and a reputation to match. A very low-authority source could actually compromise the authority of your domain, so it’s vital to maintain a certain threshold, and valuable to seek higher- and higher-authority sources.
The sources relevance to your domain is a useful clue to search bots trying to determine the appropriateness of your link. For example, if you’re a plumber and you are writing content for a page on a plumber’s association-related site, your source relevance will be high. This is important early on, but since high-profile sources tend to be general in nature, with no single category of relevance, you can get away with straying from your own industry as you work your way up the authority ladder.\
Links from more unique domains is one of the highest correlating factors with higher rankings. So, constantly work to acquire new links from new sources.
It’s not a good idea to have all your external links pointing to your homepage, or any single page of your site. Instead, it’s better to spread your links to various internal pages. Linking to one page too many times can have diminishing returns for the overall authority of your site, and paint a picture that much of your content isn’t link-worthy.
The anchor text of your link conveys the link’s function within your article. However, you can’t just stuff keywords into your anchor text—in fact, you can be penalized if Google suspects you of doing this. Instead, your anchor text should explain the purpose of your link in clear, natural terms.
Keep these considerations in mind as you move forward, whether you build links through guest posts, circulated content, or some other link earning strategy. As long as you have your priorities straight, and don’t abandon them in a blind rush, I can almost guarantee you’ll gain meaningful momentum. For help designing and executing a link building campaign, see SEO Link Building: The Ultimate, Step-by-Step Guide.