What is natural link building and how does it affect SEO? Is it another myth or does it happen for real and what is the impact on rankings and traffic?
I will try to provide answers to the above questions using the blog you are reading now as a case study and also give you examples of natural links.
What is natural link building?
Natural link building is exactly what the name suggests i.e. links that are created naturally without the website owner having to go and generate them either through guest posting, or other forms of link building practices.
In simple words, natural links happen when other webmasters, bloggers or website owners link to your content (blogs, images, products, videos etc) because they think is useful for their readers and adds value to their websites or pages.
Is natural link building important?
It is widely accepted in the SEO industry that having natural links is the best, safest, fastest and among the most efficient ways to promote a blog or website.
With natural links you can feel secure that your content is good and that your rankings and traffic will not be affected by a Google algorithmic change.
Is it another SEO Myth?
One of the things I had real trouble understanding when I first started with blogging was ‘how to get natural links’. I did not know what I had to do so that other people find and link to my content. I always believed that this was a myth and that the only way to get links was to build them.
The problem with building links though is that sooner or later Google will find out that the links are not natural and you will end up losing both your rankings and traffic. Even worse, they may also impose a penalty on your domain and that will make it even more difficult for you.
So, the only way to gain rankings is to avoid bad practices but follow pure white had SEO techniques and natural link building is one of them.
The Case Study
Last year I wrote an article about off page SEO and explained the importance of natural link building for your off page SEO efforts and one year later I can show you how natural link building worked for the reliablesoft blog.
All the links you see below are pointing to several pages of the reliablesoft blog. They all come from respected and well-known blogs of the industry and all are natural links. I did not ask, paid, write or otherwise had any involvement in getting those links pointing to my blog.
Social Media Examiner
Search Engine Journal
The list is much bigger but these are the blogs or websites you probably identify and visit regularly.
What were the actual benefits from these links?
- Traffic – All the above websites have lots of traffic and the day the posts were featured on their home pages, I got a good amount of traffic coming to my blog.
- Industry recognition – It is always good to get referenced by some of the top blogs in your industry.
- More natural links – When the big guys link to you, other blogs link to you as well. If you are important for the big blogs, you are also important for the smaller blogs.
- Courage – Similar to the 2nd, but when you see those natural links flowing in, you get more courage to continue what you do.
- More social shares – The posts that attracted natural links were the ones that got the most attention in social media networks as well.
- Better rankings – Incoming links do affect rankings and the pages that received those links enjoy good first page rankings.
How do you get natural links?
Obviously this is the most important question of this article. The benefits of natural links are all great but how do you get them? It’s a three step process and one that I am sure you heard before but let’s review it again:
#1-Write/publish/create good content – If the content is not good then nobody will naturally link to it. If you are still at the beginning and nobody is reading you content don’t get disappointed; write like your articles are read by thousands of people and try to make them better and better. Don’t just look for the present but try to plan for the future. When the time comes and traffic will start flowing in, you have to be ready with good content to keep your visitors engaged.
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#2-Social Media – Social media may not have a direct impact on rankings but it does have a direct impact on natural link building. Through social media you can put your content in front of the people that are more likely to be interested and link to it.
In my case, these people are other bloggers, digital marketers, writers, content contributors, SEO’s etc. These are the type of people I follow in social media and these are the type of people that are more likely to link to my content.
Without having a social media presence this would be impossible and this alone is a good reason why everyone (blogger or business) should maintain a good presence in social media. If social media is something new to you, these are the 10 things you should do and these are the 15 things to avoid.
#3-Consistency – Consistently writing good content and promoting on social media while at the same time trying to build connections with other bloggers is the way to go. Timing is important and in order to find out the right timing to put your content in front of the right people, you need to be consistent in your publishing schedule. Doing 2-3 times per week increases your chances of this to happen rather than doing it once per month.
Is guest posting natural link building?
I already answered this question in the first paragraph above but would like to clarify this again.
When you go and publish content on some other website and somewhere in the content you include a link back to your website, this is not natural link building, even if it is for free, even if it is in the author bio. This does not mean that links from guest posting are all bad, but you cannot consider those are being ‘natural links’.
When the Google founders created their first website ranking algorithm, natural links played a very important role. Twenty plus years later, natural links are still very important with one major difference.
Thousands of people try on a daily basis to manipulate the Google algorithm by generating back links that look like natural links and Google is continuously revising their ranking algorithms to spot and deemphasize these fake links.
Other than that natural links are more important than ever not only for rankings but also for traffic, and industry recognition. They are also the fuel to keep content marketers do whatever they can do best i.e. create and promote content.
The best way to become a link magnet is to create good content, make social media connections with people that may be candidates to link to your content, rinse and repeat.