Natural links are always a staple of good SEO. You’ve probably heard about them many times when reading about SEO, hearing them referred to as “natural,” “organic” or “real.” But what exactly are natural links, how do you get them and how do they influence SEO? Many marketers are missing the mark when it comes to building natural links, and you may be too. In this post, we want to explore what it means for a link to be natural and how it can be used to boost your SEO strategy.
Defining Natural Links
Marketers describe natural links in a number of ways, but in basic terms, it’s any link that is created when a visitor shares your site on their website, blog or other profile. As other sites link back to you as well, your page develops authority and begins to climb up in the search engines. The more organic links your site gets, the more people trust you, and the more Google trusts you.
Let’s take a look at an example of how your site can build natural links.
Let’s say you run a local gardening company. Your website and company blog contain useful information about lawn and gardening. As people research their questions in Google (How can I keep my lawn green? What flowers are best to plant in my climate?), they enter your website through the related content. They then get familiar with your company and learn to trust what you have to say.
When people view you as an authority, they may link back to your site when writing their own content or posting on social media. The more people that do this, the more you are looked at as an authority when it comes to lawn and gardening care in your area.
Why Google Trusts Linkstrust
Humans, sites and Google all look to links to build an understanding of a website. That’s why they are such an important part of SEO. Simply put, links are a strong signal of authority, relevance and trust, but they need to be carefully monitored because they can be easily manipulated. Any manipulation that occurs will have a negative impact on the site.
Imagine that a spammy website links back to your site in their content. You probably have worried about this many times, as do other marketers. But the fear of manipulation is what has led many marketers down the wrong path, focusing their attention on how the link was created rather than examining the link itself.
What does this mean for you? Basically, it means taking a closer look at what Google perceives as a natural link.
Best Link Practices
According to Google, there are steps you can take to encourage better link building. They include:
Give visitors the information they’re looking for by providing high-quality content.
Use words that will help people find your pages and include them throughout your content. Don’t overuse them, though. Always write naturally and for your audience, not the search engines.
Provide content that other people will want to link to. Ideas include infographics, images, short videos, guest posts or listicles. Or, focus on topics that will fuel discussion and controversy, how-to pieces or interviews from industry experts.
Make sure that other sites link to yours. When returning results for a search, Google uses text-matching techniques to display pages that are relevant to each search. Google can tell the difference between natural and unnatural links.
What about Self Promotion?
If people were aware of all the content on the Internet, you would have all the links you deserve. But this is impossible. With all the noise on the Web, you have to promote yourself and try to get your content into at least some of the right hands. So in order to get the links you deserve, you have to promote your content. Assuming that they will fall naturally into your hands is the wrong approach. Not to mention, it’s slow and unexciting.
While it’s true that Google can tell the difference between natural and unnatural links, Google understands that marketers have to work for their links, too. The key is producing exceptional content that aligns with your company, then promoting it. You must have both elements to see the results you hope for.
Think of it this way. If you’re proud of your website and it’s valuable to others, why wouldn’t you want to promote it?
Don’t Overthink Natural
Now that you know what natural links are, how they are viewed by Google and why self promotion is necessary, you can adopt a new link building strategy that works. Many marketers overthink the “natural” part of natural links, but this isn’t the right approach.
Don’t judge how the link was created; judge it based on the value it provides. You have every right to promote your activity and value. You have every right to ask for a link. Waiting around for links to “happen naturally” won’t do you any favors. You can still promote yourself and build natural links, and this is the way it needs to be if you want fast yet authentic results.
Building Natural Links
So what are some of the ways that you can actively start building natural links?
Post links on social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+.
Generate shareworthy content such as infographics and other forms of visual media.
Maintain a steady blog that provides updated, relevant information.
Link to other blogs on your blog.
Install social sharing buttons on your site.
Invite guest bloggers to write for you, or guest blog for others.
Generate high-quality content for a niche audience such as a white paper, case study or press release.
Partner with others in related industries.
Ask for reviews.
Search for and monitor mentions of your brand.
We hope that this information has helped you better understand what natural links are and how they help your SEO strategy. Although building links is nothing new, the way you’ve been going about the process may need a fresh perspective. Don’t be afraid to self promote your activity and ask for links. This does not make the link unnatural. You are a marketer and an SEO optimizer. It’s okay to ask for the things you want – well, in this case at least.
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