In order for a website to rank prominently on a search engine results page, it needs to be viewed as a trusted source.  What indicates trust to the search engines are the inbound links that point to the website.  If a website has lot of inbound links coming from a variety of good sources, it must have something good to offer.  In contrast, if nobody is linking to the site- how valuable can it be?  The search engines favor an inbound link portfolio that is diverse and grows naturally over time.  If all of the links are somewhat similar it can be a red flag that a website owner is building links in an “unnatural” manner that can lead to a penalty.

To keep a link portfolio natural, it’s important to do the following:

Vary the anchor text

Even just a few years ago it was recommended SEO practice to always link to a page using a keyword because it would tell the search engine spider what that page was about.  However, over time Google considered this practice to be over used and abused and as part of the Penguin update sites that were guilty of anchor text spamming were penalized.  This doesn’t mean that anchor text linking shouldn’t be done anymore.  It just means that it should only be done in moderation and that many variations of targeted keywords should be used as anchor text.  In addition to using a variation of keywords as anchor text, it’s also important to link to the brand name or company name since that really is the most natural way to link to a page.

Link to internal pages

Many website owners make the mistake of only linking to the homepage when they build links.  Usually the homepage is the page that is already the most trusted, so it’s important to link to other internal pages too.  Best practice is to link to the page that is the most relevant to the content that is being created.  For example, if you are writing an article about blue widgets and you offer blue widgets, link to the blue widgets page instead of the homepage.  That way someone lands on the page that they want right away instead of having to go look for the page on your site.

Look outside of the niche

The best links to obtain are the ones that are industry related and may actually generate traffic to your website from target audience members.  However, it’s also a good idea to take a small step outside of the niche and look for link opportunities in fields that are in some way related even if it’s not an exact match.

Obtain “no follow” links

There’s a misconception that “no follow” links aren’t worth obtaining for SEO because the code essentially tells the search engine spider to not follow the link.  While it’s true that it won’t pass any “link juice”, the search engine still takes note of the link.  If the link portfolio includes an overabundance of links that are “do follow” it could look fishy.  A combination of both types of links tells the search engines that you are building links for users that will generate traffic to your site, not just for purely SEO purposes.