Building links is still going to be important to SEO in 2018.
According to a 2017 survey by SEO Powersuite, 72 percent of SEO pros believe backlinks are a significant ranking factor.
While links obviously aren’t the sole indicator of a website’s quality and information, they do have an impact on organic search.
Based on 2017 and where SEO is headed, here are a few predictions for link building will change this year.
Google Will Catch Onto the More Advanced PBN Sites
Even though old PBNs are easy to identify, some are still trying to use PBNs with an “upgraded” approach, as they are more sophisticated with less of a footprint.
Google will figure out how to vet these low quality sites and more of them will become useless than in 2017.
Google’s ability to find nefarious link building schemes continues to grow.
Avoid any link sharing or PBN-like schemes that may threaten the integrity of your website(s).
It’s best to spend the time to do the high quality work to build reputable links on your own instead of trying to take shortcuts.
Some sources (which I won’t link to) state that you won’t receive a penalty if a PBN is only 5 to 20 percent of your link profile.
But is it really worth spending the time and money it takes to build a high quality PBN knowing Google will most likely hit you with a manual action?
Risk tolerance is the core deciding factor for determining whether to use PBNs.
Take the budget you are considering spending on a PBN and put it toward high-quality evergreen content creation or more reputable link building that has a long-term ROI without fear of penalty.
The aforementioned survey found that most SEO pros only get 1-20 new backlinks on average monthly. More than that may signify lower quality links.
Good link building takes time and patience.
Link Profiles Will Matter More
Building a more robust link profile on a keyword-by-keyword basis is going to become more important.
Google’s machine learning will get smarter and as a result, it will allow the search engine to match the content that is correlated with a user’s intent, using link profile data.
As AI-driven technology and voice search continues to shape SEO and how users find what they are looking for, making sure your links fit with your keyword strategy is important.
A good link profile usually consists of links from a variety of sources that make sense for your site. Search engines become suspicious when your website gets links a large amount of low quality or unrelated sites.
You can easily examine the URL rating distribution with Ahrefs. This can give you an idea of the quality range of your link profile.
For instance, if your gardening site had 100 links from crafting websites, it wouldn’t make sense if the content wasn’t related.
Search engines are smart enough to calculate a correlation (e.g., your gardening site had a blog post about a children’s craft project) or if the links appear random (e.g., linking to several different pages on your site that aren’t related to crafts).
Influencer Marketing Will Become More Prominent
Influencer marketing is essentially building relationships with bloggers and social media influencers to collaborate on projects like company information, products, sponsored posts, and reviews.
This type of link building (which has many other benefits besides a link, like visibility and brand recognition) will become more prominent in 2018.
Essentially, influencer campaigns for link building work best when you are collaborating on the creation of original content about your products or services.
Audiences like genuine content that isn’t trying to hide links or secretly sell them something.
By using a transparent approach, users will have more respect for the brand and be more willing to read a review or ad about one of their products.
By providing something to the reader, such as useful information or a giveaway, companies can not only get links but also build a repertoire with their target audience.
No matter what content angle you take with influencers, make sure they disclose all relationships with your company to comply with FTC and Google guidelines.
Categorical Relevance Will be More Hyper-Focused
Figuring out how your products, services, and content fit into specific categories, from a link perspective, is going to become more important in 2018.
This drive comes as it finds new ways to categorize and correlate content category with content relevancy to a user’s search intent.
When possible, branch out your strategy based on what categories your target audience may be searching in, and try to build out content accordingly.
As you expand your link profile and influencer outreach to target more websites in these categories, your site will likely be seen as more relevant to related categories users may be searching in.
Many SEO pros make the mistake of constantly going after hyper-targeted keywords that actually have a low search volume.
While niche keywords are always great to include in your strategy, consider what higher level category phrases could still be bringing targeted traffic to your site.
As SEO and link building continue to evolve throughout 2018 and beyond, one thing seems to ring true each year: honesty and providing value to users is what continues to bring the biggest benefit to websites.
Not only does it increase brand recognition, but using high quality link building practices can help ensure your efforts are going to a long-term gain instead of a shortcut that comes with its own consequences.
Focus on varying your link profile with category and niche keywords, and look for new ways to get links, like working with influencers or creating great linkable content.
SEO requires us to be agile and nimble to the changes in the industry, and trying new things can help you stay ahead of competitors who are stuck trying the same old tactics.
Featured Image: Created by Kevin Rowe, January 2018.
In-post Photo # 1: Created by Kevin Rowe, January 2018.
Screenshots by Kevin Rowe. Taken January 2018.