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The importance of link building in 2021 and beyond

Helmet Guy of PlayAttack Affiliates discusses the importance of link building for affiliate marketers in the past, present and future.

Search engine optimisation is an inclusive term that encompasses several essential factors for all businesses that operate in a digital environment. Some of the most well-known factors include page speed, mobile-friendliness, meta descriptions, and link building.
As most experienced affiliate marketers will be aware, many of these principles have maintained their importance over the years. This is because Google’s main priority is always to present the best web pages in relation to consumers’ queries.
However, just like anyone else, Google constantly seeks to improve the way they do things. With yearly changes to their algorithm, affiliate marketers need to keep themselves updated on which SEO principles require their utmost attention. If not, they run the risk of decreasing their authority score and, in turn, their rankings in search results.
Link building just so happens to be one of those principles that has always been considered a crucial cog in the machine that is SEO. So, what exactly is link building, and will it continue to be a top priority for SEO experts in the future?

The early days of link building

Link building is one of the cornerstones of Google’s algorithm. Google used the number of backlinks a website had to prove a website’s capability to answer user queries.
Essentially, the number of backlinks pointing to a specific site would provide tremendous results in terms of ranking. Unfortunately, once marketers and content strategists caught wind of this and realised the incredible potential of link building, they began to abuse it.
As a result of exploitation, link building became more of a manipulative short-term tactic and was not being used in the ways initially intended by Google. Google’s response to this was to release an algorithm update that would target spam for link building. Having an endless list of backlinks no longer had the same positive effect for businesses, and low-quality pages began to rank appropriately in search results.

Link building in 2021

Fast forward to 2021, and you’ll regularly witness arguments over whether link building is still vital, whether it’s dead in the water, or if it still has its uses.
The truth of the matter is, link building is still alive and kicking. They remain a simple and effective way of determining quality. However, it has become increasingly difficult and time-consuming to build up good quality backlinks. In fact, a study conducted by Backlinko found that just 2.2% of content published online receives multiple backlinks.
Moreover, earning quality backlinks remains a great way to increase authority score. Emphasis on the word “quality” is needed here. Affiliate sites will struggle to improve their search rankings by just focusing on the volume of links they earn if they disregard quality entirely.
This is both positive and negative. The positive is that the overall quality of first-page search results is much higher than it was ten years ago. Those who put the time and effort into their content to earn backlinks will no longer see their efforts fall below those who use manipulative tactics.
So, what’s the downside? Many websites can be reluctant to include organic backlinks to others. Instead, they might implement a simple nofollow code to avoid showing Google that they have given a particular page their vote of confidence. In fact, when reaching out to other domains, you are likely to have to pay a fee to have a link inserted into someone else’s blog post.
This begs the following question.

How can affiliates make the most out of link building?

Many affiliate websites face several challenges when it comes to earning good-quality backlinks to their website. Besides requesting payment for link insertion, organic link building can also be tricky if affiliates content primarily consists of casino reviews and ‘top 20 best casino lists’.
A major reason for this is that other domains prefer to link to the content of a more informative or educational nature, as this is much more beneficial for their own audience members.
That’s not to say that it’s impossible to earn backlinks to reviews. The companies that affiliates review might be more than happy to include backlinks on their website if affiliates reach out to them. This is most commonly done in the form of testimonials. Software such as SEMrush is excellent for identifying the best domains to reach out to for backlinks.
Another effective ways for affiliates to acquire links is by writing long-form content consisting of at least 3,000 words. Yes, this is more time-consuming than writing shorter reviews, but it expands the range of content you provide and helps educate your audience.
If your affiliate site becomes the go-to source for information in your niche, then other domains will no longer be reluctant to link back to you. On the contrary, you are likely to earn organic backlinks over time as others will use your content to boost their own SEO efforts. You might be interested to know that according to a Backlinko study, long-form acquires 77.2% more backlinks than shorter content.

What does the future look like for link building?

Link building is still highly relevant and important for affiliates in 2021. However, this might change further down the line.
The reality is that metrics like page duration, bounce rate, and session duration are also great indicators that visitors enjoy a page’s content. This could mean that the tide might shift away from link building in the future.
All in all, affiliates should still include link building as part of their overall SEO strategy for the future. Whatever happens, it can never hurt to have respected domains link back to your website. The main takeaway should be not to put all of your eggs in one basket. Diversify by putting more effort into other key aspects of SEO, and keep up to date with Google’s algorithm updates to make sure your affiliate business keeps moving forward.