When it comes to link building there is much discussion in the SEO world: Anchor texts, domain authority of the link-giving page and dofollow as well as nofollow are just some of the factors that are always being discussed. This is only understandable – after all, links are still considered one of the most important ranking factors confirmed by Google. Backlinks now often act as the tipping point when Google decides between two otherwise excellent search engine optimized pages.
But what happens after all these efforts are done and a fresh new backlink finally gets a chance to appear? How does the new link affect your ranking? And even more exciting: Have you gained a ranking advantage for all time? How long does this link exist? And what happens if someone removes it again? As I said, not everything is up to you.
Basically, Google is very silent with answers to these questions. There is no clear answer to how important it is that a link exists for a long time and which period is to be considered “long”. It can be assumed that the answers differ somewhat from case to case. Nevertheless, there is some evidence that you should not only pay attention to the “birth” of your backlink, but also keep an eye on its entire life cycle.
A link that fulfills all known quality characteristics, but is removed again after two weeks, makes the inclined SEO marketer wonder: Is the link target not recommendable after all? Was the reason for the linking perhaps dubious? It is obvious that such questions are also created in the Google algorithm – after all, the algorithm must rely on links as a sign of further recommendation.
For the sake of completeness, the so-called link echo should be mentioned here. This means that the positive effect on the ranking of a page can continue to exist for a long time, even though the responsible backlink has long disappeared. Obviously, a backlink can still have a “ghost” effect. However, the reasons for this are not conclusively clear and a link echo is not something you should base your backlink strategy on. For example, if too many backlinks disappear in a short period of time, ranking losses will become visible.
So, in keeping with the slogan “The world belongs to the living”, I’ll continue to stick to long-lasting links here.
Here are some reasons why you should give your backlink a long lifespan:
After a link is set, it takes a little while before it affects the ranking.
- After all, Googlebot needs time to crawl the website again and find the link. In addition, Google observes whether it remains with this link or whether it is shared and thus multiplies. This ultimately tells Google whether the linked content is considered valuable by users
- A link that is quickly removed has little chance of multiplying, being placed again and again elsewhere by enthusiastic users. Thus, the expert blogger must first come across the link before he can include it in his latest blog post
- As long as the backlink is “alive”, it will ideally keep bringing traffic to your site
- The linkjuice keeps flowing to your site
So there are enough reasons why you should value your backlink until old age. But how do you ensure that the link can age in peace?
It all starts with content
This is where another central ranking factor comes into play: the content.
The life cycle of a link initially begins in the document that will be available under the link in the future. This is where you already determine the life expectations: because the content can explain basic facts, reveal completely unknown facts, or reproduce tired and thus boring ones.
If the target page contains relevant and high-quality content, there is no motivation to remove the link and replace it with another one if necessary. On the contrary: At best, many more backlinks will be created by your high-quality content, which will then in turn become more effective.
The link is especially a long runner if it is a pleasure to share it with others. This is especially the case when there is something unique behind it. Insights, ideas or entertainment that can’t be found everywhere. Which, by the way, is also not found everywhere: Content recommended by people or websites with a high reputation. If a large or small opinion leader who reliably sows good content spreads the link, this significantly extends its life.
Last but not least: the durability of a link correlates with the timelessness of the content. This means that it should always be up-to-date.
Do not forget redirection
Is your website undergoing changes or a complete re-launch? Then don’t forget to redirect! If there is no redirect for the target page, the backlink – just like the user – will no longer reach it. This is a common reason why backlinks eventually become useless.
In some circumstances, someone robs you of the possibility to revive your “dusty” backlink via broken link building.
Keep your fingers off the built-in expiration date
There are also cases where it is clear from the beginning that your new link will not last long. This is the case, for example, if you enter into a deal with one of the many service providers in the SEO field who generate links via link networks and get paid well for it – at the end of the cooperation, however, deliberately remove the set links again.
It makes sense to stay away from this practice, which is also called link renting. Outreach links, on the other hand, are much longer-lasting, completely natural and therefore more attractive. Detailed information on a successful outreach strategy can be found here.
Stay flexible – some backlinks are successful short-term runners
Granted, linking timeless content is not always a possible scenario. Maybe the goal is a spot-on discount promotion instead, which also has its justification and fits into the marketing strategy elsewhere.
There are other constellations where your link may not get very old, but still make sense. This is the case, for example, with publications with links in news portals. These can have a very positive effect on the ranking. Here, however, there is now and then the case that contributions do not remain online for decades. Often, older publications including the contained backlinks are archived after some time or deleted completely. However, this does not mean that a backlink from this source cannot serve you well. You should be aware of this and find out before publishing.
- Long-lasting backlinks are to be aimed for in many cases, so that you also profit from the positive effects for a long time. These are also available regardless of how Google evaluates the lifetime of an individual backlink
- A link is born with a document it points to. The link grows with people who use it. It matures through sharing. The extent to which sharing takes place depends on the one hand on the quality of the document and on the other hand on who exactly the people or institutions are that share it. The key is to reach the right candidates. Create good content and maintain it
- Not every link has to be for eternity. The Internet is a fast-moving, ever-changing medium. Losing links and gaining new ones is therefore completely normal
- Even links whose shelf life is foreseeably limited can be worthwhile. They bring all the advantages of a backlink with them – just not forever
- If sustainable SEO is practiced, it is not bad if you lose some links again. Because in the best case, in combination with other SEO measures, they have made themselves redundant and made their contribution to improving the ranking
- Stay away from service providers that put you at risk of being penalized, are expensive and offer backlinks with a built-in expiration date
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All the best,