Good SEO is all about finding a balance – a balance between your content, on-page SEO, and the number of links you build.

Without the proper balance, an SEO campaign can hurt a website far more than it helps. For example, if you build too many fishy links and point them at your homepage, the odds that your website will get penalized by Google.

Before SEO became a common practice, Google’s algorithm ranked websites naturally. Based on how many people enjoyed the content of a website (as shown by the number of backlinks), websites with authority in their niche naturally ranked on page #1.

As internet marketers learned to game the system, Google found their rankings were being overrun by low quality “SEO sniper” websites (sites designed to rank well for one specific keyword). As a result, they’ve made significant algorithmic changes over the years in an attempt to get only the most high-quality websites to the top of the rankings.

Although they’ve struggled with this in the past, when they released the Panda Update, it looked like they may have finally found a solution. 

The Panda Update is so effective due to its approach. Instead of using external factors (links) to completely gauge rankings, Google’s now determining how much value a specific website offers its viewers. By keeping bounce rates, average time on site, and new social votes (from Facebook and Twitter) in mind when ranking websites, the Panda Update seems to be working well for the time being.

Although social votes may replace backlinks in the near future, right now, backlinks are still a great way to get your website ranking. The Panda Update changed the game completely, but by playing along with Google’s rules and “naturally” building links, we can push our websites to the first page of Google for the majority of keywords.

How Natural is “Natural?”

Before we get into the details of a natural linking strategy, it’s important to note one thing: when you’re building links, you’re gaming Google’s algorithm.

The algorithm is designed to be a standalone guide to search engine rankings. Whenever we build links for SEO, we’re messing with that algorithm. We’re essentially tricking it – making it believe that our website has more link value than it actually does.

By using the method we’re about to get into, you’re building links as safely and as naturally as possible. Instead of trying to gimmick your way to the top, you’re playing along with the guidelines Google’s set and spreading links across your entire website.

Yes, it’s still gaming the algorithm. But, at this point, Google understands SEO is a common marketing strategy. If your website provides value and you just need some links to get the ball rolling, you’ll probably be okay. However, we couldn’t go on without mentioning the fact that there is some risk involved.

If you follow this strategy spot on, the risk will be minimal. There’s always a chance that Google will realize you’ve built links and penalize your website, though, so before starting to build links just keep that in mind.

In the perfect world, Google’s algorithm would take care of everything perfectly. Since marketers will always be using SEO, though, they’ve had to adapt. I’m not trying to dissuade you from trying this strategy, just emphasizing that although it’s a safe strategy, it still carries some risk.

Local Link Juice

In case you’re new to SEO, this section’s for you. 

Web sites, based on the number of links they have and their site age, have a specific amount of “link juice.” If a website links to you, they transfer some of their juice to your website. 

For example, if the gave a link to my site on reclining chairs, I’d probably receive a massive boost in the search engine rankings. This is because, over time, The New York Time’s website has gained a HUGE number of links. Additionally, it’s a massive authority figure on the web. Since it has so much link juice already, whenever it sends out a link, a small portion of that juice gets transferred.

Now, most people realize that when a website links to you, it transfers link juice to your website. What they don’t realize, though, is that when you link to your own website, it also transfers and builds link juice!

Yes, some of the most effective SEO strategies rely on building a massive network of links between all the pages on your website. This builds a significant amount of link juice within your own website and ensures that if an external website links to one of your pages, the link juice gets shared within all of your interlinking pages. 

Create a Definite Keyword Structure

In order to use this strategy, you need to have a solid keyword strategy in place. A keyword strategy is the backbone of your website. Your keywords determine your content, which is the structure of your website.

When you do keyword research, you should be targeting a series of keywords. First, you should have your main keyword – the keyword that has the most competition, but also the most potential for huge amounts of traffic should you rank on page #1. 

In the second layer, you should have keywords relating to the main keyword. These should be less competitive, but easy to write high-value content for.

Lastly, you have the third layer. Here, you take the second layer keywords and add more words and phrases onto them. These become the articles on your website.

To illustrate this process, take a look at this diagram of a website built around the keyword “bodybuilding”:

As you can see with this diagram, we have our main keyword, “bodybuilding” at the top level. This is the most competitive keyword, but it also has the highest potential for overall levels of traffic. If we can rank on page #1 for “bodybuilding,” our website will be doing very well.

At the second level, we have our related keywords. These keywords are still on the same topic as the original keyword, they just have less competition and less people searching for the keywords. This is good, as we need to build up our websites starting at the bottom and working our way up.

Lastly, we have the titles of the articles we’ll be writing. These articles are what will be populating our webpage, so when people visit, instead of reading about “bodybuilding” specifically, they’ll be reading about the different aspects of bodybuilding, such as “bodybuilding supplements for fat loss.”

This provides a more specific and targeted viewing experience and also helps us rank for multiple keywords at once.

Remember – even though we’re after the big keyword, “bodybuilding,” we can only gain rankings on that level after passing through all the other levels. We first need to rank for “bodybuilding supplements for fat loss,” then “bodybuilding supplements,” and, once we’ve dominated those keywords, our website has a chance at ranking for “bodybuilding.” 

For the natural deep linking strategy, it’s absolutely essential you have this type of structure. Why? Because with an organized structure like this - you can easily rank between pages. In other words, if I’m writing an article with the keyword “supplements for muscle building,” there’s a good chance I can also link to the “bodybuilding diets for muscle building” page. This transfers link juice between those two pages.

Additionally, since we’re still targeting “bodybuilding,” “bodybuilding supplements,” and “bodybuilding diets,” we can target those keywords without writing content based on them specifically (more on that later).

Remember – start with a solid keyword structure for your website. This makes it better for viewers, Google bots, and your SEO strategy.

Using Anchor Text to Rank for Additional Keywords

In the last section, we talked about how by using a solid keyword structure, we can begin linking between other pages on our website. Additionally, we can also link for keywords our articles aren’t specifically targeted. This is done by using proper anchor text when you link.

In SEO, links carry the juice, but it’s anchor text that tells Google what keywords the juice should go towards. For example, if I owned a bodybuilding website but I only built backlinks with the anchor text of “flowers,” over time and with enough links my website would rank on page #1 for the keyword “flowers” – not bodybuilding.

This is very important to keep in mind, as many people simply link back to their websites with the anchor text of “click here,” or “here.” You don’t want to be ranking for the key phrase “click here,” so don’t include that text in your anchor text!

Although Adobe isn’t specifically targeting the phrase “click here,” their website is ranked #1 on the first page because all the websites linking to them use the anchor text, “click here.”

To fully utilize anchor text, have a plan on how you’ll be building links for your keywords (as we get into deep link building, you’ll understand why this is important). If you want to start ranking for the keyword “bodybuilding supplements for muscle gain,” in one of your other articles, point to that article with an anchor text of “bodybuilding supplements for muscle gain.”

If you want to build up link juice for your main keywords, on the other hand, instead of linking to a specific article, you could link back to your homepage with the anchor text of “bodybuilding.” This builds uplink juice for your homepage and simultaneously helps you begin ranking for your main keyword.

As you can see, by using anchor text correctly, you gain a significant amount of control over how and where you want your website to rank. 

Design a keyword structure, then start building links from the bottom up. First, get the ranking of your lower-tier articles, then, as they gain authority, they’ll add authority to your homepage and second-tier keywords as well.

Deep Linking – The Wrong Way

Now that we’ve got our structure set up and understand how link juice is transferred through anchor text, it’s time to get into the meat of the strategy: deep linking.

But before we do that, let’s talk about how link building has traditionally been done by a great many internet marketers and why their methods have produced little success, especially since Google Panda.

When most internet marketers start doing SEO on their websites, they take a very one-dimensional approach. They usually do keyword research, but instead of building a keyword structure as we did, they only pick one or two main keywords. So instead of choosing three levels of bodybuilding keywords, they just go after “bodybuilding” by itself.

Because bodybuilding is such a competitive keyword, they need to create a lot of links in order to rank on page 1. To accomplish this as quickly as possible, they pile all their links into one page - their homepage. They build links from third-party websites (such as article directories, web 2.0 properties, etc.) and each link has the anchor text of “bodybuilding,” pointing straight back at their homepage.

Although this might seem like a good idea, in theory, it’s actually terrible for the long-term success of a website.

Let’s break down what’s happening and why it doesn’t work. Instead of balancing the link juice among many pages of their websites, it’s piling it all onto one page. The hope is that once they give enough authority to their homepage, they’ll be able to rank their other pages by default. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work this way. 

If your homepage has all your link authority, even if you do get it ranking on page 1 (best case scenario), you’ll only be bringing in traffic from one keyword – the one you originally targeted.

In most cases, there’s little hope of ever reaching page 1 with this type of strategy. Why? Because Google knows what you’re doing. They’ve seen it all before. If you’re just spamming links to your homepage, your content is likely subpar. Otherwise, people be naturally linking back to it.

See, in the natural world of SEO, if someone likes your content, they’ll link back to the page containing the content – not the homepage!

If Google sees tons of anchor text “bodybuilding” links pointed at your homepage, they’ll know you’re trying to game their algorithm. They’ll know it’s not natural. They’ll know you’re purposely building links in an attempt to rank.

As past algorithm updates have shown, Google DOES NOT approve of this approach. Although you may see short-term ranking gains, the likelihood you’ll get penalized by Google also grows – exponentially. 

It’s not worth it. If you did somehow manage to get onto page #1, you wouldn’t stay there for long. The one proven way to get there and stay there? Build links as naturally as possible.

Deep Linking – The Right Way

Natural deep linking begins with linking between our articles. The lengths of your articles will dictate how many links should be included. So if you have a 500-word article, feel free to include one or two links pointing to different pages within your website. For a 1,000 word article, three to five makes sense. In general, just use your best judgment. If your article looks cluttered with links, remove a few.

Remember, we’re not only looking for link juice – but we’re also looking for a quality user experience. By adding a few links, we help that user experience. Add too many and the clutter takes away from the visitor’s experience.

Our goal is to make our linking profile look as natural as possible. For a starter website, it’s difficult to gain enough traffic to get links without using SEO principles. For this reason, although we can’t get true natural links, building them in a natural way is the next best thing.

When you write an article, include phrases that are interesting and relate to other articles you’ve written. For example, if you wanted to target “bodybuilding supplements for muscle building,” you could link to it from an article entitled “bodybuilding diets for muscle building”:

Although there are a wide variety of supplements that encourage muscle growth, if you want to see quick results now, bodybuilding diets for muscle building are your best bet.

This is relevant, encourages the user to read more pages in your website (a crucial indicator the new algorithm takes into consideration), and gives link juice to your other pages.

Basically your goal is to build a web of links between all of your pages. As often as possible, link to other pages throughout your articles. But don’t just target one specific page – although that seems like a quick way to rank, it doesn’t work. Instead, target as many different pages as possible. This builds up the link juice of your entire site – not just one or two pages of it. The end result is a website that ranks for a HUGE selection of keywords while building the authority of the homepage, allowing it to rank for highly ultra-competitive keywords like “bodybuilding.”

Supplementing your On-Page Links

This is a far different approach than most website owners take. Most internet marketers are more concerned with building links from external sources than through their websites themselves. With our strategy, we focus almost entirely on internal links with just a polite nod to external links.

External links are good: they give your web page additional juice from other sites. Without this juice, it’s difficult to begin building juice within your own internal links. That being said, you definitely don’t want to go overboard on external links. One or two per article is all you need, and once you get the ball rolling, when people visit your website, if it gives them value, they’ll naturally link back to you.

So where do we get these external links from?  To begin with, we can use the standard article directories and web 2.0 properties. We can create custom pieces of unique content for HubPages, EzineArticles and websites like these and then link back to our pages using the proper anchor text.

Although these are the most common sources for external links, we have to question whether or not it’s still worth the effort to build them. The Panda Update hit these websites hard, and as such, the link juice we can gain from them is not nearly what it used to be, meaning you could end up creating more harm than good for your site if you use them.

For this reason, instead of using these properties to get links, I’d recommend another source: guest posting.

Guest posting has always been one of the best ways to build links. Look up other bloggers in your niche and offer to post a page on their site. They get free content and, in return, you get a backlink from their website.

These links are fantastic, because not only are they from real authority sites, they’re real links from authority websites in your niche. Additionally, with guest posting, you can get links from websites that have much more authority than web 2.0 properties and article directories. There are many high ranking websites that rely on guest posts for their content, so as long as you write a good article, getting a link for your website should be relatively simple.

When you get these links, be sure to point them naturally – just like you’re doing with internal links. When you give link juice to specific pages, those pages can then give link juice to other pages through external rankings.

Closing Thoughts

SEO isn’t what it used to be. Instead of a numbers game, it’s a quality game. Even though your content and visitor behaviors are more important than your links, links still play a crucial role in where your website ranks (for now).

For this reason, if you want to boost your website’s rankings, taking a natural deep linking approach is your best bet. By building a solid site structure, interlinking, and supplementing your pages with links from guest posting, you’re building an incredible foundation for your website to grow upon.

So next time you’re tempted to get 1,000 links blasted to your homepage, don’t do it. Instead, focus on natural linking strategies that may take time, but will bring you long-lasting results.