Link building is one of SEO’s most used tools to boost rankings, domain authority, traffic, conversions, and sales. They’re all connected.
Links tell search engines if your site is recognized, trusted, and worthy of a top spot on search engine results pages (SERPs). However, the quantity of backlinks is important but takes a far backseat behind the quality of backlinks. In fact, backlinking is among the most important factors in SEO.
This screenshot shows a website’s backlink profile among other data.
This post is going to examine how links are graded by search engines, especially Google, the good and bad types of links, and, finally, we’ll look at what characteristics a good backlinking strategy should have in order for it to be successful.
How Links are Valued
A link is considered a ‘vote’. The Google algorithm places a very high value on what links are being pointed to a page or site. However, these votes are not only about quantity, so make sure the quality of your links is also as high as possible.
Authority of the Linking Site
But it’s not just any old link. Novice SEO’s are tempted to thinking that because search engines care about links the more the better… right?
Well, you’d be dead wrong. It is the quality not the number of links that matter. As well as the types of links that point to your site and where they are from.
This image shows backlinks analyzed by AHREFS that have a good Domain Rating.
You see Google, parent company Alphabet, has a market capitalization of $1.55 trillion. Believe it or not, the primary source of their revenue is from website visitors using their search engine – they are far more invested than you are in ensuring the accuracy of what sites show up for certain queries.
What Google wants to see is useful links in informative content. Gone are the days where you can spend $80 on 1000 links and expect that to help your site – in fact engaging in risky techniques like that is likely to get your site marked as ‘low trust’ – doing more harm than good.
As you can see from the screenshot above, buying backlinks is a very real practice.
Best Types of Backlinks
Now that you know how links are graded and what factors to take into account when building your own link-building campaign, let’s take a look at the links that will give you positive SEO value.
Editorial or In-Article Links
Editorial backlinks are valuable backlinks because they are natural and provide real value to readers. They are the ones you get just because your content is great and other people naturally want to cite it or include it in their content because it adds value for their audience.
Essentially search engines look at two factors of these links. One is the attributes of the site where the article is contained and the other is attributes of the page where the link appears.
Below is an example of an editorial or article link;
While the above has a branded anchor text – it is natural for the article to link to the source site as it provides value to the reader based on the article’s aims.
Caution about link insertions.
Even better is to get an editorial backlink that has anchor text that uses your brand or the keywords you’re looking to rank that content for. To produce this type of link, you have to focus on developing a content marketing strategy based on strong keyword research that helps your produce evergreen, shareable content.
Business Profile Backlinks
When you open a business profile for your company on the business listing, social media networks, and/or industry-specific directories, you can include a link back to your website. These links will tell search engines that your website is an established business.
The link in your LinkedIn profile is a great example as you can see in the image above.
Make sure the profiles you create and the sites/platforms you create them on are relevant to your industry and your audience. Review sites are also acceptable for this purpose, for example, Clutch, G2, etc.
Guest Posting Backlinks
Although guest posting takes a lot of time and effort, it’s still one of the best link-building strategies. Researching and contacting sites that are relevant to your website and your audiences is a sure way to guarantee a boost in user experience and a boost in your rankings.
Guest blogging backlinks remain to be highly rewarded by search engines because they are an effective tactic to build links and improve the user experience for the audience
Bonus: Broken Link Replacement
Broken link replacement is a great tactic to build your link profile with relevant backlinks. In a nutshell, broken link replacement is a tactic by which you research websites you want to target for a guest post to find links that are broken and that you can replace with your own content.
There are many tools out there to check for broken links. Here’s a screenshot of one of them in action:
The approach is very similar to guest posting in that you reach out to the owner of the site with the broken link and pitch them a piece of content that is valuable and relevant in order for them to update that link with your own content.
Webinars are highly valuable assets that people often want to link to. Make your webinar recordings available for people to link back to them easily, even allowing them to embed the recording on their site.
Free Tool Links
Hosting free tools on your site is a great way to attract people interested in linking back to them. Consider adding tools that will benefit your audience and add value to their journey. This might be a free tool or a free version of a paid tool.
There are other links that don’t provide as much SEO value but are not harmful either. These include:
- Acknowledgment Backlinks
- Guest Post Bio Backlinks
- Badge Backlinks
- Newsworthy Press Release Backlinks
- Comment Backlinks
These types of backlinks need to be obtained as naturally as possible because if you start getting too many of these links, you might be seen as a spammer and there could be negative consequences.
This is where Google Search Console would show you a manual action if you were to get one:
As you will see below, there are important differences between high-quality backlinks and low-quality backlinks. Let’s go through some of the bad kinds of backlinks you should probably avoid.
Bad Types of Backlinks
SEO is not measured by quantity alone. Links can hurt your rankings if you try to manipulate search engine rankings in any way.
The following types of links ought to be avoided in your backlinking strategy to keep your linking profile healthy and growing.
Google has stated on repeated occasions that buying or selling links “can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results.” So, avoid doing it despite the temptation of quick boosts in rankings and traffic.
Non-Newsworthy Press Releases
Sending out too many press releases just to obtain backlinks is not correct. The best practice regarding your press releases is to only send them out when there is something newsworthy to share.
General Business and Article Directory Links
Keep your directory and article listings to those websites that are truly relevant to your industry and your audience. Make sure they’re recognized in your niche and relevant to your audience.
Spamming forums with your links is not a good practice. What you have to do is join forums that are relevant to your audience and participate in the conversation with the goal to inform and add value.
Build a Smart Backlinking Strategy
The best way to ensure long-term backlinking good health is to create a backlinking strategy that follows best practices and is focused on providing valuable information and a better user experience to your target audience.
Following these principles will ensure you stay away from penalties and other awkward situations. Google and other search engines are always on the hunt for bad practices, such as automated backlinks and link-building practices that lower the quality of the search result pages.
Your links and link profile will get more SEO juice from quality websites linking back to it. If you get a backlink from top sites in your target niche, search engines will receive signals saying your site is also relevant, thus ranking it better.
On the other hand, low-quality or unknown sites may hurt your authority and rankings.
How to Figure Out a Website’s Authority
There are many tools out there that’ll help you find a website’s authority. Some of these sites will require you to sign up, some of them have free trials, other tools are always free and might come with some limitations.
The way these sites measure authority might change, but the results will be consistent because all of them take mostly the same factors into consideration.
Do-Follow & No-Follow
To determine if a link is Dofollow or Nofollow, the publisher will add a piece of HTML code to it in order to tell search engines the type of link it is.
- Do follow links send a signal to search engines that add ranking “value” to such links.
- No follow links tell search engines to ignore them, thus they have very little to no SEO value.
On-site Link Location
Location, location, location. That old real estate maxim holds true to link location as well. Websites are divided into sections, these sections do have an impact on the value of your link.
To get the most value out of your link location, make sure it’s in the body content of the site. Placing your link in the header, footer, or sidebar of the page will not give it as much SEO value.
It’s not all about the links. Google is constantly analyzing search intent to deliver the best results for the user inputting the query. Search intent is basically an analysis of what the user is actually intending to accomplish when they type something into the search engine.
Google’s most important ranking factors are:
- User Experience
- Rank Brain
Believe it or not, links play a role in each of the categories above. For instance, your content needs to be high-quality and relevant, including the amount and quality of links in it. The links in your site need to improve the user experience.
Rank Brain is an algorithm created by Google that constantly monitors user experience signs on the search results pages and has the ability to manage and tweak Google’s rules to present the user with the most relevant results possible by analyzing factors such as:
- Click-Through Rate (CTR)
- Time on page/dwell time
- Bounce Rate
- User experience
- Content quality
- Content freshness
This analysis will help Google serve the most relevant content possible for the specific search intent.