Get backlinks they said! It’ll be easy they said!
We’re the ones laughing. It’s a nervous laughter. Because building links is an art - It takes time, focus and dedication. It's about identifying quality and relevant opportunities. It’s about your ability to position yourself as a source of expertise, authority, and trustworthiness.
Some marketers might recognize those last three terms: they make up Google’s E-A-T acronym, the concept which sets the guidelines used in Google’s search quality evaluations. We’ll explore that in the future but for now, know that in the current state of search engine ranking, it’s not enough to simply write about a topic and sit back and think you’re gonna watch your rankings skyrocket.
With consistent, quality content, messaging and reputation, you will begin to establish yourself as an authority, an influential figure in your niche. This is true and important in Google’s eyes and in your quest for quality backlinks.
A backlink is obtained (usually either earned or built), when a domain links or points to your website in one of various ways (such as in an article, as a resource, or even within a blog comment. The greater the site’s “authority,” the more benefit you are going to get from their backlink. We will explore authority momentarily.
Link building is the procedure of working toward getting these inbound links to your website. This differs slightly from earning links, which we will talk about later.
What Are Backlinks Important in SEO?
“link building strategies”
I see this line above all search results:
This post you’re reading now has become one of 566 million results pertaining to “link building strategies.”
So how does Google rank one search result over another? Well, there are more than 200 ranking factors in Google’s algorithm, but one of the most important: The quantity and quality of websites linking to you as a quality source of information.
Simply put, backlinks are considered a vote of confidence in the eyes of the search engines. But not all links are created equal.
Getting Started With Link Building
If you were in the business of running a restaurant (maybe you are), think of the benefit of having positive reviews. These reviews, when seen by a potential diner, transmit trust and willingness to choose you over other options. Simple, right? It’s a nod of confidence in that restaurant's food and service.
When a website links to your content, this is transmitting trust to Google and other search engines, and allows them to consider your content relevant and important.
Benefits of Building Quality Backlinks
Google takes many measures to understand searcher’s intent, and in turn, return results that they think are best suited to match that intent. Links are one of the biggest factors in the ranking algorithms.Just take a look at some of the benefits of linkbuilding:
- Increase in referral traffic from websites linking to you.
- Increase in ranking as a result of your newfound “popularity.”
- More visibility of your site in search results as a result of your rankings increase.
- Establishment of your site as an authority, gaining credibility and reputation in your niche.
Of course, building links is much more complex than simply understanding the concept. Let’s explore some core considerations when building SEO links, the characteristics of the best links and the boost you can experience within your search engine positioning.
Link Building Considerations
Seek Out Dofollow Links
Don't Ignore The Nofollow Links
Seek Authority Sources
Ahrefs offers two metrics: URL Rating (UR) and Domain Rating (DR). URL Rating represents the link authority that a specific URL has, and is calculated as a combination of the quality and quantity of backlinks that point to that specific page.
Domain Rating represents the URL Rating applied across the entire site.
DR is comparable to Moz’s DA (Domain Authority) metric. Domain Authority is a prediction of how well a website should rank on the search engines, using a 0 to 100 scale.
Domains and URLs with higher authority ratings pass more potent “link juice” through to you. Links from .gov and .edu sources are typically higher authority sites.
Identify Relevant Link Prospects
Optimizing The Anchor Text
Wait, that matters?
Indeed. Because the “link juice” that is passed through the referring page now has additional context associated with it and the search engines will use that as a ranking factor for your target page.
And so it’s widely considered an SEO best practice to use anchor text that is — you guessed it — relevant to the page being linked to, rather than vague, generic text.
There are different ways that anchor text can be structured. In fact, it is considered good SEO practice to ensure a variety of these anchors are present in your backlink profile. The two different classifications of anchor text are naked and anchored.
Nope, that’s not a new show on TLC. (Though someone ought to give them a call…) Naked text is branding-based, such as using the brand name / site name / product name pertaining to the target page is used as the visible / clickable text. It would be as if someone linked to this article in the following way:
"SEODeconstructed offers a great new perspective on the tried and true SEO tactics such as the considerations of link-building."
It could also take the form of the author’s name or the page’s URL in a variety of different structures, such as with or without the www and/or https.
Names and URLs are all considered naked text. Backlinks with naked anchor text provide authority-building context to Google, especially when used in a highly relevant piece of content. Branding sticks out. They are also less susceptible to Google’s fluctuating algorithms which can boost or bury rankings built off anchored text.
Anchored text is any keyword. Some might link to this article using: “seo link building,” “building links,” “backlinks,” etc. These are all examples of anchored text. Many lists break this down into various keyword types: Exact match, phrase match, combinations, variations etc. If you’re familiar with keyword structures, this is common knowledge for you.
As stated above, they are highly susceptible to Google’s algorithm changes. In fact, having a larger proportion of anchored text can be even more problematic as the search engines can view this as an attempt to game the system.
Anchored backlinks should not be ignored. They can provide a quick rankings boost, though with an uncertain future. When you do incorporate anchored text into your backlink outreach work, remember to diversify the keywords used to link to your pages. Again, any attempts to game the ranking system risk a Google penalty. It’s an SEO bast practice that 3 out of 4 or even 4 out of 5 backlinks utilize naked anchor text.
How to Get Backlinks in 2020
Link-building relationships must be a win-win. If you want true link value from your efforts, every link you build needs to be looked at as a partnership opportunity.
One of the biggest reasons why backlink attempts fail is because the request does not even consider what their prospect would get out of the backlink.
So, there are multiple elements that need to go into your pitch.
You’ve identified a good link prospect, you’re going to reach out and make the ask.
- The author or webmaster’s name
- Their site name (for the love of God don’t misspell these things)
- The URL you are requesting a link from
- The URL you are requesting a link to
- And what’s in it for them
What’s in it for them?
A few obvious things first - The page you’re presenting must be relevant to their site and the target page you want the link from. Your content should be detailed. Longer-form posts work much better in this situation. Your content must be well-written and presented, and your site as a whole is legitimate. So at their very least, your offer is one of quality. In a nutshell, your content must supplement theirs.
SEO practitioners know that “buying backlinks” is treading into black-hat SEO territory. Black hat SEO is defined as any practices that aim to manipulate or boost search rankings that directly or indirectly violate the search engine’s policies. And so, many digital marketers steer clear from the practice.
Though it is interesting to dissect a little deeper. Five to ten years ago, buying links was more of a common tactic, though still in violation of Google’s Webmaster Policies. Needless to say that today there is a ton more scrutiny over the practice.
Why is it appealing in the first place? For one - it saves time and effort. Imagine simplifying so much of this article’s procedural information!
I would not make the claim that there are no opportunities for link building where money or resources are exchanged. I believe that in building partnerships, there can be and often is a natural cash flow for services or even donations where a backlink is a secondary gain.
Have you ever sponsored an event or cause? Did they add your logo to their website as a thank you? You might not have even noticed that. You got more than some publicity - You got a link and could at the very least, get some nice referral traffic from it.
Perhaps you have offered something else in exchange for a link. I have read success stories where local shops or even restaurants have exchanged discounts on products and services for the link. Is this considered buying a link? Sort of. Is it black hat? Eh sort of. Will the search engines find out? Highly unlikely. Anytime you exchange something of monetary value for a link, you must consider the risk versus reward.
But to reiterate, a blatant cash-for-link exchange is an immensely risky practice. If you are caught, you will be penalized. This is black hat at its core. It is against Google’s guidelines and if they discover that you have purchased a link or you’re paying for links, you could face a manual penalty.
This has been a ton of backlink information, but we've only scratched the surface. Stay tuned for part 2 where we will dig deep into 20 different types of backlinks. See you soon!