Backlinks have long been a foundation of successful search engine optimization. Although modern SEO is increasingly focused on content and engagement, links still matter a great deal in any remotely competitive sector.
However, a link is not just a link. If you want to see your site move up the rankings, you need to make sure the links you’re building are ones which will actually have some effect.
Properties of Effective Backlinks
The days when a marketer could force a ranking with pure link volume are now just a fond memory. Today, Google and other engines are very choosy about the kind of links they use to credit a site. What should you be looking for when building effective backlinks?
– Links from popular sites which can send you real traffic, regardless of SEO value.
– Links from domains or pages with close relevancy to your own content.
– Links which provide genuine value for the reader of the linking page, so that visitors will follow them naturally.
– Links which fit naturally into their surrounding content rather than standing out as clear advertisements or promotion.
– Links from websites which rank highly for searches within your niche or closely related areas.
Getting the Good Links
Backlinks meeting all these qualifications are rare – which is precisely why they have such value. But here are five methods of link-building which can achieve the kind of backlink you’re looking for.
– Guest blogging, or publishing content on another domain with a link included in your author biography.
– Press releases containing genuinely newsworthy information, with a link pointing to further reading on your own site.
– Simple outreach to relevant sites’ owners, pointing out that your content would be useful to their visitors. You’ll have a low success rate, but the quality will be high if you choose your targets wisely.
– Broken link building, or suggesting your content as a replacement for link targets which have now disappeared.
– Building a reputation on question and answer sites such as Quora, and placing links either in your profile or directly in your answers. However, in the vast majority of cases, these Q&A links will have the ‘nofollow’ attribute, which limits their direct SEO value.
– Submissions to relevant, high-quality directories, particularly those based around a niche. Avoid general directories with few inclusion requirements apart from payment.
Backlinks to Be Wary Of
As always, creative marketers will be able to come up with plenty more potential link sources to experiment with. However, just as some links are more powerful than others, some can be actively harmful. If you want to stay within safe limits, avoid links with these six characteristics.
– Links from sites which themselves employ aggressive SEO tactics. You risk being penalized by association if the source site gets burned.
– Anything paid, or paid-looking, which isn’t softened by a ‘nofollow’ attribute.
– Links from sources which have low or no editorial standards. You’re almost guaranteed to wind up in unsavory company.
– Links built on low-traffic pages, which won’t be followed by real users. Nothing looks less natural than a link which is never clicked.
– Links from closed loops of nepotistic sites, or networks built purely for linking purposes.
– Links dropped into comment sections, reviews, or other user-generated content with little moderation.
In short, if a link seems too easy to acquire, it’s probably not going to do you much good – and could easily do you harm if your other SEO activities test the boundaries of search engine guidelines.
If you want to enjoy the ranking power that good links still bring, then put traditional SEO considerations to the back of your mind. Concentrate on relevancy, quality, and traffic, and the rest will follow.