Backlinks have always been an important SEO ranking factor. In fact, Google expressly names them among the top three most significant assets for search engine prominence. Yet as SEO has progressed, so have link-building practices: It’s as crucial as ever for your website to have high-quality backlinks pointing back to it, but there are right ways and wrong ways to pursue those links.
First of all, there’s the question of what defines a quality backlink. Not all websites are created equal, after all, and not all links are going to serve your SEO purposes.
As you think about what makes for a good link, it may be helpful to take a step back. Why does Google emphasize links so much? Simply put, good, high-quality links show that your website has authority and relevance. Think of it as a vote of confidence for your website; if somebody links back to it, they’re saying that they found your content to be useful and valuable. That’s something that Google takes seriously.
But what if you didn’t actually earn those links through quality content? What if you simply paid for them? Well, then they don’t mean anything; they don’t give that vote of confidence. As such, Google’s not as likely to assign them any weight.
And what if you get links from a website that’s not in any way relevant to the subject matter of your website? Again, Google isn’t as likely to celebrate this kind of link, simply because it doesn’t reflect on the value or pertinence of your content.
With all that said, good, high-quality links come from sites that:
- Have a consistent readership and high traffic.
- Have high editorial standards for the content they publish.
- Rank well for relevant SEO keywords.
- Offer real value/substance to the end user.
- Are relevant to your industry or niche.
- Have a certain reputation or prestige within your field.
There is obviously a level of subjectivity here, but these criteria should give you some indication of whether a particular website is really valuable to your backlink portfolio.
The Best Links are Earned
To return to an earlier point, it’s important that you actually earn links rather than buy them. There are services where you can purchase backlinks, and sometimes these can produce a very fleeting SEO bump. Google always catches on, however, and these bought-and-paid-for links may actually incur SEO penalties later on.
What can you do, then, to earn quality backlinks? There’s no shortcut here: The best way is the old-fashioned way, by developing a clean and clear website with relevant, substantive content. To put it a little bit differently: Develop content that people will naturally want to link to, and to recommend to their own readers or peers.
Link-worthy content comes in many forms; indeed, the medium really isn’t the important thing. A few recommended types of link-worthy content include:
- Blog posts
- Evergreen guides, tutorials, and how-tos
- Case studies
- White papers
- Original research with industry trends or data
Creating valuable and original content is the first step, but of course, it’s not the only step: You’ve then got to ensure that your content is seen, which means promoting it. Here, influencer marketing can be effective. Leverage relationships with industry influencers to get your content shared on social media.
If an industry influencer shares your content on social media, that’s a meaningful SEO ranking signal in and of itself; and, it delivers some important exposure, increasing the odds of someone else in your industry linking back to you.
And what about guest blogging? For years this has been one of the central practices of link-building. Writing a guest piece for an industry blog, and asking them to include a link back to your website, can certainly be a powerful strategy. As a word of caution, though, it can also be fairly time-consuming and potentially expensive. That’s not to say it has no place in a contemporary SEO strategy, but it probably shouldn’t be your sole focus: Organic link-building, through quality content creation and promotion, is still foundational to SEO success.
Getting Started with Link Building
There are a number of ways in which you can get going with link-building, including some software programs that claim to help you identify the best opportunities. That’s probably putting the cart before the horse. Before doing anything else, it’s important to ensure you have a website that’s worth linking to.
That’s something the enCOMPASS team can help with. We’d love to start a conversation with you about content development, influencer outreach, and other vital SEO activities. Contact our team today, and ask about what you can do to start developing a strong backlink profile—and reaping the SEO benefits.
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