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How quality backlinks can dramatically improve your organic rankings.

Learn about the importance of backlinks for SEO and how to build quality backlinks that won’t get you penalized.

What are Backlinks?

A backlink is is a link from any third-party website to your own website. Also known as inbound links, backlinks help search engines understand how relevant your website is to a searchers query.

How Important are Backlinks?

As confirmed by Google in 2016, backlinks are one of the top three major ranking factors for websites. In addition to improving your organic search engine ranking, backlinks generate targeted referral traffic and help search engines index your web pages more quickly.

Quality Over Quantity

Not all backlinks are created equal. When looking for websites to link back to yours, quality beats quantity. The type of links that will have a positive effect on your organic search engine rankings have the following characteristics.

Domain & Page Authority

Authority is a measurement of how well a website or page is likely to rank in search engines on a scale of 1 - 100. A link from a website with a high authority score is more valuable and carries more link equity or ‘link juice’ than a link from a low authority website. Moz Link Explorer and Ahrefs Domain Rating are two popular tools for measuring authority.

Content Relevance

Search engines want to provide the most relevant content for their users so it stands to reason that relevance is a key influencer of both search engine ranking and link equity. Backlinks from websites that are relevant to your business will have a more positive effect. For example, if you’re a wedding photographer, backlinks from wedding blogs, wedding directories and photography magazines will have high relevance.

Website Diversity

Search engines favour a backlink profile that appears to have been built naturally over time with links from a diverse range of websites. For example,  websites, blogs, directories, magazines, forums and press releases.

Placement

Where your link appears within the page of the linking website is important. A link that appears naturally in the main body copy of the page has much more equity than a link that appears in the footer or sidebar. 

How to Get Backlinks

Content is King

The number one way to get quality, relevant backlinks to your website is to create interesting content that relevant, authoritative websites will link to. We’ll be diving into the whole topic of content marketing in more detail in future guides. In the meantime, some good rules of thumb for creating shareable content include:

  • Do keyword research
  • Write long form content (2000+ words)
  • Include infographics and charts
  • Take advantage of the shareability of list posts
  • Write an attention grabbing headline
  • Cite your sources
  • Write evergreen content that will stay relevant

Guest Blogging

Guest blogging is the practice of writing an article for another blog or website that will in turn mention you and provide a backlink to your website. It can also work the other way around, where you invite a guest to write an article on your website, resulting in reciprocal backlinks and mentions on social media.

Once you have some quality content generating backlinks on your own website, guest blogging is a great next step towards building relationships and getting further exposure. The articles you write for other websites should ultimately be aimed at providing value for their audience rather than as a way to get a link back to your site. Backlinks, while valuable, should be thought of as a happy side effect of the process.

As mentioned above, authority, relevance and diversity come into play when prospecting for suitable websites to approach. Reach out to well established, authoritative websites in your niche and especially sites that have previously accommodated guests articles.

Reputable Directories

Publishing your site on reputable website directories that are relevant to your niche can be a good source of backlinks. Be careful to avoid spammy directories that may be seen as a link scheme by Google. By that measure, avoid any directories that ask for a link in return.

Quick Fixes & Shortcuts

The web is awash with hacks and shortcuts that promise to help build your backlink portfolio quickly, including paying money for truckloads of low quality backlinks. Search engine algorithms are clever enough to understand that backlinks are built naturally over time and come from a diverse range of sources. The majority of these quick fix methods will guarantee no improvement in search engine ranking and in some cases may result in penalties. Tread carefully.

Monitoring Your Backlinks

Google Search Console is a free tool that gives you the ability to monitor your backlinks and includes reports for top linked sites, top linking pages and top linking anchor text. From the Search Console left menu, navigate to ‘Links’.

Another benefit of having a Search Console account is being able to sync your Google Keywords and view them in Statcounter.

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About the Author

Jonathan Morton
Jonathan works with Statcounter as a product designer and strategist. An advocate for the user, he is passionate about solving problems for Statcounter members through research, observation and testing.

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