SEO / Link Building / Content Marketing
How to Build Backlinks for SEO
Everything You Need to Know About SEO and Link Building
You shouldn’t be surprised to hear that at SEO.co, SEO (search engine optimization, for the unacquainted) is our main area of expertise. But that affords us some significant room for exploration, as SEO isn’t a single strategy, but rather a collection of strategies that work together to help you increase your visibility in search engines.
One of these core strategies is link building, or building backlinks to your site to increase your domain authority (and your referral traffic, while you’re at it). But it’s not as simple as spamming links to your site wherever you please—if you want to build backlinks the right way, you’ll need to understand how link building works, and get creative with offsite content.
The Importance of Building Backlinks
Let’s start with a brief explanation of why backlinks are important—in other words, why it’s a good thing you’re reading this guide. Search engines use a variety of factors to determine how to rank websites and the pages within them, most of which fall into one of two categories: relevance, or factors that determine whether the subject matter of a page aligns with a given query, and authority, or the trustworthiness of a site.
Trustworthiness is sometimes described as “authority,” as in “domain authority” (which refers to the trustworthiness of an entire website) and “page authority” (which refers to the trustworthiness of a page within that site). In any case, Google and other search engines rely heavily on the quantity and quality of links pointing to a destination to determine that destination’s authority. As a simple example, a page with a hundred high-value links pointing to it will always rank higher than a similar page with one low-value link. Link building gives you a way to control how and when links are established for your site, which is vital if your goal is to increase your rankings.
Link building also has a host of peripheral benefits, including helping you earn referral traffic and allowing you to improve your brand’s visibility and reputation (especially when you build backlinks with well-researched offsite content).
Link Schemes and “Bad” Backlinks
There’s a good reason why you can’t just start spamming backlinks to your site to see these benefits, however: Google is aware of these scummy tactics, and actively fights against them. Its goal is to help users find the best content related to their interests, and artificial manipulation with irrelevant backlinks is counterproductive for that goal. That’s why Google and other search engines have a complex system for determining the inherent value of each link—and why some links are bad, some links are good, and some links fall somewhere in between.
If you’re learning how to build backlinks for the first time, it’s easiest to understand the process through the lens of “bad” links and link schemes. Link schemes are deliberate attempts to manipulate your rank, such as exchanging links with another domain, using automated programs, or spamming links on forum comments. If you’re caught participating in a link scheme, you could be penalized by Google, rather than rewarded. On top of that, your links will likely be of little worth and little notice to online users, making them worthless at best and harmful at worst.
“Good” links, by contrast, are contextually relevant and valuable to the web users encountering them.
Earned Links vs. Building Backlinks
This brings us to the next phase of our discussion: the difference between “earned” links and built links. We’ve established that Google wants to see natural backlinks, which are valuable to users, like citations and resources for further reading. Accordingly, some SEO practitioners believe the best way to get backlinks for your site is to earn them. The idea is to create high-value content on your site, including whitepapers, eBooks, and original research materials, and distribute them in a way that gets them frequently referenced by others.
This can be a worthwhile strategy, but it robs you of control. You’re essentially putting your website’s fate in the hands of others; even with the best possible content, there’s no guarantee that people will link to it. Building backlinks gives you most control over when and how those backlinks are built, and practically guarantees that you’ll see some results.
How to Build Backlinks the Right Way
So, if you’re going to build backlinks, how can you build them the “right” way?
The short answer? Through content. Here’s the big picture: you’ll want to create valuable pages of content on your main site, then link to those pages in the body of high-value offsite content, which you publish and distribute on third-party sites.
There are several factors that demand your attention during this process:
- Publisher industry and relevance. It’s a good idea to stick with publishers that are relevant to your industry, and write content for those publishers that is relevant to their target audience. If you frequently publish on sources that have nothing to do with your business, your link is going to stick out (and could get you penalized). If you try to publish content that doesn’t matter to a publisher’s target audience, your work will get rejected.
- Publisher authority. You’ll also need to consider the authority of the publishers that are hosting your offsite content. In general, the higher the authority of the linking domain, the more authority your site and its pages will earn. Unfortunately, it’s hard to get featured on high-authority publishers right away; they tend to be discerning with what they publish, which is why they became such valuable authorities in the first place. Most novice link builders will need to start with lower-authority publishers and gradually work their way up the ladder as they build a better reputation for themselves.
- Anchor text. Anchor text has been a somewhat controversial point in the link building community, but it’s definitely worthy of your attention. The anchor text of a link is the text that “houses” the hyperlink (often the text in blue), and it gives Google context for the meaning of the link. In the old days of SEO, where link standards were far more lax, it was a common practice to stuff your anchor text with keywords and phrases that you wanted to rank for—a way of increasing your relevance as well as your authority. Today, if you try this stunt, you’ll probably get penalized. That said, it’s still important to provide context for your link and optimize the anchor text for words and phrases that might be relevant for the page (and your business). The trick, if there is one, is to make sure the wording is natural within the article and informative to your users.
- Link relevance in context. Going along with that, it’s important that your link is contextually relevant to the article. If it appears out of nowhere or seems like it doesn’t belong, it’s likely to get removed by the publisher or penalized by Google. There are many ways to make your link relevant, such as providing it as additional reading material or citing a specific fact, but most of them depend on having strong onsite content and writing an article that means something for your business.
- Overall content quality. The quality of your content matters too, albeit less directly. High-quality offsite content is much more likely to be accepted by publishers, and will be more likely to be shared and popularized, which can make your internal links more valuable. It can also help you build your reputation so you can have a better portfolio to bring to higher-authority publishers. Solid research, understandable phrasing, and unique perspectives are always valuable here.
- Nofollow and dofollow links. By default, most of the links you build will be “dofollow” links. These links are seen and taken into consideration by Google’s ranking algorithm. However, if you or a publisher include a “nofollow” tag for a link, it will be hidden from Google’s crawlers, while still providing ordinary link functionality to users clicking it. Some publishers convert links to nofollow links to ensure they don’t pass authority to a questionable site, calling their own site’s authority into question. While most link builders will strongly prefer dofollow links, and only dofollow links pass authority for SEO purposes, nofollow links still have some value, improving your brand visibility and passing referral traffic to your site.
Diversifying Your Link Building Strategy
In addition to the considerations above, your link building strategy needs to be diversified in multiple dimensions. Diversity is important to minimize your chances of being accused of a link scheme, to improve your overall results, and to help you experiment and direct your efforts toward only the most valuable resources.
There are a few important ways to diversify:
- Publisher and link profile diversity. Don’t rely on just a handful of publishers for your link building needs. Links have diminishing returns on the same domain, passing less and less authority with each subsequent link. On top of that, if Google believes you’re participating in a link exchange, you could be penalized. It’s best to work new publishers into your backlink profile regularly, and get traffic from a number of different sources.
- Internal page diversity. It’s possible to build many links pointing to the same page of your site, to boost that specific page in search rankings. However, if you build the same link over and over, you’ll not only diminish the potential for your other pages in search rankings, you could also attract a penalty. Create many different valuable pieces of content, and try to include as many of them as possible in your ongoing link building strategies.
- Contextual and content diversity. Applying the same formula to all your offsite posts is a bad idea, since your readers will get bored, and eventually your publishers will be disinclined to host you. Mix things up by tackling new subjects, experimenting with new mediums and new approaches, and including links in different ways.
Building Backlinks: Measurement, Analysis, and Growth
If you want your backlink building campaign to be successful, you’ll also need some peripheral strategies to improve your efforts over time. For starters, you’ll need some way to measure the results of your efforts, including how much referral traffic your links are earning, how much authority your links are passing, and which of your publishers are most valuable. Through analysis, you’ll learn your best and worst performers, and should be able to optimize your approach accordingly.
From there, you’ll need strategies in place to grow the reach of your strategy over time. Typically, that means investing more time and/or money to publish content with bigger, more prolific publishers, spending more time developing your content, and building more links overall.
Feeling a bit overwhelmed? We don’t blame you. While building backlinks is a relatively easy concept to understand, it’s a difficult strategy to master. If you’re interested in learning more about how backlinks can help you earn more brand visibility (and even more clients), contact SEO.co today! We’ll give you a free analysis on your current strategy (if you have one), and help you create a campaign that gets results.
Why Choose SEO.co?
Focused on quality content and quality backlinks for your business
We follow a simple, time-tested process for building quality website backlinks for your business:
- 100% U.S. based content team with experience writing online marketing copy
- Reliable & quality online publishers, including high domain authority websites
- Top-notch customer support
- Non-branded link and content publishing reports
- Fully white-hat services
- Speedy delivery on all customized orders
- Full transparency on all orders and direct engagements
- Money-back guarantee on a pay-for-performance model