Backlinks are links from other websites to your website.
There’s little question that obtaining quality backlinks will boost the visibility of your content in the search engine results. This will in turn drive more traffic to your website.
If you have a relatively new domain and website, you may have yet to establish trust with Google and other search engines. And you will not be able to establish much trust with search engines until multiple websites that they already trust are linking to your site.
- Characteristics of quality backlinks
- Questionable uses of your time
- Better uses of your time
Characteristics of quality backlinks
Quality backlinks have the following characteristics:
There are a number of SEO tools that offer a measure of domain authority. We happen to like Ahrefs.com’s measure — Domain Rating. The rating is on a logarithmic scale from 0 to 100.
A brand new domain starts with a rating of 0. In general, the higher the rating of domains that links to your website, the higher the SEO value. But the rating is no longer everything.
They’re from relevant websites
Google uses content categories to determine the relevance of backlinks.
If you have a blog about CRM, one of your posts may fall into the category “/Business & Industrial.” You’re better off getting a backlink from a page that’s in the same category, rather than from one that’s in the category “/Beauty & Fitness,” for example.
They have the dofollow attribute
The default attribute of a link is dofollow. These links pass value from one website to another.
Links with the nofollow attribute have some value, but not nearly as much as dofollow links.
They are from pages with rich content
In general, a contextually relevant backlink that’s within a well-written piece of content is better than a link from, say, a business listing page.
When it comes to obtaining backlinks, what activities are a questionable use of your time (and money)? What activities are a good use of your time?
Questionable uses of your time
I’m not saying “don’t do any of these.” However, it is worth questioning the value of the following approaches.
Paid backlinks used to be an effective form of backlink.
However, in 2020, John Mueller of Google told Search Engine Journal that Google ignores paid backlinks.
Paid links that Google can easily detect as such may even be toxic to your website.
This is another technique that may have worked at one point. The idea was that you added a link to a website in exchange for a link from that site to yours.
The clue that Google probably doesn’t like this is that it’s too easy. If it was an effective form of backlink building, webmasters would exchange links all day long.
Adding links to your website in comments and forums
In general, anywhere you can easily add a link to your content, that backlink will have the nofollow attribute.
The owners of those sites and apps realize that if any added link was dofollow, their properties would become a big magnet for irrelevant links. Therefore, the nofollow attribute is commonly added to any link that is posted.
We have seen a few exceptions to the nofollow attribute. For example, the owner of an online community site that has generally responsible audience members who add helpful, relevant links may want to reward those members.
Cold outreach for backlinks with mass email
A lot of people used to do cold outreach for links, using a persuasive email format.
The technique starts with flattery. It then casts some doubt as to the freshness of your content. By linking to them, you will “enhance” your content. Then there’s a promise to share your content on social media channels.
For someone who has just started to receive these types of emails, they may think they benefit from giving someone a backlink. But they don’t benefit.
Most recipients of this type of email have reached a saturation point. They ignore or block the senders of this type of email.
Better uses of your time
What ways of getting backlinks are worth the time and effort? Keep in mind that the quality of backlinks is more important thant the quantity.
Warm outreach for backlinks
Start by asking some of those with whom you’re friendly for backlinks.
If your company is a partner of a software company or is a distributor for a manufacturer, you may (or should) have content that casts that vendor in a favorable light. If so, why not reach out to someone you know at the partner company and ask them for a link?
If a partner or customer website has only a “logo link” to your homepage, you could ask them for an anchor text link to one of your interior pages, such as a blog post that you want to rank higher. This can provide more SEO value to both the post and to your site.
If you work with complementary businesses in your industry or your market area, you could ask one of your peers for a backlink. You could sweeten the pot by offering to write a guest post.
Ask your SEO or your marketing agency for a link
Your marketing agency likely has a medium to high Domain Rating, since agencies are usually strong content producers themselves.
If your agency includes a link to one of your blog posts from a quality piece of content on their site, this will be a more valuable backlink from an SEO perspective than just an image of your company logo with a link to your homepage.
Write link-worthy content
A tactic that can work well is to intentionally write content that baits bloggers and journalists (in a good way).
This includes content such as statistics, survey results, and niche price calculators that may be more likely to attract links than does more text-oriented content.
Update: Brian Dean of Backlinko recently published a post about what he calls Reverse Outreach. This post takes the concept of link-worthy content to the next level. Of course, Brian has the advantage of having one of the most authoritative domains on the web.
The catch is that writing linkable usually requires a lot more effort than a purely text-based article.
As an example, it took hours of my time plus paying and project managing a WordPress developer to create this CRM Cost Calculator. However, the post has organic dofollow backlinks from eight domains, including links from domains with ratings of 93 (HubSpot) and 51.
Write a lot of content
Consistently publish informative, well-optimized content. Over time, other content creators will find your content and some will find a post or posts to be link-worthy.
However, this is a long row to hoe. It could take years for your Domain Rating to break 40. We know this from experience.
Work on focused relationship building
If you have a low domain rating (0 – 5), and you start to write a lot of new content, there is only one way to more rapidly build up your Domain Rating compared to simply waiting for other content creators to link to your site.
And that is targeted outreach outside your warm audience. But it’s not blasting out emails to large lists.
The process involves doing meticulous research to find highly rated, relevant domains for which you can contribute guest posts.
You’ll need to not only find the right contacts but you’ll also have to develop a relationship with them. Once you have developed trust, you’ll be in a much better position to ask to write a guest post.
Even though there are many good ways to get links, a general recommendation is to steer clear of anything that Google considers to be a link scheme. This may include doing too much of a good thing.