Obtaining Backlinks – The dos and donts

Posted on June 22, 2014 by Simon Thompson

Backlinks

Content may be king in the world of SEO, but even top-notch content can only get you so far. If no one is reading your website, search engines will assume your content is only so-so, and if no one is linking to your website, search engines will assume it’s not being read. Building backlinks for SEO is still an important process, and to do it right, you’ll need to use natural, ethical link building techniques.

As with all things search engine-related, quality matters much more than quantity. Not all links are created equal; in fact, some types of links can actually harm your search engine rankings. To know the difference, you need to understand how search engines distinguish between types of links.
Good links:

  • Include a mix of both “dofollow” and “nofollow” links. While “nofollow” links won’t help your search engine rankings directly, having a really disproportionate linking profile tells Google that you’re doing something wrong.
  • Come from “real” websites, meaning sites that contain actual informative content. The more closely related the link source is to your website, the better. Resource lists, white papers, ebooks and big government and educational websites are powerful sources of links.
  • Come from active social media profiles. Different search engines have relationships with different social platforms, so you’ll need to do a little research. Unsurprisingly, links from Google+ do well in Google search rankings. Bing has relationships with Facebook and Twitter.

Bad links:

  • Come from sites that are stuffed with nothing but links. Google will suspect that something is amiss, and your rankings will nosedive.q
  • Use reciprocal or link-trading linking patterns. The most basic form of link-trading has site A link to site B and site B link back to site A. Those ranks are useless. More ambitious schemes have site A link to site B, B link to C, C link to D and D link back to A. Search engines can spot those, too.
  • Come from free article sites and paid directories. At best, those links won’t help you. At worst, they may actively hurt you.
  • Hide in badges, apps and infographics. Google has already started suppressing the first two, and they may soon start ignoring infographics as well. Use them to build publicity, but don’t expect them to help your SEO.

Thus, a good link building strategy doesn’t just go for a huge quantity of links. To successfully optimize your website, you’ll need to bring in the sort of links that search engines actually want to see. Here’s how to do it.

  • Create Top-Quality Content. This is the first, most important step toward natural link building, and really, it’s the key to effective SEO across the board. In order to get backlinks, you need to create content that’s worth linking to. Invest in top-quality writing and relevant information to keep the links coming.
  • Use a Quality Internal Linking System. The most obvious way to get more links to your most important articles is to link to them from other pages on your website. Good internal linking will make your site easier to navigate and improve your SEO.
  • Do Competitor Research. Periodic research will help you find new link sources. Remember, the best way to get more links is to find other sites focusing on your field or a related field.
  • Contact Site Owners Personally. Casting a wide net may seem like a great way to get more links, but you’re not likely to get many responses with an automated system or form letter. Instead, take the time to write a unique email to each site owner. Give him or her a good reason to link to your website, such as a relevant blog post.
  • Look for Sites That Mention You. If your company’s name already shows up on someone else’s website, you have a golden opportunity to reach out and politely ask for a backlink.
  • Include Links in Press Releases. When you submit to press release sites, be sure to include both your SEO keywords and links. They’ll be distributed all over the Internet, and you’ll see your traffic increase as a result. Just don’t over-emphasize the press release; it’s one weapon in your link building arsenal, and often an overrated one.
  • Write Excellent Guest Posts. Remember, when you write a guest post for a friend or colleague’s blog, you’re not writing just to get a backlink. Create excellent content that represents your brand well, and you’ll find yourself earning direct visitors in addition to increasing your search engine rankings.

Follow those steps, and you’ll be ready to build effective backlinks for SEO purposes. As with so many things in the world of SEO, though, natural link building is at least as much about avoiding pitfalls as doing the right things. Don’t:

  • Pay for Links. Just don’t. For that matter, avoid getting links from sketchy websites and article directories filled with generic content. Google’s algorithms mercilessly hunt down those sorts of bad link builders, and your rankings will drop accordingly.
  • Leave Spammy Comments. Now, don’t misunderstand: Leaving comments is a perfectly valid way to build your brand and get direct visitors. However, it’s best to avoid putting your link in the body of the comment itself. Just put your URL into the “website” field when you comment. Make sure the comment itself is actually relevant to the article in question instead of leaving generic spam.
  • Create Tons of Social Profiles. By all means, you should be on social media, but it’s best to set up just a few profiles and actually use them to engage. Building hundreds of dummy profiles and using them all to link to your website isn’t going to help your SEO.
  • Use Social Bookmarks Incorrectly. If you indiscriminately place simple links in social bookmarks, you run the risk of getting into a “bad neighborhood;” that is, your links may come from inappropriate and low-ranking sites, and search engines will assume that site, too, is below par. Focus on a few top social bookmarks with niche topics, and of course, constantly feed them fresh content.
  • Use Link Exchanges. While it may seem like a good practice to offer to link back to any site that links to yours, Google doesn’t agree. Reciprocal links aren’t likely to hurt you, but they probably won’t help you much, either. The best links to build are one-way links; search engines see them as “earned.”
  • Use Bad Anchor Text. Avoid using the word “website” or “link” as your anchor text, and avoid using the name of your website or company on its own. It’s much better to vary your anchor text, using a mix of your brand name and an SEO keyword.

Above all, remember that link building is only a small part of your SEO strategy. By all means, use natural link building, but don’t obsess over it. The most successful web masters don’t just focus on back links and instead incorporate a full range of SEO techniques to help their sites score even higher. Here are the top 50 ways to obtain back links.

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