Since the late 1990s, the major search engines have considered links to a site as an indicator of popularity. If there are a lot of links to a site, Google assumes there is strong content that is bringing value to the visitor. This indicator is included in determining page rank, and the higher your rank, the higher the probability of being found in a search. Bottom line: Links play an important role in Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
In the good ol’ days, webmasters would use all kinds of strategies to get links to their site. They would beg, borrow, steal, or trade just to increase the number of backlinks in hopes of getting ranked on the first page. In essence, a site was ranking by manipulating the system and getting inorganic traffic to their site.
Today, these techniques don’t work. In fact, they will get your site blackballed and delisted, which is difficult, if not impossible, to recover from.
To level the playing field, major search engines use highly complex algorithms to determine the ranking of a site or specific page. These algorithms include hundreds of variables, backlinks being one of them. More specifically, high-quality backlinks.
As a website owner, it is important to monitor, and potentially control, where these links are coming from so you maintain credibility in Google’s eyes.
In my article, 6 Creative Strategies to Get Links to Your Site, I gave you some unusual backlink strategies that have proven to be quite effective. In this article, we’ll focus on what qualifies as a high-quality backlink because, similar to content, quality makes all the difference.
High-Quality Backlink Criteria
- Site Credibility
Having a site link to you is a good thing. It’s as if they are giving your website a big “thumbs up” in Google’s eyes. It tells Google that your content is liked and adds value. However, not all links are created equal.
It is important that these votes are from a site or page that is credible and has a good page rank. The higher the page rank, the better. Think of it this way, what will build more credibility in business? A vote of confidence from your neighbor or the CEO of a large company? While both are appreciated, one carries a bit more weight than the other. This is the same for getting a backlink.
If the site that links back to you is a high-ranking site, it will carry more weight than a link from a site that hasn’t ranked yet.
For those of you that don’t know, page rank (PR) is a metric used to determine a page’s importance and relevance on a scale of 0-10. The more relevant or important a page is, the higher the page rank; thus, the higher probability of showing up in search results.
- Site TrustRank
A link coming from a high-quality site is important and, even more important, is that the site that links to you is also considered trustworthy. In this case, high quality does not necessarily equate to trustworthy.
So, how do the engines determine if a site is trustworthy? Search engines consider a factor called TrustRank (TR).
They use a handful of anchor sites such as Wikipedia, Huffington Post, BBC, and NY Times as a baseline. Then they consider how far away the link to you is from the trusted sites. It’s similar to the “six degrees of separation” theory.
If you can’t get links directly from these trusted sites, get as close to it as possible.
High TR: Huffington Post -> Your Site
Very Low TR: Huffington Post -> Site X -> Site Y -> Site Z -> Site A -> Site B -> Your Site
So, before you request a link from a site, check their page rank and link profile and determine if it will add value. Consider all of your options.
Assume you have the option to get a link from two different sites:
Site 1: PR 3 and a link from Huffington Post
Site 2: PR 5 and hundreds of blog network links
Which site would be better to get a link from? Site 1, simply because the link will come from a site linked to a high TR site, which will carry more weight.
- Niche Relevance
Obtaining backlinks from websites that are related to your niche is important as well. This ensures that the link is meaningful and organic.
For example, if your site is about lawn mowers, a link pointing to you from a site about crocheting will add little value. As a result, that link will be meaningless in helping your site rank. In fact, this is considered a blackhat technique and can get you in trouble.
So, make sure that all of the sites that link to you are in, or related to, your specific niche.
- Strategically Positioned
The primary purpose of a backlink is to provide value for your visitors by directing them to additional information that could add value. On the flip side, that link will drive traffic to the intended site. A win-win for everybody.
How do you ensure the link will deliver traffic?
Work with the website owner to ensure that the link to your site rests in a prominent position on the page and that this page gets a lot of traffic as well. Getting the link is all fine and dandy. However, it’s meaningless if it is not easily visible by a high number of visitors.
- Included in Editorial Content
Search engines place a high value on backlinks that are within a block of text. Make sure that the link is included in the actual content and not placed in footers, sidebars, or directories.
Also, the higher on the page the link resides, the better!
- Not “In-Kind”
Back in the day, link exchanges were very popular. “I’ll link to your site if you’ll link to mine.” While this strategy can still be used, in my opinion, it is generally a waste of time. If you’re going to spend the time and effort to get backlinks, get the most out of it by getting links that will really make a difference and bring positive value to your marketing efforts.
In recent years, it was determined that the power of a backlink has the potential to decay as time progresses. While all relevant backlinks will assist the overall ranking of your website, to some degree, the most current links will carry more weight.
- Social Media Channels
Social media can play a major role in helping your site rank. Search engines treat these types of backlinks a bit differently than traditional backlinks. However, it has been established that they are extremely useful when it comes to ranking.
You can write a great article, link to it on Twitter, post it on LinkedIn or Facebook, and get valuable retweets, Likes, and shares. This gives your article a popularity boost and tells Google your content is pretty good. This creates a viral effect and could make a big difference in how you rank.
Creating a network of backlinks is not an easy feat. In fact, it takes a lot of strategic planning, time, and effort. So, if you are serious about using a backlink strategy to increase your site’s ranking and getting more traffic, then make it worth your while by ensuring the links you get truly count and will make a difference in the long-run.
What backlinking strategies have you used successfully?