Any successful off-page SEO campaign begins with building relevant, high authority backlinks to your website. Once built, the backlinks will provide you with two main benefits: relevant traffic and higher ranking in search engines. The more backlinks your website will have, the more frequently it will be visited by search engines robots, which means that new content will be indexed much faster.
What are Backlinks?
Links from one website to another started to appear much earlier than the search engines were invented. Before the Google era, if you saw a website you liked and wanted to remember the address you had no reliable place to put it in, except your own website. Things like SEO, page-rank or number of inbound and outbound links didn’t really bother you back then, because these concepts simply didn’t exist. Back then, if a website had many links pointing to it, it meant that the website was actually good.
The search engines used the situation to help people find the most popular websites fast. Google was the first to do that, the other search engines followed. However, the search engines made the whole thing a bit more complicated by introducing two completely new concepts: popularity and relevance.
Popularity in Google is measured by page rank, a value scaled from 0 to 10 that represents the total number and the quality of links pointing to a website. Google updates a website page rank every time it finds a new backlink. However, the information becomes public approximately every three months. It confuses many webmasters who see no immediate improvement to their site page rank even after they create a huge number of quality backlinks to their website.
Relevancy is defined per keyword and doesn’t have any publicly available indicators. Unlike popularity, it is a measure derived from natural language processing methods that indicates how much the anchor text and the surrounding content of the backlink relates to your web page. For example, if the content of a web page is related to “SEO Basics” and has an outbound link to another web page dealing with the “Backlinks Strategy”, then the relevancy of the link will be high since the terms: “SEO Basics” and “Backlinks’ Strategy” are strongly related to the more general field (SEO).
Popularity and relevancy are measured per page (not per website). Theoretically, if only one of the pages on your website has a lot of highly relevant backlinks, it will be ranked high in the search engines, while the rest of the pages will be ranked low. In reality, the whole website will be ranked high, because very often, each page will have a plenty of internal backlinks to the main page and vice versa.
What is Page Rank?
As mentioned previously, Google’s page rank (PR) was invented in order to measure the popularity of the various Internet pages. It is a value scaled from 0 to 10 that represents the number and the quality of all the inbound links penalized by the number of the outbound links from the page.
In other words, if you have a PR10 backlink pointing to your website but your page has outbound links pointing to other websites, the influence of the PR10 backlink will be distributed between your website and the others.
Defining the popularity of web pages via page rank has a drawback. New pages, which have not enough backlinks, have a small chance to be found by the users even if they offer a great content. When Google engineers realized that, they killed the page rank. Don’t get me wrong, page rank still exists as a measure, but it has no influence on the search results whatsoever.
Google’s new method examines a combination of factors such as community popularity and users’ loyalty. When a webpage is frequently mentioned within web communities like social networks or forums, its popularity rank will increase.
Additionally, in order to test the popularity of a new page, Google will try to push it upwards in the search results, to see how the users react. If the users like the content and stay a long time on the website (low bounce rate) it will get a higher popularity rank than high PR websites for the same keyword.
Quoting Google: “Content Is King”. Old backlinking techniques are no longer as effective as they used to be. And nowadays, it is much more important to concentrate on content and social communities than on the page rank.
But if you think that having a great content and being popular in social communities is enough to land your website on the first page of the search results, think again. True you don’t have to bother about the page rank anymore, but relevancy is still a factor. And relevancy means backlinks, many relevant backlinks.
Types of Backlinks
There are three types of links that should concern you: inbound links, outbound links and internal links.
Internal links are the ones connecting between the pages of your website. These links are crucial to increase the relevancy of your pages. Building internal links is an art by itself, and it will be discussed in more detail on the on-page SEO section.
Inbound links are the ones pointing to your website from other websites. As mentioned above, certain (relevant) inbound links will determine the relevancy and the popularity of your website, which in turn, will affect the ranking of your website in search engines. When building inbound links, find web pages with content that is relevant and use your niche keywords in the anchor text of the link.
Outbound links are the ones pointing from your website to other websites. Nobody actually knows how these work, except Google Almighty of course. Some believe that outbound links are bad for SEO – these are the old school guys. Others, believe in some mythological ‘trust rank’ that was invented by Google. They claim that outbound links to quality websites increase the trust rank of a page. However, not one of them can explain how that affects the search results. The rest believe that relevant outbound links to quality resources (such as the Wikipedia) increase the relevancy of the page.
Rumors aside, if the site has no outbound links it looks strange not only to the search engines but to the visitors as well. The users expect to find references to trusted resources when visiting your site. Therefore, it is important to have a mix of inbound and outbound links, which point to high quality Internet resources. Needless to say, your outbound links must point to existing websites; otherwise you might get penalized by Google.
To sum it up – outbound links should point to high quality websites only, never agree to place reciprocal links to low quality web pages, and don’t put more than three outbound links per page. Additionally, track the outbound links and remove any broken ones if you see them.
How to Get Backlinks?
The goal of every SEO campaign is to accumulate as many inbound links as possible. Those links must come from popular and relevant websites; otherwise they are as good as useless. The inbound links can be classified as follows:
This is one of the oldest methods to get backlinks, soon to become totally ineffective. The method is really simple – find authority websites in your niche and ask them for a link exchange. There are a number of problems with that method:
- If your page rank is lower than that of those websites, they won’t accept your invitation. If however, your page rank is higher than theirs, you’re not likely to benefit from the deal.
- Many website owners will respond months later, when it might no longer be relevant.
- Most of the websites will place all their partner links on a single page, which means that the influence of the links will be divided between all the websites appearing on that page.
- You have to track your reciprocal links regularly, as website owners tend to cancel the partnership without letting you know.
- Google can easily track reciprocal backlinks and if the rumors are true, completely ignore them.
Given all the above, your SEO campaign won’t benefit much from reciprocal backlinks.
As you can guess, where there’s demand, there’s supply. The essence of paid links is simple – you pay someone to put your text-link or banner on his website. Along with the backlink you get an additional benefit – relevant traffic. The payment model can vary, and it’s up to you whether to choose CPV (Cost-per-View), CPC (Cost-per-Click), CPA (Cost-per-Action) or any other acceptable payment method.
Of course finding suitable websites for advertising might become nightmare, and this is where services like Google Adwords come into the picture. Their purpose is to provide a platform where you can choose a keyword, set a budget and the rest will be done automatically. Their main disadvantage is their high cost – popular keywords will cost you a fortune.
Links from Blogs
Many bloggers are in constant need for fresh content. One of the best ways to promote your website is to provide bloggers with free content related to your website. This content will be published in a form of an article with a link to your website. However, be sure to provide them with quality content since no one would want to publish boring, obvious, or poorly written articles.
Another way is to have your own network of blogs. There are a number of popular (and free!) blogging platforms, such as Blogger and WordPress, where you can post articles relevant to your niche with links to your website. Note that the blogs’ content has to be highly relevant to the content on your website and it must be unique. I.e. you can’t just ‘borrow’ content from other websites and post it as your own, because Google will quickly detect that and penalize your backlinks.
Web directories are highly underestimated; some will even claim that web directory submission is dead. The truth is – backlinks from web directories still count, and it is a very powerful backlinking method.
However, if in the past it was enough to submit your website to one big directory (such as DMOZ), today it will no longer suffice. Today, to feel the impact of directory submission you’ll need to submit your website to thousands of web directories – an easy task provided you have the proper tools.
Article submission is one of the most effective ways to get large number of highly relevant links to your website. There are nearly thousands of article directories on the web that will accept your content (backlink included) without asking anything in return.
Article directories are built on the principle of mutual benefit – you give them content, they provide you with a backlink to your website from the content itself. I.e. if you submit content relevant to you niche, the backlink will be considered relevant as well. Moreover, you enjoy the traffic of their readers and backlinks from countless websites that steal and repost your content as their own.
The only problem with article submission is unique content; you can’t just submit the same article over and over again to thousands of directories. Google will quickly detect that all your backlinks come from the same content and diminish their influence. This is where article submission software comes to your rescue; it will spin the article (replace words with their synonyms) and submit a slightly different version of your article to each directory.
Press release websites work in a similar way to article directories, but they have a different purpose. They accept a news release (together with the backlink) literally from anyone and distribute it to major news aggregation websites such as Google News.
From there the content is getting spread across the web either by reporters who the find the press release to be interesting, or websites that repost stolen content.
The content you submit to press release websites should be a little different from content submitted to article directories – it must look like a news item. And if you submit to multiple press release websites, spinning must be used here as well.