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Why Anchor Text Diversity is Good for your Backlink Profile

If you are in the early stages of implementing an SEO strategy, you probably already know how important quality backlinks are in your website’s ability to rank in search engine results.

But what you might not know is the significant impact that the anchor text of your backlinks has on your SEO performance. Just like the domain authority and topical relevance of a linking website impacts how Google perceives you, a backlink’s anchor text can have both positive and negative consequences on your future ability to rank.

According to Moz, anchor text is still an important attribute that determines a link’s value. And as Google becomes even smarter through algorithm updates like BERT, Google pays close attention to anchor text, so webmasters need to do the same.

A wider variety of anchor text distribution is really beneficial to your backlink profile in the long-term. Because as we will discuss, not all anchor text is created equally. The biggest challenge of monitoring the anchor text in your backlink profile is that for the most part, you have zero control of how other webmasters choose to link to your content.

Link building is already hard enough work as it is, and the added necessity of being strategic about anchor text can make it feel harder. But you should already be monitoring every backlink you earn–whether organically or through outreach–to ensure each one ends up helping you rather than causing harm.

Anchor text diversity not only communicates to Google the topical authority and depth of your website’s content, it helps protect you from any suspicions of unnatural link building practices or other manipulation strategies.

So if you have already started earning backlinks but have not yet started paying attention to anchor text, it’s time to dive in. Here’s some introductory knowledge of how Google views anchor text, and also some best practices to make sure your backlinks don’t sink you into the internet void. We want to make sure you swim right up to the top of the SERPs.

Everything You Need to Know About Anchor Text

Anchor text is the clickable text in a hyperlink that directs to another website or location. Google relies on anchor text and the words that surround it to understand the subject matter of the linked page.

But not all types of anchor text bring the same value to your backlink profile. In the eyes of Google, keyword-rich anchors, generic anchors, and naked urls each have their own nuance. 

As you begin to accumulate backlinks, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the different types of anchor text so you can ensure that your backlink profile always has a healthy level of variety.

Anchor Text Types

There are multiple types of anchor text that might be appearing in your backlink profile. You can find a more detailed run-down of each type here, but these are the most common types you will begin to see as you embark on your link building efforts.

  • Branded – Links containing your brand name
  • Exact Match – Links with the exact keyword you want to rank for
  • Partial Match – Links with a variation of the keyword you’re trying to rank for
  • Phrase Match – Links with the keyword phrase you want to rank for
  • Generic – Links with non-specific information like “Click here,” or “Info”
  • Naked URL – Links with the full URL serving as the anchor text

A Crash Course in Anchor Text Use

These are some core SEO anchor text principles that you should apply to both the linking you do on your site and the links you accumulate from across the web.

Relevance is King

The more relevant the anchor text, the more powerful the backlink.

This is because relevant anchor text not only communicates stronger relevance signals to Google, it also contributes to a better user experience.

Those users who follow an exact match anchor text will be annoyed if they arrive at a new web page that has nothing to do with the content implied by the link. And even if a user clicks on a less specific, generic anchor text like, “Read this,” they still have the expectation that their new destination will have close relevance to their previous one.

So although we are focusing on the importance of anchor text diversity, your anchor texts should never veer off the relevance road in terms of content or industry niche.

The Shorter the Sweeter

Anchor text should always be as brief as possible. You want your link to both accurately describe the linked site to Google and make your user interested in clicking on it. The age old adage applies here: Use common sense.

If the anchor text reads unnaturally, then Google’s crawlers will probably perceive it the same way.

Avoid too many Keywords

In the early stages of your website’s growth, it seems logical to strive to earn backlinks that have anchor text with the keywords you want to rank for. But too many keyword-dense anchor texts can taint your link profile in the long run, as it may start to look as if your backlinks were not acquired naturally.

Because in the past, webmasters used exact match anchor text to manipulate their backlink profiles and catapult to the top of SERPs, regardless if their site had any relevance to the search query. Algorithm updates like Penguin have enabled Google to easily identify anchor text manipulation. And Google’s most recent update, BERT, means Google is getting even better at contextualizing natural language surrounding anchor text.

If you have an SEO professional guiding your link building campaign, they should ensure that any backlinks you earn come from white-hat techniques. Although link building campaigns allow for slightly more agency in the types of anchor text used, backlinks still ultimately come from third parties. 

This means they should always have variety and not rely on the same keyword in order to look natural.

The Importance of Anchor Text Diversity, and How to Know If Your Backlink Profile Has It

Building a diverse backlink profile of anchor texts can have a really positive impact on your SEO performance. In the below graphic, you can see that the SEO community agrees that the anchor text of both backlinks and internal links are significant ranking factors.

Google's list of ranking factors

So a regular part of your own website maintenance should involve reviewing backlinks to make sure they are not coming from low-quality, spammy sites, and to also ensure that even the best of your inbound links are using anchor text that helps build diversity.

Although there is no magic number for exactly how many of each anchor type you should have, semrush offers some realistic benchmarks:

  • 30-40% branded anchors
  • 30-40% partial match anchors
  • 20%-40% generic, related, naked, random, exact match, and others

If you are not quite sure how the distribution of your backlink anchor text is impacting your own site, you do have some options via the help of SEO tools and professionals.

Use a Backlink Analyzer

A backlink analyzer can give you some much-needed insight into not only the quality of your links, but on the type of anchor text being used. You can use a free backlink analyzer like ours to see where your top competitors earn backlinks and to compare their anchor text diversity with your own.

Frequently revisiting this backlink data provided by SEO tools should quickly become a regular part of your SEO practice. If building links is currently a part of your SEO campaign, you can harness the power of this data to shape the types of target keywords and target anchors that you go after.

Get an SEO Audit

Seeking out the help of professionals in the SEO world is always a good idea. An audit can identify technical SEO problems that you may not be able to identify on your own. It’s possible that your problems don’t necessarily lie in your link profile but in other areas like page speed, html tags, or attempting to rank for far too competitive keywords.

But the important thing is identifying the problems before they result in long term consequences. Optimizing is not easy work, but the good news is, there is always someone who can help.

3 Options for Dealing with Over-Optimized Anchor Text

If you learn through an SEO audit or tool that your backlink anchor text has too much keyword density, there are some immediate steps that you can take to change the impact it might be having on your search rank.

You want to resolve over-optimization quickly, because it’s possible that Google could red flag your website if there is too much anchor text optimization. The Penguin update specifically targeted the previously common practice of anchor text manipulation. 

So although you can’t choose the anchor text other webpages use to link to you, you can certainly monitor and control the ratio of the different types of anchors in your link profile.

Option 1: Remove Backlinks with Anchor Text that may be Harming your Rankings

You should always strive to remove toxic or spammy links that you acquire. Backlinks that come from sites with no logical correlation to yours should also be removed. Generic anchor text isn’t bad, but the average reputable site will more likely utilize your brand name or keyword-rich anchors when linking to yours.

As your link profile grows, you will have a lot more leeway. But in the early stages of your site, exact match anchors, or anchors without any relevance, can get you into trouble with Google.

Even if you are desperate for any link you can get your hands on, you need to practice discipline and evaluate how each can impact you in the long run. It’s better to be picky and choosy early on when your domain authority is low.

Your website will thank you later with traffic.

Option 2: Reach Out to Referring Webmasters to Request Anchor Text be Changed or Removed

Before disavowing any backlinks, most individuals reach out to the webmaster of the referring domain name and request for the link to be removed.

So if you earn a quality link but are concerned about the anchor text, you can attempt a similar strategy. However, you should do so sparingly, and really only if there is an obvious error of some kind (like a misspelling of a brand name).

You can send a thank you for the backlink with a request for a slight anchor text change. If the content writer feels your concern is legitimate, they may gladly change it. If they think you’re just being picky and don’t like that they used an exact match anchor or generic word, they may get annoyed. They have the power to remove the link altogether, so use digression.

This strategy should not be overused. If Google suddenly sees all of the anchor text of your backlinks changing, it’s going to look suspicious.

Option 3: Build New Backlinks with the Intention of More Anchor Text Diversity

This is by far the best and smartest option for diversifying your backlink anchor text. However, it does require more time and financial investment. It is not a quick fix like the previous options, but it has much better ROI in helping you secure those top spots in the SERPs.

Link building campaigns give you the option of building links with target anchor texts in mind–whether keyword rich anchors or branded anchors. Strategies like pitching and placing content like blog posts, long-form articles, or guest posts, gives you far more control of the anchor text you need to help diversify.

Best Practices for Backlink Anchor Text

Since targeted link building campaigns are far and above the best strategy for diversifying your anchor text, we are going to take some time to break down the best practices for how to use anchor text while link building. When done correctly, you can target specific anchor texts and use them to build a natural backlink profile.

Mix in Long-Tail Keywords with your Exact Match Anchor Texts

Long-tail keywords allow you to include exact match anchors without the risk of being flagged by that pesky Penguin.

For example, if you want to rank for the term, “seo software,” you could use variations like these:

  • best new seo software
  • user-friendly seo software
  • seo software for beginners

The more pages that use similar anchor text to link to your landing page, the more likely that page will rank for those keywords in search engine results. So this strategy allows you to target the exact match anchor through new links with less risk, while also adding anchor text diversity.

Look to your Competitors’ Anchor Text and Follow their Example

The more you know about your competition, the better. Looking at the types of anchor text that have helped your competitors can give you some insights into potential link building targets.

While you’re at it, check out what their ratios of anchor text types are. You can also see what sites they are earning links from, as this will give you some additional information for your link building campaign.

Take note though: Websites with higher domain authority have already built a good reputation with search engines. For this reason, they can have a lot of keyword-rich anchors or exact match anchors without causing any harm.

Remember, the lower your page authority, the more selective you should be about any backlink you earn.

Use Synonyms, LSI Terms, and Relevant Keywords for Anchor Text

The great bonus of Google getting so much better at understanding natural language is that good, thoughtful web writing is more often rewarded.

Lazy SEO tricks of the past like anchor text manipulation and keyword stuffing often resulted in content that was just unreadable. But now that our search engines can look to both our backlink anchor text and contextualize the words surrounding them, we actually have more options, not less, for how we choose our target keywords and increase our ability to appear for more queries.

So one way to avoid over-optimization and achieve more anchor text diversity during your link building campaign is to use synonyms, LSI Terms, and relevant keywords for your anchor text. LSI terms are conceptually related to your target keyword. Google will understand their relevance, but will not mark them as “exact,” and therefore not penalize you.

When you have accumulated too many exact match anchor texts, consider embracing your literary side and use some synonyms instead. Overall, this strategy will make for happier search engines, happier reading, and happier link profiles.

Use Exact Matches, Keyword Variations, and Branded Anchor Text on your Best Performing Pages

For both internal linking and link building, how you use anchor text should vary depending on whether you are linking to your homepage, a landing page, or a blog post.

In general, you want to use keyword-dense anchors on pages with higher PageRank. These are most likely the pages that promote your brand or service, and therefore earn higher quality links. Exact-match anchors do better on web pages with better PageRank because those pages have earned credibility and trust. If Google sees a keyword-dense anchor on a well-performing page, it is less likely it will penalize you for over-optimization. 

If you have landing pages like blog posts that have good quality content, use more generic links, partial matches, and keyword variations. The purpose of blog posts are not usually to promote a product or service, but to provide useful information or in-depth knowledge. For this reason, less keyword focused anchors fit the medium and look far more natural to crawlers

Relish the Randomness

Overall, more anchor text variety can give you a powerful SEO boost. Just like backlinks vouch for your reputation, anchor text provides an objective description to Google about your site’s content. Because anchor text is chosen by a neutral third party, Google values the input.

A quality link building campaign will focus not only on high-domain authority websites, but strategic, diverse anchor text. So keep anchor text in mind as you continue your journey in link building and website growth.

Link Building Strategies Proven to Work in 2021

The success of any online business hinges on good SEO (search engine optimization) practices, and webmasters need to understand its importance.

At its most basic, SEO is a set of practices for optimizing a website so that it can achieve higher rankings in search engine results pages (SERPs).

To put the importance of rankings into perspective, the top result in Google gets approximately 33% of all search traffic, and the numbers rapidly decrease for all lower results. SEO can be broken down into three basic categories.

On-site SEO: This refers to practices applied to your own site to make it as search engine friendly and as appealing to users as possible.

Off-site SEO: This is how you promote your site and content on other websites to increase your traffic.

Technical SEO: This is how you make it convenient for search engines to crawl and index your site so it’s easy to rank.

SEO is a complex and constantly evolving practice. Industry publications sometimes offer minor suggestions to improve your SEO strategy, but will always come secondary to link building.

Link building is the practice of acquiring links, usually through content, on other websites. In every correlation analysis study of the factors influencing rankings, links and link-related metrics have always had the highest correlation with ranking better on Google.

In this post we will dig into our favorite strategies for building backlinks to your site, but first it’s let’s unpack how rankings work and how they affect your site.

Link Building Methods

There are several methods of obtaining links, some of which are more effective than others. All of the methods we advocate are white-hat methods which will stand the test of time because they align with what search engines value long-term and Google compliant. Be wary of black hat methods, which are shortcuts that look to manipulate search rankings in spammy and unethical ways. Strategies like keyword stuffing, cloaking, forum posting, comment section spamming, content spinning, spammy link building with exact match anchor text, and other black-hat methods were once strategies that worked but now can get your website blacklisted or algorithmically penalized. At LinkGraph, we’ve had to help webmasters through challenging remediations when these strategies have resulted in high-value websites getting a rankings drop and losing over 50% of their traffic. With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s go through some winning strategies.

Healthy Link Building Techniques

Contextual Links On Reputable Publications

A contextual link is a link that appears inside relevant content that enhances or informs the reader. One of the most common examples of high-quality contextual links are hyperlinks within articles on blogs or publications with an engaged audience.

Well placed contextual links can greatly improve a site’s trustworthiness. LinkGraph’s outreach-based link building campaigns are directed at emailing the editors and webmasters of high-quality publications with good organic traffic and pitching them content.

Effective content marketing requires a large sample size of authoritative sites as well as high-quality linkable collateral that is attractive to publishers. This is easily the most effective link building strategy today and will continue to stand the test of time because it adds value to the publications, readers, and the internet.

Creating High-Quality Linkable Assets On Your WordPress Blog

This strategy is all about creating valuable content that other websites will find and link to. Doing original research, like publishing whitepapers, technical case studies, free software tools or analyzers, and long-form well researched and keyword-targeted content are all effective strategies.

Promoting these assets on social media to increase social signals through facebook likes, comments, and shares are effective ways to grow your audience and increase your link velocity around these assets. Many SEOs claim that creating content on your blog on a regular basis is very important, but we would argue that posting on a regular basis is only a good idea when the content you’re creating is actually getting traffic and social media engagement.

One great strategy to guide content strategy is the “skyscraper technique” of identifying a piece of content in your niche that has received a lot of engagement across social media as well as with links, and redeveloping and improving upon it. Make sure to do your keyword research when creating a new piece of content, to make sure you’re building content that targets a target keyword that actually has search volume and low organic difficulty. We suggest using our content optimizer to make sure you include all relevant terms within your content and are targeting a keyword with a low enough organic difficulty that you actually have a chance to show up in search results.

HARO: Help A Reporter Out

(HARO) is a free database of sources for stories and a great way for potential sources to get media coverage. Once you sign up as a source, you’ll start receiving three plus emails per day containing topics you can potentially contribute to.
Any reply you send should answer all questions asked by the reporter in detail to raise your chances of being credited as a source. You’ll also need to include an author bio and link to your site to secure some exposure. Backlinks from high authority news sites are among the best you can get, which makes HARO an extremely important resource.

Contributor Opportunities and Guest Posting

If you’re an industry expert with specialized knowledge, look for publications in your niche that could benefit from having you write pieces for them. TechCrunch, Forbes, and several other sites accept contributors and will often permit you a link from your author byline.

This strategy can help you secure some very high authority links that are otherwise very challenging to acquire, but also requires hard work and perseverance. In this age of the internet, high-quality journalistic outlets are inundated with myriad pitches each day from brands looking for press coverage. Nevertheless, it’s one that we’ve worked over the years to develop successfully at LinkGraph.

One important disclaimer here is to make sure you’re targeting sites that get meaningful organic traffic, link out to websites with do-follow backlinks that provide at least some referral traffic, and are relevant to your niche… otherwise you might not see as much return.

Sites that use nofollow links are also going to have less of a positive impact on your search rankings. Remember that with each link you secure from the same domain there are diminishing returns, so focus more on improving the number of referring domains in your backlink profile over the total number of backlinks (read more on the “dampening factor” in PageRank).

LinkGraph’s link building campaigns focus on securing only a single topically relevant link from trustworthy publications because of this. There are loads of sites on the internet that look great but get no traffic from search engines, social, or direct traffic (potentially because they were penalized or aren’t creating useful original content).

Broken Link Building

This is a technique where you find a broken (dead) link and recreate content for the link. You then reach out to each site linking to the missing content that they can fix the broken link on their site by linking to your asset which has the same or similar information. For every webmaster that accepts, you’ve created a new backlink for your site. The process of finding worthwhile dead links can be a bit cumbersome and time-consuming, but it’s still less effort than creating a new offsite piece for each backlink you want to earn. Bonus effect: adding additional content to your own site is likely to increase the number of keywords you rank for, and improve your relevancy as it increases your content depth.

Quora Response

Quora is basically a question and answer site, and while it may not be the best for traditional SEO methods, it still has indirect benefits. Links for Quora are no-follow, meaning they won’t build your backlink profile, but they can be useful for long term traffic. You can create a profile representing your business on Quora and look for questions with high view counts that you can offer solutions to. Creating highly detailed responses shows your expertise on the topic, and you can leave a link to your site for additional information.

Directories

A directory is simply a cataloging system that contains references to relevant resources. Some popular online directories include Yelp, LinkedIn, Google My Business, and Facebook. In SEO, directories are websites that accept submissions that allow you to create backlinks to your website. Directories are great for local or niche marketing, and targeting your site toward relevant directories with detailed descriptions can be great for your traffic.

While there are some web directories that do provide do-follow backlinks, these are generally low-impact because the links they provide are low quality and transfer a minimal amount of PageRank. Directories are a cornerstone of local SEO as they help a business get discovered by users using those directories — but compared to the potential traffic from Google, most directories are low-impact and low-return.

Local SEO

Local SEO, as the name suggests, refers to optimizing your website to rank better in local searches. Countless local searches are made every day, particularly on mobile devices, and 50% of customers who conduct local searches visit a store that same day. Local searches are most frequently done to check the hours of a location or to search for specific services in the area.

To start taking advantage of local SEO, you’ll need to create a local landing page with keywords optimized for your area in the headline. The content of your landing page will generally include your opening hours, address, phone number, and a brief description of the products or services you provide.

To start gaining backlinks for your landing page, you’ll need to create a listing in Google My Business. This gives you a chance to appear in the top three results in a local search, and these spots dominate all other search results. You can also gain backlinks from local news sources, by sponsoring local businesses, or by listing your business in local directories.

Image Link Building

These are popular for a variety of reasons. Firstly, users generally love images that can break down complex content into easy to absorb chunks. Content creators also tend to like using images as much as possible for this reason. You can build your backlink portfolio by contributing images to other sites that link back to your page. You can create new images by either revamping outdated ones or by converting content into images yourself. Providing unique and valuable images to big influencers can be a great way to promote your content. This Moz guide can show you more on how to create image links.

Links to AVOID

Link Swaps (BAD!)

Also known as link exchange, this is a situation where you work with another site to provide backlinks for each other. While there may be some rare instances where this isn’t a bad idea, such as if they are a high-quality site that is relevant to your niche, the practice is generally best avoided. Sites asking for link swaps are often low quality or will be unrelated to your topic, and backlinks like this do more harm than good.

Forum/Comment Spam (BAD!)

Forum and comment spam doesn’t necessarily have a strict definition, but spam is largely considered anything that doesn’t ask a relevant question or provide any appropriate information. It’s easy for bloggers and site owners to try and promote their sites with spam in forum threads to get some free links, but the practice isn’t a good one. Firstly, it won’t provide particularly valuable links for your profile, and secondly, it’s disruptive to the forums you’re spamming on. Stopping comment spam is a top priority for many forum moderators, and any links you do make are likely to be removed.

Exact Match Anchor Text Links (BAD!)

Anchor text is simply the clickable text in a hyperlink, typically appearing blue and underlined. Anchor text can say anything, though it’s generally best if the wording is relevant to the page it’s linking to. An exact match is when the anchor text mirrors the page it is linking to. This is generally considered a bad practice for a few reasons. Firstly, it clearly signals an attempt at link building. The links often don’t look natural, and too many of these could even result in search engine penalties. Also, users don’t respond as well to exact match links anymore, as they see these more like advertising than ways to obtain valuable information. When in doubt, focus on linking to your homepage or blog posts, and use branded anchor-text so it doesn’t look like you’re trying to manipulate rankings for a specific search term, especially ones with high CPC.

Linkable Content

Securing high-quality backlinks requires high-quality linkable assets that are well researched, novel, and add meaningful value for readers and make other sites want to link to you. In today’s SEO world, there are no shortcuts for creating great content. Depending on your industry, this could be in the form of well-researched blog posts, engaging podcasts, writing whitepapers and case studies. Using your unique, relevant, and useful content if you really want your efforts to pay off. You’ll also have to link to outside sources in your own content to support your points and build trust with your audience. The following are some things to keep in mind when choosing content to link.

Relevancy

When making your content, you have to ensure that it’s valuable to your target audience, which requires a deep understanding of your audience and their problems. Anything you link for them in your content should also be relevant to your audience and your efforts. Good links could include anything from reviews of your products/services, material that backs up your points, or stories about events in your industry.

Link authority

Naturally, when choosing your links, you need to make sure they’re actually helpful for your rankings. You’ll want to check the authority of any outside links you’re making because the more high authority sites you can link to, the more your own authority will increase. This goes both for Moz and for the trust your audience places in you.

Site Traffic

It’s long been a matter of debate within the SEO community as to whether linking to pages that have high traffic provides any concrete advantages. On the surface, it would seem that linking a page with a high volume of traffic would increase your authority, and therefore your rankings, but this isn’t necessarily the case. In fact, an ahrefs traffic study found that referring domains with high traffic often didn’t correlate with higher traffic than the total number of referring domains in web pages. This certainly doesn’t mean that referring link traffic isn’t at all important for rankings, but it does suggest it shouldn’t be your main concern.

Tips for Earning Better Backlinks

Earning high quality backlinks can often be difficult, particularly if you’re trying to build them all on your own. Luckily there are some ways that community involvement can help you out, so you don’t necessarily have to purchase any backlink building services. The following are some strategies that won’t cost you anything more than a bit of time and effort to implement.

User-Centric content

As previously stated, it’s crucial that you make all of your content relevant to your target audience, but you can go a step further. Create content specifically designed for the user’s convenience. One great way to do this is by creating video content that’s useful for your audience. Online video is staggeringly popular with 55% of people watching videos online every day. This is especially true of mobile users, and over 90% of mobile users report sharing videos with friends.  Your video content could include tutorials, product demonstrations, or informational videos appropriate for your niche. Shared videos give your brand more exposure and can link back to your site.

It’s also a good idea to put images into your content whenever possible. One easy way to do this is by placing infographics in your written content to sum up concepts and engage your audience. These are simple to make with Adobe Spark or other online infographic makers.

E-conferences and Industry Networking Sites

Arguably one of the best ways to get high quality backlinks is to create guest content on other sites in your industry. Guest blogging is a common method of doing this. Guest blogging on high quality sites can help quickly establish yourself as an authority in your industry as well as boost your traffic. Search specifically for e-conferences in your space, and make a list of networking sites and forum sites used most heavily in your industry. If you’re having trouble take a look at prominent people from your industry on LinkedIn and see what groups they’ve joined and events they’re attending. Conference/networking sites can be a goldmine for content-submission based link building, and can lead to additional opportunities as you network – including guest posting on the blogs of other people you meet, or being interviewed.

Community Involvement

If you want to spread your name around more, it’s a good idea to become more involved in your online community. This can include more activity on social media, but it can be even better to engage more directly. Search forums for questions your business can answer, and start answering them. You might also consider using surveys for multiple purposes. Firstly, surveys can be great tools to gather insights from your current customers/users to gauge their satisfaction and discover ways you can improve. You might also create some surveys with questions relevant to your industry and post them around online to see if your business matches up with your audience’s expectations. You can create your own surveys online with services like Survey Monkey, Typeform, and more.

Link Cleanup

Now that you have some strategies for new backlinks, it’s also important to know how to clean up any bad links you might have. You can use any free backlink checker online to get an idea of how many harmful links your content may have before cleaning them up.

Once you’ve identified your bad links, you have a couple of options for dealing with them. The simplest way is to find the contact information for the webmaster of the site you have a bad link on and request for them to remove it. If they are unresponsive, then you’ll have to resort to using Google’s disavow tool. This is typically seen as a last resort and is only recommended if you’re certain you have bad links. The tool basically tells Google not to count disavowed links toward the ranking of the page. This won’t affect any Google penalties you may have already incurred for toxic links, but it can protect against getting any more.

How your rankings affect your business

Getting higher search visibility on Google brings more visitors to your website. Billions of Google searches are made each day, and for most digitally-focused brands and businesses is the largest source of highly qualified traffic and revenue. Unlike other traffic sources like social or display ads, organic traffic allows you to access traffic with very specific search intent and provide them with highly relevant content.

Of all marketing channels, organic search exhibits the highest ROI because its an earned, long-lasting source of traffic compared to Adwords or Facebook Advertising where marketers rent space at a very high premium. SEO is creative, dynamic, and challenging, making it the preferred growth channel for marketers looking for a differentiated edge.

How your DA impacts your SEO efforts

DA is a measure of a website’s authority and influence. Your DA is important because the higher your score, the more trustworthy your site is considered. Sites with a huge number of high-quality links (like large tech companies like Wikipedia, Yelp, FourSquare, Facebook, Soundcloud, etc) will rank highest in DA, while newer or lesser-known sites, like small businesses, will score on the lower end.

Every site starts with a score of 0 and has to build up from there with backlinks. It’s important to note that DA is a comparative metric. This means that you don’t need to compete with the entire internet for your DA score; you just need to outperform your direct competitors. Looking up the DA score of competing sites will give you the best idea of how much work you’ll need to do.

How is DA determined?

Similar to Google’s algorithm, DA is a PageRank-based algorithm that uses backlink metrics to quantify how search engines may perceive a website’s influence. To make the most out of DA, you’ll need to work on your site’s overall authority, as well as your individual page scores by increasing the amount of pagerank on important landing pages through thoughtful internal linking.

Internal linking, especially through elements on every page of your site like your navigation bar and footer, is how your website distributes its authority across its pages. Moz, like all 3rd party data sources that are attempting to proxy Google’s view of a website’s influence, is fallible and limited by its view of the internet.

Slow crawl speeds, small index sizes, robots.txt crawling rules, and weaknesses with seeing through spammy strategies make it a very fallible metric. That’s why, once again, it’s important to remember that DA should only be used as a comparative metric rather than an absolute statement of quality. Generally the best way to raise your DA is to build up your backlink profile and site’s link equity by building quality backlinks from high authority sites.

Google Rankings and Domain Authority

While users have many options in search engines including Google, Bing, and Yahoo, the fact is that Google is easily the dominant choice with nearly80% of the global search engine market share.

Google became the most used search engine largely because it prioritized the mobile user experience, focusing on getting users to their answers as quickly as possible. Google’s complex algorithm helps produce search results so clear and targeted that users can often reach the goal of their search without even clicking into the search results themselves. These algorithms account for factors such as content quality, relevance, backlink quality, user engagement, brand signals, social signals, total site traffic, and many others.

One of the earliest tools developed for evaluating how influential websites are is domain authority. Moz developed this metric to predict how well a site can rank in SERPs. DA scores are measured on a normalized scale of 0 to 100. The scale is nonlinear, meaning its increasingly hard to increase DA. Google itself doesn’t measure or recognize DA in its algorithms – but uses calculations that are similar enough that DA serves as a very useful proxy for marketers. It’s a helpful indicator of how trustworthy a site is and can give you a good idea of how likely it is to rank. Moz allows a limited number of Domain Authority lookups using its Open Site Explorer tool, and LinkGraph also offers a free bulk domain authority checker, which uses Moz’s API to fetch their metrics for you for up to 100 sites at a time.

Algorithms can change

The way Google perceives content quality and link equity continues to change over time with periodic algorithm updates. Two major updates were the Panda update in February of 2011 and Penguin update in April 2012. Check out our filterable History of Google Algorithm Updates piece for a full history.

Google’s Panda update lowered the rankings of low-quality sites and improved rankings for unique, high-quality content. This was done mainly due to complaints from users who were seeing high amounts of irrelevant or repetitious content in searches. Websites had to adapt to Panda by cleaning up their existing content and making efforts to produce more unique and interesting content for users.

The Penguin algorithm update was launched with the intention of cutting down spam and lowering the rankings of sites that were using manipulative practices to climb the ranks. The algorithm has been updated several times since launch, with the most recent update allowing Penguin to evaluate sites in real-time. Google also makes regular minor updates to their algorithms which are worth keeping track of. Webmasters need to be aware of all relevant algorithm changes so they can begin making adjustments to their sites when needed.

3rd party SEO vendors, in an attempt to keep up with Google’s changing perspective of domain quality and backlink profiles, occasionally introduce updates to their software and metrics. In March of 2019, Moz introduced an updated DA that switched their algorithm to a neural network in an effort to produce more trustworthy rankings and keep pace with changes to Google. Even still, internally we see significant room for improvement and numerous domains for which their metrics produce inaccurate conclusions.

Best Link Building Practices for 2021

With every new year, search engines strive to make the experience of search better for their users. In the niche world of SEO, we pass our time by monitoring keywords, website traffic, and all of the nitty-gritty details that influence search engine rankings.

But regardless of evolving search engine algorithms, experts know that the core SEO principles remain constant. The years may pass, but the blueprint remains the same: link building matters.

A strong link building strategy is vital to the success of any website’s search rankings. But just like search engines, SEO campaigns should always strive to be better and more efficient. Expert content marketers don’t sit around and wait for other webmasters to shower them with quality links; they do the hard work of constantly pitching amazing content.

Now that it’s 2021, avoid getting complacent about last year’s SERP rankings. There is always room to make progress with link building for your own site, and you should head into the new year with a robust link building strategy.

A smart approach to link building will incorporate multiple approaches to earn new links. But the foundation of all smart link building—and all profitable SEO strategy—begins with fresh, original content.

What is Link Building?

Link building is the process of earning links on other websites in order to improve your site authority. Links are like votes of confidence and trust. The below infographic explains the process of link building with more detail.

Laying the groundwork for backlinks

You can try to work your way to valuable links without decent content or research. But the best way to get high-quality links with minimal pain, and to earn a lot of links that are more relevant to your goals, is just what your mom always told you: Do your homework.

Get to know your audience

Great content won’t land if it’s aimed at the wrong target audience. Prior to seeking out backlinks, you need to understand not only what, but who matters to the success of your website

What are the demographics of your ideal users? What keywords do they use? Who makes up your market? Lastly, how can you ensure that of all the web pages a SERP might present to them, they are compelled to choose yours?

Survey the Scene

Once you understand your target audience, you’ll have a good idea of what other relevant websites they consider to be quality content.

This will not only teach you who your competitors are, it will introduce you to potential allies—major publications, bloggers, and site owners with niche, industry-specific focuses—many of which might be seeking new content like guest posts, blog posts, infographics, or new links in existing content.

Your audience and the existing online landscape interact in crucial ways, so use what you discover as a case study. Website traffic data can tell you which competitor and peer sites are most popular with the visitors you want. Don’t only consider which sites have high search engine equity, but also those that appear most trustworthy to readers.

The two are often (but not always) correlated.

Crafting content

To earn backlinks from other websites, you’ll need to convince webmasters of your own virtue.

This will often involve interacting directly with webmasters, but make no mistake: Merit matters in the world of link-building. You will need to prove your site to be deserving of the attention of other webmasters and (more importantly) of internet users.

Amazing content on your site matters for more reasons beyond link-building. Smart use of keywords and keyword phrases is good for SEO. All of this adds up to being considered a trustworthy site in the eye’s of the right people and in the all-seeing eye of Google.

But the best way to prove your credibility? Create “fresh” stuff (aka: evergreen content). High-quality content is engaging, informative, and contextually relevant. Google knows when backlinks seem artificial and misplaced, therefore the best link-building tactics will always prioritize providing useful links to site visitors.

But onsite content and offsite content do work a little differently, so here are some strategies for using both to enhance your link-building strategy.

Onsite content

The first step to crafting onsite content is thinking about the type of business you run and how your website will serve visitors in the short- and long-term. Whether a visitor arrives to your site via search results or backlinks, great onsite content will not only meet the immediate needs of your target audience, it will appear to other webmasters and far-flung visitors an authority of some kind.

Catering content to your target audience

Let’s consider two examples: A restaurant and a software company.

A restaurant’s website might include a blog section with a neighborhood guide, seasonal recipes, produce shopping advice, or date-night ideas (or all of the above). These are relevant topics that could entertain existing readers while also serving as magnets from links from other websites. Housing them in a blog section ensures that they don’t get in the way of customers with more direct needs–those just seeking the restaurant’s address or phone number, or those who want to book a reservation.

In contrast, a software company should focus on ideas like posts that discuss the ROI on various tools or the contrasting features of top software solutions. These sorts of posts would, of course, be more useful to readers and customers — and more likely to be picked up and linked to by similar peer sites and social media users.

Onsite content ideas

Clearly, unique onsite content ideas work for individual businesses. With that in mind, take a critical approach to the list of ideas below. You’ll most likely find yourself eliminating some that won’t work for your business or would only work during specific seasons — but they display how simple it can be to make sure your website always features new, up-to-date content.

  • Holiday gift guides
  • Surveys and survey results
  • Top ten lists
  • Content curation
  • Link round-ups
  • Local event calendars

Keep in mind that your ROI for onsite content will be better if you can create this content efficiently. Make things easier on yourself by building an arsenal of information and resources that you can turn to quickly as you write new content. If you find yourself using the same websites as sources over and over again, then they should be bookmarked; if you repeatedly make use of the same statistics, then you should gather them together in one file for reference.

Offsite content

Crafting offsite content is different in that you don’t have to worry about the content being a perfect fit for your website. But it’s crucial to remember that other webmasters are likely to care about their websites in the same way that you care about yours. If you show attention-to-detail and context in the content creation you do for other sites, any backlinks you include are more likely to survive over time.

Smart targeting of offsite content

Offsite content should generally be written with a specific website in mind. Even if you are unable to place your final piece on the target website, content that is focused and industry-specific will likely appeal to that site’s peers and competitors.

The offsite content ideas that would work for a restaurant would drastically differ from those for a software company. This should be obvious, common knowledge, but sketchy link-building strategies could care less about the surrounding context of backlinks, as long as they acquire them.

A good link-building strategy, however, knows that contextual relevance matters.

Linking in context

Offsite content has to serve your purposes, too. Since your purpose is link building, the context of the link to your site is vital. Search engines like Google care about more than just the quality of the linking site and the URL that the link points to. In fact, a variety of factors will determine how effective a link is at improving your site’s ranking with search engines.

The anchor text is, of course, vital. The text should be relevant to your site’s content. Ideally, the anchor text should mirror search terms and keywords that you want your site to rank for.

The text surrounding the anchor text matters too. Google has held a patent for “Ranking based on reference contexts” since 2004, and real-world tests have suggested that modern search engines look beyond the anchor text to weigh the words and sentences around a link.

Other outgoing links can affect your fortunes, too. Irrelevant links placed too close to your own can sabotage your link-building efforts. So before you rush to place your content, make sure your backlinks have a safe place to land.

Pitching and placing offsite content

Offsite content is only as useful as the websites that it ends up on. To manage an effective link-building strategy, you’ll need to make sure that your offsite content finds a home on the right websites.

Other webmasters are under no obligation to publish your content for you. So how can you convince them?

Content is everything

The simplest answer is the most effective: Create excellent content! In the same way that superb onsite content will net more links than mediocre posts, great offsite content will settle much more quickly and easily than poorly written or less useful content.

The smartest path to quality content is through quality writers. Poorly written web content is everywhere on the internet, and quality, high authority sites avoid it at all costs.

At the same time, quality guest posts are surprisingly hard to come by in an era dominated by quick-and-sloppy content pushes. Writing well (or, better yet, hiring a professional writer) can make all the difference.

The pitch

Of course, great writing can only make an impression on webmasters who actually read your post. That can be a problem, because webmasters get endless emails from website owners and SEO firms looking to place. Even the most conscientious webmasters are unlikely to read every single one of these emails, much less answer them.

A great pitch must stand out in a crowded inbox. Here are a few ways to elevate yours…

Get personal

Personalize your request wherever you can (including in the subject line). Display specific knowledge of the website you’re targeting, and make a pitch that focuses on the value that you can offer to the site and its visitors.

Be up-front

Don’t be cagey about your goals. If you think that there’s a mutual benefit, say so explicitly. If you are willing or planning to pay to place the piece, say so. Don’t leave it up to the webmaster to assume that you are on their level — they won’t.

Stick with it

Even if you craft your pitch emails perfectly, expect to be met with a lot of failure. You will not only get rejections, but you’ll more likely be ghosted. Webmasters and editors have no obligation to respond to pitches, and most often will choose not to. When it comes to pitching though, what most often pays off is perseverance. One positive response could lead to an ongoing relationship.

Outreach, outreach, outreach

Given the nature of pitch emails and the sheer volume that webmasters receive, it’s wise to cultivate relationships that go beyond emails. Reaching out to those running sites in your niche can create valuable contacts. Consider offering things with no ulterior motive. Networking and investing in these relationships can pay off when you do need a piece placed or a link updated.

More smart link-building strategies for 2021

Onsite and offsite content form the core of any successful link-building strategy. But there’s more to link-building than just those core efforts, especially when it comes to staying current with the latest content-placing strategies.

Guest blogging

Guest blogging is a form of offsite content, but it deserves some specific mention here. In a guest post, the relationship between you and the other site is made explicit. The other site welcomes you as a guest blogger, often posting a writer’s bio for you or prefacing your post with an explanation to its readers. Guest posts are typically unpaid, and writing a guest post will usually mean working with your target site from the get-go.

You should pitch sites that have “write for us” invitations for guest posts. But you can also pitch sites that don’t. You might be surprised how far you can get.

Once you’ve published some guest posts, you can use your existing work to demonstrate your potential. A previous guest post for a similar site will reassure a webmaster that you’re an authority when it comes to offering valuable content.

Sponsorships, donations, and volunteering

Doing the right thing is often rewarded. Just as businesses that sponsor local little league teams often get their logos printed on uniforms, there are ways in which donating money and time can advance your link-building goals.

Simply donating money is often enough: Many charities and other organizations link to their donors on their webpages. Volunteering and donating can also lead to good press, which may include links to your site from newspaper websites and news blogs.

Finding opportunities to put these strategies into practice has never been easier. Use search engines, including charity-specific ones like GreatNonprofits.org, to track down opportunities. Local businesses should focus first on location, and all businesses should keep their reputations and target demographics in mind. Choose worthy causes that will be popular with your customer base.

Use your time to do unpaid work within your niche, too. Speaking at a conference or other event that is relevant to your business space can generate more than just good press and networking opportunities — it could also generate more relevant links.

Take to the message boards

The oldest content marketing strategy is word of mouth. In the internet age, word of mouth lives online. Having a presence on message boards and social sites is an easy way to build your business’ reputation, and it can also help you build high-quality links.

One great way to build links on message boards is to answer questions and help people. Link to relevant resources on your own website as you reply to the people who need your help.

Be aware that some message boards have rules about promoting businesses and websites. The goal here is to be helpful and earn some quality traffic, not to spam links in comment sections or message board threads.

“Broken link” link building

“Broken link” link building is a somewhat niche, but very effective strategy. It involves offering resources to “fix” broken links on other sites.

Webmasters don’t want broken links on their sites, of course, but things change on the internet. A link that once went to a helpful resource can become broken when that resource disappears or changes its URL.

That can create an opportunity for you, provided the resource is relevant to your niche. You can point out the broken link to the site’s webmaster — and can helpfully offer a similar resource that is hosted on your own site.

The tricky part is finding broken links, but there are SEO tools that make this easier. Use a tool that lets you view links going out from multiple sites at once, then search for 404 errors. Find a page on your own site that could replace the broken link or, failing that, create a new one for this specific purpose.

Leverage sites with user-generated content

For some websites, users aren’t just the customers — they’re the creators. That’s certainly true of social media sites (which we’ll discuss at more length in a moment), and it’s also true of sites like YouTube and Pinterest and other internet forums.

Take advantage of these sites. Create content and post photos, writing, and videos — and ensure that they lead back to your site by using the proper tags and, where permitted, links. Post your products on sites like Product Hunt and maintain a social media presence.

Register with social media sites and claim business citations

Social media sites do plenty of good for businesses by allowing them to keep in contact with customers and monitor feedback. Business directories and review sites are important, too.

Most of these sorts of sites have not been central to link-building strategies in the past, because the links gained (if any) are generally “nofollow” links.

However, not all links on these websites are nofollow links, and nofollow links are newly relevant for SEO purposes for 2021, following Google’s decision to consider them beginning in March.

The link-building benefits gained by registering accounts with social media sites, business registries, and other similar sites will likely remain small, but the effort involved in doing so is similarly small, and the benefits of these sorts of sites go beyond link-building and SEO.

Do you have an account?

Claim your local business citations

Leveraging social media

We’ve already established that social media sites can be important for link-building purposes. But to make proper use of social media, don’t just post blindly. Develop content that is relevant to your site visitors by using strategies similar to those you apply to creating offsite and onsite content. Focus on timeliness in particular: In the world of social shares and tweets, attention is fleeting.

Fortunately, social media sites provide tools that will help you stay on top of what is timely. Look for trending hashtags and try to create posts that are of-the-moment.

Turning mentions into links

Perhaps the simplest of all link-building strategies, turning mentions into links, involves doing something that is usually too direct to be effective: Simply asking for a link. In this case, though, you’ll be asking people who already respect your website.

Use search engines to find mentions of your company, organization, or website and check to make sure that mentions by writers or bloggers include links to your website. If they don’t, you should send a polite email requesting that they be linked.

Use the “Skyscraper technique”

As the name suggests, the Skyscraper technique involves building upwards.

The technique starts with research: You’ll want to find a relevant resource that is popular in your niche. Next, you’ll build on it. Create a similar resource, but don’t just copy: Instead, add something new. That something new could be as simple as updated statistics or as complex as a new perspective and conclusion based on the same materials.

Armed with your new and improved version of a popular resource, you can now offer something better to the sites that link to the original.

Even more to try

This is a thorough list, but it could go on even longer. Stay on the lookout for trends and innovations in link building strategy; knowing the latest ones will help you keep your link-building efforts forward thinking and up-to-date.

Link building matters

Make no mistake: You have your work cut out for you.

Because of the difficulty of placing links and the patience it takes to earn them, link building can feel like the grunt work of SEO. Faithful execution of these strategies takes hard work, dedication, thick skin, and patience. There will be failures, rude rejections, and perhaps even strategic mistakes.

But high-quality, contextually relevant links will do wonders for your backlink profile. If you keep at it, you can build a stronger link base for your website and gain an edge in what is arguably the single most important area of SEO.

In the long term, you’ll know that your link building efforts were worth it.

How Outbound Links Improve Your Site Authority and SEO

We all know that linking to other pages within your own website architecture, also known as internal linking, matters for ranking purposes. It helps search engine crawlers index your site, and the more you link to a page internally, the more important search engines believe that page is to your site (the better that page’s chances are of being prioritized in search).

External linking can also be helpful to your SEO and ranking. However, many companies, agencies, and small businesses are still hesitant about linking to outside sources from their own pages for fear of losing users, or losing search equity.

Outbound Linking Barrier #1

The fear of losing search equity demonstrates a slight misunderstanding of how links work in terms of SEO.

The Hose Myth

Many people think of links like hoses that search equity flows through. In this mental model, search equity originates from users, they bestow it on a site by visiting/engaging, and that search equity flows to other pages/sites via links. The problem with this idea of links is that you view search equity as a very finite commodity—and believe that you “lose” search equity every time you link to another site (this is false).

A Better Mental Model

Think of a link like a recommendation. One site is recommending another site to their users by linking to that site.

Let’s take that metaphor a little further with a scenario: Let’s assume your friend asks you for recommendations on someone to hire. Consider the following two outcomes:

  • You give them recommendations for two really good candidates.
  • You give them recommendations for the full 523 people you had in your phone contacts.

In the first outcome your friend probably found you very helpful, and would come to you for help again. In the second outcome, your friend probably didn’t find that useful at all, and they are unlikely to return to you for help.

Search engines are similar. If they see a site link out to high-quality, reputable resources, then they feel like that site is helpful, and they’ll reward that helpfulness in search.

To summarize, here are three key reasons why outbound links work for companies of any size.

  • Search engines judge you by the company you keep (especially Google). Your reputation can benefit from being associated with other sites that are well known for being reputable on related topics.
  • Users prefer information to be curated for them rather than having to find it themselves. Whenever you have the opportunity to do so, link to the most relevant resources in your field. This will encourage a user to bookmark your page or share your content.
  • Linking shows that you know which resources are most relevant. This enables you to highlight to Google that you know authoritative content when you see it.

Outbound Linking Barrier #2

The next major barrier most business face to outbound linking is the concern that they’ll lose converting users to other sites.

The Lost Traffic Concern

As pointed out by Moz, it’s true that by linking to another website, you’re directing some traffic away from your own page.

Benefits Outweigh the Cost

Most sites will set external links to open in a new tab for users, reducing the chance of the user being truly pulled away from the site. Additionally, users who are still in the research phase are less likely to have converted during their session anyways.

In your site’s overall SEO strategy, each page is an opportunity to showcase your expertise and depth of knowledge about the topic, space, or industry through your content. When you reference other authoritative sources via outbound links it builds trust for your own website with users, and sends content quality signals to search engines. In this way, outbound linking helps improve the SEO health of your website and reduces behaviors that negatively impact SEO, like u-turns and bounces.

Furthermore, posting an outbound link to a site you find valuable is also a way of extending your hand for potential partnership. This can be a solid way to start building relationships with bloggers, writers, and businesses in the same niche, location, or complementary industry. If you’re a local business, suggesting or recommending other local businesses can even help search engines recognize your page better for local search. In a way, you’re asking Google and other search engines to associate your page with that of other related sites and their SEO efforts/attributes (like location or authority).

How to Select Sites for Outbound Linking

First, only ever select resources that will provide value to your user (informational value, entertainment value, etc).

The easiest place to figure out how to rank in Google? Google itself. Complete a preliminary search of your top keywords and see what Google currently thinks is worth promoting.

Tools for Checking Site Authority

If there are sites that you already know about, and want to check on their authority, you can use a Domain Authority (DA) checker. DA is a metric created by Moz that scores websites based on a scale that goes up to 100. The higher the score, the more domain authority that website holds, making it a strong candidate for an outbound link.

Another great place to start is Ahrefs, using their site explorer you can check the backlink profile for any site already ranking well for your target keyword(s) or sites already linking to a source that you know is authoritative. Look for sites with a high Domain Rating (DR), as a starting point.

Bonus:   Screaming Frog, a free tool, can analyze your competitor’s site and provide you a list of their outbound links.

Considerations for Site Selection

Here are a few questions to keep in mind when choosing backlinks:

  • What one-to-three pages help to support my claims or share related content?
  • Which other pages cover the topic well?
  • Do these pages also have good domain authority/domain rating?
  • Do these pages operate by bloggers or domain owners in related or similar niches?
  • Are these pages ones that get regular traffic and social shares from others in my niche?
  • Do I find these sites to be valuable sources of information I trust?

Going through these questions can help you pinpoint whether or not another site is a good choice for a link.

The most valuable sites to link to are those with strong domain authority. Google prioritizes high authority and high organic traffic (OT) metrics. For example, if you were writing a page for your chiropractic business about post-car-accident back injuries, linking to research from the Mayo Clinic could be valuable because you’re backing up the statements you shared on your page with a trusted source of medical information. With Bing, the kings of content are sites that end in .gov and .edu. This is because they’re often associated with government agencies, research, and universities.

If a certain topic is trending in the news, linking to a site that has less domain authority but is the primary source of coverage for this topic can help you jump on the trend while the topic is still fresh in your readers’ minds.

Linking to Your Own Earned Media

A wonderful chance to link to outbound content while also building on your own traction is to link to other websites that have mentioned or profiled your company or your own site. Any form of earned media, such as a mention in a reported piece, a guest blog, or an interview on someone else’s podcast allows you to benefit from the other person’s link to your website and for you to write up a recap for your own site to link to theirs.

Over time, a strategy like this signals to the search engines that you’ve “shown up” as a trusted link by many others in your niche. This is also a much more organic way of building traffic and SEO traction than outdated spammy methods like link farms or linking parties.

You’ll sometimes see sites create an entire section for news or press to highlight earned media.

Outbound Linking Helps Secure Inbound Links

When you create quality content on your own site, you’re also likely to become a hub for outbound links from other people, too! Establishing your site as a worthwhile resource and home for quality content means that over time, you’ll continue to post outbound links to other valuable websites.Your own site might also pick up some backlinks of its own as other people connect to your content. At that stage, link-building becomes a cycle and it’s much easier to build on your own results.

One method we discussed earlier in this article is content curation. Or creating a page that links to all the best resources on a topic, and helps users quickly navigate those resources by providing either brief color-commentary or high-level organization. An example of this would be an article like “The 10 Best Places to Visit When Travelling to Arlington, VA” or “The 20 Best Resources for Getting Started with Inbound Marketing.”

The Outbound Link “Strategy” to Avoid

Avoid two-way backlinking schemes run by private blog networks. These are sometimes referred to as “linking parties.” In Google’s recent updates, they have been penalizing efforts to game the system with links shared between blogs. (They’re calling these discrepancies “link schemes.”)

Worried about your site? If you haven’t participated in any of the following acts, you should be fine:

  • Excessive link exchanges:  This is what we were talking about in the paragraph above. Google will come after you for participating in “link to me and I’ll link to you” schemes. You also should avoid partnering with a page, influencer, blogger, etc. that doesn’t make sense for your company. Google is watching for relevance. So if you get your link on a site that just doesn’t make sense, Google will ping you for it. For example, a link to an automotive shop shouldn’t show up within the blog pages of a bakery.
  • Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns:  Sometimes, businesses think they’re sneaky and can use one singular article several times in hopes of getting a few links out of it. Reworking a few words here and there isn’t going to fool Google.
  • Exchanging goods or services for links:  Google will know if you sent someone a “free” product in exchange for a link. If you do this, make sure it fits your brand and looks natural.

The best way to get on Google’s good side it to create unique, relevant content that your audience will genuinely love. We don’t care what you’ve heard, creating good content pays off. Remember, you’re in this for the long-game.

As pointed out in a July 2019 edition of #AskGoogleWebmasters, outbound linking should always be done without getting involved in any schemes, adding outbound links in user-generated content, and links in ads.

Final Thoughts

The best way to become a trusted source in your niche is to publish regular high-quality content of your own. Forming relationships with other writers and bloggers in your niche by following their content and commenting can also open the doors for future link-building opportunities.

Remember, Google is evolving all of the time. The company isn’t doing this to punish you or take away your hard-earned followers. The algorithm changes to filter out spammers. Rule of thumb? Do your research. Take the tips we’ve laid out in this article to heart. Google doesn’t play and it will penalize your site for a variety of reasons, including joining the wrong link directory, article marketing (which is spinning the exact same article multiple times in hopes of ranking), keyword stuffing, and unnatural anchor text. (You wouldn’t want unnatural text repping your brand anyway, right?

Your SEO efforts are best spent on pages that are not yet ranking on Page 1 for target search terms. Once you’ve seen what is working on your page, flex your new SEO muscles by selecting an under-performing page and test out how you can make improvements to that page. You can then track whether you’re able to boost your rankings for that page. We have a great article with advice on creating great on-page content.

Is My Website Ready for Link Building?

You took the first steps. You purchased a domain, set up managed web hosting, and even got your site an SSL certificate. Now that you’ve nailed some of the basics, where do you take your website? Chances are, you’re absolutely itching to increase traffic, convert a few leads, and see your site at the top of Google’s first page. While that’s the ultimate goal for many a webmaster, the truth is that it’s a lot harder than it might seem initially. One way to give your web presence a much-needed boost is through a quality link-building campaign.

However, not all sites are created equally, and many aren’t quite prepared to dive into the link-building process. If you were to ask yourself if your website is ready for link building at this precise moment, it’s more likely than not that the answer is no. This doesn’t mean that you have a bad site, per se, or that you’re doing something fundamentally wrong. It could mean, though, that there are a few things that you’re not doing right or that you’re not doing at all, each of which plays a big role in determining your site’s success.

Whether it’s a tighter user experience, improving technical search engine optimization (SEO) metrics, or, most important, developing a better content strategy, you always have ways to make your web page more user-friendly. After all, if you don’t have a site that users will naturally want to spend time on, chances are a link-building campaign isn’t going to do you much good. It’s an unfortunate truth, but you need to keep a few key considerations in mind if you hope to execute a digital marketing strategy.

Think of your website’s overall interface as your first impression upon your end users

A crisp, clean, well-designed website is more likely to draw in browsers than a one-page site that looks like an old Geocities build. As much as we’d all like to pretend it isn’t true, looks do tend to matter. Your website is no exception. A clunky interface and questionable design choices can cause your bounce rates to shoot through the roof. Couple this with any of the other common website pitfalls, and you’re risking paying a hosting fee for what turns out to be a fairly inactive site.

So how do you improve the user interface and make sure it’s adhering to SEO best practices? A few tips make for a good start. First, it’s important to remember that design is subjective, and there’s no way that your UI is going to please every single user. However, your goal isn’t to please everybody. It’s more to develop a design that will please most users. If design isn’t your strong suit, keep the following three components in mind: simplicity, purpose, and cleanliness.

Simplicity should be fairly self-explanatory. Unless you’re running a very media-heavy website that relies on numerous plug-ins to execute your vision, having unnecessary animations, crowded designs, and unclear language probably isn’t in your best interest. A rule of thumb is that the best site interfaces are nearly unnoticeable to the end user because they feel natural and intuitive.

Purpose is equally important. Just because you can add an extra block of text or another photo or an additional widget doesn’t mean you should if it doesn’t have a defined purpose on the page. Is it something users will naturally want to click on? Does it work in service of your ultimate conversion funnel, be it a sale, a sign-up, or an email capture? Or does it simply take up space on the site for the sake of taking up space? Careful planning and placement is often the first step in navigating a webpage’s ultimate purpose, and if any of your interface elements don’t serve that purpose, they probably need to go.

As for cleanliness, it’s simply the most natural extension of the previous two points. If you ever look at your site and think “this seems a little busy,” it’s important to know that the user’s reaction is likely to be much more magnified than yours. Clean lines, proper use of white space (without going too far overboard into the realm of outright minimalism), and an avoidance of crowding your on-page elements all work in your favor here.

Where user experience is concerned, it builds upon previous concepts. Simply remind yourself that a good user interface lends itself well to a good user experience. However, your interface isn’t the only deciding factor in UX. Other considerations include how much your users interact with the elements on your site, your rich media offerings, and most importantly, the quality of the content on your site. Search engines rely heavily on content quality to determine whether or not a site is worth ranking, so if you haven’t mastered these fundamental steps and given your on-site content an overhaul, a link building campaign is out of the question — but more on content later.

Let’s get technical

On paper, technical SEO may sound like a fairly intimidating concept. The word “technical” tends to do that to whatever phrase may follow it. Luckily, you don’t need to be a programming or coding genius to handle some of the basics of technical SEO on your own (though you may want to call in the professionals if you’re interested in more advanced concepts). For instance, one key technical SEO ranking factor has to do with your page speed, and fixing it doesn’t require a master’s in computer science.

Think about it: a vast majority of mobile users bounce from a website if it doesn’t load within a few seconds. A slow website can mean the death of your online presence, and if your overall load times lag any higher than two and a half seconds, it’s important for you to address what’s causing the slowdown. The closer you can get to being under two seconds per page load, the better. Not only does this benefit the aforementioned user experience, but you’re also eliminating the risk of losing prospective users and customers just because your site can’t quite keep up.

Thankfully — depending on the content management system you use — slow page speeds are a fairly simple fix. If you’re using a fairly popular CMS such as WordPress, plenty of page speed plug-ins can get your site snapping along with just a few clicks of your mouse. Before you go installing new plug-ins left and right, make sure you check overall download statistics as well as general user reviews. While page load plug-ins are always geared towards speeding up things a bit, poorly optimized or incompatible plug-ins can often have the opposite effect.

Page speed isn’t the only technical concept you’ll need to tackle before you’re ready for a link-building campaign. Other primary concerns include a few key optimizations such as your Robots.txt file, your 404 page, your URL navigation, and your overall website structure. If you’re spotting glaring errors with any of these, they need to be fixed as soon as possible. However, while those are all important, they’re still not your primary concern. One of the biggest technical SEO concepts you’ll need to tackle right away comes in the form of mobile optimization.

Mobile search is continually growing and is one of the primary mediums for all searches conducted on the internet. Poor font choices, difficult-to-read content, and a lack of mobile scaling are all grievous optimization errors. If your site isn’t properly optimized for mobile users (or worse, doesn’t even have a mobile version) you’re going to lose out on a lot of potential traffic from browsers who strictly access the internet from their smartphones and tablets. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t give your desktop version the same care and attention as your mobile version. Both are equally important. However, mobile’s rapid growth can’t be ignored for long.

A link building campaign often succeeds or fails as a direct result of how well your website has been optimized

Missing search-friendly titles, tags and descriptions? Haven’t thought much about strategically incorporating keywords and headers into your content? Or is your blog full of short puff pieces that are poorly constructed and don’t do much to draw your readers through your conversion funnel? All of these are examples of poorly executed on-page optimizations, which are frequently the kiss of death for any quality link-building campaign.

Keywords are especially important for your on-page optimizations. They’re used to inform search engines about any given page’s content and overall topic. For example, if you’re writing a page on “compact hybrid sedans” but don’t mention that phrase at all throughout your content or tags, a search engine is going to have an incredibly difficult time discerning what your page is about. This causes your site to be seen as unhelpful in a way, because it doesn’t adequately address the searcher’s query. This will harm your rankings and will further ensure prospective traffic sources have a difficult time reaching your website.

Another place where on-page optimizations are especially important in link-building campaigns is through anchor text. Not sure what that is? Think of your average hyperlink. The snippet of text that is clickable is known as your anchor text. Anchor text is used to inform a search engine about the destination of a hyperlink. Think back to the hybrid sedan example. If your anchor text for a hyperlink is the phrase “compact hybrid sedans” but it directs to a page that doesn’t mention this phrase in any meaningful way, it’s not a well-implemented anchor.

The best way to make sure your tags, anchors, and keywords are thoughtfully incorporated into your site is through a cohesive content strategy that carefully implements all of your SEO elements into quality writing. When you have a solid foundation of quality content, it’s that much easier to execute a proper link-building campaign because you’ll be linking back to pages that provide readers with value and are worth ranking. So what constitutes quality content in the eyes of a search engine?

Words on a page

When you hear the words “content strategy,” chances are that your mind immediately wanders to some of your favorite blogs. They’re long-form, they’re informative, and they’ve kept you as a repeat reader for several years. However, blogs and articles aren’t the only pieces of content strategy. In fact, they’re probably not even the first bits of content your audience will even see. Typically, unless you’re running digital ads that direct towards special landing page