What are Back Links?
A backlink is simply a link pointing from another website to yours. Search engines consider backlinks to be a vote for your site and much like a testimonial, the higher the quality of that source the more value your site will receive.
Tip: If your site has a lot of low quality backlinks, you should consider a link removal campaign first!
What is Link Building?
Now that we understand the value of a backlink, the importance of building new links is quite obvious but lets take a look at what this actually involves.
Until the arrival of the Google Penguin algorithm update where Google took its’ first step toward eradicating spammy SEO practices, the most common forms of link building were directory submissions and article submissions. Both of these practices involved either submitting your site’s URL to a link directory or submitting an article (often of questionable quality) to an article directory purely for the sake of a backlink.
Thankfully, this is now little more than a distant memory in the white-hat SEO world. These days the only types of links you should be building are high quality “editorial” links from real websites.
Here is a great clip from the team at Moz that does a great job of explaining the do’s and don’ts of link building in modern SEO.
Since the process now requires actual interaction with site owners and webmasters, the act of building links requires far more effort than it used to. Here are just a few of the basic tactics that we employ with our clients:
Local Niche Directories
While directory submissions are typically something to be avoided, there are a few exceptions.
Local directories, especially those specific to your product or service, can still provide some great value and are a great way to pick up some valuable links with much less effort than other link building tactics.
Listing your site in places like Yellow Pages, True Local, Yelp etc gives your clients another place to hear about your business. Google’s “Pigeon” update is set to actually improve the strength of these sites in the search rankings so they’re not about to be a negative link any time soon.
Content marketing is all about creating high quality, helpful content that you can use to contact relevant sites.
This can be anything from a great blog post to informative videos, infographics etc. If they are interesting enough or provide info that people are searching for then you will often find other relevant sites are happy to link back to your great content or include your media on their site and credit you.
This option is quite time consuming and certainly takes some practice but it does offer a higher success rate, particularly for the more powerful links.
Link Building Outreach
Old fashioned outreach involved nothing more than sending out hundreds of emails to relevant business in vain hope of a response.
At Kymodo we like to take this a step further by taking the time to better understand out link prospects, offering a “give” with some value or picking up the phone and giving them a call.
Effective outreach is about being selective with the sites you contact and engaging them as a person, not just begging for links en masse and hoping for the best!
Quality vs. Quantity
There is a misconception that the more links your website gains, the higher your positions will be. Fortunately this is not the case. When it comes to link building, the quality of the links will always out-weigh the quantity. In fact just a few quality back links will outperform hundreds of poor links.
With the recent Google algorithm changes, having a higher quantity of poor links could also be penalising your website.
How to Determine a Quality Backlink
There are a wide range of metrics available to measure the strength of a backlink but the truth is, none of them are completely accurate. They do give us a reasonable understanding of a site’s link strength at a glance but its so important to manually review them before you take any drastic action.
Below are what we currently consider to be the top three tools available to check the quality and strength of your backlinks:
A website’s trust score is calculated by looking at how far removed they are from a set of seed websites. Think of it like “degrees of separation”, the fewer sites between you and one of the seed sites, the higher your trust score.
The citation value is essentially calculated on the number of backlinks pointing to a site. Just like most things in the SEO world there are a lot of complex variables involved so more links doesn’t necessarily mean higher citation.
So, the best way to determine if a site will be a valuable backlink is to consider both the trust and citation of the link and do a manual revision of the actual site. When looking over the site you’re really looking for some of these more obvious signals that you want to avoid:
- Keyword-stuffed content
- Excessive use of ads
- A large number of outbound links, particularly when pointing to a wide variety of industries
- As a general rule, anything with the words “SEO” or “directory” in the URL