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A survey by Moz recently showcased that about 37% of business owners spend between $10,000 and $50,000 per month on external link building, which left us with two valuable conclusions:
Backlinks are still the best way to grow Google rankings, raise brand awareness, and build revenue.
Developing an effective backlink strategy is not cheap.
If you’re thinking about getting more backlinks to build your ranking, you’re thinking in a slightly wrong direction. The trick lays not in more, but in how. In today’s post-Penguin era, the only backlinking that matters is the one that operates with quality instead of quantity.
Your investment, as Moz’s figures reveal, will be substantial — it’s time to figure out how to spend less money on fewer backlinks and get more results in return.
You’ve come to the right place.
Let’s explore 15 effective ways to get more high-quality backlinks in 2017 and beyond.
In case someone has just recommended the backlink strategy to you, but you have no idea where to start or what it refers to, here’s a quick reminder. (All of you who’ve come for updates on fresh techniques and SEO trends, scroll down to “How to build less and get more.” Actionable tips await you there.)
Backlinks are links that point to your website from outside domains, whereas an outside domain can be any internet page that’s relevant to yours and has high domain and trust authority. Taken together, all of the backlinks from external sites (also called referring domains) amount to your website’s backlink profile, contributing to its rankability, visibility, relevance, authority, diversity, and overall strength.
What makes them so important? Let’s dissect that from three perspectives — users’, search engines’, and yours.
From a user’s perspective, backlinks are a great way to discover more information on the same or relevant topics. It’s exactly like learning on Wikipedia — made up of hyperlinks, one page leads to another, thus expanding or narrowing down the user’s research field.
From a search engine’s perspective, backlinks help determine the importance and value of each website. In what seems like a hundred years ago, the number of backlinks was an indicator of how popular the page is. Today, ranking factors are much more rigorous.
What’s in it for you? For anyone who’s running a business in the digital arena, high-quality backlinks guarantee steady referral traffic. If your build them properly, people who are searching for information, products, and services related to yours will be referred to your site from external domains for years to come. Your Google ranking will meanwhile grow, which will gain you brand exposure first, then brand recognition, and eventually, brand authority. At that point, your CRM will be brimming full.
Now that we’ve explained what backlinks are, and how they contribute to success, let’s dig deeper.
Once upon a time, all links were created equal. More importantly, building techniques were simpler. Thanks to Google and its many algorithm updates, things today are looking slightly more complicated.
Domain authority and trust are nowadays the most significant ranking factor, with around 23.87% of overall share value. According to Copyblogger, link popularity has come down to about 22.33%, while backlink anchor text comes in third, with 20.26%.
If modern ranking is all about trust and popularity, then modern backlinking must be all about it too.
Here’s what it takes to build external links that actually work.
SEO experts can hate Google’s algorithm updates as much as they want, but they still can’t deny that recent changes have a very high-minded purpose. Google’s end-goal is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”, which is pretty much revolutionary.
Of course, Google isn’t the only search engine in the world. But, in terms of the internet that’s neither deep nor dark web, it is the only one that matters. If you want to build your online presence, you’ll need to do it on Google, which means you’ll have to do it by complying with Google’s standards.
And, since Google’s end-goal is to make the internet a better place for users, not businesses, that should be your goal too. This means no irrelevant links, no spammy links, and no link buying. Any technique that revolves around this will get you penalized before you can even utter the word SEO.
The second pre-step is to build a strong backlink building foundation. If your website is a mess, no referral domain with high authority will ever want to link back to you. Even if they by some wonder do, you’ll have very little value from user traffic that keeps coming only to keep bouncing back.
So, what makes a website eligible for earning high-quality backlinks?
Being technically optimized
Being effortless to navigate through
Being rich in valuable content
All three refer to a delightful user experience. In order to link back to you, a referral domain will inspect your site from a user’s perspective. If it turns out that it possesses all the characteristics needed for providing an exceptional user experience – among which accessibility, flow, navigation, and content are the most important ones – then linking will be equally beneficial to the site, its users, and to yourself.
Besides, providing a poor user experience hurts the user, and consequently slows down Google’s user-centred mission. It’s not something you can get penalized over, but it is something that will make Google rethink its willingness to help you out and move you up in search ranking.
These are the essentials that you’ll need to cover.
Fixing Technical Errors
In technical terms, providing a great user experience means being fast, accessible, and bug-free.
If you’re not certain that your website is, check its loading speed and think about how mobile friendly it is. Google can actually help you revisit and improve both – just consult its PageSpeed Insights and Mobile Friendly check.
Other technical issues may come incorrect uses of directives, duplicate METAdata, canonical errors, 404 errors, redirect chains, 302 redirects, and duplicate content. To stay on the safe side, use Siteliner for duplicate content, and Screaming Frog SEO Spider for the rest.
Website navigation refers to the way that users access individual pages on your site. Since your goal is to keep them from bouncing back for as long as you can, how they browse makes all the difference.
Ask yourself this – is content of your website well-organized?
How difficult it is to find relevant information? Do users have to shift between tabs, or is everything placed in a logical order, guiding them from one page to another? When it comes to user experience, site organization is key. Make sure that everything is properly categorized and very intuitive to use.
And, don’t forget to interlink before you backlink. By making your website architecture conveniently interconnected, internal link building makes a great foundation for external referrals. It contributes not only to effortless user experience, but also to the way Google and referral domains perceive you.
Producing Valuable Content
If we were to describe what valuable content actually means, this section would devour the entire article. As the single most important unit of digital marketing, content is subject to many interpretations – what makes it valuable often transcends objectivity, and objectivity is what we need.
That’s why we have to look at content exclusively from the backlink building perspective.
The following paragraph is a sum of everything you need to know.
Valuable content implies anything that your website visitors would gladly spend their time on. Be that an article, an infographic, a video, or something else, its purpose is to entice your audience and make them stick with you as a brand. Maybe subscribe, maybe buy. It’s engaging, useful, and highly relevant.
When it comes to backlinking, it’s also essential.
One of the frequently cited rules of this SEO technique is called 90/10. It means that your backlink strategy needs to be 90% valuable content, and only 10% link building. Without content that users would share and that referral domains would want to link to, there’s no effective backlinking at all.
Infographics are another great way to produce valuable content and build high-quality backlinks. Today’s audiences like their content to be visual, simply because such content is easy to understand and looks amazing when shared. For every fifth article, delight them with an appealing infographic.
Another characteristic of valuable content that backlinking directly benefits from is the right keyword. It’s also what can be used as an anchor text that links one page to another, thus sending the user from a referral domain to your website. If you want to do this right, you cannot avoid keyword research.
Go to Google AdWords for help, and don’t hesitate to use the Keyword Planner. It will give you brilliant ideas for building a campaign that hits your target audience. This is exactly what keywords are – a relevant phrasing of how they think, what they need, and what they would want to read, or buy.
The sooner you build a strong foundation, the sooner you’ll be able to start generating backlinks. One more pre-step to go, and you’re ready.
Before you choose the best technique and implement a backing building strategy, make sure that Google has already found and indexed your website’s content. The easiest way to get noticed by Google, Nail Patel says, is using Amazon’s Alexa. If you content is stellar, it will index you in 6 hours.
Here’s how to do it.
After you’ve published a new blog post on your website, paste the page URL on Alexa. You’ll immediately be added to its directory, which Google’s spiders crawl all the time. As soon as they detect your page as the newest addition, the search engine will pick it up as well, and index it for good.
Yes, relevance again. This is the first rule of successful backlinking, so listen closely and take notes. With this, your strategy may officially begin.
Building high-quality backlinks is impossible without relevant content. In order to create a strong backlink profile on your site, you need to obey Google’s rules. And, as we’ve previously discussed, they are all about making the internet a place of organized and easily accessible information.
Hence the importance of being relevant. Here’s a practical example.
Say you’re in the business of selling smartphones. Your goal is to attract people who are interested in buying them, right? In order to do that, you need your website’s content to be topical, and your referral domain to be followed by smartphone enthusiasts.
If you content provides insights into, say, CRM systems instead, a backlink from an external smartphone site would not only be meaningless, but would also be impossible to earn.
If your content is topical, and it’s the referral site in this scenario that offers CRM tips, the external domain’s visitor would hardly be interested in reading about smartphones, or even visiting your website at all.
So, how do you achieve this match? How do you make your backlinks relevant? By creating relevant content and publishing it on your website, and by finding relevant external sources with audience that would be interested in reading more about the topic at hand, or actually buying what you have to sell.
Similar Site Search is a brilliant hack for those who need to discover referral domains from the same industry or niche. Simply type in what you do, and the results will point you in the right direction.
If relevance is the first rule, than domain authority is the second. This is where your list of relevant external sources should narrow down to only those sites that are trustworthy and popular.
You can always try and get backlinks from all similar websites, but that will mean nothing if the domain referring to you isn’t properly ranked or frequently visited itself.
That’s why you need external sources that are both relevant and possess high domain and trust authority. You can check both by using MozBar, a tool that shows the exact DA for every website.
Trust flow is another metric that you’ll need to employ, since it provides a much precise measurement of how reliable the external source is. For this, use Majestic.
On its own, citation flow won’t do any favours to your backlink strategy. The purpose of this metric is to evaluate how popular backlinks from a referral domain are, meaning that it doesn’t gauge their quality, but their quantity. Majestic is a great tool for this as well.
But, citation flow isn’t worthless at all. When combined with results of trust flow, this data is hugely beneficial. For successful backlinking, make sure to use them together.
All of the aforementioned techniques will improve your SEO ranking while allowing you to stay focused solely on your website. But, there’s another way to go. Backlinking is not only about publishing great content on your site, but also about sharing your expert insight with others.
Return to your list of similar sites, and see if any of them is open to article submissions. Dig up some old articles that you’ve never published before, and send them to these sites as a guest blogger. If they like it, and their audience benefits from your insights, they will gladly link them back to you.
When one of these sites does publish your work, make sure to return back to them with a nice thank you email. If you haven’t seen any backlinks on your guest post yet, send them your portfolio, along with a link to your website. Do the same with sites you refer to, and ask them to return the favour.
Now, not all external domains on your list will be interested in publishing your posts and helping your with your backlink strategy. There will always be a couple of them that have impressive domain and trust authorities, and are eager to retain such a ranking status by being very rigorous in their selection.
These are the websites that assess their backlinking opportunities very carefully, and conduct thorough research before their editors decide that what you have to offer is valuable and relevant enough to be referred to. To earn these editorial links, you need to produce nothing less than 10x content.
In case guest blogging and editorial backlinks consume too much of your effort and time, try with niche-relevant forums. Their publishing and linking requirements are way less rigorous, but they do have a community etiquette that you’ll need to comply with. A great part of your audience is already there, ready, willing, and able to expand their research, which makes forums a brilliant backlinking alternative. It goes without saying that your posts need to be just as valuable as with guest blogging.
The same applies to niche-relevant blog comments. Plenty of field experts find it useful to share their expertise from a position of a post commentator, debating the blog post itself, and backlinking to their own opinions on the subject at hand. As always, keep it topical, relevant, and highly informative.
Also, think about writing testimonials for niche-relevant sources that you, as an expert, use while creating your own content. It will take you only a couple of minutes, for which you may earn some backlinks from the site in exchange. If you are a consumer of their products as well, even better.
Niche authorities are not the only ones whose insights and tips are in high demand. The age of connectivity is all about knowledge sharing, which means that anyone’s expert opinion is welcome, appreciated, and valued. Find sites that share success stories and conduct interviews with rising influencers, and let them know that you would be interested in contributing.
Finally, you cannot ignore the immense power of social media. Though social graph metrics take up only 5.30% of share value on the Google’s ranking factors chart, popular networks are still a helpful addition to a backlink strategy. Why? Because they help you promote your site and its content.
Whenever you publish another post, be that on your own website or as a guest contributor, don’t forget to share it across social media. Not only will this improve your visibility and raise your brand awareness, but it will also give Google another criterion to assess your value and relevance by.
Whatever technique you choose, in the end, the rules of backlinking are clear and straightforward – know what Google’s mission is, build a website architecture that ensures a delightful user experience, provide valuable and shareable content, and do everything in the name of relevance.
That way, you’ll be able to generate more backlinks and build your ranking.