Now that we have examined how best to optimize your website and content, we will go over the final essential step needed to increase visibility in search results: creating partnerships and acquiring backlinks. These are links on other websites that link back to yours, and they are essential for increasing your site’s authority.
What is authority?
Authority refers to how much confidence Google has that a website is a reputable, reliable resource. The criteria used vary between search engines, and Google does not publish theirs. That said, it is possible to use tools created by private companies, like Moz and Majestic, which rank a website’s supposed authority.
Even without a full list of criteria, we do know that authority is gauged primarily on the quality and quantity of backlinks to a website.
Simply put, the more quality links you have, the higher your authority, and therefore, the better your ranking is.
What makes a good link?
Imagine that all the websites linked to you (both inbound and outbound) make up your neighborhood: the higher the quality of the neighborhood, the more Google will consider you to have a reliable, high-quality source. Below are the factors that help determine whether links are good or bad.
A quality link:
Originates on a popular or high-quality website.
Is found among content that is relevant to your profession.
Attracts real traffic, meaning that it is on a page real visitors read, not hidden away in some obscure part of the website.
Where the link is located on the site matters. The best links, in order, are:
On homepages, which are nearly impossible to get. Nobody wants to pollute their site with links on their homepage.
On secondary pages, which are accessible from a website’s main menu.
In blog posts.
In footers,sidebars, orpages listing partner websites.
Why are links in directories, page footers, and partner websites pages not ideal?
In SEO, there is the concept called link juice. As you know, Google follows links on websites, and when it does it confers part of the power or authority of the parent page onto the linked page.
The more links it finds on the same page, the less power it confers to each subsequent link, until finally it stops following these links altogether. This is the result of a change in Google’s algorithm meant to fight spam. Previously, placing hundreds of links on a page was enough to make it rise to the top of the results.
So, today, if a link is located among dozens of others (as in directories and partner website pages), it is (much) less effective.
Additionally, the position of the link on the page also has an impact. It will have more power if it is placed at the top or in the body than at the bottom, like the footer or the comments section for example.
Nofollow vs. dofollow
It is possible to add a tag to indicate whether search engines should follow a link or not using nofollow and dofollow.
Here is what the HTML looks like:
<a href="https://mysite.com" rel="nofollow">My site</a>
In reality, search engines do sometimes follow them anyways, but they only give little to no link juice.
They are nonetheless important, because they help you diversify your links. They also serve as citations, and let Google know that people are talking about you!
Anchor text is the text located inside the tags that tells Google what the link is about. So, don’t use anchors like “here” or “find out more.”
How to acquire backlinks
There are several ways of acquiring organic, or, unsolicited links:
Create high-quality content that can become source material for other articles or websites who will then link back to you.
Create viral,unusual, or useful content in a visual format such as an infographic. In addition to it being used and shared by other websites, the content will get a lot of shares on social media. This will make you look more relevant to Google.
Create simulations or other useful features for your potential customers (e.g. an insurance premium simulator).
Unfortunately, even if you publish amazing content, you will not acquire enough links fast enough. So, you also need to actively solicit them. Here are some tips:
Introduce yourself to other websites, and offer to let them use your images, infographics, or part of your content (without copy-pasting it!) in exchange for a backlink.
Likewise, create partnerships with websites that are not competitors. We will cover how in more detail in the next chapter.
And, to a lesser extent, create links in forums when you answer a question or a comment on a blog post. Even though these are still common practices, they are becoming less effective in terms of SEO.
Avoid beginner mistakes
When starting out, people move quickly without taking time to build trust. It takes time to establish the right partnerships.
Be patient and avoid making the following mistakes:
Having only one type of link, like blog comments or forum posts, for example.
Using the same anchor text for all your links.
Acquiring backlinks from low-quality websites just to get more.
Trying to automatically generate links.
Is creating links a black hat practice?
Yes and no. Let me explain.
If they are quality useful links relevant to your content, then no, it is not a black hat practice. It is often referred to as a gray hat practice - one Google tolerates within reason. So, be careful!
If, however, your links look like spam, have minimal value, and are generated to trick Google into improving your ranking, then yes, it is black hat.
How many links should I create?
There is no exact number, and it depends on your competitors. The longer your content, the more links you can have as long as they remain topical. The goal is to incorporate the them as seamlessly as possible. You should also regularly establish new partnerships, answer questions on forums, etc.
Increase your authority by acquiring quality links from other websites.
It is not enough to create good content, you also need to actively seek out partnerships.
Build different types of links.
Avoid making beginner mistakes.
You probably already have a few backlinks to your site and are working on acquiring more organic ones using your content; but, how can you actively encourage other websites to link back to you? Let's now look at how you can build partnerships.