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Every Damn Thing You Need to Know About Backlinks

As someone who has made a career and even a tool around finding great link building opportunities and creating quality backlinks, I've decided to finally gather my ENTIRE knowledge about this part of SEO in one place. In this great, big, and chunky article, I'm going to talk about everything there is to know about backlinks, one of the most popular terms in SEO.

Why? - Backlinks are the foundation of search engine optimization. Without them, you won't have any real chance of rising above your direct and indirect competitors in SERP. These bad boys are the building blocks with which you should be building your online empire.

That's why I'm going to cover everything there is to know about backlinks in this post. The whole A-Z of knowledge. What's a backlink, why is it crucial for your SEO, what's its purpose, how many backlinks do you really need, what are the best practices for earning quality links - EVERYTHING!

Every Damn Thing You Need to Know About Backlinks

First, in case you still haven't mastered this search engine optimization game - you need to learn a little bit about how SEO really works. If you're interested in making the most out of your efforts online, you first need to cover all the basics. It's in your best interest to understand the process before you try to hack it. That's why I'm going to start with the fundamentals.

However, knowing that this is a pretty big post and that most of the people who will be reading it don't really need to start from the very beginning of SEO - I have decided to design a special navigation menu, so you can jump right to the part that's of most interest to you:

  1. The Power Behind SEO and Acquiring Intelligent Traffic
  2. What are Backlinks?
  3. Why are Backlinks Important?
  4. What Makes a Good Backlink?
  5. What's an Anchor Text / Types of Anchor Texts / Best Practices: Where to Put Your Anchor?
  6. Where Should Backlinks Point To?
  7. How to Build High-Quality Backlinks?

Ok, now that everything's clear - let's get rollin'! As promised, first - the fundamentals:

The Power Behind SEO and Acquiring Intelligent Traffic

The Power Behind SEO

When you really sit down and think about it, the Internet has truly revolutionized the world. It has changed the way we think, by giving us a great amount of resources and opportunities to learn and accomplish almost everything we set out to do, just by entering a phrase or two into our prefered search engine.

These days, everyone is online. Ok, maybe not LITERALLY everyone - but you get the drift. Every single person I know is using the Internet for millions of different reasons. Whether they're looking for something to read, learn, or buy - people are browsing the Web in the hopes of finding specific information that could be of use to them. And the best thing of all?! They are probably going to find it. The chances of leaving the Web "empty-handed" are now slimmer than ever.

There are over 1 billion active websites today and a large percentage of them is offering a specific type of business, information, product, or service that's beneficial to a lot of different people from all over the globe. In 2017, a lot of websites are doing everything in their power to create as much valuable content as possible for their targeted audience.

They're publishing guides, blog posts, white papers, case studies, webinars - basically everything that serves, educates, and influences their site visitors, on a wide variety of different subjects and occasions.

Believe it or not, Google now processes over 40k searches per second. This means that in a 24-hour period, the Engine feeds over 3.5 billion users with various types of information. At this rate, the math says that Google conducts roughly around 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide.

Let me repeat this for you in a more descriptive manner:

One. Point. Two. TRILLION. Searches. Per. Year.

And that's just Google.

Insane, right?! These are some pretty big numbers. And yet - a lot of people still struggle with generating visits to their website. Loads and loads of Internet users from every corner of the world still find themselves in situations where they end up staring at a lifeless line in their Google Analytics account.

Why is that? When there is so much demand for basically everything and anything online, why are people still struggling to earn traffic? Well, because lots of them still don't know how to make the most of their efforts online. They still don't know how to successfully optimize their website for search and grab a piece of that juicy pie.

Even though most of today's website owners understand the importance of driving traffic to their domain, they still don't know how to tell intelligent and useless traffic apart.

Imagine opening a burger joint in an overpopulated location where the majority of residents sees cows as sacred animals. Is there any potential for you to generate some traffic? - Yes! But is it worth your time and effort? Would you really have any customers? Is this a wise location for your business? Would you ever make any real money in that particular neighborhood? - The answer is NO!

The same goes for your website. No matter how good your site, products and services might be, or how much traffic you acquire - if you don't reach out to the right people, your efforts will go right down the toilet.

Driving traffic to your website through various proven techniques is important, but what's more important is the overall quality of your visits. You need to smartly target your crowd and do your best to draw in people who have a shared interest in what you have to offer.

I know this might seem odd to some of you now, but trust me - 50 well-targeted, intelligent site visits are more powerful than 5000 generic ones which have zero interest in what you do or sell online. If you concentrate your efforts on driving smart traffic to your website, you'll see a significant rise in your overall sales and site conversions. It will be a lot easier for you to convert your visitors into leads and sales, because they've already developed some genuine interest in your brand, products, and services.

Great, But How Does One Accomplish Such a Thing?

This is what SEO is really about - helping you come into contact with people who have a high potential of becoming your fans, consumers, and customers. It's an ongoing process of improving your website's rankings and performance in various search engines (primarily Google).

If you picture Google, or any other search engine, as a supermarket - good SEO would be the process of getting your items displayed on the top shelf. Everyone wants to be there. The top shelf is always in direct view of customers' eyes. It's right there in front of them. It's the first thing that people look at once they enter a specific aisle. The lower shelves require some effort from the customers to check out what's going on there. They need to crouch and lower their heads in order to truly see the merch. Nobody wants that. Your goal is always to remain in front of your customers. "Within hands reach", so to say. The same goes for your position in search, hence you need to invest a lot of time and effort into the optimization of your website for SERP.

This is SEO, in a nutshell.

The Definition of SEO and the Complexity Behind Every Search Engine

SEO, or search engine optimization, combines many different types of techniques that have the potential of helping your desired users easily locate and acknowledge you in search. The no.1 goal of every SEO plan or strategy is to eventually improve your rankings and position you higher in SERP than hundreds and thousands of other sites who are competing with you for those very same short and long-tail keywords.

As we already know, the sole purpose of every search engine out there is to present its users with the best possible and most relevant results for any search term. In order to accomplish that, the engine looks for certain signals on millions of different websites to decide which ones are ideal for specific searches.

If you want the engine to see you as the best possible fit for a specific set of searches, you need to play by its rules. You need to make sure that your website is properly formatted and full of compelling content, relevant links and quotes that have the power to get other people talking about you on their own blogs and websites.

Even though this seems a piece of cake now, you have to bear in mind that the engines are constantly changing and evolving.

Lots of marketers have been trying to hack the system and algorithms for years now, but they keep failing. SEO is a field that requires constant tweaking and adjustment, because the engines keep updating their core and rules. Apart from that, some parts of the way engine(s) work and calculate our rank in search still remain secret. When you think about it, it isn't really in their interest to share their secret formula with the world and give everyone a chance to develop the next Google.

However, even though some aspects of how search engines work might forever remain unknown, it's important to ALWAYS have in mind that these pieces of highly advanced and intelligent software are in the business of making people happy. Like I have already said above, their no.1 goal is to provide users with the best possible resource for a specific topic, so we can rest assured in knowing that their mechanism will forever reward people for playing by the rules and creating quality resources on a wide range of topics.

What are Backlinks

In layman's words, a backlink is a link that points back from one page to another. Backlinks come in many different forms. Both textual and graphic. They can appear within a header/footer of a website, a blogroll, banner, within an article, blog post, white paper, or some other type of textual content on a specific site. They can even come in the form of a comment.

Backlinks are the lifeblood of your SEO. Generating loads of high-quality backlinks is an essential part of just about any intelligent search engine optimization strategy out there. They make an enormous impact on a specific website's position in SERP. Backlinks are the most effective resource for improving a site's ratings. That's why all SEO experts constantly preach about them and urge their clients to invest in link building.

Dofollow & Nofollow Links

Like I've already said, in the world of digital marketing and search engine optimization - backlinks are super important for improving a website's SEO rankings. These links influence the popularity, relevance, and overall domain authority of your site. The more high-quality backlinks you create for your or your client's site - the better chances you'll have of ranking high for your desired keywords in Google (or any other search engine).

When a search engine's crawler goes through your site to determine the overall relevancy of your web address, pages, and everything else that's being displayed on it - it takes a close look at the number and quality of backlinks pointing back to your domain.

In the engine's eyes, backlinks are an indicator of the importance and relevancy of a certain site. Even though we don't really know exactly how search engines look at backlinks and to what extent do they really influence our rankings, the thing that we do know for sure is that quality is certainly a decisive factor. It's far more important than quantity.

Backlinks are important because:

  • They can help improve your organic rankings in search
  • They help Google index your pages faster
  • They attract great referral traffic
  • They help users better navigate through various websites and pages online by feeding them with additional, relevant information.

Google has been known to give a lot of credit to sites that have a decent number of quality backlinks. It considers them far better than those which don't have as many similar references, which, of course, automatically earns them higher positions in SERP. That's why you should always focus on acquiring high-quality, "natural" backlinks. This means that you have to actually deserve them, and not just build links for the sake of links through shady tactics.

Types of Backlinks

Regardless of what you set out to achieve online, there are only two major backlink types that you can acquire:

The dofollow and nofollow link.

This is what they look like in HTML:

<a href='https://www.dibz.me' Link Text </a>

<a href='https://www.dibz.me' rel='nofollow'> Link Text </a>

See the difference? The rel attribute describes how much attention Google devotes to a certain link when assigning a particular position to the said domain in search. You can always figure out which type of backlink you have just by checking the source code on the page linking back to you.

The biggest difference between dofollow and nofollow links is that the former really influence ratings, while the lattter are practically useful only as a source of traffic. Dofollow links are what we're all after. A dofollow backlink is an inbound link that passes authority from one page to another, and builds its rankings in SERP. In order for a backlink to work its magic, it has to feel organic. It has to look like it actually feeds a specific subject with additional, relevant information, that helps the reader reach a better understanding of the subject that's being laid out in front of him on a specific page. Its anchor must be natural and built around a keyword that actually feels "linkable" to another page in that particular scenario.

On the other hand, a nofollow link doesn't really have much influence on building a certain page's authority in search. It doesn't pass on any "link juice" or add any real value to your backlink profile. That's why most SEO experts see them as useless.

However, even though nofollow links don't influence your ratings, they can still be beneficial to your site, in a more indirect manner. It's of great importance to diversify your backlink profile. Even though we're all in the business of hacking the engine's algorithm, by doing things that bring direct ROI and improve our position in SERP - you have to keep in mind that not all dofollow links are created equal in Google's eyes. Some of them won't improve your rankings at all, while others could even harm your site. You need to be careful. If you don't want to end up back where you started, or even worse, on Google's blacklist - you need to get a bit creative. For example, if you create too many dofollow backlinks from the same domain - Google will interpret your efforts as spammy, which will negatively affect your efforts and rankings.

Nofollow links are a lot easier to acquire and they have also been known to drive cool traffic to sites from targeted crowds.

The general practice is to use different types of backlinks. Your backlink profile needs to have a bit of color, if you want it to truly work wonders for your site. Even though you should always strive to create high-quality backlinks from various sites that have an above-average domain authority, you also need to grab yourself a couple of nofollow links.

Stimulating natural traffic from all sorts of sources, like social media sites, GOV and EDU domains, and every other relevant address that's willing to publish a cool product and service review about your goods - is what you should be going for.

What separates good links from bad ones? What type of criteria comes into play here?

As with anything else in life, the entire concept of "quality" is subjective. Every SEO expert has a slightly different opinion on this subject. A lot of different factors come into play. It depends on what kind of site you're running and what kind of traffic counts as "good" for you. In this regard, someone's gold could be someone else's trash, and vice versa.

When evaluating which links you should pursue, you should always first look at the following:

  • Content/site relevance
  • External links and where they are pointing to
  • Your competitor's backlink profile

Even though opinions may vary, every single digital marketing and SEO professional would agree that a "good backlink" is made of the following factors:

  1. Quality source: In order for a backlink to be good, it needs to come from a relevant source. That source needs to be already familiar to the engine and considered trustworthy. Like I've already said - the no.1 goal of every search engine is to provide its users with the best possible, relevant results for any query, so it goes through tons and tons of websites and pages and looks for certain signals that determine which ones are ideal for specific searches. It evaluates the relevancy of almost everything, especially backlinks.

    The important thing to know is that a backlink can be relevant on many different levels. The engines analyse the overall relevance of the linking website, the specific page, the content, etc. To determine if a certain site is trustworthy, Google uses a system that ranks pages on the Web based on the distance between the pages, wherein the pages are interconnected with links to create a so-called link-graph.

    In plain English, the engine selects high-quality resources (such as The Huffington Post, Search Engine Journal, SEMRush, etc.) as starting points for creating a map of the web (the so-called link-graph). In this map, the engine measures the distance between you and these high-quality resources, and that's how it determines your rank. The shorter the distance between you and these already trusted sites, the more authoritative your page will be.

  2. Difficulty: In order to get the things that are really worth something, you usually need to work hard for them. The same goes for building links. Sites that have high page and domain authority often demand something truly valuable in return for their link. If you want to catch the big fish, you'll need to roll up your sleeves.

  3. The traffic factor, aka link power: Back in the early days of the Internet, the sole purpose of a backlink was to drive traffic from one page to another. That's it. The engines only cared about backlinks in the sense of driving value to resources relevant to the topic of a certain web page.

    Not a lot has changed since then. A good link still has the ability to generate a significant number of visits. Traffic still remains an important factor for determining a certain link's quality. If it has no chance of bringing you any real traffic, then it probably isn't worth pursuing.

    Figuring out if a certain page has any real power to bring some genuine traffic isn't really an easy task. If you want to figure out if a certain link is worth your time and effort or not, you need to focus on the following factors: page authority, domain authority, number of page links, follow or nofollow links, location on the page, etc.

  4. Anchor text + relevancy: For those who are not really familiar with the term, an anchor text is a set of clickable words within a hyperlink. Their no.1 goal is to contextually tie one page to another, while giving us, the users, a preview of what to expect on the external page that we're supposed to get to from the text we're reading.

    Anchor texts really influence ratings. Search engines use them as indicators to learn more about the site and page that's being linked through this particular word or phrase. Anchor text gives the search engine all the information it needs to figure out how and where to place this page in SERP. It has been proven over and over again that anchor texts weigh heavily in Google's eyes.

    If you want to achieve something through your anchor texts, you need to focus on the overall relevancy of the text and the link you're tying together. Relevancy is increased when the anchor text of a specific link matches the destination page's targeted keywords, when the words on the page linking to another site match the page's targeted keywords, and when the site linking to a particular address is relevant for the page and site.

  5. In-content: The word to look for is "natural". These type of backlinks are exactly the type of links that everyone is after. Why, you may ask? Because they're organic. They look and feel like the editor himself thought they needed to be there, like they continue to feed the content of a particular page with relevant information through that specific link. These types of backlinks are especially good if they're made at the top of a particular page or within a popular blog post. Those located further down the page, or in the footer or sidebar, have less power, but they could also bring you some ROI.

Natural vs. Suspicious Links

This is the first stage of any backlink classification: knowing which links to pursue, and which to avoid/kill at all cost. Judging by everything I wrote about above, it's only natural to assume that bad/suspicious backlinks are those that come from irrelevant and untrusted sources. I'm talking about things like:

  • Every link that was paid for to manipulate Google
  • Links from irrelevant sites and content pages
  • Foreign links
  • Links with lousy, duplicated content
  • Links with overly optimized anchors
  • Links that come from so-called content farms
  • Links from social bookmarking websites
  • Links with very little to no content
  • Solicited links
  • Links from awful web directories
  • Links that come from spammy sites with explicit or illegal content
  • Spun articles
  • Spammy blog comments that are auto approved and not properly moderated
  • Hidden links

Even though these are the usual factors that make most backlinks suspicious, you should take them with a grain of salt.

This is the basic difference between White Hat and Black Hat SEO. As you have already figured out, the first strategy is all about building links naturally and legally. The way Google and the users like it. Sure, this type of game plan requires a lot more time and effort before you see any real results, but trust me - this is the way to do it. If you continue to play by Google's rules, the engine won't have any reason to rain all over your parade.

As opposed to that, Black Hat is all about chasing quick wins. Even though you might get a temporary spike in rankings, your grace period won't last very long. If you focus all your time and energy on creating tons and tons of garbage, spammy links - when the next Penguin takes a closer look at your site, you're going to start pulling your own hair.

Suspicious backlinks aren't only created intentionally. There are dozens of scenarios on how a shady backlink can find its way into your backlink portfolio. If you don't have a suspicious backlink problem today, that doesn't really exclude the possibility that you could have one tomorrow or next week.

To avoid these suspicious backlinks that have the power to wreak havoc all over your site and domain ratings, you have to check your resources before you link to them.

Tighten your security to prevent your site from hacking and spammy user-generated content. It's in your best interest to do quick audits of all the sites you plan to build links on. There are more than a couple of great tools out there that could help you determine if you have any suspicious links in your backlink portfolio.

Personally, I use Google Webmaster Tools or Google Analytics to check for such things. If, for example, you see an unnatural spike in your referral traffic in your Analytics, that usually means that you have a problem. You can then use the content (behaviour) function to check the source of your traffic and remove it, if it's coming from a shady link.

Affiliate and Info Links - How Does Google Interpret These Bad Boys?

For those who are not familiar with this concept - an affiliate link is any type of URL that carries the affiliate's username or ID. They are usually used by various types of advertisers, because they have the power to record the traffic that's being sent through to the site in question.

This strategy is all about connecting the dots and making sure that a certain site generates its desired traffic, and that a person who brings it is compensated for their efforts. Affiliate programs are still huge. In various online industries, a lot of traffic and revenue is made through different affiliate deals.

Even though this is the ultimate growth solution for most brands that operate online, from an SEO perspective, affiliate links tend to be a bit risky. If you're interested in piling up one affiliate backlink after another, you need to make sure that you're actually adding value to your linked content. An affiliate website is still a regular address in Google's eyes, and that's why it should be promoted and maintained like any other quality resource.

So, how does one protect oneself from being penalized? Easily, by adding an affiliate URL trigger in your robot.txt as a disallow or a nofollow tag. This action will tell Google not to crawl your site, which will automatically save you from getting penalized for your affiliate activity.

On the other hand, with infolinks, things are a bit different. Nobody knows for sure if adding infolinks to your site will have a negative effect on your ratings. These bad boys are loaded with JavaScript, so they won't directly pass any significant SEO value to your link. They have the power to cause small performance hits from the javascript, but Google won't really register them in the way you might think.

Current performance is a small part of Google's ranking factors. It doesn't really have any major effects on your general traffic. However, if you already have a lot of ads on your site and decide to attach an infolink to it, you might lose some "quality" points. As with everything else in SEO, you need to think about your visitors. If your infolinks annoy your visitors, you should probably figure out a way to avoid using them. If you're in the business of tracking users who have the potential of revisiting your site, then your infolinks will probably piss them off. But if you're in the business of making sales after the very first impression, then these links might come in handy.

Shortened URLs

While this might not have always been the case, most of the URL shortening services currently available basically work like 301 redirects, i.e. pass most of the link value. While you might benefit more from a direct link, these links are by no means worthless.

JavaScript and Client Side Redirects

While Google has confirmed a while ago that they are quite capable of executing Javascript when crawling pages, there is still a debate over how they index and treat links found in those redirects. While some tests seem to confirm that links are followed (unless you specify otherwise), and onchange, onclick and other dynamic events executed, there are still a lot of questions. For instance, one of them is whether Google can do this only if JavaScript is embedded in the document, or whether this is possible even if it’s fetched from outside. Likewise, there are potential Ajax issues, results may depend on the complexity of the redirect, etc.

Bottom line? While you are still much safer with server side redirects than the client side ones, the latter might still be able to pass some direct value. Combined with the fact that they are also perfectly capable of sending traffic your way, our recommendation would be that, while you should by no means build your strategy around them, if you can get one on a relevant website, with decent user engagement, there’s no reason not to do so.

What's an Anchor Text?

What is an Anchor Text

As I've already said, anchor texts are clickable sets of words or phrases, whose only job is to contextually tie two web pages together, while giving users an intelligent and descriptive preview of what awaits them on the other end of the link that's being shown them.

It's like a gateway that most of us digital marketers/website owners use to bring additional value to a specific page and content. The main job of any anchor text, apart from distributing link juice and generating traffic to another source, is to complete the picture in the visitors' heads about the story or concept that's being spread out in front of them.

Anchor texts are of extreme importance to your overall SEO. Before the 2012 Penguin update, they were the easiest way for Google to interpret any given site. Even though things have changed a lot since then, and Penguin has butchered the ratings of sites that were using bad, spammy anchor texts - these gateways still heavily influence ratings. The engines still use them as indicators to learn more about a particular page. An anchor text feeds them with necessary information that helps the engines easily understand what a particular page or site is about, and how/where to rank it in SERP.

Types of Anchor Texts

Depending on the purpose or occasion for which they're created - there are a few different types of anchor texts that you need to know about:

  • Exact match - What you see is what you get. This one is pretty self-explanatory. This type of anchor text is created around the phrase for which you want to rank in Google's search. Example: "backlinks".
  • The no text/image anchor - This one is a bit complex. This is a solution most SEO experts use for spicing up their anchor text profile. It's when your anchor isn't really built around a word or phrase, but rather around something like an image, for example. Google uses the ALT tag as an anchor.
  • Partial match - A different solution. You build this one around the keywords you wish to rank for, but in a more descriptive manner. For example, let's say that you're interested in ranking for the keyword "backlinks". The partial anchor text solution for this would be something like: "how to get backlinks", "learn about backlinks", "free backlinks", etc.
  • Branded match - A type of anchor text where you place your link on a specific brand name, like: "Dibz".
  • Brand + keyword - When you link to a phrase like: "find more backlinks using Dibz".
  • The naked URL - A practice when you just lay down the link. Example: "https://dibz.me/blog/".
  • Generic - This is when you tie your link to phrases like: "click here", "read more", etc.
  • The synonym - This one is also quite self-explanatory. This is when you use another word, similar to your targeted keyword, as anchor. Something like "software", instead of "tool".
  • The Author - When you link to yours, or the name of the person who wrote the text. Example: "Rad Basta".

That's it. These are the standard types of anchor text.

Best Practices: Where to Put Your Anchor

There's no real rule behind using anchor texts. There's no real bulletproof guide or practice that guarantees success in this department. You can link one, two, three, four words to a different page - it doesn't really matter.

The only thing you need to focus on is that your anchor text provides relevance. If it feels spammy or misinformative - Google's Penguin will come for you.

Also, it's in your best interest to avoid putting your anchor in the very first/last sentence of your content, as well as within H1, H2, and ALT tags. Even though we still don't know where (and how) the best place to place your anchor is, the thing that we do know is that these spots have proven themselves critical in the eyes of Penguin.

Having all this in mind, in order to make the most of your efforts and keep your site safe from the Penguin's nasty beak - I advise you to always place your keyword somewhere around your anchor. The closer to your anchor, the better. Don't force exact match anchors everywhere. Even though it's always best to find your own success and test different tactics.

Like with everything else concerning SEO and backlinks, the idea is to create a natural, contextual flow that intelligently sends traffic from one source to another. If you want to create a good backlink, you need to figure out where the value is. For example, if you're creating an informative backlink about Dibz itself, it's unnatural to link to some of our unpopular pages that don't really give the readers instant knowledge about our brand and product. Instead, we need to tie our anchor to our home page.

The important thing is to focus on the overall flow of the entire process. Google hates everything that's misinformative. That's why, if you want to make the most of your efforts, your no.1 goal should be to deliver on your promises. It's your job to make sure that you're really linking to a page you're describing in your anchor.

Most of the links should usually point to your homepage or specific pieces of content that you have on your blog. They usually provide someone with answers/solutions to particular problems, scenarios, or issues. If you're running a big e-commerce site, even though it might seem logical to constantly create additional links for your product pages, you should probably abandon that strategy and think about creating fresh content that doesn't only list what you have in your store. You want to pass authority to where it actually counts. You can only do that if you focus on creating an intelligent internal link structure. Internal links will help you rank higher in SERP and create a natural flow from one page to another within your site.

Whether you're building internal or external links, always keep in mind that you aren't just pumping your DA and visibility in SERP. As far as the engines are concerned, you're providing additional value to your users and reinforcing your content, so you'd better make sure that you don't disappoint them.

What Types of Backlinks Should You Avoid?

What Type of Backlinks Should You Avoid

You need to be careful.

It's not really all that smart to pursue every link opportunity out there. As I have already mentioned a couple of times in this post - Google doesn't really see all backlinks as equal.

To the engine, some of them are nothing more than a great indicator that you're running a messy ship. And once Google starts to see you as a slob - the engine will start ignoring your effort. Penguin will just walk around your site like it's garbage. Regardless of how hard you try to make things work - all your time and resources will have been spent for nothing.

This will naturally have a negative effect on your overall traffic, which will eventually negatively influence every part of your website and business. That's why it's of great importance to immediately abandon all ideas of playing games with Google. Even though various Black Hat techniques sometimes feel like a good move to pull in specific cases, in 9 scenarios out of 10 - they backfire on those who go down that road.

Now that we know that Google isn't really an algorithm to be messed with, let's look at the practices which are known to be big no-nos in Google's eyes:

First and foremost, it's important to have in mind that Google doesn't really care about links in footers, sidebars, or any navigation menu, that aren't really important to the subject at hand. Apart from that, Google isn't really thrilled about low-quality article submission pages, and blogrolls as well. When I say "not thrilled", I mean it hates them as much as cats hate water.

These sites don't really bring any new value to their audience. They just generically push everything and anything at their targeted crowd, without ever taking a minute to actually focus on relevancy or the duplicity of the content. Quality plays no role here, which naturally infuriates Google. The engine knows that the sole purpose of these sites is to provide their webmasters with dofollow links, and so it does everything in its power to butcher them.

This also leads us to the conclusion that the engine isn't really happy with us when we pursue lame, low-quality guest posting opportunities. Even though guest posting remains one of the best and most effective practices for earning valuable links that really influence our ratings, when we do it just for the sake of earning any type of link - Google gets mad. It starts to classify that content as garbage, which naturally backfires on people who try to publish tons and tons of guest posts every month. When you really sit down and look at some of the results, you'll see that this kind of strategy isn't really worth pursuing. A single guest post on a relevant site will ALWAYS outperform 10, and even 20 guest posts on terrible ones which aren't really in your niche or market.

While we're still on the subject of spam and reaching out - Google also despises when your backlink profile is made of spammy link exchanges with terrible sites. This is an instant red flag, which will result in a penalty for your site.

Also, I know I've already said this millions of times in this text - but Google REALLY hates unnatural links. They're like cancer for websites. You should never try to buy your backlinks. If the engine sees that you suddenly have an unnatural spike in your backlink profile, it will interpret this type of behaviour as spammy, and you'll get instantly penalized. Google knows legit backlinks don't really happen overnight and that you cannot create 20,000 of them at the same time. You need to be careful. The engines know every scheme out there and they aren't really known as algorithms that let shady behaviour pass by undetected.

Build High-Quality Backlinks

When building backlinks for your website, you should always make sure that you seek out high-authority targets that are close to your niche or market. If, for example, you have a blog about SEO and you're creating links on sites that talk about food and movies, then those links won't be of any use to you. In fact, as mentioned before, they may even get you on Google's bad side.

You don't want that, do you?!

Of course not.

As we wrote in one of our case studies - everything revolves around relevance in SEO. Our client, Miss Amara, is a perfect example of how you can achieve success online through intelligent link building and SEO. By investing in both onsite and offsite optimization, this company went from zero to hero in less than 24 months. In that time, we have helped Miss Amara increase the number of organic visits by 220%. Thanks to that, their monthly organic revenue also increased by 200%.

Amazing, right?

So, you are probably wondering where does one find relevant and contextual backlinking opportunities? And even better - how do we secure and turn them into actual links that boost our ratings?

Here are a couple of ways to create terrific backlinks:

  1. Produce amazing articles: This is probably the best way to generate great backlinks for your site. If you write and publish great posts on your blog, people will be naturally drawn to them. The goal is to create stuff that actually touches upon your targeted crowd's pain points and solves real problems for them. Apart from that, you should always do your best to come up with 10x content. If you're interested in making your work truly matter, you have to go that extra mile and come up with something amazing.

    There are many great blogs that generate buckets of natural backlinks thanks to their content. The first that come to mind are MOZ, Backlinko, HubSpot, and Kissmetrics.

    Judging by the content that these sites publish on their blog, your main mission should be to always come up with something that's bigger, better, and more detail-oriented than everything else that can currently be found about the subject online.

    In order to do that, in order to produce a post worth linking to - you'll need to do a lot of research. Before you even type in a single word in your CMS, it's of great importance that you get your facts straight and figure out what you can offer on the subject at hand that hasn't already been said numerous times.

    Your best strategy is to first choose a keyword that you're going to pursue in your post, check what can be found when typing it in search, single out a couple of best content pieces on the subject, analyze them, find what's missing, how they can be bettered, and build on that.

  2. Build links via comments: Comments are a powerful backlinking tool. If you figure out how to effectively share your knowledge about a specific subject in the comments section of certain sites - you're going to win big in this game.

    Sooner or later, your efforts will start paying off.

    You're going to create a strong influence within an active community of relevant contacts. If you create a constant flow of intelligent comments that actually expand on the subject at hand - web admins (and everyone else who frequently visits the site where you often publish your comments) will start noticing your contributions, which will eventually lead to new site visits and guest blogging opportunities, where you can truly get the most out of your knowledge.

    This is how most marketers generate leads, not just backlinks for their site.

    Your newly developed influence in a particular community can be of use in a number of different ways. All you basically have to do is provide killer comments on great dofollow blogs that are relevant for your niche or market.

    Yeah, easier said than done.

    If you're interested in learning how to make the most of your efforts in this department, you should probably check out my previous post: "The "I'll Answer That For You" SEO Strategy". In that post, I wrote about everything there is to know about comment marketing and how, when, and where to invest your time and expertise.

  3. Guest blogging: Guest blogging is great for earning high-quality backlinks, expanding your network, and reaching out to new people who have the potential of becoming your active, paying customers. It does wonders for your online presence and reputation.

    Guest blogging can also help you create solid relationships with the top players within your niche or market, which can eventually lead to other forms of partnerships and collaborations.

    If you write a killer post for an authority site with a respectable DA and an army of fans who visit it every day - you can instantly become a known figure among your peers and desired readers. Becoming an overnight success is something that has happened to dozens of people who operate online. If you make the most of your chances, sooner or later - you'll make the list.

    Enough of all that - let's get back to generating backlinks. Like I've already said, guest blogging on popular/credible sites is probably one of the best practices for building your rankings. A quality post on a great source will help you improve your overall domain authority and placement in SERP for your desired keywords. It will also help you drive intelligent traffic to your site.

    In order to generate some real value from your guest blogging efforts, you first need to pick the right targets. When doing so, you should focus on the following factors:

    • Domain Authority
    • Niche
    • Audience
    • Traffic

    Then, once you've found your target, you need to come up with a custom outreach strategy that will interest the admin (or admins) of that particular site enough to give you an actual chance to appear on their site. Almost every big site has a guest blogging policy published as a stand-alone page. Your job is to read their content and make sure you create a pitch that's in perfect sync with all their rules and desires.

    Creating a great outreach pitch is something that doesn't really come all that easy for most people. Sending outreach emails is always a gamble. It is still something for which you cannot guarantee precise ROI, because you never really know who will be reading your messages and in what mood. However, even though this is a process that still hasn't eliminated dumb luck from the equation, there are still many people out there who know how to play this game and hit big numbers.

    Here at Four Dots, guest blogging is still one of the key strategies for getting published. Every single day, our colleagues send tons of outreach emails from our office, and they are the messengers that actually claim those desired links. This month, our authors have been published on an insane number of websites. How do they do it? Easily, by using Dibz to find quality link building opportunities and putting together great pitches that actually provoke people to open and read their emails. I've written more about the process of creating killer outreach emails in one of our previous blog posts. Check it out. This particular piece will teach you everything you need to know about reaching out to your targeted website in the right tone and voice. P.S. In that post, you can also find some real-life email templates that we use on a daily basis.

    So, now that this is clear, it's time to move on.

    When you finally submit your pitch and the editors of your targeted source give you the green light to produce a guest article for them, you should do the following:

    • Check the site to make sure that your subject hasn't already been covered on that domain: Yes, I know - it's usually the admin's job to check this before you're given the green light to pursue your subject, but you don't want to leave anything to chance. Imagine you write the post, and the guy behind your targeted site finally figures out there's a similar article already published on their blog, so he decides to ignore your efforts, even though he has promised you the post. The horror, right? You don't want to expose yourself to any unnecessary risks. Better do the extra work, than see your entire effort go down the drain over a stupid misunderstanding.

    • Be a follower of the site you're targeting: No, really, it's important. Even though a certain web admin gives you the opportunity to publish your work on their domain, you cannot just publish anything. Regardless if your blog post idea has been approved or not - you cannot stop there. If you want to win big, you need to truly acquaint yourself with the best performing content on that site and make sure that you create something that's in perfect sync with its tone and style. The audience of your targeted domain is probably used to a particular way of writing. It works well for them, so they've developed a habit of revisiting your targeted site. You want to leverage that in your guest post.

    • Try your hardest not to sound too promotional: It's of great importance that the readers of a certain site don't feel like they're being sold to. Even though your mission is to create additional awareness for your brand, products, and services, you cannot really do that by bluntly talking about yourself and your company. Nope. Your strategy should always be oriented towards producing value and giving your readers a chance to first make a connection with your knowledge and expertise, and only then with your products and services. You can mention your brand or product in your guest post, but you need to make sure that it feels organic to the whole story. Context is king!

    • If possible, ask to review your article before it gets published: Most serious publishers usually provide their guest authors with a preview of their post just before it goes live. This is a great opportunity for you to check if your article is being published in its original form. Most editors have the habit of messing with your material, even though you haven't allowed them to apply specific changes. Also, with this preview, you can check if all your links are in order. Remember, you're writing this post to earn a high-quality backlink. If it somehow isn't working or placed right - your efforts will, once again, go down the drain.

    • Capture traffic after your post goes live: This is the fun part. This is where you can finally enjoy the fruits of your labor. Once your post finally goes up on the desired authority domain, it's safe to assume that your site traffic will instantly go up as well. You'll see a cool new spike in your Google Analytics. Once that happens, you should be ready to capture that traffic. It's of great importance that your site provides your newly acquired visitors with a reason to stay and mingle. How can you do that, you ask? How can you convince your new visitors to actually stay on your site and add it to their RSS feed? By writing and publishing great content, of course. Also, you can add a cookie to your blog post or homepage, which you can add to a specific list and use it for retargeting.

    • Promote your guest post: This should be at the top of your priority list. It's not nearly enough to just publish a post on a specific domain. You also need to make sure that everyone acknowledges your conquest. The more traffic you earn, the better chances you'll have of earning great ROI for your efforts.

  4. The broken link building method: We love this strategy. It has worked wonders for us over the years. This practice is all about contacting various webmasters and reporting that a certain link on their site is broken. While you are doing so, it's in your best interest to also offer them an alternative for that link. And here, of course, you provide one of your own resources. Easy peasy, right?

    But how does one find broken backlink opportunities? Good question. It's fairly simple. You can do it through a regular search.

  5. For example: your keyword + links, your keywords + resources, your keyword inurl:links. But, this is the hard way. If you're interested in going through a lot of sites every day, my suggestion would be to install this cool Google Chrome plug-in, called: Check My Links. This is the best backlink checker for finding broken links. It will instantly help your find all the 404 links on any type of site.

  6. Generating backlinks through infographics: A lot of people do this. They create a cool infographic and then look for the best ways to amplify it. A couple of years back, infographics were quite popular. A lot of SEO experts used them as one of their top tricks for generating high-quality backlinks. Infographics are easy to understand and even easier to share. Even though back in 2012/2013, there was an insane demand for infographics online, today - things have cooled down a bit. They still generate a lot of buzz, but not nearly as much as they used to.

    Infographics are tricky. In order for them to work, you need to come up with a unique and interesting story. But that's not all. You also need to make sure that you're pursuing a subject that is currently trending. It's not really in your best interest to waste a lot of your time and money on something that doesn't really have any potential to bring you some sweet ROI. That's why you should always check your ideas in Google Trends.

    Anyway, if you're interested in creating backlinks via infographics, and you don't have an in-house designer to help you visualize your written content - you should try using Dribble. There you can find loads of experienced designers with great portfolios which can help you get the most out of your ideas.

    Once you finally have your infographic, it's time to promote it. If you really want to get the best possible ROI, you need to outreach like crazy. Appart from contacting all the blogs that could be interested in publishing your new content, you should also submit your work to popular infographic directories. Here's a list of over 100 infographic directories where you can post your work and get cool backlinks.

  7. See what your competition is doing: Yes, you've read it right. One of the best ways to drive more traffic to your site and keep those quality backlinks piling up is to take a closer look at what your direct and indirect competitors are doing. Once you acquaint yourself with their best link building strategies, you'll be able to beat them at their own game.

    How can you do all that? How can you really dig deep behind your competitors' front and familiarize yourself with what they're doing? Well, you first need to analyze your target. In order to do that, you need to go through their website. Ahrefs is a great tool for doing this. It allows you to easily access your target's complete backlink portfolio. This will help you replicate their best backlinks and better understand what moves they're making in order to promote their website.

  8. Build internal links: This should probably be at the top of this list. As I've already said above, internal links are a key factor for running an awesome blog. If implemented right, they have the power to pass that wonderful link juice like crazy. With a good internal linking structure, you can help users easily navigate through your site and increase your overall user satisfaction and experience. Intelligent internal linking has the power to lower your bounce rates and keep your desired crowd engaged on your site.

  9. Link reclamation: This is pretty simple. All you need to do is find people who have already mentioned you somewhere and ask them to add your link to that mention. This is a proactive approach to earning backlinks, which means that you have to chase your targets. Use a tool like Google Alerts to find your unlinked mentions. This amazing piece of software will send you daily round-up emails containing every single recently published post containing your targeted keywords. In this case, your brand name. Once this tool provides an unlinked mention, all you have to do is reach out to that address and politely ask the admin for a link.

  10. Write testimonials: One of the easiest practices for generating quality backlinks is writing killer testimonials for the sites of the products and services you're using. Especially if you're a prime client. By spending just a couple of minutes of your time on writing a sweet love letter about a specific product, brand, and service, you can earn a big, juicy backlink straight from the homepage of an authoritative site.

These are just some of the more popular ways to generate quality backlinks. You can also write blogger reviews; earn links by asking people to add you to their "best of" lists; create link roundups; pursue .edu resource backlinks; make use of press releases; add your site to social bookmarking directories; submit your RSS feed to RSS directories; start relevant forum threads and link to your site from them; make use of social media and social media groups and blogger communities; review top companies and products; round-up, improve, and republish your blog posts as ebooks; submit your work to blog aggregators; interview top bloggers, influencers, and industry readers, and ask them to help you promote that article; produce controversial, clickbait posts; write viral, top/ultimate list blog entries; create a Wikipedia page; donate to charity sites because most of them will link back to you; blog about celebrities in a relevant way; beta test products; etc.

This is all you need to know about backlinks.

I hope this article has talked about everything you have ever wanted to know about backlinks and how to get them. In case I missed something - let me know. I would be more than happy to add to this post and inspire creative discussions.

If you have anything to add or ask about the subject, feel free to add your thoughts and comments below, and I'll do my best to get back to you ASAP.

That's it for now,

See you again soon,
Rad @ Dibz.me

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