Despite advances in Google's search algorithms, the number and type of websites that link to yours (combined, this is referred to as your website's "Link Profile") is still the most important factor in determining how highly your website will rank for various search terms. As such, attaining links to your website ("backlinks") should therefore be one of your highest priority marketing activities as a website owner, and most search-engine optimization (SEO) still concentrates on improving a website's Link Profile.
In the past, many SEO services offered automated link-building services that often resulted in improved search engine rankings. Now, not only is Google better at determining which links are "natural" and which are not, but they attach more and more significance to links from high quality, closely-related websites. Such methods are called "black-hat" techniques and are one of the SEO methods you must avoid - if a website linking to yours is identified as being the origin of many automatically-generated links, it is highly likely that your website will suffer from a ranking penalty, and may even be removed from Google's results altogether. If you have ever engaged in such tactics, even inadvertently by employing a third party service, it will be necessary to clean up your website's link profile.
What matters most when trying to attain links to your website is the quality. Poor quality links to your website will either have little to no effect on your search engine rankings or, as we have seen, actually harm them. When considering whether you want a website to link to yours, ask yourself the following questions:
If you can answer "yes" to all of these questions then the website in question is definitely a good candidate for creating a high quality link to your website. A good rule of thumb is that the easier it is for you to gain a link to your website, the less benefit your website will get from it. For example, if you simply post a comment on a random website with a link to yours in it you won't benefit from improved rankings, nor will bulk-submitting your link to hundreds of directory websites that simply accept any link submission. Likewise, writing one article and submitting it for publication to multiple blogs or article directories will not help, since Google will detect that the sole purpose of this activity is to create backlinks. If, however, you have written an incredible article that involved months of research and a well-respected news website links to that article, your website's rankings will undoubtedly improve.
There are three ways to approach getting more backlinks, and a good SEO strategy will incorporate all three:
The first approach is to have a high-quality, great-looking, useful website that other websites will want to link to, resulting in truly "natural" backlinks. This is simply not enough to maintain high search engine rankings, however, because most of your competitors will be engaged in more proactive techniques.
The second approach to attaining links involves a little more work, and includes targeting websites that will accept user's submissions. While these are of minimal value individually, when combined they can help to improve your website's Link Profile. Here are some examples:
If you are really serious about improving your website's Link Profile in a way that will significantly boost your search-engine rankings, you need to go beyond submitting content to websites, and start asking other websites to link to you. There are many tools available that can help you both identify candidate websites and help you contact their owners to request that they link to you. You can follow these steps to identify websites from which backlinks will improve your website's Link Profile:
It is important to note that for maximum benefit, the pages of your website that you link to from the websites you identified above should also contain the keywords you used to identify those websites - otherwise your website will not benefit as much as it can from your improved Link Profile.
Once you have attracted lots of incoming links, either naturally or in a more targeted way, it is important to remember that the way in which other websites link to yours will affect their value. For example, a link to your website on a page listing hundreds of other links will not be perceived as valuable by Google. Every backlink has the potential to either be valuable, fairly inconsequential, or even harmful to your website's search engine rankings.
When carrying out your link-building activities, it is important to use common sense. If you continually ask yourself whether or not something might seem suspicious, and you follow the tips above, your website's Link Profile will improve and your search engine rankings will improve too.
Last updated: 2nd November, 2016