Ranking page one on Google is no easy task – it’s not as simple as it once was when Google was not nearly as complex as it is today and you need to hit certain criteria to hit that sweet, sweet first page of results.
You’ll need to focus your efforts on creating great, unique, keyword dense content as well as having a vast number of high-quality backlinks to your website.
You might be asking, ‘Well… what are backlinks?’
Backlinks or inbound links/incoming links are formed when one website links to another. An example of this would be this article featuring a link to another website when referencing statistics. In essence, these backlinks can be seen as ‘votes’ which means the content on that specific page is usually of high quality.
Websites with lots of quality backlinks from other established sites rank very well organically as Google considers backlinks one of the most important criteria for organic SEO.
Now that we understand what they are, the other question is “How do I get more backlinks for my site?”
We’ll answer that in this article and explain the different kinds of backlinks, how to obtain them and why they’re so important for organic SEO.
Grab some popcorn and crack those knuckles, let’s get started.
The different types of backlinks
The basic meaning of a ‘backlink’ is a pretty simple concept to grasp but there are different types that serve different functions. It’s important to know the variations of backlinks and their importance
⦁ Nofollow and do-follow backlinks
These will be the two main backlink types that you’ll likely encounter when building your repertoire of backlinks. Here is what the linking code looks like for each one:
Additionally, if there is nothing specified in the HTML code as either ‘nofollow’ or ‘dofollow’, you can assume it is automatically a dofollow link.
The ‘rel’ part here within the HTML code helps Google and other search engines determine whether or not the link should have an impact or influence on the target link’s ranking in that particular search engine.
Nofollow links will instruct search engine bots to not change the ranking of that hyperlink within their search engine indexing. This just helps to prevent spammy backlink farming so that people are seeing high-quality content when they put in their query and not sites that have a large backlink gathering but poor quality content.
It was introduced in 2005 by Google’s Matt Cutts and Blogger’s Jason Shellen to stop comment spam in blogs as the same restrictions and rules we experience today just aren’t the same as they were before. PageRank was an easy system to abuse with black hat SEO tactics and the quality of these backlinks did not matter, only the volume did. As you can imagine, the comments section of lots of blogs looked like many people’s spam folder in their email today – utter garbage.
Thank goodness they made this change, could you imagine what your comment section might look like if this practice was still around?
These links are as not useful for organic SEO but they will still bring traffic to your site. A lot of social media links (Twitter/Facebook, etc) will usually be nofollow but still, provide valuable traffic to your site which can lead to further conversions.
Remember, it’s best to build your content and your site around humans, not search engines. The latter is built upon people understanding your website is of value and high quality.
Dofollow links allow Google and essentially all search engines to follow them and count the backlink towards a website’s PageRank. This will count as an actual backlink that both humans and search engines will follow, whereas the nofollow link isn’t counted by bots and is only able to be followed by a human. These pass link juice which is an SEO term that refers to the value passed from the referring website to the one that is hyperlinked.
These are more valuable than nofollow links since they tell crawlers that they’re passing on a vote of confidence (aka the site is of high quality) and this will count towards your page ranking.
On that note, you’ll want to make sure that these backlinks come from reputable sources and not just any site. Spammy website backlinks can damage your SEO and can even lead to you needing to take manual action to disavow some backlinks.
It makes sense to go after high-quality backlinks from the start than to receive low-quality ones and be forced to drop them later on. The key here is value and not quantity – I like to reiterate that Google rates this above all else and so will your viewers or readers.
⦁ New link attributes
These are just a different adaptation of the nofollow link introduced in September 2019 that helps Google understand the nature of the link.
rel=”sponsored”: This helps Google identify that the link was created as a part of advertising or sponsorship, etc.
rel=”ugc”: This should be used to identify links that are user-generated such as comments or forum posts.
You don’t need to change any existing nofollow links if you have sponsored ads but it may be a good idea to flag them correctly for the future as they are treated as ‘hints’ by Google. By 2020, “nofollow” will also be considered as a hint rather than being ignored by search engines which might add further weight to the links but most likely won’t dramatically affect your SEO rankings.
How do I determine the difference between the two main backlinks?
There are a few ways to do it, here are some quick options.
1. Check the HTML code
You can right-click on the anchor text (the sentence or word that is hyperlinked) and click “Inspect element”.
When I inspect that hyperlinked text, I can see this is the link and that it’s dofollow.
From here, just look for rel=”nofollow”. If it’s not there, as mentioned above, the link will be a dofollowed. It has to be explicitly stated it’s a nofollow link.
2. Use a backlink checker tool
There are plenty of tools out there that will assist you in analyzing whether links are dofollow or nofollow.
I recommend using Link Research Tool’s Backlink Checker since it also checks for broken links, new link attributes and highlights whether backlinks are nofollow or dofollow.
It’s available for Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox and is a good extension to use.
3. Online backlink checkers
If you don’t want to install an extension to your browser, you can use an online tool instead such as Ahref’s Backlink Checker which will give you a list of all the backlinks for your domain name and how many of them are nofollow.
Now that we’ve looked at the different kinds and how to distinguish nofollow/dofollow links, we’ll move onto how you get more backlinks.
So… how do I get backlinks?
Obtaining high-quality backlinks is not going to be quick and you’ll need to invest a lot of time and effort into to reap the rewards.
It is also a critical part of getting onto the first page of Google as the websites listed first have hundreds of thousands of backlinks; Google recognizes that these sites are of valuable, relevant content.
1. HARO (Help A Reporter Out)
This is definitely one of the best ways to get high-quality backlinks.
Basically, this service allows you to sign up as a source that connects you with journalists if you have expertise in a certain field that they require assistance with.
HARO will send out three emails per day to you which are full of queries from journalists seeking credible sources.
These journalists cover many different fields so no matter what industry you’re in, you are likely to find something you can assist with.
For example, here is part of the email I received from them which shows what journalists need help within the realm of Business and Finance.
You need to go here in order to sign up. You’ll want to select “I’m a Source“. From here, you can decide if you want to subscribe with a Free, Standard, Advanced or Premium plan.
Once you’ve signed up, you’ll start receiving three daily emails and start generating backlinks if you elect to help some journalists.
Make sure to read all the emails you get and respond to these journalists with the best pitch you have. The competition will likely be high so you need to make yours stand out. Do your research and make sure you’ve read the rules provided by HARO about sources – if you fail to abide by these, it can lead to your business being banned from using the service and this can hinder the options you have when it comes to obtaining backlinks.
2. Guest Blogging
This is also another great way to get more backlinks to your site but involves a lot of effort and time. If it’s done correctly, it is a surefire way to boost your rankings as you’re obtaining quality backlinks from other quality websites.
If you don’t already have a blog, you’re missing out. It is one of the most crucial things you can have when looking to rank page one on Google. Not only is it worthwhile to make your own content, but it’s a good idea to look at posting that content elsewhere.
This method requires you to reach out to blogs that offer guest blogging so that you are able to write content for them in return for a backlink to your website. In essence, they get free, high-quality content and you get a number of backlinks that you’re able to add either throughout the text or in the author bio. We’re all winners here.
This is actually something we ourselves do as it is a valuable asset in your link building arsenal. Here is an example of what we’ve created on a guest-blogging website, Bluewire Media, that has over 30,000 weekly readers. Go give it a read!
From this, we gained a few quality backlinks that will assist us in the future when we also publish our own content.
Guest blogging is definitely something I would recommend doing, as over 60% of blogs write 1-5 guest posts per month.
People understand the power of guest blogging and it’s a valuable way to build some links.
In addition to building backlinks, it establishes you as an authority that understands the topic and is credible as well as driving traffic to your site in the hopes of more conversions.
Make sure you are going after opportunities that involve your industry or niche and that who you are writing for will be interested in what you have to say. This is your chance to stand out from the others and appear as a knowledgeable source who is an expert in their field.
It’s also advised you reach out to blogs that already have a distinguished audience with a large viewership. You want your content and backlink to be seen by as many people as possible. Looking for businesses that offer a large social media following will be a further advantage as this means your post will be shared with thousands of people who are interested in the niche you have experience or expertise in.
Not sure where to look? Here is a link that details some of the largest guest blogging sites available and it also lists their Domain Authority score which when boiled down basically equates to a high-quality website.
This leads us to my next point; another important aspect of finding which guest blog to reach out to is to consider their Domain Authority score as sites with a higher score tend to rank higher on SERPs.
Just note, this is not an official metric used by Google in determining organic search rankings and should only be used as a consideration, not always a deciding factor.
Following these tips will give you an effective way of getting more backlinks. Just remember to ensure that what you are creating is unique, valuable and most importantly, non-promotional or riddled with advertising to your own site. It’s a quick way for your post to get canned and that company to cease any further contact.
3. Write your own sweet, unique content
Seriously, this is probably the best way to gain backlinks.
It’s great to write content for someone else, but if the post is shared around, you’re only getting the traffic, not the backlink.
This is where it becomes worthwhile to post your own content to your own blog at very regular intervals.
You’ll want to be writing with the aim of a quality user experience while keeping in consideration the SEO rules you should be following when creating content as a secondary thought.
Even though maintaining good SEO practices can take a long time, it’s well worth the effort.
Below are some very basic things to keep in mind when constructing the perfect piece.
⦁ Ensure that content that is well-written
Let’s be honest, we all click off a blog post if it looks like it was written by a 5th grader. Make sure that your content is grammar and spell checked before you publish it.
⦁ Do your keyword research
There is a lot of competition out there. Long-tail keywords are going to be easier to rank for since they have less competition, but there will be less search volume for them. Who are you wanting to reach? Think of your target keyword or phrase from the perspective of a customer. What are they looking for?
Use tools like Ahrefs to do your keyword research and write your content around this phrase.
⦁ Make sure your content is long enough
In this day and age, 500 words just doesn’t cut it. It didn’t cut it in high school and it won’t cut it when creating a piece of the purposes of your readers and SEO.
The suitable length of a blog entry is of much debate, even by the greatest SEO players in the game. Despite this, it very well may be settled upon that the best quality length is between 1100-2000 words.
In any case, the top outcomes have a normal word check between 2,350-2,500 words and this is the recommendation I’d go with.
Not only will is a longer piece likely to rank better, but it is also likely to gain more backlinks. Just make sure to be reasonable about the length – not everyone enjoys reading posts the length of a college essay.
4. Fix broken links from your competitors
This is a tactic generally referred to as ‘Broken link building’ and involves finding dead links that go nowhere then tell the owner to link to your recreated content that is relevant to the broken link instead of that dead page.
Ever clicked on a link and this page pops up? This is what I’m referring to.
No website wants 404 errors, this leads to poor user experience. If that link isn’t pointing them somewhere relevant, they absolutely need to fix it.
We know that a certain link is dead, so what can we do about it?
First things first, we should probably know what was on the page.
Chances are, it was probably archived by a website called the Wayback Machine which will show us exactly what the page showed. Once we paste in the URL, we can figure out how to recreate that content or analyze if we’ve already got a post that looks exactly like it would belong as a replacement for that dead link.
Great, we’ve identified what the page looks like and now we should email the owner of the website to see if they’re happy to update the broken link to your post.
Be nice, courteous and simply explain that the text they’ve hyperlinked leads to an error page and it would be great if they could replace the current link with an updated one that leads back to your post.
Of course, there’s always a catch with most things – sometimes they don’t reply.
Don’t beat yourself up over this, people are busy and there could be plenty of other sites that also link to a dead page.
You can use tools such as Ahrefs Site Explorer to find other websites that you can email to see if they’re happy to replace the link with a new one to your site.
This might not always work, but it is definitely a method that has value. If you’re getting an average of 20% on replies back, you’re still creating backlinks for little or sometimes even no effort.
What to keep in mind
Backlinks are extremely important when you think of the term organic SEO, but like most things, there are good and bad practices of doing something so here are some points you will need to keep in mind.
⦁ You can still rank without a tonne of them
I just want to point out that I’m not advocating to ignore backlinks, (that would kind of defeat the purpose of this article, wouldn’t it? I’m just simply stating that it is possible to rank for certain keywords without having a tonne of them already.
While backlinks are really critical when you are going for page one, it doesn’t mean you need a tonne of them to still rank for certain keywords or phrases.
Google values good content, proper SEO practices and seamless user experience above all else so these will be your key focuses.
Ranking can be quite easy depending on the keyword phrase you’re targetting. Long-tail keyword phrases generally have lower search volume so the competition will be much less competitive, meaning you will likely rank better without backlinks as opposed to a highly competitive keyword.
You can use tools like Google Trends to find how competitive certain keywords/phrases are and their monthly search volume. This will help you nail down what phrase you should be focusing on.
If you’re able to make a good piece of content, it can still rank quite decently without having a plethora of high-quality backlinks.
⦁ Quality over quantity
This applies to a lot of things, but it is especially important with link building. Having low-quality spammy backlinks can actually cause you to be punished by Google and this will more than likely lead to you disavowing certain backlinks that point to your site.
If you get manually actioned for having unnatural links to your site, your rankings will be severely negatively impacted.
Examples of unnatural backlinks
These are any links intended to manipulate PageRank including links to your site or outgoing links. Sounds weird, right? Any link to your website is going to affect your PageRank, but not all links are equal – this is where the problem is.
⦁ Buying or selling links that pass PageRank.
Companies/freelancers offer link building schemes that guarantee hundreds of links on sites like Fiverr for example and you should definitely steer clear of these services. High-quality backlinks take time to build and these people are likely using black-hat tactics that Google will kick your butt for – just don’t bother taking the risk.
⦁ Excessive exchanging of links aka “Link to me and I’ll do the same”
This part of Google’s Webmaster Quality Guidelines can be quite hard to interpret. After all, you need to reach out to people in order to build some backlinks so how do we determine if we’re going too far?
The best question you can ask yourself is ‘Does this look like a link building scheme?’
What I mean by this is, does what you’re doing look natural? Reaching out to everyone in your particular niche for a link is not the best idea. For example, you might have a resources page where you recommend sites with good SEO tools, etc and they might have a partners page where they link back to you for recommending them on your site.
So far, there is no problem. It’s all beginning to look a bit too easy though, and you now start reaching out to businesses remotely related to the industry you’re in – now this looks suspicious.
My advice – use your best judgement and be slow and cautious and keep in mind that all links are not equal.
⦁ Forum comments with links in their signature or post
Blog comments are generally nofollow links and spamming your site’s link in comments is pretty much useless now; not to mention that it will probably get you penalized if it’s a practice you abuse over and over.
Thanks, that’s great info!
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Adding that link to the end of my comment looks completely unnatural and it’s likely not going to do much for me – just avoid doing this.
I understand this is a lot of information to absorb but it’s all essential to improving your organic SEO results.
Backlinks are arguably the most important factor (second to good content obviously) on the topic of blowing up in the rankings and it’s important to identify know the differences between the types of links you want to go after, how to find them and of course, how to start obtaining them.
Mixing up your pursuits with HARO, Guest Blogging and other things like broken link building will keep things fresh and give you a variety of high quality, varying links that will help boost your SERP rankings. Try building a list of do-follow and no-follow links as this will help Google understand that your site has a natural list of backlinks – remember, anything that doesn’t look natural to Google’s algorithms will cause you to be penalized.
It’s not going to be easy or even quick – but with most things, it’s worth doing extremely well to maximize the results you get and to prevent yourself from being canned by Google.
You’re now armed with the knowledge you need regarding how to get more backlinks, so get out there and start building those links in order to get those rankings you deserve.