There are various claims that certain SEO tactics are no longer valuable. There’s no denying the power of links to further your goals when it comes to search engine rankings. However, not all backlinks are created equal.
Years ago, when SEO was in its infancy, site owners could get away with all kinds of shady cheats to raise page rank. That included linking schemes. These days, such black hat tactics will get you permanently delisted in a hurry.
The question, then, is which backlinks are going to help and which are more harmful? How can you nab the former? Are backlinks still important for SEO? The answer is “yes”. However, you need to obtain the right links in order to achieve goals and avoid penalties.
Here’s what you need to know.
Why are Backlinks Important?
Maybe you’re worried that backlinks may have had their day. To find out, go right to the source and ask the horse. Google held a Q&A last year. Search Quality Senior Strategist, Audrey Lipattsev, stated that content and links pointing to a website are Google’s top two ranking factors.
Backlinks are still important in 2017. They are an essential component of ranking with Google for relevant searches. Content may have been dubbed king when it comes to current SEO practices. However, you still can’t get found online without backlinks.
Avoiding Harmful Backlinks
Linking schemes that rely on unnatural links are definitely out. This includes massive link exchanges or automated link builders (link farms). That is in addition to links from shady, low-quality websites, guest’s posts packed with anchor text, and even paid links.
Google provides plenty of information. It’s all located on webmaster support pages. It will help you understand which types of links are bound to get you flagged. This would result in penalties.
Every website will have to assess the risks of pursuing certain link-building strategies. Google and other search engines have made their criteria clear. You might be able to get away with shady links for a while.
However, you only have to get caught once to raise the ire of search engines. Thus, you will incur penalties. In other words, it’s better to be on the up-and-up and avoid harmful backlinks. That’s the case even if they can get you quicker results in the short-term.
Now you have some idea of how to steer clear of potentially harmful backlinks. It’s time to determine how to build up a network of powerful, positive links. These will point back to your website. It begins with relevance. How can you tell if a website is relevant for the purposes of creating high-value backlinks?
There are a couple of things to consider. Is the general theme or content of the linking domain similar to your own? Is the page content containing the link relevant to your website or at least the link’s landing page? Is the link naturally occurring within the content, (i.e. does anchor text fit with surrounding content)?
These are some of the things search engines are likely to look at in determining the overall relevance of links. You should answer the same questions. Doing so will ensure that your backlinks meet quality standards, and promote your long-term goals.
High-quality links come from high-quality websites. Those are the ones that enjoy a lot of traffic and a high ranking on search engines. They also have a strong network of quality inbound and outbound links of their own. These websites are considered authorities. They are the ones you want to target when building your network of backlinks.
I can almost hear you shouting, “Great, but how do I secure these valuable and competitive links?” It’s no easy feat to convince authoritative sites to favor you with a backlink. It takes time and effort to build relationships. However, it’s not impossible. Additionally, it’s well worth the effort for the long-term value you gain.
The real problem at the moment is that Google has withdrawn their popular Page Rank tool. It once gave browsers a quick snapshot of every website’s overall standing with the search giant.
As a result, you’ll have to start your quest by using other analytical tools to pinpoint authoritative sites that are relevant. Ahrefs is one of the most popular tools for link analysis. You can also use it to track your own links and competitor activity.
In truth, you probably have some notion of industry websites you’d like to connect with. This starts with reaching out and creating relationships. Perhaps it entails pursuing opportunities to comment, guest posting, or encouraging a natural link to your website.
Check Other Links
Don’t get in bed with another website that you think hit the mark for relevance and authority. Instead, it’s always best to play the sleuth and find out who else the site is linking to. If outbound links predominately point to other established and high-quality sites, you’re good to go.
If, however, you see a lot of inconsistency when it comes to link value, you might want to move on to greener pastures. A website that is not discriminating about linking isn’t going to provide you with the best opportunities to promote and optimize.
Be Careful with Anchor Text
Some links come from bylines, footers, blogrolls, and so on. Others come from context via anchor text within the content. You need to be very careful with your anchor text. You must ensure that it meets search engine standards for relevance and doesn’t raise any red flags.
For example, your most valuable anchor text probably includes exact match keywords for your prominent themes, products, or services. Yet, if Google spots too many of these, you could get penalized. In other words, you need to diversify.
Brand anchors are always a better idea than themes. Though, they are more targeted. Naked link anchors are also considered less risky. You want to work in relevant keywords. Thus, consider pairing your top keywords with your brand name.
You can also use a variety of long-tail keywords. In doing so, you will take advantage of partial matches and diversify. Plus, you could switch it up by using images for linking instead of text. Take the time to develop quality links. You will have the best chance to increase and maintain rankings.
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