The first page of Google is calling the name of everyone who even lightly delves into SEO strategy.
It can be challenging to achieve first-page results through only using white-hat (ethical and by-the-book) SEO strategies, but Google's complex algorithm takes more than one factor into account when building the search results hierarchy.
When Google crawls your page, backlinks remain an important element for the Google bots to consider. If you're unsure about what high-quality backlinks are, why they are significant for search results, or how to curate positive backlinks and avoid negative ones, you've come to the right place. Buckle up.
Types of Backlinks
Follow links and no-follow links are the two main types of backlinks. Simple enough, right?
Follow links are links that provide direct, tangible SEO link value. This means they offer a boost on Google's PageRank, they help a page's placement in the search engine results page (SERP), and they essentially count as a "point" in the sport of search results competition.
On the other hand, no-follow links are no good in any of the areas mentioned above. But does that mean no-follow links are useless?
Absolutely not. In fact, it's quite the opposite. No-follow links still lend a helping hand when it comes to referral traffic, which is highly valuable for driving chunks of traffic to your site. A comment on a blog post or online forum can end up delivering large quantities of site traffic, whether or not it's a no-follow link. And of course, that kind of traffic will often become a lead at worst and a conversion at best.
Keep in mind, Google PageRank is not the only factor search engines are crawling for. Here's a good rule of thumb: identify which links are relevant and positive for your brand, and don't necessarily focus on what is good for SEO. Why? Good links for your brand will ideally lead to good SEO.
Building report, pertinence, and trust amongst your following will yield positive SEO dividends in the long run. Both follow and no-follow links can play a role in your SEO climb to the top.
What makes a backlink high quality?
Before we dive into the nitty-gritty details, let's establish what high quality backlinks actually are. By definition, high quality backlinks redirect (link) page visitors to a website through the use of keywords.
However, "high quality" gets a bit more in-depth in SEO speak. In order to evaluate a backlink's validity and caliber, Google takes several factors into account before putting the HQ crown on a backlink.
- Link patters: Unfortunately for by-the-book SEO professionals, Google has grown accustomed to black-hat SEO techniques, as they've been normalized in recent years. Fortunately for those same professionals, however, Google's algorithm is smart enough to notice and catalog natural linking patterns on your site, rather than finding dozens of links stemming from low-quality site domains. Natural link patterns are also indicated by keywords on your site. If you are a custom home builder, and links are primarily coming from real estate bloggers and photos of custom built homes, you're on the right track. But if links are coming in from unrelated sites that have little-to-nothing to do with custom built homes, it's cause for concern.
- Link authority: The relevancy of a link and the age of a domain are the primary components that fall under the link authority umbrella. Ensure that any backlinks you are using are both relevant and seasoned, as this will add a layer of trust and reliability for your page content for anyone doing a simple Google search. Authoritative links are pertinent and have stood the test of time. Any blog writer can toss in a few backlinks per paragraph, but when it comes to SEO, quality almost always reigns over quantity. Making sure your backlinks link to supreme content is essential for SEO growth.
- Age of domain: While this can be categorized under link authority, the age of a domain can take a backlink from average to high quality. Links that have been around a few years add an element of trustworthiness that younger links cannot. While younger links can certainly perform well in a search and can offer valuable content, older sites with consistent ownership are tried-and-true in the eyes of both Google and the searcher.
What's the influence of high-quality backlinks?
We've established what defines a high-quality backlink, but why does it matter how they are used? Why does it matter if they are used at all?
High-quality backlinks are arguably the most significant determinant of your rankings. They are also the most effective way to improve your rankings.
Content is undoubtedly king, and in the current digital marketing climate, unique and value-centered content is perhaps the best tool for anyone doing SEO. If you are both putting forth solid content that drives value for the user and you are including relevant and well-aged backlinks throughout your content, you're on the right track.
High-quality backlinks woven into high-quality content is an airtight recipe to climbing the Google ladder. Backlinks matter, but high-quality backlinks can make or break your SEO efforts.
Domain authority is not to be forgotten about either. While multiple metrics from Moz factor in to your overall score, your website's domain authority is the most accurate indicator of how well your site will perform on the SERP when compared to other sites.
On the other hand, page authority--another score metric developed by Moz--measures and indicates the strength of an individual web page rather than an entire domain.
Both domain authority and page authority serve as significant measuring sticks and status updates for your SEO efforts. This means it's in your best interest to bolster your web pages with high-quality backlinks integrated into high-quality content. This is the most surefire way to increase both your domain authority and page authority scores.
Multiple links to the same root domain?
In a nutshell, linking root domains refers to the number of other sites that currently link to your web page.
Moz engineers found that real Google rankings are much more highly correlated to the number of existing linking root domains than the number of links.
It's not just the number of the backlinks used, but the value of the links--link equity--that matters. The more connected your web page is to its integrated backlinks, the higher your page is viewed in the eyes of Google.
Additionally, multiple links at the same root domain will typically do you no good. Since Google places much more value on root links than it does on external links, you're better off to include 200 links to 200 different source websites than to include 200 links to the same five source websites.
When in doubt, diversify your backlink repertoire in your page content. Root links win out over external links just about any day, so make sure to avoid multiple links at the same root domain.
What constitutes a negative backlink?
Beware of low-quality backlinks. These kinds of backlinks, also called negative backlinks, are creeping across internet web pages and slowing the strides of SEO professionals. Fortunately, they're usually not hard to identify, and they are typically found under a few common categories.
- Savant SEO links: These kinds of negative backlinks set up camp on a web page for the sole purpose of linking other websites. They are designed to link to often useless and value-lacking websites that serve the user little purpose.
- Links with duplicate text: These links redirect the site visitor to content that is either nonsense or poorly combed from loosely related websites.
- Links from spambots: Bots can easily track comments from your website's comment forums and even send personalized comments. These spam links are bad for your backlink portfolio. Keep a watchful eye.
Low-quality backlinks may always be creeping and crawling, but the utility and effectiveness of high-quality backlinks are guaranteed to be a useful SEO boost time and again. If your end goal includes consistently improving your content and driving more people to your site for the chance at more conversions, using high-quality backlinks well and often should be your go-to approach.