Also known as inbound links, backlinks are hyperlinks from another website to your website.
Google uses backlink data to help rank your website. Backlinks are a vote of confidence for a site's relevance and quality. When another site links to your content, Google sees that other site as trusting you.
It's a recommendation, an endorsement... a validation of how cool you are for creating content that someone else wants to share! Good on ya, you boon to the internet. Woo Hoo!
Okay, that's enough praise for the hypothetical backlink you've earned. It's not as easy as it sounds: 2 out of 3 websites have zero backlinks, and 93% have between 0 and 3.
Backlinks are a big category, so let's break this down a bit.
Who Follows What?
Dofollow (or simply "follow") backlinks are the default. These allow your site to gain authority from a site that links back to you. More authority is good because it helps you rank better. A dofollow link tells Google, "yes, this is a legitimate backlink to our site; we agree that it is relevant."
The HTML code for a dofollow link looks like this:
<a href="https://example.com">Anchor Text Goes Here</a>
Dofollow backlinks pass along link equity (ranking power) to you. Getting dofollow backlinks means more people will find you, fall in love with your product or service, and buy your stuff.
Getting more people buying your stuff is why you're reading this article.
The nofollow link tag was introduced in 2005 in response to spam links in comment sections. Nofollow links tell Google "this backlink isn't relevant to our site." For search purposes, Google doesn't see nofollow links. It's as if they didn't exist.
Your CMS will typically allow you to designate nofollow backlinks through a no-code widget, but if you need the HTML code, it looks like this:
You'll probably get some spammy links as your site becomes more visible. They'll have nothing to do with your product, service, or website content. The nofollow tag is like your spam folder: it tells Google you don't associate with such riffraff.
The higher the quality of your backlinks, the more weight each backlink will have for search ranking. A few high-quality backlinks can help your rank more than dozens of lower-quality backlinks.
So how do you spot a high-quality backlink?
When rating backlink quality, Google's algorithm looks at several elements of the linking site. Nobody really knows what those are, so domain authority (DA) was developed by Moz to predict how websites would perform on SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).
While DA is not a factor in how Google ranks pages on SERPs, it uses a machine-learning predictive model to reflect Google's SERPs as closely as possible.
Domain authority is considered an accurate enough reflection of Google's algorithm that several tools have been developed to rate the DA of websites. SemRush, Moz, and ahrefs have some of the most popular DA analysis tools.
Domain Authority by the Numbers
Domain authority is measured on a 1–100 scale, but that doesn't tell the whole story. Instead of shooting for a score of 100, most websites should be aiming to beat their competitors on the same keywords.
Moz has a video explaining this:
On a 1–100 scale, a score of 50 might seem dead average. And you don't want to be average. You want to be great.
The thing is, a score of 50 might be outstanding when measured against a site's competitors, so what you're looking for is a relative gap above the competition in your industry or niche.
The same scale applies to getting high-quality backlinks. Relevance matters. It's a big win if you get a backlink with a DA score of 50 and that's the highest DA in your niche or industry.
Look at that: you're not average; you're fantastic!
8 Tactics to Get High-Quality Backlinks
There are many ways to build high-quality backlinks. Here's a list of things you can try.
1. Write Guest Posts
When you write a guest post, you give another website your valuable insights, unique perspective, and industry knowledge.
Hooray for them, but what do you get?
You can work a relevant backlink to your site into your post
The hosting site's audience can discover your product or service through your writing
You can cross-promote with the other company: they post on their social media, and you post on yours. Both companies increase their reach
When vetting potential hosts, pick websites relevant to your industry or niche. And don't write a guest post for your direct competitors.
For example, it'd be fine if Webflow wrote a guest post for Mailchimp because both target marketers. Webflow wouldn't post for Squarespace since both are site builders.
You want relevance without competition.
2. Create Shareable Infographics and Other Types of Visuals
Infographics are a great way to get backlinks because they are visually appealing and easy to digest and share. Practical, unique infographics provide a lot of value, encouraging backlink building.
3. Answer Questions for Content Writers
Using sites like HARO(help a reporter out), Help a B2B Writer, or Terkel is another strategy for getting quality backlinks. Journalists, bloggers, and B2B writers use these sites to help source stories.
Getting your website cited as a source in a news story or on a prominent blog is a win for your backlink strategy.
4. Get a Feature in TechCrunch, WSJ, or NYTimes
Getting your product or service featured on a well-known and respected news website will get you high-quality backlinks and boost your credibility. Reach out to the news website directly and pitch them (or work with a PR agency). If you have a newsworthy story, they may be interested in writing a feature about it.
That's a huge backlink to land.
5. List Your Product on App Directories Like Webflow, Shopify, or Zapier
If you have an eCommerce website, list your product on other websites similar to yours. You'll get backlinks and exposure to a new audience.
6. The Skyscraper Technique: Rank on Your Keywords
The Skyscraper Technique is a strategy where you write better content on a particular topic than anyone else. It's a 3-step process:
Find popular articles for keywords you want to rank in that have backlinks from high DA sources
Create a better piece of content
Aggressively distribute it to the right people
There are some things to be wary of with this approach: your content may be superior to the original, but it doesn't give enough of a value-add to sway readers. Promoting your content is important too, and failure here means it doesn't matter how good the content you've written is—no one will see it. Also, beware of "skyscrapering" out-of-date content, as the value-add is probably low, and the audience may have moved on.
7. Conduct Your Own Research and Publish the Results
Original research has high value because it's unique. If it provides relevant data, it's more likely to be shared as a source.
This is an infographic from an article where Backlinko analyzed 11.8 million Google search results and then published their research findings. That's useful content for a lot of people. How useful?
Here's what ahrefs says about the domain:
That's really good! Here's what SemRush says about the page:
Almost 25,000 backlinks and counting is a strong return on original research.
8. Aggressively Distribute Your Content
You've followed all of this advice. You've skyscrapered and researched; you've written guest posts and made cool infographics. Still not enough good backlinks?
Have you been aggressive in your distribution strategy?
You need your content to find its audience, not wait for the audience to find your content.
Your content marketing sells your product or service. Treat it that way.
What You Should Never Do to Get Backlinks
If it were easy, everyone would have great backlinks.
Social Media Backlinks Are Good for Organic Traffic, Not DA
Social media backlinks won't improve your rank because they have the nofollow tag. They can provide organic traffic, however. We're not telling you to abandon social (quite the opposite), since you can use it to distribute your content aggressively, but you won't get backlinks directly from it.
Don't Accept Backlinks from Low-Quality Websites
Backlinks from spammy websites hurt your ranking because Google sees them as low-quality backlinks.
Spam sites have irrelevant or inferior content. A backlink analysis tool can help you detect spammy links, so you're not losing domain authority because of them.
If you detect a low-quality backlink, you can disavow it using Google's disavow tool.
Don't Hire a Blackhat Link-Building Agency
Many link-building agencies use unethical tactics to get backlinks. These will get you penalized by Google. That's bad.
Avoid Spamming People for Backlinks
Spamming people with your content will only annoy them.
Building a solid profile of strong backlinks can be challenging, but high-quality backlinks are essential for SEO and crucial for your search visibility. Keeping track of your backlink profile with tools likeSemRush's backlink checker will help keep your website healthy.
Unique, high-quality content increases your chance of getting excellent backlinks. Work on the quality of your backlinks instead of the quantity. Avoid blackhat tactics and disavow spammers. Focus on original research, skyscrapering, guest posting, listing on app directories, original infographics, and aggressive distribution.
It takes time and effort, but the backlinks will come.
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