Editor’s Note: This was originally posted in 2010, but has been updated to match current SEO standards, providing recent information and relevant, current links.
High quality links can help you gain traffic and site authority. But what is “high quality”? What does that mean? In this article, we’re taking away the frustration by sharing a few characteristics for true, all-around, high quality links, and how to begin snagging some for yourself.
Characteristics of a High Quality Link
1. Follow/NoFollow: Preferably, you want links with the “follow” attribute. If you’re only worried about higher traffic, the follow/no follow attribute isn’t an issue, but for higher keyword ranking, “follow” sites are of higher quality.
2. Few competing links: The fewer the links on the page going to other sites, the better. Even though your mother taught you to share, in the case of link building, being stingy is the best way to be.
3. Higher Page Authority: The higher the page authority of the page itself, the better. Pages with higher authority indicate to the search engines that your site bears attention. Don’t snub your nose at sites with low authority, though; many of them can turn into big names and, in some instances, can bring a lot of traffic.
Note: Page Authority (PA) itself is a MOZ construct and not something Google looks at. PA and it’s corresponding DA (Domain Authority) are calibrated based on several factors, such as linking root domains, that predict how likely the page is to rank.
4. Relevant to your site: Although the site linking to yours is important, pay close attention to the actual page. Is the linking page relevant to your linked site page? For instance, if your page is about hearing aids and a hearing aid website links to yours, that’s great. However, if the page with your link actually has “hearing aids” in the text, title and meta tags, it gives the link more relevance.
5. Contain your keyword: One of the most common mistakes in link building is to use www.mysite.com as the anchor text (i.e. the actual words you click on). Most businesses will already rank well for their name and website address. If keyword ranking is one of your goals, it’s especially important that you pay careful attention to the text used to link to your page. The word(s) should be relevant to the key phrase you targeted on your page.
6. Links to specific pages: Contrary to popular opinion, most visitors don’t come to your website through the home page. As well, you don’t want only your home page ranking in the search engine results. If you’ve used your keywords correctly, each page will have a different set; optimally, you want each page to rank well for their keyword set. Preferably, you want high quality links that point to specific, relevant pages on your site, not just your home page.
7. High traffic: The more traffic the linking site gets, the better chance you have of gaining more traffic. Of course, high traffic sites generally expect something in return, such as excellent content that can genuinely help their visitors who follow the link to your site.
8. One way: Reciprocal links, where you have a link to the site and that site links to you, is like swapping gum. Unless the site has a higher authority than yours, or higher ranking with your keyword, they don’t give much benefit unless your purpose is specifically just traffic; in this case, they may give tons of benefit. Otherwise, you’re basically swapping authority. One way links, where the site only links to yours, gives the best benefit in terms of ranking and authority.
The above characteristics generally leave out directory and article submissions, practices that are slowly falling out of the “mainstream” anyway, due to overuse and abuse. Don’t leave them out of your link building campaign, but do be extremely meticulous about the submission sites you choose, as well as the specific page (for directories) your link is on.
So how do you get those quality links? Read on.
Link Building in the Age of the NoFollowed, Disavowed Link
Content. Content. Content. It seems like all you hear about when it comes to SEO these days is the all mighty content mill. Not getting enough traffic? Write blogs! Ran out of blogging ideas? Write press releases! Nothing to talk about? You must be in the wrong business…
– But what about once you’ve written the blogs, posted the press releases, optimized your site out the ying yang and have reached the point of “more harm than good”? What then?
Let’s face it – eventually you’re going to have to get links back to all that beautiful content you’ve been working on. If nothing else, backlinks mean traffic. It means eyes on that content, and the eyes are attached to bodies that buy, comment, talk about, or otherwise perform the action you want them to do.
How do you get those links, though? It’s almost like Google’s crackdowns, algorithmic changes and microscopic scrutiny have been set out to royally screw over the little guy (i.e. anybody that isn’t Google). We’re left with fewer and fewer legitimate tools to help build positive trust flow, which is part of what translates into positive rankings.
But don’t run out of heart. It is possible to get the links you want. Just remember that they take time, however. Link building the right way always takes some time.
Add in the NoFollow…
With so much scrutiny, link building seems impossible. In addition, we live in a world of the “nofollow” link. In case you don’t know, the “nofollow” link attribute can be added to a link to tell bots, “Don’t follow this link. It’s good enough to be on my site, but not good enough to be counted – I don’t really want to be associated with it.”
Of course, there are legitimate reasons to nofollow a link. If, for example, you are in the habit of hosting ads for other sites, those links are supposed to have the nofollow attribute. In short, Google doesn’t want people to be able to have paid links and game the system, so they’ve said that Google Best Practices and the Google honor system require that you place that attribute on any paid links you have on your site. Woe be to the site owner who doesn’t.
With a Dash of Disavow…
I remember listening to site owners who worried that bad links could get their site penalized. Did you ever hear, “But what if my competitor points a whole bunch of links to my site from spam sites?”
Well, it used to be that links were just… links. Now we live in the days of the disavow, where your site can get penalized for the places that link to it. Several people immediately sent us emails asking us to either remove their link or they would disavow our site. Never mind that we are a legitimate company that doesn’t sell link placement – the links were actually quality links – but there was mass hysteria for a while.
So now here we are, in the world of the nofollowed, disavowed link profile. How do you even begin to build backlinks for today’s search engines? You’re going to have to work harder now than ever before for your backlinks, but that doesn’t mean you’ll never see backlinks again.
The Intersection of Relationship Building and Link Building
Yes, the old ways are out — Google has stated time and again that they want to improve user experience and will reward those sites whose growth and keywords are much more organic. And while that means slower growth for your sites, it also represents a very real growth in visibility and user interaction.
At the end of the day, we’re back to my favorite subject: building relationships. Yeah, baby!
Today’s link building requires that we form bigger, better relationships. Oh wait – that’s always been good link building… Let’s forget about the internet for a moment and look at it on human terms rather than websites and links.
You’re a wedding planner back before Google was even thought of. You can’t just twiddle your thumbs and wait for excited brides-to-be to call you up, can you? A wedding planner has to have contacts. You have to know people, and it can’t just be any person – in business, not all people are created equal. Your connections have to be focused on the business of planning weddings. You need a Rolodex (remember those?) that includes:
- venue owners/managers
Not only that, but you have to know them well enough that you know they won’t screw up and drop the ball without a serious reason for doing so (like their store burnt down or something). Getting to know them takes communication, socializing and humanizing.
Now let’s get back to the 21st century, where you’re still a wedding planner. You still need those connections, and not all links are created equal. They have to be focused. They have to be friendly. You have to know that they play in good, safe link neighborhoods.
There’s an additional bonus to these connections that I’ll discuss at the end.
Link Building with Social Media
You don’t have to be a social media maven to make connections, but you do have to earn your connections and consequently linking. It may take a while to see results, but it’s well worth it.
Now, you can go the route of networking with your contemporaries and asking them to sprinkle your links along as they go, but there’s an easier way. It’s also more natural, and the links have the benefit of being much more glowing in their citations.
The point of Social, after all, is to BE social, even if you’re a business. So, get social. Focus on building your audience, create a safe community for them to interact within and you’ll soon be fighting off the love.
Of course, you’ve got to do more than just connect to your audience — but that’s the first step. Once you have a decent following, you’ll have to start creating some ultra share-worthy content. Custom graphics and infographics are great for introducing a link to related blog posts; they catch a lot of attention and people love to share them. As long as you’re not attempting to incentivise your social media fans, these types of link shares are still legal and incredibly valuable. Videos, while potentially more costly, often travel much further.
Guest Posting for Link Building
This is hard, and it goes hand-in-hand with the socializing. You have to know the people behind the sites you’re posting your articles on. You have to know that you’re not going to end up standing on a garbage heap, because the site accepts any and all blogs and they’re all low quality content crap. Google isn’t going to like you any better if you guest post for a site that’s filled with poor grammar, bad writing and punctuation that’s been thrown around like confetti (let’s not even mention the places where links words are building links thrown in wherever they links may fall extraordinary social link building time).
As I said above, you still have to know these people – the florists, the bakers, the candlestick makers. – And when the connection is right, it’s so right! You write some wedding planner articles for them. They write some candlestick design articles for you. You tweet their stuff and talk about the great job they did on the Charleston’s wedding cake; they Instagram the flowers you set up down the aisle for the Robin’ wedding – it’s an absolute online linking love fest.
As Google continues to change the rules for SEOs and website owners everywhere, it’s nice to know that there’s still a place for basic concepts like organic keyword usage and link building. Just remember that the place is the same place it’s always been; in the social, human, professional connections we make!
As you begin (or continue) your link building campaign, keep the eight characteristics and methods in mind. Research potential sites using the characteristics as a guideline. With high quality links, you can create a truly fantastic campaign with excellent return on the time invested.