Talk to anyone who owns a website and they will tell you building links to the site is one of the most important parts to ranking organically in the search engines. However, many people do not understand how these links differ and how that can affect your rankings. Google uses these back links as ‘votes’ for a website, each vote carries different weight depending on a number of factors, which will be discussed later.
History of Back Link Building
When I got into search engine optimization 10 years ago link building was much different. The idea then was to contact as many sites as you could that were semi-related to your own. You would ask for a reciprocal link, a link on their page for a link to their site on your page. Often there would be a number of different resource pages that would have 50-100 links on it to different sites. Now we know this is not the best way to build back links.
Search engines have evolved since then and have constantly been updating their algorithms to better determine what sites should rank where. Search engines will look at a number of factors that will help determine if the link is natural, genuine, or spammy.
What Makes a Good Back Link a Quality Link?
Relevancy – Search engines want to see links that are coming from sites that are related to yours. If you have a recipe website you wouldn’t want a back link from a construction company. When building back links it’s important to focus on pages that have relatable topics, the more precise the better. Now keep in mind there are ways to relate content from two sites that have different topics, often you need to be creative to accomplish this. Check your competitors’ backlinks and find pages where they have links. First step is always important.
Search engines use multiple metrics to determine if a site is considered trustworthy or not. This often includes, the domain age, page authority, traffic numbers, inbound back links, and citations. Google created PageRank, which is their way of determining a page’s ability to rank. PageRank helps Google determine how certain pages will rank depending on these metrics. Although some experts will say PageRank doesn’t play as big of a factor as it did in the past, however the overlying idea of these metrics still stay true today.
When searching for trustworthy sites it’s important to ask yourself, ‘do I consider this a credible source?’. If you’re not sure about the quality of the site, move on to the next one. By linking to sites that are not trustworthy you run the risk of hurting your rankings, or even worse having a site wide penalty.
On Page Content
Similar to relevancy, the content on the page where a link resides should be related to the page it is linking to. These are the links search engines love to see, they are often links that are used as reference, making them an authoritative source. The page is essentially saying the page they are linking to provides insight information on the similar topic.
Not Reciprocal/Number of On Page Links
Ideally, the links that are coming into your site should not be reciprocated on your site. This means if a site adds your link, it’s best if you do not have an outbound link going to their site. Search engines understand the idea of reciprocal linking and want to see naturally placed links, rather than links that were traded to influence PageRank.
The pages links are coming from should have a limited amount of outbound links on the page. A good rule of thumb, though not concrete, is about one link per 100 words of content. What you should avoid is having your link placed on pages that have only links and no content. Search engines want to see links that are placed in good quality, relatable content.