Here’s what you need to know about this popular search engine optimization (SEO) practice.

Here, you’ll find:

  • How backlinking is defined
  • Why it’s an important part of SEO
  • The latest backlinking best practices
  • Key mistakes to avoid

When it comes to a solid SEO strategy, most digital marketing pros consider high-quality backlinks a key component.

Besides helping to bring your website to the top of the search engine results page (SERP), backlinks can defend your rankings against Google algorithm updates.

It’s possible to create a robust backlinking portfolio by putting an effective backlinking strategy into place. But what does that look like, exactly? Let’s explore.

chain links

With the right backlinking strategy, it’s possible to obtain significant links from trustworthy websites, and rise through the ranks as a result. (Image: Unsplash)

What is backlinking?

Backlinking is the practice of earning links to your site from other high-quality websites. The more backlinks you have from authoritative, legit websites, the better your site looks to search engines as a result.

Not all backlinks are created equal. Links from popular, high-ranking, and trustworthy websites are valuable. On the other hand, links from low-quality or spammy websites can negatively impact your rankings.

When a high-authority website links back to one of your pages, the authority of your own website goes up. By adding a link to one of your pages, a website essentially vouches for your site. 

The more high-quality backlinks you can obtain, the better your website is likely to rank.

Pro tip: Highly effective backlinks can be tough to earn. However, with the right backlinking strategy, you can score impressive links from trustworthy websites, which will help you rise through the ranks.

Backlinking best practices

While building a backlink strategy can be intimidating, it can pay off in a big way once you put your plan into action. The earlier you start working on it, the faster you can potentially see results. 

Focus on high-quality content

Besides being the foundation of your SEO efforts, top-notch content is also a great backlink generator. By coming up with valuable, accurate, and unique content for your website, you encourage other companies to link to it. 

Search Engine Journal puts it this way: “Without content, there is no reason for a website to be sourcing you (i.e., giving you a backlink).”

Content that attracts links often include things like:

  • Data-driven studies
  • Visual content (infographics, how-to videos)
  • Long-form guides
  • Trend pieces
  • Market research studies

It’s like Kevin Costner’s character says in the ‘80s movie Field of Dreams: “If you build it, he will come.” Basically, if you create good content, you’ll likely get more traffic organically. 

After all, as Marketing Inside Group explains, “Quality content gives other websites a reason to link to yours and gives visitors a reason to click the links.”

Key elements high-quality link baits often have in common include:

  • An appeal to a wide audience
  • Citation potential (meaning others can link back to your studies, quotes, and stats)
  • The ability to create a strong emotional response
  • Problem-solving and question-answering ability

High-quality articles, blogs, and other content pieces designed for your audience can generate links as well. As long as the content brings value, it has backlinking potential.

Pro tip: Guest posting on high-authority websites allows you to bring your own valuable insight to that site’s target audience. When you establish a relationship with the site’s managers, ensure audiences are aligned, and have something truly beneficial to share, it can be a successful tactic.

two trusting people holding hands outside

Not all backlinks are created equal. Quality wins over quantity. (Image: Unsplash)

Make sure you’re getting the right backlinks

As mentioned above, not all backlinks are created equal. Quality wins over quantity. Backlinks that work the best often:

  • Come from a trustworthy website with high domain authority
  • Contain your target keyword in the anchor text
  • Come from a website that’s at least somehow related to your products, services, or industry
  • Don’t have a “nofollow” tag (when ranking websites, search engines ignore nofollow links)

Pro tip: Keep tabs on your backlink portfolio. Not-so-good links don’t generate the desired results, and their presence can create a false appearance of a good strategy.

Run a backlink analysis

While you may think you have plenty of backlinks, some of them could be hurting your reputation instead of improving it. That’s why it’s wise to take the time to run a backlink analysis of your website. 

Poor links usually come from low-authority sites and link networks. A backlinking analysis can help you identify bad links. 

Once you find them, you can contact the website’s webmaster and ask them to remove the link. If they don’t respond, you can disavow the link.

Want to learn more about backlinking strategies? Let’s chat.

Find “link roundup” opportunities

Link roundups are lists that bloggers compile to give their readers links to the best content related to a certain subject. 

These roundups can be published daily, weekly, or monthly. Up your chances of appearing in one of these roundups by:

  • Creating high-quality content
  • Finding a website in your niche that creates roundups
  • Sourcing exclusive industry data, research, or other findings
  • Pitching your inclusion to the blogger

Often, roundups are the easiest backlink types to acquire.

Pro tip: Looking for more backlink-attracting inspiration? Search Engine Journal recommends creating “statistics content.” These post types can position your brand as a thought leader, encourage sharing, and even perform well on the SERP.

Backlinking mistakes to avoid

Just like all backlinks aren’t created equal, neither are backlink-generating tactics. 

Consider keeping these practices out of your backlinking strategy:

  • Don’t try to generate backlinks by using “black hat” SEO tactics (such as creating numerous profiles specifically to add links to forum signatures or blog comments). 
  • Never try to buy or sell a link. Authority websites don’t sell links, though some websites may charge you for guest posting.
  • Avoid nofollow links.
  • Don’t spend time trying to acquire backlinks from websites that aren’t relevant to your niche.
  • Don’t forget to keep an eye on your existing backlinks. If you suddenly earn dozens of links, for example, it could look suspicious.

Pro tip: Auditing your backlinks is a process that should be part of your regular SEO routine,” according to Search Engine Land.

The takeaway  

If you want to create a comprehensive and effective SEO strategy, backlinking deserves your full attention. 

However, the first step is excellent content, along with off-site optimization opportunities like YouTube, social channels, and local citations

By attracting links from trustworthy websites, you are working towards building your website’s authority and getting closer to the top of the SERPs. 

This article has been updated and was originally published in April 2021.

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