Every webmaster, internet marketer and SEO knows that link building is one of the number one ways to get to the top of Google.
Google’s spiders rely on inbound links in order to find your content as they crawl from one site to the next. More than that though, Google sees each link pointing to a website as a kind of testimonial. The logic is that if lots of high quality websites have decided to link to a website, then it should follow that the website offers something of value.
But to send Google this signal, then it’s imperative that ‘quality’ be the operative word. This is what you really need to focus on if you want to climb to the top of the search rankings. If lots of high quality sites are linking to yours, then the theory goes that your site must be high quality too.
If you have thousands of low quality links on the other hand, chances are that you’re just spamming the web…
Google has reiterated the importance of quality time and time again and this has been the one unifying factor across its recent updates. With the next Penguin update just around the corner, there has never been a more important time to focus on the quality of your links profile.
The question then becomes: how do you know if a website is high quality or not?
How to Identify ‘Toxic’ Links
Perhaps the easiest way for us to get higher quality links is to start with the process of elimination. In other words, let’s start by getting rid of those low quality links.
It may be too late for this to be taken into account for the next algorithm update – but the sooner you can get rid of the toxic links that are weighing you down, the better off you’ll be. And this is doubly true when you consider that the next algorithm may be ‘real time’ and able to adapt to changes on the fly.
And fortunately, identifying those truly bad quality links is pretty easy. In fact, you probably knew they were low quality when you initially built them (go on, be honest!).
Low quality links are the ones that:
- Are surrounded by low quality content
- Have no audience
- Deliver no value
- Link to other spammy sites
- Are covered in adverts
- Took no work to acquire
- Are completely irrelevant to your subject matter
- Engaging in link trading or selling links
If your backlinks profile still includes these kinds of links, then you need to start cleaning them up. You can do this by using Google’s Links Disavow Tool, or by contacting the webmasters and just asking nicely.
Don’t go too overboard while doing this though. It’s worth bearing in mind that keeping some low quality links can actually be a good thing. Why? Because it looks healthy and natural.
While Google hasn’t confirmed as much, there’s a good chance that Google will value this kind of diversity. There are undoubtedly some very low quality sites out there with links to the BBC, to Forbes, to Tim Ferriss’ blog. If you’re a big influencer, then you’ll have all kinds of links pointing to you and you won’t have time to manage them all.
So don’t make your links too squeaky clean. Just make sure that the ratio of quality links is heavily leaning in the right direction!
How to Spot ‘High Value’ Links
So now you’ve done some spring cleaning you might find that your links profile is starting to look a little barren. In which case… you should have done this a lot sooner!
Never fear though, in the next step we’re going to help you start finding some high quality links.
So how do you know if a site is high quality or not?
Well, there are a few things to look for. However, one of the very most important factors is simply the value that the site delivers to its audience.
You need to surround yourself with the very best content creators on the net and that way, Google will think you’re one of them!
Great content that delivers value will likely do so in a number of different ways. It might be funny, it might be interesting, it might be entertaining, or it might be very useful. Research has shown us that the content that performs best tends to be somewhere in the region of 1,600-1,800 words. Why? Because over that many words, the writer/blogger/webmaster is able to deliver something actually useful. This is in-depth, long-form content that contains advice, ideas, information, resources, tips… and it’s something that someone can actually sit down to read with a cup of tea.
Google looks at bounce rates a lot these days too; that’s how long someone spends on a website. When looking at someone you’re trying to get a link from, ask yourself how long people are likely to spend on that page before leaving. Are they engaging with the content? Are there lots of comments? Have you seen people discussing this content elsewhere?
Sites that link out to other high quality sites are also good news. Not only does this mean they’re trying to provide further reading and/or references for their audience but it also means that your link will now be alongside those other high quality links.
There’s another ‘hack’ to quickly working out whether a site is offering lots of quality and value though – and that is to ask yourself how easy it would be to get a link there. If they’re giving links out freely, then you probably don’t want one. If you question whether they’d even open your emails, then that’s probably a link worth chasing!
The Importance of Relevance
But just because a site is high quality, that doesn’t mean that a link on that site would be high quality for you.
That’s because ‘relevance’ also plays a very important role. You need to ensure that links pointing at your site are from pages that are highly relevant to your content. This is important because it tells Google what your site is about and which searches your site should come up in.
If you have a link from Harvard, then that suggests your site is high quality and trustworthy. But if your website is all about cats, then this isn’t going to help you rank for your keyphrases all that well. Think about it: Google can’t just make your site come up in every search – so it needs to see that you’re being recommended for a specific topic.
This also makes it important that you consider where on the website your link is going to go. Links can be domain to domain, page to page, domain to page… make sure that your link is coming from the most relevant parts of the most relevant sites and is pointing at your most relevant pages.
Trust and Authority
One of the biggest and most important factors when it comes to building high quality links is trust.
Ultimately, if you can establish yourself as a trusted authority, then you’ll be practically impervious to future algorithm updates and even to negative SEO attacks.
Remember when we said that sites like the BBC have lots of low quality backlinks as well as good ones? One of the other reasons they can get away with this is simply that the organization is so established and so trusted. They’re bullet proof!
The way you get this point is simply by getting links from sites that are already at that point.
So how do you know if a site is trusted or not?
Some key indicators are:
- The site is a well-known brand
- The site uses a .gov or .edu domain
- The site is featured in Google’s ‘In The News’ feature
If you can get a link from sites that meet any of these criteria, then it’s almost guaranteed to be a high quality link and to help you build your own authority and trust.
The only problem? It’s incredibly hard to get links on any of those sites.
And so this is where you can begin playing a game of ‘degrees of separation’. Here, you’ll be looking for links from sites that have links from these kinds of sites.
If the link chain goes:
Harvard > Another Site > You
Then you can expect this to be incredibly beneficial for you. Likewise, even if there are few more degrees of separation, this can still help you a great deal.
One way to find opportunities like this is to look at the top performing sites in your niche and then to research their backlinks. That way, you can dig out high quality, trusted sites that are willing to hand out links.
The Link Itself
Finally, you also need to think about the nature of the actual link itself. And by that I mean:
- Is it a nofollow?
- Is it a redirect?
- Where is it located on the site?
Don’t waste your time posting to the comments section of 100 good websites – Google is smarter than to fall for that.
So now you know how to get the very best links and how to get rid of the ones that are slowing you down. All that’s left is to get out there and start building that links profile!
Building high quality links takes a little more work but trust me: it is completely worth it in the long run.