The Ultimate 2017 Manifesto
A lot of things have changed since the inception of SEO.
In the past, search engines loved keywords.
It loved keywords so much that web owners would stuff their sites with keywords from their meta tags down to their footers.
Nowadays, keywords have taken the back seat, and Google has been pretty smart when it comes to websites that double down on keyword stuffing.
This is Google’s way of saying
“Just because you are the loudest one in the crowd, doesn’t mean you are the brightest.”
Another part of SEO that has changed dramatically over time is backlinking.
Before, getting as many links as possible across the Internet was critical.
Websites would often go as far as to have link exchanges just to get links from other sites that would then host their own links.
It was crazy back then.
The idea was, the website that would have the most links would win the SEO war.
We’d have websites created solely for the purpose of being link heavy sites like e-zine sites.
Some groups took it one step higher by creating link wheels and link farms.
Fortunately for us, we are way past that point in time.
Google has implemented algorithms and checks that would screen keyword laden sites and pages full of unnatural and spammy links.
But does this mean we should ditch backlinking altogether?
Well, believe it or not.
Google made it even easier for everybody to rank.
Depending on who you talk to, Google’s current view on backlinks makes the Internet a much better site for users. Backlinking still works, but you have to do it!
Gone are the days when the content of choice for websites and blogs were walks of text chock full of keywords
It was both easy and hard to rank back then.
Easy, because you only had to have more articles with more keywords than your competition.
What made it hard was the fact that although people saw your website first on the search engine results, they would probably be discouraged by the content they saw.
1. Modern Link Building Fundamentals
According to Google, Backlinks are one of the top 3 ranking signals.
This means that for Google, backlinks say that you are somebody worth looking out for.
For Google, you are a trustworthy site when more and more people link back to you.
Almost like how word-of-mouth works in real life.
But why are links that important?
Why does Google consider it as a top ranking signal?
To better understand, we should go back to how the Internet looked like before Google arrived.
Search engines like Yahoo! and Alta Vista ranked websites based solely on their content.
Imagine the Internet then as a market where you are looking for tuna.
Once you were inside, you would have some vendors selling fish.
The first one you would see will be the shop with the most number of fish.
That stall may or may not have tuna, but it should have the most number of fish for sale.
Even if it does have tuna for sale, there’s no real assurance that their tuna is fresh.
Then came Google, Larry Page, and the Pagerank Algorithm. It was Google’s very first algorithm, and it was their way of measuring a website’s importance based on the number of domains linking to it.
The idea was pretty simple if a lot of people talk about your site and link to you – then you probably know what you are talking about.
Following the same analogy above, you won’t necessarily see the stall with the most number of fish available as your first option.
Instead, the first one will be the stall who got the most recommendations from other buyers or were given feedback about the quality of their tuna.
This was proven to be a much better way of presenting search results to users compared to the previous method.
But the Page-rank Algorithm was without its flaws. Because it was focused on the NUMBER of links, people started to spam links everywhere.
They would buy links from people who owned multiple sites. It was chaos.
Then all of these things changed when the Penguin Algorithm arrived.
Now, Google won’t just check on HOW MANY links you have but will focus more on the QUALITY of your links.
So the next question on your mind would be something like, what does Google consider as a “high-quality” link?
How do you build something like that?
Don’t worry; we will be learning more about identifying high-quality links and building them as we move through this guide.
2. The Hunt for High-Quality Links
When the Penguin Algorithm hit, a lot of people were confused as to why their once ranking sites bombed out of the search results. Some went from top 5 for their keywords down to the 3rd or 4th page. So the most common question then was, what happened?
The answer is simple, while some of these sites had a thousand or so links, most of them aren’t high quality.
The Penguin Algorithm penalized sites who set up “bad” links.
So the question is, what is a bad link and what is good?
There are a couple of things you need to consider when building links and we will discuss them one by one.
But before we start, I want to play a game. Let’s imagine your website as a restaurant and backlinks will be feedback. This way, it will be much easier to understand why some backlinks are considered high-quality, and there are others that aren’t.
Following the analogy mentioned above, let’s say your restaurant got three reviews on Yelp.
Review # 1 comes from a frequent customer. The 2nd review comes from a Hollywood actress who passed by one day. The third and last review was a from a well-known food connoisseur who is a member of a food review circle.
Of the three reviews, which one would people believe in. On a normal setting, the third feedback would be chosen over the other two simply because of the authority of the person making the review.
The same is true with websites. When you are linked from a page with a fairly high PageRank, Google will see this as a recommendation from somebody with authority.
Sadly, Google doesn’t publish the PageRank to the public, but you can get an indicator of a page’s rank or rating through services such as Ahrefs.
Authority of the Site
Aside from the page’s PageRank, Google also considers the sitewide authority of the site that linked to you.
On our example above, the food connoisseur’s review would still have more weight because he is part of a bigger group of food reviewers.
This means getting a link from a bigger site like HuffingtonPost is worth more than getting a link form a free blog. The only downside is, it’s pretty hard to get links from such juggernauts. But once you get a couple of them, it’s all worth it.
To get a good idea of a site’s sitewide authority or Domain Rank, you can use Ahrefs for that.
But hey! The actress made a review, and that should have more weight because she is a popular figure in Hollywood!
This is partly true. But people are more likely to listen to a food connoisseurs review than that of an actress, right? Simply because the former reviews food for a living.
For Google, a site’s relevance to your page is important – almost as important as the PageRank. This is Google’s way of curbing spammy links that come from just about any site. So if you want high-quality links, make sure they come from a page with a high PageRank that is relevant to your website.
While these factors can still affect the quality of a backlink, they are not as important as the three mentioned above.
- Link position – Links that are located in the footer or sidebar are weighed less than those that can be found right in the middle of the page’s content.
- Link placement – Not to be mistaken for link position, link placement refers to whether your site was linked due to it being a resource or for no reason at all. Google will know when a link was editorially placed or just placed there because you bought a spot.
- Link anchor texts – This is a rather iffy topic because Google has been quite stern on their stand against exact-match anchor text links. This is because this method was used by black-hat backlinkers to get as much link juice as possible. While it is still a top ranking signal, use it sparingly for your own good.
- Link Co-Citations – Does your link have related words or phrases surrounding it? The words around your link will give Google an idea of what your page is about, so they will use it to know if you are worth the authority they will give you.
- Guest post links – A couple of years ago, Google publicly declared that guest posts are done. This method of gaining links turned into spam central, and it had to stop. So is guest posting considered a waste of time? Not really. If you can get your article published on a high authority site that is related to your niche with tasteful link placements, then it will still help you rank
- Nofollow or Dofollow – Of course you would want links to say “Go to this site because they are great!” so you would prefer dofollow links as much as possible.
Now that you have a good idea of what a high-quality link looks like, let’s try o move forward and talk about how to start building them.
3. Getting High-Quality Links with A Content Marketing Plan
Right now you might be coming up with various strategies on how to get backlinks, but the idea is quite simple.
Start with a good content marketing plan.
Why? Because why would people link to you when you don’t even have good content to start with, right?
Now, we researched for you and found out that there are four types of content that get linked a lot online. If you’re a smart SEO agency, you would go and try to incorporate any if not all of these types of content into your content marketing. The four types are as follows:
- Original research and data
- Guides (in-depth)
- Visual assets
Let’s talk about them one-by-one.
Original Research and Data
When other people make their content for their followers and readers, they would like to be as factual as possible. To do this, they need data from research or surveys. If they see your data and research, they would be more than willing to give you a backlink in exchange for using the information you have provided.
While not exactly the best time of content if you want to get new readers, making large and in-depth guides can pay dividends if you are looking for backlinks from other sites. With the amount of information in one article, some people are more likely to pick certain points, tips, and ideas from your work. Most often than not, they are going to link back to you when they use those points in their work.
People nowadays want their information quick and easy. This is why listicles (or list articles) are guaranteed list magnets. This is because list articles are an easy read, but they contain the important points that people need to know about.
Some experts claim that in the future, infographics and other visual assets will rule the content marketing world. Why not? A one-page infographic can often present data and information of a three-page article. Some people, usually the casual readers, prefer an infographic over a wall of text. This means website owners are more likely to use, and therefore link back to you when you use a visual asset like an infographic instead of an article.
So which one is the best choice? Personally, I’d go for a mix of all four. Even if these content types don’t give you a number of backlinks you were going for, they are still good reads for your visitors.
Now that you have excellent pieces of content that people can link to, you have two options. One is to wait for people to discover your content and hopefully gain backlinks or you can proactively reach out to people. For all intents and purposes, the second option is always the best option. That’s what we are going to talk about next.
4. Building Links through Email Outreach
Building white hat links in the modern world are no longer about buying spaces or black-hat practices.
If you want to get the most backlinks possible for your site, you have to learn how to reach out to websites or blogs.
One good way of doing that is through email outreach.
But how can you do this without getting flagged as spam?
Better yet, how can you do it without being that annoying guy/girl who keeps sending unwanted emails?
One’s failure in email outreach is often an effect of the lack of research.
Of course, you can always bombard thousands of emails a day hoping one or two replies back, but that’s not the smart way of doing it.
If you want to do it right, you have to plan it out before sending any email.
Here’s how any smart SEO agency or website owner would do it.
1. Find people who are more likely to link to you – Instead of sending emails to random blogs, wouldn’t it be better if you send only to a handful of them who are likely to respond? To do this, you need to do a bit of reverse engineering on Google.
A Do a Google search using your target keyword on Google.
B Look at the first result then copy the URL into a link analysis site. You can use Ahrefs for this one.
C Check the websites that have linked to the #1 result on Google. Target the ones who are worth exerting effort on based on the information we have provided on the topic of the Basics of Link Building.
2. After you have a list of websites, who might be interested in linking to you, go and get their email addresses.
3. Send them a personalized email (from a template) – If you want to contact as many people as possible in your email outreach, you have to use a template.
However, make sure you personalize it, so it doesn’t look like it was scripted. Here’s a good example of how a template should look like:
I did some research on [Topic] earlier today when I found an article you wrote entitled [Name of Article].
I was simply amazed by the information your have presented in the article, and I enjoyed [Specific Comment About Article].
A few days ago, I published an article on the same topic. You can check out [Article Title] of [URL].
I have included certain points there that you might be interested in adding into your page.
I hope to read more of your work on [Website Name]!
Filling this template out will take you a maximum of 5 minutes. The finished result will look like a personalized email which people are more likely to read and pay attention to.
Betting on Broken Links
Some blog and website owners often get too busy with other stuff that they don’t check the current status of their links. Often, this results in multiple broken links that can be problematic especially when you have an article with good readership.
To help out said site owners, you can search for the broken links on their sites and offer the link to your article as a replacement. How to do that? Well, you need to install tools such as Check my Links or LinkMiner. These tools can check if a page has a broken link. You can check out a related article or the resource page of the website for broken links.
As soon as you see a broken link, contact the website owner and tell them about it.
You can then pitch a link from your site as a replacement.
You can easily create a template for this type of email following the example of email outreach.
Resource Page Links
Resource pages are the pages that usually contain links to various content that the website owner deems important for people who are interested in the topic. For example, a website about basketball can have a resource page containing links to websites that talk about picking the right shoes, how to practice effectively, or a site about basketball trading cards.
For the website owner, the idea is simple – if it’s related to my niche and if it is a great resource then it should be on the resource page.
Now, looking for resource pages can be quite hard if you don’t know what to do. You can manually check every site related to your website, or you can do it the smart way – by using Google.
To search for resource pages, use the following search tags:
“Keyword” + inurl:links
“Keyword” + “helpful resources.”
“Keyword” + “useful resources”
“Keyword” + “useful links”
This will give you a list of resource pages on the keyword you are using.
List down the sites you see and find out if any of them are worth the effort.
If you think your page or an article you made can earn a spot on the resource page, contact the website or blog owner.
You can create a script on this to make it easier.
6. Advanced Link Building Strategies
We are done with the basics and the intermediate strategies in backlinking, so it’s only fitting that we move to the advanced tricks now. Some of the strategies that will be mentioned below might not apply to all websites, but it wouldn’t hurt to try them out just in case.
1. Link Reclamation – Sometimes, people mention your site or the article you made on their sites and forget to link to you. For some website owners, it’s often an issue of forgetting to link back to you. You can use BuzzSumo to search for such websites then you can just send them an email the website owners about it to turn an unlinked citation into a linked one.
2. Doing Reverse Image Search – If you’ve made a couple of infographics in the past, you can often find some sites using your visual asset without properly attributing your site. Instead of getting frustrated, you should get excited. A simple email usually reminds them of their error, and it becomes a free link for you. To do this, do a reverse image search of your infographic on Google and check out the sites that use your infographic.
3. Create unique infographics – When people hear infographics, they often imagine data and numbers. This is not always the case. If you want to get backlinks from unusual sources, you should learn to create infographics from ideas, strategies, or concepts. For example, instead of creating a step-by-step article on how to exercise properly, creating an infographic will make it an easier read for people who need to get the gist of the content within minutes.
4. Using Feeler Emails – Instead of directly pitching your content to website owners, you can just do it on the second email. Doing this often allows you and the website owner to generate some rapport first before sending over your article and link.
After a crash course on the basics and advanced tips on backlinking, I think it is only necessary that we talk about the dark side of back linking.
But what is black hat backlinking?
Well, any form of backlinks created through methods that violate the Google Webmaster Guidelines is considered Black Hat.
Should you avoid them?
Of course. But the decision still rests with you as the website owner. But before you even consider signing up for Black Hat backlinking strategies, you have to know the penalties first and the safeguards Google has implemented.
To ensure they deliver only the best sites through their search engine, Google’s algorithm (specifically the Google Penguin Algorithm) spots sites that use spammy link building techniques which are usually considered black hat.
To avoid getting penalized, you should only use white hat techniques in building backlinks.
If you are working with an SEO agency, make sure you know how they get links for your site.
You can also lessen your chances of getting hit by Penguin by minimizing your use of exact match anchor text.
If you are still reading at this point then I congratulate you for keeping up with me.
Let’s do a short recap of the stuff we picked up from this lengthy piece.
1. Not all links are worth it. You have to go for quality over quantity.
2. There’s a way to know whether a link is valuable or not.
3. Creating interesting content is a great way to get backlinks.
4. Reaching out to blogs or websites can help you get more links to your website/page.
5. You can also get backlinks by helping out webmasters and owners.
6. Black hat backlinking is still around but doing it can result in penalties from Google.
To be honest, there is no such thing as “the best way” in the world of backlinking.
Different websites, different niches, different methods.
You can start with applying the tricks and tips mentioned in this article, but sooner or later you will come up with your own.
Do you have your own backlinking best practices you can share with us?
Tell us in the comments section.