Incoming links from sites that are closely related to yours are weighted more heavily than links from random, unrelated sites.
Today, search engines look at the quality of the links coming into your site. Are the sites linking to you topically similar to yours? Or are they random sites?
As SEO consultants, what we are seeing increasingly is that a few topically relevant back links can outweigh a larger number of irrelevant back links.
Why Do Back Links To Your Website Matter For Search Rank?
In March 2016, Google’s Andrey Lipattsev said that on page content, your link profile, and machine learning are the top three factors for ranking pages in a search query.
Ideally, your SEO agency will be helping you create the content you need for your site. Without great content on your site, it’s difficult to get high-quality back links, or get people to share your site with your target customers.
So, what makes up a rock-solid back link profile?
How Do You Tell a Relevant Back Link From a Random One?
Identifying quality back links, researching your competitors link profiles, having a link building plan, and doing link outreach are all positive SEO activities that will help your search rankings.
Generally speaking, links from a generic directory are less valuable than links from a topically-related site where the link was editorially placed.
Editorial placement is a fancy way of saying someone had to approve that link, and manually place it there. Sites that offer automated online citations are good to build a SEO foundation with, but won’t push you up the ranks by themselves.
Links that appear in the main content of a page, (not a site-wide link in a sidebar or footer), are more heavily weighted. If the topic of a linking page is closely related to your site, then again, that link is more heavily weighted.
The premise is simple.
The more people in your industry are talking about your site, the more noteworthy your site must be.
Above all else, Google wants to rank brands. And not just brands, but brands that answer their customer’s questions. Getting mentions and links from sites similar to yours is a signal you are offering value to your industry. Over time, this type of signal will help you rank higher in search.
Back Links Aren’t Going Away As A Ranking Factor
Though Google wants to rank brands over random websites, links are still incredibly important to search rankings. Incoming links to your website are like votes for your sites. The more links from topically relevant sites, the more favorably Google is going to look at your page.
Notice the emphasis is on getting links from sites that are closely related to yours. Not just any links will make your site move up the charts. Links from authoritative sites that are topically related to your site are more desirable than random links.
Links are one of the ranking signals that can be manipulated by various methods. Google knows this, and looks for links that are given editorially, meaning, someone at the linking site must decide to give you that link.
If you’re an SEO agency, always ask yourself this question when link building:
If you showed this back link to a potential client or a competitor, would you be proud of your work?
Some Quick Words About White Hat and Black Hat Link Building
You may or may not have heard the terms “white hat SEO” or “black hat SEO” before.
In simplest terms, white hat SEO plays by the rules (aka the Google Quality Guidelines), while black hat SEO finds whatever methods work, and the end justifies the means.
Black hat SEO may give you greater short-term gains, but requires constant vigilance. Google continually improves their ability to detect rank manipulation. Black hat SEO can be risky, and may have long-lasting negative effects on your SEO if you get caught breaking the rules. Anything that is meant to deceive the consumer, or is designed to manipulate the search rankings is dangerous territory.
Building a brand through valuable content > shady link building tactics.
White hat SEO follows best practices as laid out in the Google Search Quality Guidelines. Though it may take a little longer to move your site up the search results, the SEO work you do becomes a long-term asset, instead of a liability.
Topically Relevant Back Links are Good Back Links
Let’s talk about what constitutes a good back link.
I follow one rule which dictates whether a link is high-quality or not.
Would I be building this link if search engines did not exist?
When phrased in this manner, everything becomes crystal clear. Link building should increase inbound traffic and build your brand regardless of the impact it has on SEO.
The end goal for any business is not to be ranked number one in Google. The goal to sell more products and increase revenue in some way, shape, or form. Building links in places where your customers might find you is always a good move.
Get Links From Sites Where Your Customers Already Hang Out
Remember how we talked about building links from topically relevant sites? This is the same line of thinking — being where are your customers already are.
For example, an auto repair shop would benefit from having a link from Lateral-G or other sites that discuss cars. A local garage would benefit from having links from some of their parts distributors. Many auto parts sites have a map or list of authorized dealers. Customers that have loyalty to those brands may then look up their local auto shop. These types of links make sense.
Here’s another example. Manufacturing or fabrication shops go to trade shows, and these sites often have back links to presenters, or brands that buy a booth. These businesses want to reach both distributors and purchasers, so these types of links are completely legitimate.
The idea is to think of every place your customers might already be, and figure out if there’s a link opportunity there. Then begins the work of getting your message, your brand, and (hopefully) your links in those same places.
Summing it All Up
Your company’s digital footprint determines whether search engines see you as an authority. It takes time to build brand awareness, and a library of site content. Undoubtedly, it also takes effort to build a robust back link profile.
Your SEO efforts concerning link building should be aimed towards:
- 1) Getting in front of your ideal customers, being in places they are likely to already be online.
- 2) Build a back link profile that still makes sense in a world without search engines.
- 3) Creating content that will attract back links from people in your industry. Create site content that is best-in-class.
- 4) Focus on quality, not quantity. Seek back link opportunities from sites that are closely related to yours.
By building your SEO foundation in a legitimate fashion, you will build authority, and avoid trouble down the road.