What link types are you actively trying to build your website right now? Do you even differentiate between the different types of links that you build?
That's what we're going to be discussing today with the lady who regularly contributes to leading digital marketing blogs, including Moz, SEJ, and Salesforce. She runs a digital marketing conference and is a founder of the relationship-based link-building agency, Digital Olympus. A warm welcome to the In Search SEO podcast, Alexandra Tachalova.
Three Types of Backlinks
The backlink types are:
Links that bring SEO benefits
Links that boost your authority
Links that build brand awareness
Alexandra: Hello, everyone. Thank you very much for having me on this podcast, I'm super excited about today's topic.
D: Thanks so much for coming on. So Alexandra, are links as important as they used to be?
A: I think that's something that keeps popping up here and there. A lot of conversations are happening right now about the importance of links. And I know that John Mueller keeps telling people who reach out to him on Twitter or LinkedIn and asking about the importance of links he tries to minimize answering this question by saying no. This in fact is true because a lot of people try to substitute links for other problems. For instance, if you don't have well-optimized content on your website, it's not in-depth. So in some way, you can substitute this poorly optimized content with links. And we've seen that for some clients it works. But it's not the best way to deliver things. It's better to have the right type of content in place. And then you only need a few links back to those pages instead of building hundreds of links.
And the same can be said about your product or service. If your product or service is not performing well, in terms of your clients not being happy, you can try to substitute this with links. But it makes more sense to reconsider what you do and make your clients happier, rather than forcefully trying to build thousands of links back to your website, and substituting that with your product or service not performing well.
D: You mentioned that you need to build just a few links, does that mean that you can build a few links, and then forget about link building as long as you have a few links that are decent quality, then that's enough for the long term?
A: Well, the main problem with any search engine optimization activity is that they need to be delivered consistently. So if you stop doing something then some other website that is doing it consistently will easily outrank you. I would say that nowadays when it comes to important ranking factors that everyone should take into consideration, a secret hidden ranking factor is the number of newly published posts that you have. Because Google prefers this, and that is quite logical because when we're trying to find something in Google, we want to see the new pages, and the freshest content because we want to find the right answers to our questions. That's how Google also looks. From the same perspective, sites that can publish a good number of blog posts regularly on a monthly basis have more priority in terms of ranking higher and Google prefers those websites. For instance, if you want to rank well you need content and links. But content sometimes is more important. But I refer to content that’s well delivered, well optimized, in-depth, answering user questions, and so on. Something that hits all those benchmarks.
D: So you need to be building links. But link building only really works if you have great content, and you continue to publish great content on an ongoing basis. So today, you're sharing three key link types that you need to be building right now. Starting off with type one, links that bring SEO benefits.
1. Links That Bring SEO Benefits
A: Yeah, among those links there are a few types. So first of all, there are links on site that represent real brands. While you can get a link from literally any website, what I noticed is that the majority of SEOs, while they're looking at some metrics, they're going to look at a combination of organic traffic and domain authority. And if both metrics look good, then they will most probably want to get a link on this website. But the next question is what's going to happen with this link. If this link will keep sending you those SEO benefits and signals that Google actually takes into consideration on a long-term basis, and not only today to get some short-term benefits, then it's extremely important to get links from websites that represent real brands. I would point out service cloud solutions because they always invest in their online presence because their main sources of traffic are most probably organic traffic. And that's how they grow their business. So getting a link from services cloud solutions will be the best investment because this link will be sending some SEO benefits right now. And with the highest probability, it will grow in its value over time, which is very important. So you're not going to close your link gap today. But it's going to work for closing your link gap for tomorrow, and so on.
D: You mentioned domain authority. Now, many years ago, I used to sell links, a confession. And in order to do that, we used to have a toolbar at the top of the browser that contained the Google PageRank, a little green bar that went from zero to ten. Now, internally within Google, does the page rank of individual pages still matter that much? Or is it still just really about the broad overall domain authority, nowadays?
A: The value of any domain is spread across the number of pages that this particular site has. This means that the more pages the domain have, like Wikipedia, let's imagine, the less authority each page has. That’s how things work from a logical standpoint. But I would add the following. It might sound that if you want to get a decent link then the only page that works for you is the main page. This brings us to the next question of building natural links, spammy links. Once we had a situation with a client where due to the nature of their business, they had a lot of links from main pages because a lot of brands were putting their form on their main page, which actually didn't work very well for them. Because all those websites are most probably still linking back to them. They are from different niches so they're not really relevant to them. And even though some of those websites are very authoritative Google most probably was confused with those links, and not really giving any priority to this website in SERPs.
Circling back to page authority and so on, for sure it's better to get the link from a page that has already gained some presence in Google search engine results, as well as gotten some links from other websites. But it's easier said than done to deliver these types of links because other websites that have those pages also understand the value of such pages and they are not in the position of giving you a link from such a page. But in the majority of cases, the best pages on websites are the highest converting pages. So all those links and organic traffic were built on purpose. So for me, it's very important that the page be interconnected with the rest of the website. It shouldn’t be an orphan page, that is very important. If you're getting a link on existing content, then this page should be indexed. And ideally, to help Google identify your links faster, I would also recommend trying to find those pages that are at least ranked by some keywords, and you will see the results faster from those links.
D: Those are some great rules to use to decide whether or not it's worthwhile to try and get a link on a page. The second type of links that you recommend to be building are links that boost your authority.
2. Links that Boost Your Authority
A: That's where it comes to guest blogging. A lot of people use guest blogging in order to build links, which is wrong, and I'll explain why. I think guest blogging is a tool that can help you build your brand and your authority. Basically, if you do guest blogging on a scale, then you're going to lose this spot quite easily. You can't really produce 20 guest posts per month or even more, that will be all talking about something extremely unique, extremely engaging, and so on. That is the reason why I see guest blogging as the wrong link-building strategy. It works extremely well when you want to tell Google that we really know what we are talking about, we know this topic, we are real experts, and so on. Guest blogging is a great strategy and sometimes it's a missing component of your link-building strategy. I know a lot of brands know how to build links from authoritative websites but they don't invest much into guest blogging at least in the right way. When you gradually build your brand, you start writing for some small blogs. And then you're ending up writing to Moz or HubSpot if you're from the digital marketing niche. And each and every guest post should be showcasing your expertise. So if you take it in that way it's going to pay off.
D: And you also talk about links that aren't even directly accessible by search engines. Things like links in email marketing newsletters that you recommend.
A: Yes, I consider them in some ways links because they might help you grow and they might bring some traffic on specific pages that you want to rank better in Google and this type of additional traffic might help you. So if you want, for instance, to run for a set of particular pages, and you've already done all possible on-page optimizations, you're also doing link building, but you want to get results faster. Let's imagine you want to rank for keywords related to male markets, an insanely competitive space. What can be done here? You can try to find other influencers in your niche and other brands and exchange with them or buy them. For instance, I know Aleyda Solis runs her own email newsletter where you can buy sponsor rates and be featured there. And you can get some traffic from this newsletter, which can be 100% relevant to you because she's mostly focusing on SEO topics. But if you have, for instance, Rank Ranger, then you're going to get that which will be beneficial for you. You just need to help Google see that you're getting some traction from this page. You have some users that are interacting with this page and they're happy with that type of content. In that way, that might be something really small, but it’s that missing part.
D: Are you saying that if you can demonstrate to Google that a page is getting traffic, even though Google doesn't know where the traffic is coming from, Google may make the decision to increase its ranking for keyword phrases on the page to test whether or not it's a relevant page for users?
A: Yes, but Google understands that this traffic comes from a newsletter because it gives it an attribute. And you can even put UTM marks that way it will attribute it to the right channel 100%. You just need to show that users are interested in that type of content. The same goes for social media. If you can just send some traffic from social media platforms to a page that you want them to rank for, then it is going to work in a similar way.
D: And the third type of link that you recommend are links that help grow your brand awareness.
3. Links that Help Build Brand Awareness
A: Yes, I would say that it can be literally any link that is coming. For instance, there were the Global Search Awards which lists the companies that are going to be shortlisted. They are going to get a do-follow link for some time from the page where they're going to be shortlisted. This is not actually a permanent link. It's going to happen for some time. But since Google understands with the help of machine learning what an award is and that this is quite an authoritative website that has a decent history of running awards. In that way, your brand will definitely benefit from this link.
The same about conferences or being listed as a podcast speaker on some podcast platforms, because normally those links are nofollow. Those types of links are extremely important. You can't hire anyone to deliver that type of link. You can only do them internally. But I think those links, even though they might not be permanent, nofollow, and so forth, and so on, are very important. Just because you're building up your backlink profile, you need to have diversity there.
D: I can feel part two of this conversation coming on because there's a lot more conversation that you can have about link building. We can dive into different areas as well. But for now, let's finish off with the Pareto Pickle. Pareto says that you can get 80% of your results from 20% of your efforts. What's one SEO activity that you would recommend that provides incredible results for modest levels of effort?
The Pareto Pickle - Ensure Your Well Performing Pages Are Up to Date
A: Well, I would say what we recommend to our clients is that if they want to get results faster from their SEO activities, then what they need to do is open their Google Search Console and find those pages that have been performing well for some time and they have a positive trend. It’s very important to have a positive trend so they're still growing in terms of impressions and most probably clicks. Then, if they haven't updated those pages for a while, they need to update them. And if they are in a position of adding a few links, like one or two, then you don't really need to build tons of links back to those pages. You're going to see a good boost in traffic. That's how you can really show those low-hanging fruits because Google loves those pages. But at some point, if they're a little bit outdated, Google doesn't give them enough priority. But actually, that's a very good routine even on a quarterly basis.
D: Great practical tip there. Well, I've been your host, David Bain. Alexandra, thanks so much for being on the In Search SEO podcast.
A: Thank you so much for having me. Have a lovely day.