Let's talk... SEO
Not all links are good: how to identify quality backlink opportunities
Backlinks are an integral part of your SEO efforts. By building backlinks with other websites that point to your content hosted on your own website, your domain authority (AKA the score that determines how reliable and relevant your website is in a certain topic) will rise, enabling your content to rank higher in Google and stand a better chance of obtaining search traffic. With this, you can enjoy improved performance and favourable results.
In your bid to obtain more backlinks, it might be tempting to resort to ill-advised tactics such as seeking links only on low-quality websites, just because they’re easier to obtain, or even utilising unethical measures, such as paid or spam links. Such tactics will do little to raise your domain authority score and may even see you penalised by Google.
It’s imperative that you identify backlink opportunities that are high in quality so that you can reap the SEO rewards you want for your website. By doing so, you will effectively raise your domain authority and gain a reputation as a trusted source of information, while driving traffic.
This blog explains how to analyse the quality of any links you seek for your website and the methods that will help you to secure the right ones for your brand.
What is the role of a backlink?
There are thousands of websites available in today’s world, some of which are more reputable than others. It’s hard to determine which ones are trustworthy, but Google’s focus is serving the best websites to its users through their results pages. This is where domain authority comes in – a ranking factor that dictates how reliable a website is.
The higher your domain authority (DA), the more likely Google is to rank you highly for the relevant keywords. With the first few results receiving the biggest chunk of traffic in Google, this is essential to get your brand seen and attract leads.
Many factors make up the DA score, but one of the most known is the backlinks to your website. The more backlinks you have, the higher your DA will be, as it is assumed that, if people are linking to you, the more trusted and popular you will be.
Similarly, creating high-quality backlinks from trusted sites (with their own reasonable DA) signals that you are equally reliable, so this will boost your score further. In this sense, one link from a quality, renowned website like BBC will be much more valuable than one from a relatively unknown website.
How to identify high-quality backlink opportunities
Understand the power of a high-quality backlink. Ensure that you are only identifying backlink opportunities that will boost your domain authority score. This means analysing the quality of links and making wise choices for your website.
Use a tool to analyse domain authority
One of the first steps to take before committing to a backlink opportunity is to review the site’s domain authority. Tools like SEMrush and Moz allow you to do this very easily by simply inputting the site URL that you are exploring. Typically, you will be given a score out of 100.
In the above example, we can see that the website Amazon.com has an authority of score 95, which is very high. However, this doesn’t mean that scores below this aren’t worth your time. This is how DA scores tend to be banded:
- 60+ = excellent
- 50-60 = good
- 40-50 = average
- Under 40 = below average
Again, that doesn’t mean that any backlinks on websites of a DA score under 40 shouldn’t be pursued, but it does mean they will have less impact than one with a higher score. Naturally, higher DA backlinks tend to be harder to get, so you should aim for these where possible while building easier, lower DA links in the background.
Check the relevancy
While the authority of any sites that link to your content matters, it’s possibly more important that the link itself is relevant. For example, if your blog is about fishing, you would expect any links pointing to it to come from web pages exploring a similar topic, such as fishing forums, magazines and other blogs.
Google uses backlinks to help them to determine the meaning of a web page. By identifying the most relevant opportunities, you can enable the search engine understand your content better and rank you for the applicable search terms, allowing interested leads to find you online. It also means that anyone who clicks through to your website will be more likely to be actively invested in your content, adding value to their customer journey and increasing the chances of conversion.
Having links to your site that are entirely unrelated and irrelevant can be detrimental to your site performance. Other poor SEO practices such as paying for links or pursuing low-quality options can be equally harmful. All of these tactics can make it unclear to both the search engines and your potential customers, as to what your website is about and will negatively impact your SEO ranking and domain authority score. For these reasons, it’s essential that you only pursue backlinks that relate to your web page content.
Respond to media requests
If you’re wondering how to access quality backlink opportunities, a great way to do so is by responding to media requests. These are calls from journalists asking businesses to provide commentary or quotes on news stories. It may also apply to other content, such as product or venue lists.
If you have good relationships with journalists locally or within your industry, they might contact you as a first port-of-call with such requests. However, if not, there are tools out there that collate media requests and give you sight of them. One of the most commonly used is Cision’s Help A Reporter Out (HARO) tool, which acts as a platform for journalists and brands to collaborate.
Many publications will use HARO to identify sources for their stories, so it’s possible to connect with sites with very high domain authority, particularly if you provide a unique perspective on the topic. Getting a backlink featured in the story, in exchange for your contribution, can be an excellent boost to your domain authority and add valuable backlinks to your catalogue.
The bonus is that it will increase your brand exposure too, making more people aware of you in the market.
Seek outdated and broken links
Another way to secure backlinks for your website is to visit other websites within your industry sector and scout for broken links. A broken link usually takes you to an error message and will often happen if the content being linked to has been deleted on the host site or has had a URL change that has not been updated on the linking site.
Broken links generally tend to occur on older content. Start by going through such content and clicking any links featured to see if any aren’t working. Or, if you have the appropriate tools (like ahrefs), you can run a link audit on the website to search for broken links. It is then a case of contacting the website owner to alert them to the issue and suggest relevant content you might have as a replacement.
While checking for broken links, it’s worth searching for links to any content that is similar to yours, and whereby aligning to it with a backlink, you can provide additional value. For example, if you secure a link to a webpage entitled ’10 easy-to-make vegan recipes’, yet your website features a blog offering ’15 easy-to-make vegan recipes’, it’s likely that the user will probably link to your content, or at least you stand a good chance. If you find these instances, it is again a case of contacting the site owner and making a compelling pitch for your content over what is already there, with specific focus on how it will assist the reader.
It’s also crucial when approaching site owners to replace links on their site or proposing adding new ones that your content is genuinely relevant to theirs so that you can support their work and build sensible backlinks with a shared interest.
Avoid black hat SEO practices
Although securing links with websites with a high DA score will drive the best results for your SEO efforts, any backlink will have some impact on your website, even if it’s minimal. The only links that will have a truly detrimental effect are those known as ‘black hat’ practices.
‘Black hat’ SEO refers to immoral measures that seek to provide a shortcut to your results. This can include invisible text, keyword stuffing or even hacking competitors. In the case of backlinks, black hat practices could consist of paid deals, creating fake websites just to forge links or working with websites that have used unethical techniques to force a higher DA than they deserve.
Black hat methods are so disregarded because they undermine the proper SEO etiquette, giving some sites an unfair advantage. They also tend to ignore the user experience, meaning people aren’t necessarily getting the best results for their needs. If Google catches you practicing black hat techniques, they’re likely to penalise you, which could mean reducing your DA score or even banning you from their search listings.
If you want to access long-term benefits for your brand, including a safely crafted domain authority, improved SEO and a great user experience, it’s therefore critical that you only utilise good (otherwise known as ‘white hat’) backlink practices. This will keep you away from the risk of being penalised, which is hard to come back from and could see you lose out on a lot of traffic.
Building backlinks for your website creates the foundations for great SEO, allowing your content to rank higher through an improved domain authority score and driving search traffic to your content. With this, you enjoy increased visibility and the possibility of converting more visitors into customers.
However, in your mission to secure backlinks, you need to focus on quality, always. This means seeking opportunities that are relevant to your content, with websites you know are reputable. Most crucially, it means never falling into the trap of black hat practices.
By doing so, you can ensure you only receive the positive benefits of backlink building while ensuring your efforts successfully drive brand results.