If you have worked with any type of digital marketing before you would have certainly heard about the importance of backlinks and how to create backlinks to improve organic rankings on search engines.
In fact, organic search is responsible for driving 53% of all web traffic today.
Organic search is not only the leading traffic source to acquire well-targeted leads, but it also provides the best conversion rate in comparison to all other alternatives.
- Before jumping into the importance of backlinks for organic search rankings and inbound strategies let’s motivate you by going through some important statistics.
- Important SEO Backlinks Statistics
- SEO delivers 20x more user traffic than PPC on both mobile and desktop.
- Google is responsible for 94% of total organic traffic.
- Organic search equates to 95% of all web traffic.
- 20% of online searches are image searches.
- SEO is the top inbound marketing priority for 61% of businesses/marketers.
- High-quality content and link building are the two most important signals used by Google to rank your website for search according to Andrey Lipattsev, Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google.
- 50% of search queries are long-tailed keywords (four words or longer).
- SEO generates more leads than any of their other marketing initiatives according to 57% of B2B marketers.
- 75% of internet users never scroll past the first page of search engines.
- Bounce rate doubles if your website takes an extra 2 seconds to load.
- The first position on Google search results has a 34.36% clickthrough rate for desktop and 35% for mobile.
- 50% of visitors are more likely to click a result if the brand appears multiple times in search engine results.
- SEO leads have a 14.6% close rate, compared to only 1.7% for outbound leads, such as print advertisements.
- 46% of Google searches are local.
I would also like to introduce the following statistics that I believe are important for a B2B business.
- 71% of commercial buyers begin their research with generic Google searches
- 59% of B2B marketers say SEO has the biggest impact on their lead generation goals.
- 57% of B2B marketers stated that SEO generates more leads than any other marketing initiative.
- 45% of enterprises are investing more than $20,000 on SEO each month.
- 71% of B2B researchers begin their research with generic Google searches.
- 89% of B2B researchers use the internet during the B2B research process.
- 90% of B2B researchers who are online use search specifically to research business purchases.
- On average, B2B researchers do 12 searches prior to engaging on a specific brand’s site.
- 50% of B2B search queries today are made on smartphones, and this percentage will grow to 70% by next year.
In short, if you want to succeed online, SEO is the best marketing strategy that exists for that. And Backlinks are one of the most important pillars to success with SEO.
Google SERP elements: Percent of searches
Installing a security certificate on our website is the minimum requirement to be ranked on search engines today. Out of all searches, questions continue to be the most popular, making content that answers or addresses searchers questions automatically prone to result in better organic traffic.
Other top performing search types:
- HTTPS: 94%
- People Also Ask: 85%
- Knowledge Panel: 41%
- Reviews: 40%
- Local: 39%
- Videos: 22%
- Featured Snippets: 16%
What are backlinks?
Those who are new to SEO may be wondering what a backlink is and why they are so important.
Backlinks have become very important to the scope of search engine optimization and one of the main components to improve your domain authority, domain rating, and trust flow score.
These all are important metrics that affect our overall search rank. Before going any further, let’s clarify some terms:
- Domain authority: Domain Authority (DA) is a search engine ranking score developed by Moz that predicts how likely a website is to rank on search engine result pages (SERPs). A Domain Authority score ranges from one to 100, with higher scores corresponding to a greater ability to rank.
- Domain rating: Domain Rating (DR) is a proprietary Ahrefs’ metric that shows the strength of a target website’s total backlink profile (in terms of its size and quality). DR is measured on a logarithmic scale from 0 to 100, with the latter being the strongest.
- Trust flow: Trust flow is a flow metric provided by Majestic – a popular SEO and link analysis tool. Out of 100, trust flow scores a website’s perceived trustworthiness from the quality of the backlinks.
All the above are all very good ranking metrics to take into consideration when measuring your backlink strategy. Now let’s leave the theory for some practice. What can we do to obtain quality backlinks without getting into trouble with search engines?
Backlinks are links that one website gets from another. This is how Google and other search engines decide the importance of a website. The more people talk about you (through backlinks) the more relevant and authoritarian you are in the eyes of search engines.
But not all backlinks are equal and receiving a backlink from The New York Times is not recorded the same as a backlink from your friend’s local blog. Obviously, a backlink from The New York Times has a lot more value and effect.
There are many things to take into consideration when creating a backlink strategy. We will dive into those considerations later in this guide.
As for now, we have established the fact that backlinks do have a huge impact on the prominence of a website in search engine results. That is why they are considered very useful to improve the SEO ranking and authority score of a website.
The advantages of backlinks in SEO
Before talking about the benefits of backlinks, you should know that there have been several changes made by search engines since the good old days. There was a time when even low-quality links helped rank a site. But since Google implemented its Penguin algorithm, the whole backlink landscape has changed.
It is now more important than never to get quality backlinks from relevant sites, and those backlinks should be contextual.
If, for example, you have a site about Banking and you are creating links from other specialized sites about e-health, these links will not be useful. Your goal should be to get links from relevant and authoritative sites. In this case, backlinks from sites related to banking.
How important are backlinks?
Search engines calculate rankings through their algorithms using multiple factors to display search results. No one knows for sure how much weight search engines give to backlinks when listing results.
However, what we do know for sure is that they are very important and they are also very easy to measure using popular marketing tools such as SemRush, Ahref, or even Siteimprove.
With just a couple of quality backlinks, we will be able to improve our domain ranking score and so our SEO results.
Before rushing to put your website link everywhere on the web, be mindful of the type of backlink strategy you drive forward to avoid being penalized by search engines such as Google.
In fact, Backlinks must be natural, this means that a website must not use artificial ways to create backlinks to its own websites. Buying backlinks is not encouraged. Your backlinks need to be relevant and of value.
If you are trying to rank, for instance, your “cybersecurity” business page, you would need backlinks coming from relevant websites that are treating the same topic or category.
A golden rule to note here is that the quality and relevance of your backlinks are much more important than the quantity.
Benefits of backlinks for your content
Along with other techniques such as creating SEO optimized content, link building, both internal links and external links pointing to your website, are both aspects that you must take into account to classify your content in search results (SERP).
In fact, and as you know by now, Google highly values the quantity and, above all, the quality of pages that point to your site.
In fact, wanting to be at the top of the search rankings is not any particularity of your business, all businesses thrive to dominate the search ranking and become the authority brand for their niche, as you well know, users tend to click on the first results, but rarely go to the second page (and much less to the later ones).
Therefore the competition is hard, especially for those competitive keywords, but the benefits are well worth your work.
Following are 3 great benefits of working on obtaining quality backlinks for your web content:
The backlink advantages for SEO
- Improve the Organic search: Backlinks help you get better rankings in search engines. If any of your content gets organic links from other sites, that content will naturally rank higher with search engines. Your goal should be to link to individual posts/pages alongside the ones that lead to your home page.
- Faster indexing: Backlinks help search engine robots discover links to your site and crawl it effectively. it is important to get backlinks on new websites, pages, or articles, as they help in faster discovery and indexing of your content.
- Referral traffic: One of the main benefits of backlinks is that they help you get referral traffic.
Referral traffic is generally targeted and has a low bounce rate – exactly what we need to reach that first position on SERP.
How to evaluate the quality of Backlinks
The number of backlinks and the quality influence greatly your ranking on search engines, taking into account 3 fundamental factors:
- Technical SEO
- The relevance of the backlink
- The popularity of the domain and page of the backlink
To evaluate the quality of a backlink, you must take into account:
- The niche (if it is similar to yours or related).
- Trust (if it is a secure site).
- The relevance or authority of the domain (which you can measure with ahrefs, Moz, or Majestic).
- The popularity of the page (Number of visitors and even the amount of followers and engagement on social networks).
- The relevance of the content between the source page and the landing page.
- The type of anchor text used to link.
- The number of domains that link to the landing page.
As you may understand so far, the function of backlinks is to provide authority to position pages, since this type of external link is highly valued by Google and other search engines (perhaps because they are the most difficult to manipulate).
Therefore, the more backlinks or inbound links you receive to your content, the more authority your page will have, always considering quality over quantity. In other words:
“It is less valuable to link 10 backlinks to your website from the same domain, but to climb positions on search engines, the best practice is to get a backlink from 10 different domains.”
How to build high-quality backlinks?
How do you know which type of backlink is a quality backlink and how do you create them? Well, before answering that question, Let’s clarify a glossary of common backlink terms that you should know about:
- Link Juice: When a web page is linked to any of your articles or to any of the landing pages of your website, it becomes link juice. This link helps to improve the ranking of the page and also improves the overall authority of the domain.
- No-Follow Link: ”rel=nofollow” – When a website links to another website, but the link has a no-follow tag, that link does not pass a link juice. Untracked links are not helpful with regard to ranking a page as they do not contribute to increasing your domain authority or page rank. In general, a webmaster uses the no-follow tag when connecting to a low ranked domain or to an untrusted site.
- Do-Follow Link: ”rel=dofollow” – By default, all links you add to a blog post are “do-follow”. These are the types of links you would like to get from authority sites.
- Linking Root Domains: refers to the number of backlinks that enter your website from a single domain.
- Low-Quality Links: Low-quality links are those that come from automated sites, spam sites, or even low rated sites. Such links do much more harm than good. This is one of the reasons why you should be careful when buying backlinks.
- Internal links: Links that go from one page to another within the same domain are called internal links. The process itself is known as an internal link or interconnection. This plays a vital role when Google indexes your page.
- Anchor Texts: The text that is used for hyperlinks is called anchor text. Anchor text links work great when you’re trying to rank for particular keywords.
Why do search engines care about backlinks?
First of all, backlinks need quality content to drive results. Delivering good quality content is today more important than ever as search algorithms are so advanced that they are able to take a page bounce rate into consideration when ranking a page.
So, for instance, even if you manage to hit that first page on Google if your content is not good enough and people leave your page without reading your content and continue their search journey to find an answer, these types of action create a higher bounce rate for your page, and high bounce rate pages, unfortunately, tend to rank very poorly nowadays.
But, when your content is good enough and you are satisfied that it will provide value, Backlinks is your way to go to provide authority.
In this case, they will work as an endorsement, as testimonials that tell search engines that this content is of value and should be considered for more visibility.
This way, If a keyword on a page matched a keyword someone had searched for, then your page will probably show higher up on search results (SERP).
That meant that if your business for instance keeps an online diary, or a guide, extensively documenting how they managed to solve a cybersecurity DDoS-attack hitting their business, other businesses experiencing a DDoS-attack and searching for “how to solve a DDoS-attack” may find your page as it may rank on SERP.
But if you work on creating the same quality content and add some relevant do-follow backlinks to it from authority pages related to cybersecurity, well then, your page will be seen as an authórity page for that keyword and most probably will have must better chance to hit the first page on SERP.
Why is it so important to use backlinks?
Before the introduction of backlinks as an important factor for page ranking, Search algorithms used only keywords to rank pages.
This is when website owners quickly realized that they could exploit this weakness by resorting to ‘keyword stuffing’. This practice simply involved building websites with massive keyword lists and making money from the advertising revenue they generated.
This rendered search engines virtually worthless and weakened the usefulness of the Internet as a whole. So how could this problem be solved? Google was born and brought with it the value of website backlinks.
In the 1990s, two Stanford students named Larry Page and Sergey Brin began to think about how they could make a better search engine that wasn’t fooled by keyword stuffing.
So they realized that if they could measure the popularity of each website (and then cross the index against it), they could build a much more useful search engine.
In 1998, they published a scientific paper in which they introduced the concept of “PageRank.” This topic was explored in another paper, “The PageRank Citation Ranking: Bringing Order to the Web”.
Although we constantly complained every time we come across a scam site today, the problem was much worse at the time.
It’s very difficult to think of this happening now. Imagine searching for the word “Cybersecurity” in your search engine, and an article about “Spanish olive oil” is shown up on the first page of results. And yet, that’s how bad it was 20 years ago.
Finally, search engines became much smarter with the introduction of new algorithms. Still very basic at the time but they made a big difference in the world of search engines.
Google started by mapping their algorithm in a way that we humans work. If a lot of people talk about you, Well, that means you are popular, an authority in other words.
The same way of thinking was implemented into the early algorithms, If a lot of websites link to one, then that website is probably an authority page.
Nevertheless, that part of the algorithm is still more present than ever before in our search algorithms. And with Artificial intelligence added into the equation, the algorithms are now much smarter and able to take many factors into consideration when ranking a page.
Long story short, the more backlinks that lead to a website, the better it should be. Powerful websites are unlikely to link to low-quality websites.
Therefore, a link from such authorized websites, especially if it is a do-follow link means that the linked site is very good and deserves more visibility.
So they used these assumptions to develop a concept called PageRank, in which each website was assigned a value (0 – 10) based on the number of websites linking to it.
In short, a website with very few backlinks would have a low score.
How to build backlinks
As you already know, Google analyzes the number of backlinks and the quality of these links to determine the importance of a website. Consequently, Businesses go to great lengths to get more backlinks to their pages. But there are good and bad ways to achieve this.
Building quality backlinks takes a lot of effort and time. This is not a one-and-done operation. This requires consistency. Some examples of proper white hat backlink building include:
- Guest Posting / Blogging: Are there quality websites dedicated to your industry that accept guest articles? Try contacting them with the offer of a free article on a relevant topic in exchange for a line with a link to your website.
- Newspaper Articles: Journalists and writers are always on the lookout for experts to contribute citations to their articles. Some (but not all) will include backlinks to their sources’ websites. Websites like HARO and ProfNet help you connect with journalists who have specific needs, while other tools allow you to send interesting presentations to writers.
- Local citations: Address lists on Google, Yelp, Facebook, Yellow Pages, and elsewhere count as backlinks and also help customers find your business.
- Comments / Blog Profiles / Forums: Commenting on blogs and forums used to be a great way to build backlinks. While this approach is no longer as robust as it once was (due in part to frequent abuse), providing support in industry-specific forums, as well as sites like Quora, can help build backlinks and awareness about your site.
- Press Releases: These are published on many news sites with backlinks to your site.
- Directories: While the value of web directories has dramatically decreased, by submitting your website to local, industry-specific, and niche directories, you can generate worthwhile backlinks.
- Business Network Profiles: LinkedIn profiles, for example, allow you to post your URL as well as other industry networking sites.
- Reciprocal links: these are ‘tit for tat’ links; your friend has a website that links to yours, and your website links to your friend’s site. While reciprocal links are viewed by some as effective, they are in the gray area where they can be used honestly and exclusively to improve Google ranking. Be careful.
- Social Media: You just can’t ignore the value of social media. And even at the basic level of backlinks, there is minimal value, as social media sites display the URL of a profile owner’s website. However, since Facebook and some other networks do not allow Google crawlers to index profile pages, the backlinks from these networks will not directly affect Google SERPs.
- Testimonials: When you’ve given good service, the companies you’ve worked with would often be more than happy to give you good references. Use them as a testimony.
- Internal site links: Links from one page on your site to another count as backlinks. Technically, internal site links are not backlinks, but when used appropriately, internal links can help increase the ranks of your internal web pages for certain keywords.
- Donations: Donating your time or money to local charities, organizations, and schools can be an effective way to get backlinks.
Creating a backlink strategy
Backlinks are important for a number of reasons as we mentioned so far during this guide. The quality and quantity of pages that link to your website are some of the criteria used by search engines to rank your site. This is done by Google to determine your ranking on its search engine results pages (SERP).
The higher a site ranks in SERP, the better it will be for your business as people tend to click on the first results shown on Google, Bing, and others.
Take control over backlinks
One of the easiest ways to get links from an authority site is to help the site owner find broken links. This works best when a blogger or website has a resource that links to a variety of contributors or influencers on specific topics. This can be done following the steps below:
- Find similar post collections, and use a tool like broken link checker or screaming frog to identify the broken links.
- If you discover any malfunctioning links, contact the site owner and let them know.
- Offer to change that broken link with one of your pages or blog posts, The site owner will most probably be thankful for your tips and will most often gladly submit your backlink.
Work with public influencers
Getting an interview with a person of public influence is not easy. Obviously, because they are busy people you may think. But in my experience, when approached correctly, many of these influencers will gladly provide you a quick interview. I mean, they want to grow their popularity as well, and what better way of doing it than through interviews.
It would be ideal if you manage to contact them and establish a relationship before starting an interview. It is possible that the publication with this content – the interview – is shared by the fans of the influencer, in this way, you will gain viral traffic from both direct and organic traffic through these type of backlinks. This is by far, one of the best strategies to really boost your page authority with organic quality as well as building strong and relevant backlinks.
Maybe you have heard of paying platforms where you can buy backlinks at a reasonable price.
In my case, I am a bit reluctant to shortcuts of this type, because I have had to work to reverse penalties from companies that had done black hat techniques and it is honestly not a very rewarding job in the long run.
Although I recognize that they are services to take into account when you work on link building. Especially in the second phase of your backlink strategy, when your site has already achieved a good authority and knowing how to recognize well which sites are worth investing in.
Find and analyze your competitors backlinks
There are a lot of tools to use to discover who your competition is, to understand a bit more your target group, and where to find them. And this is a very important practice, as once you identify the sources of the links of your competitors, you can try to get the same backlinks from the same sites.
Well, apart from carrying out this analysis of your competition, you should know that there are always general sites where you can get high authority quality inbound links, to ensure a flow of links while you advance in the process of generating content and achieving collaboration agreements.
First, you should start by analyzing the backlinks of your competitors and list the backlinks used to boost their Google rank and so their SEO and traffic. This can be done using different strategies that I will be covering below.
If you don’t have a list of your competitors or maybe your competitors are not ranking on the first page of google on a niche related to your business or keyword, you will have to run a simple google search to find your competitors related to your keyword – Google is your friend.
To give an example, let’s take a random keyword like “cybersecurity” and look at the first page of Google:
By doing a simple search on google related to your keyword you will quickly get the top-ranked pages on SERP. Just don’t count the SEM paid results as competitors. Now, make sure to note your competitors in a list as we will be analyzing their keywords next to create a strategy to outrank them.
If your site is a multilingual or multi-country site, Using the free Ubersuggest tool can help you with a better understanding of your competitor.
Start by visiting the Ubersuggest tool: https://neilpatel.com/ubersuggest/
Enter your keyword you want to rank for and select the country and hit search.
Now we have searched for a very competitive keyword in the most competitive country in the world in regards to our niche or keyword.
Cybersecurity as shown above needs a minimum of 110 backlinks with a domain score of 90 to rank on the first page of google. What the tool doesn’t tell you, is the quality of backlinks you need.
In my experience, I can tell you that the quality of backlinks plays a big role in competitive keywords. If your domain score is not as high as the tool recommends, I suggest you create more high authority backlinks and most importantly, make sure you deliver a low bounce rate content.
Note: The bounce rate plays a big role in achieving those very first positions on search engines. Even if your competitor is ranked number one, if your content starts to get a better bounce rate over time, your page will eventually outrank your competitor even with fewer backlinks and poorer domain authority.
Now after doing the search using the Ubersuggest tool you will end up with a list of the top priority keywords, click on your primary keyword, in this case, “cybersecurity”, and check your best-ranked competitors based on your selected country.
Create thereby a list of the top competitors and let’s analyze their backlinks.
Create a master spreadsheet
You are now ready to jump into the final step in the backlink strategy, you should now create your competitor spreadsheet for reference.
The final spreadsheet should look something like this: https://moz.com/blog/5-spreadsheet-tips-for-manual-link-audits
Now, there Semrush is not the only tool to provide the competitor backlink analysis, but it is one of the best tools that I recommend for businesses for this particular task. Jump into Semrush and let start your competitor analysis.
First, Let say you have created a landing page about Cybersecurity. Click on the following link https://www.semrush.com/analytics/overview/ on Semrush and search for your competitor website. You will end up getting all types of information about that website and how well it ranks online.
Click on the organic research or on the organic search traffic keyword number to attain the list of organic searches the competitor is getting per the requested date.
The page will show you the organic keyword trends as well as the list of keywords the competitor is receiving through different sources.
Click on the Pages tab as shown below to get into the report where you can list your competitor landing pages related to the keyword you want to rank for. In this case, we are trying to position our cybersecurity landing page.
As shown in the image above, after searching for the keyword the requested keyword, in this case, “cybersecurity”, you will get the number of backlinks the competitor has linked to that specific page. Go ahead and click on that number to see the full list of the backlinks. In this example, let investigate the 306 backlinks empowering the cybersecurity career page.
Now we have finally a list of all the backlinks and their properties related to the competitor cybersecurity landing page.
From here, you will be able to see the URL of the backlink, the number of backlinks received, and most importantly the authority score of that specific page.
Keep in mind that landing pages are all small projects with their own page authority score. This is very valuable as the higher the authority score of the landing page you’ve received a backlink from the better position your keyword or landing page will rank.
The rule here is to aim for as many high authority landing pages from high authority domains.
We can thereby go through the list and select the best backlinks our competitors got their backlinks from. Extend this list using all other competitor’s backlinks related to cybersecurity and start working on getting do-follow links back to your site.
Where to get overall backlinks
At this stage, you know how to analyze your competition to create a list of the best and relevant backlinks to outrank your competition and hit that first position in Google and other search engines.
Now, there are many other places well known to provide quality high authority backlinks. Some are do-follow and some are not, but again, these are all quality domains that count both as pings and as referral quality traffic. So don’t misjudge the no-follow backlinks here, as if they’re coming from the right source, they may support your SEO ranking score considerably.
Profile backlinks are excellent examples of quality no-follow backlinks. Facebook, Twitter, Medium, or LinkedIn are all very good backlinks to boost your page with. especially if these backlinks are supported by a good engagement rate.
Social media backlinks through posts or engagement are another type of no-follow backlinks you would really want to include in your backlink strategy. A well shared social media post delivers quality pings back to your site. All that is directly affecting your score in the long run.
Blog and forums are my favorite places to get quality backlinks. This improves not only my SEO but also through referral traffic, it delivers targeted traffic to your page as well as to your social media profile or mailing list.
Let’s take an example, Quora is an excellent place to help answer questions at the same time gaining authority links back to your site. I personally use this a lot and really recommend it as it also improves your brand internationally.
Above is an example of a question in Quora: What are the best cybersecurity companies? And why?
This page with this question is well ranked on Google and everybody who searches this question will most probably end up on this page.
Now if you deliver a well-elaborated answer to why you company is best to provide cybersecurity services, and your answer gets liked, you will suddenly be on the big radar for both google and our target group. What an excellent way to gain leads as well as authority backlinks, don’t you think?
Working with backlinks or inbound backlinks will only bring benefits to your business. By introducing the above-mentioned methods into your digital marketing strategy you will be able to acquire better domain authority, visibility and search engine rank. This way, your business pages, and brand will grow gradually and organically on search engines, and thus, boost your business as an authority brand on your niche or topic.