In the world of modern SEO, many online businesses know that their website should follow SEO best practices in order to win and maintain keyword rankings that can drive traffic and revenue for their online business. Obviously this means steering clear of things like buying links, link directories, and spammy blog content, but often many companies think about each individual link instead of how each link makes up a larger backlink profile. This can prove problematic for businesses that have started to amass tons of links, as your business website’s backlink profile is something that needs to be carefully monitored.
More than any other single element, a website’s link profile is the most important part of an SEO effort. Both ranking well for targeted keywords and racking up penalties from Google due to bad link practices are potential options based on the quality of your website’s backlink profile. The many choices you make across a long period of time when it comes to building your links will either help your website rank better overall for a slew of keywords or make your website consistently find itself on the wrong end of Google algorithm updates like Penguin, Hummingbird, and Pigeon, as well as potentially getting penalized by Google’s Manual Penalty team.
Obviously every business owner wants the best for their site, so how exactly can you build the best overall backlink profile possible for your website? Let’s break down what you need to have.
The first (and most obvious) thing that a good backlink profile needs is authoritative links. This means having websites that boast high domain authority linking to your website. Having these links in your link profile show that you are a website that is trusted by well-respected sites and helps you to build your own authority in the process. It is sensible then, that these links provide the most SEO value for your website.
By contrast, you want to make sure that your website is not chock-full of low authority links, as having tons of spammy links can lead to lower keyword rankings and manual penalties. While not all of these links can be avoided, not actively building them through bad SEO is paramount to building a strong backlink profile.
As a rule, you want to make sure that your website has a very low percentage of overall links to your website that could be considered spammy – if this number starts to comprise a large percentage of your backlink profile, you need to take immediate steps to either disavow them or step up your efforts to win more authoritative links to counteract the garbage links that are negatively impacting your website.
One of the biggest problems of looking at linkbuilding on a link-by-link basis is that you can’t see overall patterns in your links. The most important trend to spot is the anchor text you use to link back to your website. A number of links with keyword-rich anchor text pointing to a page is widely regarded as the most powerful way to get a page ranking for a targeted keyword. However, if this is all you go after when trying to get links you’re ignoring the bigger picture and setting yourself up for failure.
Just like the sources where the links are coming from, anchor text should have some diversity. Your link profile should certainly consist of keyword-rich anchor text, but that there should also be different types of anchor text throughout. This means having a link profile that features branded anchor text, diluted anchor text that has a keyword but also a variety of other words as well, and semantic keyword text that has words that are closely related to a keyword. There should be no single anchor text that accounts for huge percentages (over 20%) of your backlink profile’s overall links.
Follow vs. Nofollow
Another easy mistake when engaging in link building on a link-by-link basis is to concentrate solely on links that provide direct SEO equity (also known as “follow” links) to your website. However, if you take a second to step back and look at the bigger picture of your overall backlink profile, it becomes a lot easier to notice that links that reduce SEO equity (also known as “nofollow”) need to be included as well. A backlink profile needs to look “natural”. If it is comprised entirely of equity-passing links to your website, it comes off as manipulated and can lead to lower ranks in search engine results. Between paid PR placements and advertisements that link to your website (which should be nofollowed), there should be at least a few nofollowed links to your website.
As a result, sometimes when you’re reaching out for guest blogging opportunities, PR placements, or other link building opportunities, getting nofollowed links is not necessarily a bad thing in the overall scheme of your backlink profile. Particularly if you’re getting a link from website that has a domain authority that is toeing the line into spammy (personally, I’d say domain authorities in the high 30s), it is often safer to just nofollow the link back to your website if you can. Your backlink profile will become stronger overall, and you’ll also keep yourself from running into any issues if the website does indeed turn out to be considered spammy by Google’s algorithms.
Keep Links Fresh
When trying to build the ideal backlink profile it is important to understand that you need to constantly be winning new links to your website. This is because much like a car, links begin to depreciate in value over time. This phenomenon has been dubbed the “freshness factor.” If your website’s link profile consists entirely of links won years ago, you’ll start to find your keyword rankings slipping if you don’t keep getting new ones.
This is sensible if you think about it – Google wants to make sure that is has the most authoritative websites ranking for individual keywords. If your website suddenly stops getting links from respected sources, something has probably changed – whether that is that you are no longer actively trying to get good mentions or the quality of your business is slipping. Regardless of the reasons, truly authoritative websites should be continuously receiving links. This is why it is so important to keep engaging in SEO even once you’ve initially achieved the rankings you’re going after.
There was a time when building a lot of random links from high domain authorities would be good enough to get your website ranking for your targeted keywords. This is no longer the case, as a good backlink profile now needs to contain links from sources that are relevant to your domain or page.
This means that an ideal link for a business trying to rank for website design is very different from an ideal link for a company that is trying to rank for lawn furniture. In some unique cases, this means that links with slightly lower domain authorities are going to be more powerful for a business if they are more relevant to what you are trying to rank for.
When looking for link relevancy from sources, consider what most of a website’s content is talking about, and what keywords they are already ranking for. More often than not, doing a simple search to see what keywords a website ranks for using a tool like SEMRush should be enough to inform you as to whether or not the site in question is contextually relevant to your own website.
Context is Key
Going along with the relevancy of the domain linking to you is the context of the link in question. In order to help build the perfect backlink profile, each link your website gets needs to be relevant within the greater context of where it appears on a site as well. This means that optimized anchor text and a relevant domain isn’t necessarily enough – sometimes the link needs to be surrounded by text in an article that is talking about subjects that are relevant to the keyword you are looking to rank for.
While this might sound problematic, it actually solves a lot of issues surrounding anchor text and, to a certain extent, relevancy. This is because by taking context into account, Google can better understand when a link from an otherwise unrelated domain might happen to be discussing something that is relevant to you and reward you accordingly. Similarly, it means that worrying about keyword-optimized anchor text is slightly less important (although it still holds a ton of weight), than a branded or natural link that is surrounded by other text that is contextually related to your keyword will provide more value than it has historically.
Create Link Opportunities Through Content
While doing outreach to create content that links back to your website is a huge part of building a great link profile, one of the best strategies to achieve perfection is to create content on your website that people actively want to link to without you having to do any outreach at all. This might lead to some links that are less than ideal, but often it will provide a very strong mix of different links from different domains with different anchor texts. This will help take care of a lot of the headache that comes with trying to build a natural, perfectly proportioned backlink profile manually.
Trying to build the perfect backlink profile is actually almost impossible for this reason. The “perfect” backlink profile includes natural links, and unfortunately you can’t really control what links are included. You can get very close, however, that takes work. If you take the above tips under consideration as you build your website’s backlink profile you’re sure to get close to perfect – hopefully at least closer than your competition, which means you’ll rank better for keywords that help your business’ bottom line.