Backlink building has become more of an art form than an exact science, especially since Google’s Penguin updates have all but eradicated the old ways of building links. Today, quality matters far more than quantity, and if you want a chance at SEO success, you’ll need to make sure your backlink profile is as perfect as it can be.
These 11 ingredients of the ideal backlink profile will help you increase your domain authority and ranks without worrying about the risk of a penalty:
Authority is the first ingredient you’ll need. The more authoritative the source you’re building a link on is, the more authority you’ll gain from the link. The highest authority sources you’ll find are .edu sources, like colleges and universities, and .gov sources, which are government sites, but other high-authority sites, like major publishers and well-respected sources, are also valuable. You don’t need every link to come from a high-authority source, but the more you have in your profile the better.
The relevance of your sources also plays a factor in how your links are interpreted by Google. Google knows what your company is and what your industry is, so it’s going to evaluate how your backlink sources fit into that description. For instance, if you work in manufacturing and you have links pointing back to your domain from manufacturing forums, that’s considered a relevant source. If you link from a site about veterinary medicine, that probably won’t be seen as a good fit.
The context of your links is also vital. Google looks at links to determine not only how relevant they are to the source, but also how relevant they are to the conversation. For example, if you include a link as part of a comment on a particular blog post, the text in your comment better have something to do with that blog. You can do this by ensuring all of your links are valuable to visitors when they’re built.
4. Social Value.
Not every link you post on social media is going to pass authority to your site, but Google does look to see how often people are mentioning or linking to you on social channels. Your backlink profile definitely needs a social element, and that means syndicating links to your content on social channels and giving users the opportunity to share your content on their social channels as well.
5. Natural Support.
Google loves to see naturally built links, and that means you’ll have to create situations where people naturally want to link to you. The best way to do that is by creating pieces of exceptionally high-quality content—usually original research, infographics, or impactful videos—and making them available for the public. If your piece goes viral, you’ll get hundreds or even thousands of inbound links, and all of them will be 100 percent natural.
It isn’t enough to simply link to your homepage every time you build a backlink on an external source. The direction of your links has a significant impact on your overall domain authority. For example, if you’re responding to a forum question about installing a water heater, it’s better to link to a blog on your site that talks about water heater installation than it is to simply link to your home page. You have detailed internal pages, so use them.
Consistency is also important for a good backlink profile. Google checks to see when your links are built. If it looks like you have one big influx of backlinks, followed by a period of total inactivity, it can reflect poorly on your website. Build your links steadily, and stay consistent in your patterns.
It may seem strange, but links aren’t the only thing you’ll have to build for your backlink profile. You’ll also have to work in brand mentions, which are non-linked instances of your brand name on external sources. This is often easier to work in, and it passes authority without setting off any red flags with Google.
Like with content, Google favors sites who have updated their backlinks recently. Your backlink profile needs to have ample juice from links built in the past few weeks and months; even if you have a powerful backlink profile from a few years ago, those links may no longer register with as much authority.
Anchor text used to mean everything for your backlinks. Using text that was optimized for your target keywords would pass keyword-specific authority to your site, and increase your rank for those keywords. Since the Penguin update, anchor text is no longer as important, and over-optimizing your text with keywords can actually harm your overall authority. Instead, make sure your links are anchored in natural words—words that aren’t forced, but have a meaningful value to the conversation.
I mention this last, but it’s probably the most important ingredient of your entire backlink profile. The diversity of your strategy is fundamental, and it applies to almost every area of link building. You need a diverse range of sources, a diverse range of link types, and a diverse range of text to back them up. The more diversified your strategy is, the more natural it seems, and the less likely you’ll be to get a penalty.
Building a great backlink profile takes time, so don’t get discouraged if you have trouble making immediate progress; if it were easy to build authority through backlinks, everyone would be able to do it. Stay focused on these 11 priorities, and eventually you’ll build an indomitable backlink profile that will carry your domain forward for years to come.
Timothy Carter is the CRO for AudienceBloom. Since 1997 he's been helping businesses maximize their sales revenue from websites via content marketing, SEO and Internet Marketing strategies. Over the years he's written for publications like Marketing Land, Search Engine Journal, MarketingProfs and other highly respected online publications.