The Anatomy of a Natural and Google-safe Backlink
Google’s Panda and Penguin updates have made the process of backlinking more complicated and more demanding, but for good reason: it’s almost impossible to spam links these days without facing some sort of consequence for it.
Still, the hardworking business owners trying to build more links for their site’s authority are finding it harder to define exactly what makes a link “natural” and safe from potential penalties. Fortunately, we can analyze the qualities that make a link seem valuable in Google’s eyes, and provide direction on how to execute a linkbuilding strategy that is safe for the long term.
Location of the Link
There are good places and bad places to post links. Watch out for article directories, which are low-quality sites designed to aggregate links from all over the web. Since their sole purpose is to collect and exchange links, Google views these types of sites as ugly and irrelevant, and any links you post there will be counterproductive for your campaign. However, there are some industry-specific directories you can use to build links. Just make sure the directory appears to be a high quality site within your specific niche, and ensure your link is relevant to the thread, conversation, or topic where you post it.
The best places to build backlinks are these industry-specific sites, industry forums, and other resource sites that allow guest bloggers. The closer a website is to your industry, the more likely it is that your links will be seen as relevant and natural.
One easy way to find quality places to build your backlinks is to take advantage of the competitors who have already done the work. Moz offers an excellent, free tool to search for existing backlinks. Search for your main competitors’ URLs and find out where they’ve been posting. As long as they’re in the same industry as you are, it’s highly likely that those same sites will allow you to post your links as well.
Type of Link
When you post a link, it’s important to make sure it is relevant to the conversation. For instance, if you’re posting in a forum thread about solar panel installations and that’s only one of your service offerings, it’s better to link to your “Solar Panel” page than it is your homepage. Linking to various pages deep within your site is a solid strategy to diversify your link portfolio and improve your chances of being seen as “natural.”
One option for backlink builders is using a “no-Follow” link to drive traffic without interfering with Google’s algorithms. The HTML tag “Rel=nofollow” tells web crawlers not to follow the link that follows it, turning it into a “no-follow” link. The advantage here is that users will still be able to see and click your links. No-follow links are useful because you can essentially use as many of them as you want without fearing consequences from Google. Essentially, you’ve made your links invisible to them, while still generating traffic to your website.
Relevance of the Link
The relevance of your link is extremely important, not just for Google, but for the owners of the site you’re using to post. Any links that are deemed irrelevant to the conversation will be flagged as spam, and could get you banned from the site or penalized by Google. For example, if you own a restaurant and you post links to your site on a forum about movie production, it will be an obvious cue that the link’s sole purpose is to improve your page rank.
To ensure your link is relevant, first make sure you are posting or commenting on a site that is relevant to your industry. There are hundreds of niche industry-specific sites available for this purpose. Second, make sure your post is relevant to the conversation or to the themes present on the site. The best way to do this is to read the content that has led up to your post and respond to it in a natural way. Don’t link back to your homepage every time; instead link to an internal page of your site that best fits with the conversation. The greatest rule of thumb here is to post links when they’re actually going to be helpful for your audience.
Content Surrounding the Link
Your link should be a part of a well-written piece of content or comment, and should never appear by itself. Google can detect natural language use, so if you’re writing fluff for the sole intention of throwing words around your link, Google will notice and could penalize you as a result. Your content, whether it’s a guest post or a comment, should be interesting and engaging to the people reading it, and should explain why you’re providing the link as part of it. This will make the link appear natural to users as well as Google.
You also want to make sure your links and the content surrounding your links are not repeated. Some business owners try to cut corners by copying and pasting the same link and comment multiple times on different sites, or by using their guest post across multiple blogs. This is a bad idea because Google can detect the use of repeated language, and could penalize you for spamming the same message. Vary the language you use, even if only slightly, every time you post a link.
Optimizing a keyword phrase by embedding a hyperlink in it used to be a valid means of improving your rank for that specific keyword. However, now that Google is straying away from keyword-dependent ranking algorithms, it’s better to include links plainly or as part of a more natural phrase.
Examples of Opportunities for Backlinking
Now that you know the qualities that are responsible for determining whether or not a backlink is seen as “natural” by Google’s algorithms, let’s take a look at some examples of high-quality, Google-safe backlinks:
- Links within guest blogs. Many companies and organizations invite guest bloggers to post on their site—it’s a mutually beneficial strategy since it provides content and link power to both participants. Feel free to post a link or two back to your site within the body of your post, but make sure it’s well-written and relevant for the site’s audience.
- Links within forum or blog comments. These are best used as answers to questions, or as elaborations to an existing conversation. The more value you can add to the thread, the better, and keep your links as specific as possible.
- Links within press releases. Be sure to keep the focus of the article on real, relevant, newsworthy content. The link should only be a secondary priority. If your press release gets picked up, you’ll benefit from the link power of some very authoritative sites.
Another great way to build links pointing back to your site naturally is to create something that naturally encourages links. For example, you could create a unique infographic for your industry, or an entertaining video with the chance to go viral, and share that visual content on your social media channels. If you put effort into it and time it right, your followers, customers, and similar businesses will all value your creation and link to it on their own. Sometimes, the best way to build natural links is to let it happen naturally.
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