Search engine optimization has gone through significant developments in recent years. In the past, search engines used only the text on a page to rank a website. To help their pages rise in search results, publishers added keywords to the text.
The more keywords added, the higher the page ranking. Sometimes, this practice results in poor UX; people will click on a link expecting an informative blog, only to get a keyword-stuffed one with thin content. As such, software engineers started looking for ways to make search results more relevant for users.
Relevant Websites Gain Links
One of the things that came up from their research is that web pages with the best information tended to garner links. The more links to a website, the more important it was for Google; search engines consider links as votes.
Today, search engines use a combination of page analysis, the number of links, machine learning, and artificial intelligence to rank websites. Here are things to keep in mind about link building and SEO today.
Link Building Defined
Link building involves gaining one-way hyperlinks to your website. Website owners build links to improve their site’s visibility to search engines. Typically, SEOs use content marketing, PR, and email outreach for link building.
Search engines evaluate a website’s backlink profile using several criteria. Some of these are page authority, domain authority, the anchor text a link uses, and the link’s position on a page.
Search engines prioritize pages with links from authoritative websites. The referring URL’s page authority is one of the most critical factors—arguably, it is the most important factor in building links. Links from more authoritative pages pass on their credibility to your site. For example, if your website repairs HVAC systems and a local news network links to one of your articles, Google sees you as an authoritative source for that specific topic.
A link from major news outlets, bloggers with large followings, or big brands and organizations will have a more significant impact than a link from smaller websites or content creators online.
Besides page authority, link position is also essential. If your links are in sidebars and footers, they won’t contribute as much as they could if they were on the page itself. You want links to be in the webpage body to make them count. Practically speaking, people are more likely to click on a link that is right in the middle of a page’s content instead of one that is tucked away into the sides.
The clickable section of a link is called the anchor text, and Google uses it as a ranking signal. For instance, suppose your website sells coffee for people on the ketogenic diet, and another website links to yours. If the referring URL uses the keyword “keto coffee” as the anchor text on their page, Google will check whether your website or the linked page is indeed about coffee you can drink on the keto diet.
Like most things in SEO, people tended to abuse keyword-rich anchor text in the past. They would strive for pages full of links. Today, one instance of an anchor text per page is enough—Google considers plenty of exact-match links as a red flag.
Besides anchor text, Google also looks at co-occurrences, relevant keywords, and phrases that appear around the link. Examples of co-occurrences for “keto coffee” could be “coffee for dieting” or “best way to lose weight,” among others. The search engine uses these words as further indicators of a page’s relevance because they give a clearer picture of a page’s context.
Other signals to watch for are the number of dofollow or nofollow links your page has. Rel=“nofollow” is a tag you can add to a link that tells a search engine you do not want to count a link as a “vote” for a specific site. Meanwhile, a “dofollow” tag does the opposite. It tells the search engine that you want it to count this link as an endorsement of the URL you are referring.
Paid Links Tend to Not Count
Acquiring links is not enough—search engines ignore artificial links for ranking. Algorithms only use links from editorial decisions to measure a post’s authority. Advertorial guest post links and “powered by” links are not likely to bump your site up in rankings.
Showing Relevance through Links
Also, search engines use links from websites to determine whether a page shows crucial information about a topic. It also looks at how spread out these links are. If the entire site earns backlinks, it means it is very relevant for a particular field. Meanwhile, web pages that solve problems in a unique way tend to gain more links.
Google might also consider a page irrelevant if it has not gained links in a while. The search engine could interpret this as the content being less valuable to users, which means the page is getting lower website rankings.
A search engine knows that new websites will not have too many links, and they will still send traffic to these sites. However, if the site owner wants the website to rank, they will need to acquire links or other relevant signals.
Website owners must create pages that visitors will want to recommend to friends. One or two regular visitors is not enough to rise in SERPs. Sites that can create excitement through word-of-mouth can cultivate links and gain organic traffic.
How to Cultivate Links
SEO professionals aim to make relevant or thought-provoking content. Sometimes, they need a more targeted approach and create pages that solve specific problems for site visitors.
For example, if your website sells trail shoes, you should have blog posts about the best trails to run in different weathers. Writing about trails will make runners excited about buying the product.
Websites that make the prospect of buying their products exciting will generate traffic through word of mouth, which means more people will be likely to link to your site. Besides selling people on your product’s value, you could also cultivate links based on low prices, ease of checking out, shipping speed, and others.
Link building is a vital part of any content strategy. Having the right words is only the first step—you need to get your content in front of others. When other domains refer to yours, it acts as social proof of your authoritativeness and validation of your ideas.
Ranked helps you create a sustainable and reliable content strategy. We are an SEO platform and service offering weekly content, on-page optimization, and backlink building to drive organic traffic to your website. Book a call with the team or start your free trial today!