In the digital age, a business’ website is a treasured asset. But before customers can shop at a business online, they need to find it first. SEOs devote their career to making that happen, and here’s what they can tell you: while there are a large number of factors to consider when it comes to modern search engines, links continue to reign supreme.
SEMRush lists different link signals as 4 of the top 8 ranking factors in search results. Meanwhile, a study by Backlinko found that the average #1 Google Search has 3.8x more backlinks and 3.2x more referring domains than #2-#10. According to MOZ, links are credited for 28% of Google’s ranking factors when conducting local organic search. That’s greater than any other individual factor.
Many Sites Have no Links at All
Despite the importance of link signals to the visibility of a website, not every business is taking advantage of them. 94% of all web content lacks a single external backlink. These pages are like islands; isolated from the rest of the web. Your business needs to take action to be sure it isn’t part of that archipelago. Customers rarely want to traverse virtual oceans to find what they need. If you find that this is the case with your own website, don’t worry: you still have time to build inroads to the main continent.
Quality Over Quantity
As you build your external connections, proceed with caution. Increasing your number of link signals is important, but you should never leave quality off to the wayside. Not every link signal is a good one. Google penalizes websites who use doorway pages meant to funnel users to a different page than they clicked, thin affiliates that use content from another site without adding value, so-called “unnatural links” like text advertisements that are not tagged as sponsored, or other dishonest tricks that seek to increase their site’s ranking without also increasing its quality or relevance to a user.
Google does not want to allow spam to have a positive influence on rankings, and working with spam can bring down a good site’s reputation. Connecting your page to many poor-quality links places it in a “bad neighborhood” of the virtual world. If you set up shop in a rough part of town, don’t be surprised when potential customers are scared to walk in.
Good Things Come to Those Who Wait – And Do it Right
Instead of resorting to deception, it’s better to increase your link signals’ quality and number simultaneously. These ways don’t all have to include putting more links on your site; some of them relate to the content of your website as well. For example, domain age works in a website’s favor; it shows that the website has stood the test of time. Content that answers questions is valuable; posts discussing the “what” or “why” of things get 26% more links than videos and how-tos. Long-form content tends to receive more shares than short articles do.
As for improvement methods tied more directly to links, there are a few different ones. The more likely a link is to be clicked by a user, the more value it has, so locate the best links in the body of your content instead of the footer. Consider what words people would use to search for your website: high-ranking sites require 4x the number of referring domains for popular keywords as they do for less common ones. Follow links always rank above Nofollow links because the former vouches for the linked site’s authority.
These are just a few places to get started. At the end of the day, the most important thing is to maintain a high-quality website and provide external backlinks to websites of equal or better quality. So long as your page and the external backlinks it attracts have good Expertise, Authority, and Trust (E-A-T), you will be able to climb in Google’s search rankings.
In the words of Ann Smarty, Brand/Community Manager at InternetMarketingNinjas.com and MyBlogU.com, “Links help Google to associate your page (and your brand) with other concepts and entities in the niche…. So when building links, pick sites and context you want to be associated with.”
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Author: Brian Wallace
Brian Wallace is the Founder and President of NowSourcing, an industry leading infographic design agency based in Louisville, KY and Cincinnati, OH which works with companies that range from startups to Fortune 500s. Brian also runs #LinkedInLocal events nationwide, and hosts the Next Action Podcast. Brian has been named a Google Small Business Advisor for 2016-present and joined the SXSW Advisory Board in 2019.