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Get These 6 Types of Backlinks (+ 4 Types to Avoid)

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Get These 6 Types of Backlinks (+ 4 Types to Avoid)

We all know that building links is crucial to any SEO strategy. The problem is that with so many link vendors and outreach specialists offering different types of backlinks, it can be challenging to know which links provide value and which you should avoid at all costs.

Because when it comes to building the wrong links, this can be a costly error that can seriously damage your site or, worse, a client’s.

This article will help you start your link building journey the right way. I will walk you through the six types of backlinks that will boost your SEO efforts and, more importantly, four types to avoid.

Six best types of backlinks for SEO

Although there are many types of backlinks in SEO, only some of those are worth taking the time and effort to acquire. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular types of backlinks and how you can land them.

1. Editorial backlinks

As someone who loves using digital PR for SEO, I guess it’s probably no surprise that editorial backlinks are at the top of the list. 

Being cited within content as an authoritative source is one of the best links you can acquire. These can often come from high-authority sites and also drive tons of referral traffic. 

Editorial link example
An example of an editorial link I landed on The Writing Cooperative.

How it works 

Create high-quality content that other sites will want to cite as a source and include linkable assets like infographics within your content that other sites will be keen to share.

Also, use PR techniques (e.g., newsjacking) or reactive PR with platforms (e.g., Help a Reporter Out, aka HARO), which allows you to be quoted as an expert source on a topic and achieve editorial links to your website.

2. Guest blogging backlinks

Most SEOs will build guest blogging links for every site they work on; in fact, it’s the most used tactic, according to Authority Hacker’s link building survey.

Most popular link building tactics

The only problem with these types of links is that most people don’t take the time to build them themselves. Most SEOs (unless working for an agency with an in-house link building team) outsource to others and, as a result, the links are often on low-quality sites.

These links are relatively easy to acquire, as it’s a win-win for both sites. Not only do you get an excellent backlink from an authority site, but they also get a quality piece of content that will drive traffic to their blog.

With these links, you must do your due diligence before reaching out to sites. Doing your own outreach also means building lasting relationships with web administrators and site owners that you can utilize repeatedly. 

How it works

Find the perfect authority site to reach out to. You can easily do this by using Ahrefs’ Content Explorer, entering a keyword or phrase in the title, and filtering the results by Domain Rating (DR). This will help you find appropriate blogs already publishing related content.

In the example below, I have searched for the keyword “link building,” filtering results by DR 30–65. For new sites looking to build links, this DR range works well because it is high enough to move the needle, but not too high that getting a link from the site will be unrealistic.

Content Explorer use example

Once you’ve found relevant sites to reach out to, spend a little time doing some digging. Check a site to see what topics it has covered most recently. Also, be sure to check the quality of links in its backlink profile. I’ll expand on what to look for in a great backlink later on.

Use a tool like Hunter.io to find appropriate contacts for your chosen sites to start putting your outreach emails together.

Example of finding email addresses

Now you can reach out and pitch them your topic ideas. Either pitch new topics relevant to their existing content and audience or check their sites for underperforming content and offer to produce an updated version. 

In my experience, what works best is to put together a detailed content brief on two to three topics and send that over. This allows a site’s content team to get an idea of the article you are looking to provide and how much value it can add.

A detailed content brief should include the following:

  • Title ideas
  • Similar posts on the SERP
  • The goal of the post
  • Post format based on SERP intent (commercial, informational, listicle, etc)
  • Target audience
  • Three to five keywords, their search volume, and keyword difficulty
  • People also asked” questions
  • Optimal word count
  • Suggested outline and key points (including suggested headings for H2s, H3s, and H4s)

If you have an existing portfolio and following, include links in your email and inform them that you will be happy to share the content with your audience once it is published.

3. Relationship-based backlinks

Relationship-based backlinks could technically fall under editorial links. However, editorial links, as mentioned in the context above, are more organic and take less work to achieve. 

Relationship-based links take time and effort to nurture, but they are worth it in the long run. 

How it works 

Reach out to journalists or web administrators who have already linked to you. Take time to thank them and state you are willing for them to contact you if they need any further input. This can be the first step in building ongoing relationships. 

This works exceptionally well in digital PR. Once a journalist knows you are a trusted source of information open to being contacted directly, they are likely to reach out whenever they are working on something they feel you have insights on.

Here’s an example of a nice email I got from the team at ScaleMath after reaching out to them in regards to some expert commentary I provided for the blog:

An example of an email from relationship-based link building

Another way to build relationships is by using three-way link exchanges. These types of links are working successfully across the globe, as shown in our recent article on international link building.

However, if these are done excessively and without proper due diligence on the sites you’re exchanging links with, they can be labeled as a link scheme. So take extra care when using this tactic. 

Three-way link exchange

4. Backlinks in business profiles

Building a digital footprint for your business will help search engines consider your website to be well established within your industry. A popular way of doing this is by creating business profiles.

How it works

You can create profiles on business listing websites like Crunchbase or InsiderPages that will include a link to your site. Most of these sites have a landing page that will allow you to go ahead and create a profile, each only taking a few minutes.

Example of a business listing website

A word of warning, though: Be careful—too much of this is considered spammy and may not work for you. Using the biggest established listings as benchmarks, along with common sense, should be enough to separate the wheat from the chaff.

5. Backlinks from public speaking

Granted, these types of backlinks are not for everyone. But if you’re confident in front of an audience or even behind a microphone, participating in public speaking opportunities can be a fantastic way to earn quality backlinks.

These types of links are also a fantastic way to demonstrate the double “E” in experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness, or E-E-A-T

How?

Because you’re building a digital footprint showing you’re experienced in speaking as a subject matter expert, which promotes you as a trusted authority in your industry.

How it works 

You can earn these links through multiple events, including:

  • Live seminars
  • Webinars
  • Podcasts
  • Conferences
  • Online courses

Being a guest speaker or instructor means your bit is often posted on the official website with a link so interested users can find out more about you and your experience. 

Example of public speaking link from a podcast
An example of me being a guest in the “Search with Candour” podcast.

6. Embedded asset links

This is one of my favorite lesser-known types of backlinks that not only works a treat when it comes to landing tons of placements but also serves as excellent brand exposure. 

Embedded asset links can be broken into two categories:

  • Tools and widgets
  • Awards and badges

Tools and widgets

It’s important to note that the first of these will only work in specific niches. However, if you work in a niche where this is possible, it’s a great way to score ongoing links with minimal effort.

How it works 

You create a tool or widget on your site and make the code accessible for other website owners in your niche to embed the widget on their sites. 

This works well with calculators, but do make sure your brand (and that all-important link to your site) shows as part of the tool. This numerology calculator from Affinity Numerology is a great example:

Example of embedded asset links

Awards and badges

The second embedded asset link is far more universal if you are creative. I’ve worked with everything from SEO agencies to niche affiliate websites where this technique was used successfully.

The fact is that most people love accolades. Being named the best at something, especially if it is by a reputable company within your industry, is something worth displaying to potential customers. This helps build trust, which is why this type of backlink is so easy to acquire.

How it works 

You create a “best of” style roundup post on your site. You can do this yourself based on your own opinions. Alternatively, if you want to be authentic, you can run a poll on social media or via a tool like Pollfish to get public opinion on your chosen topic.

Then you reach out to the sites you have highlighted in your post and inform them they have been voted the best (at whatever the topic may be). You give them a badge (with your brand and a link to your site) that they can proudly display.

For example, here is a roundup of the “Best Business Blogs” from a U.K.-based SEO agency, Session Media:

Example of a roundup for best blogs

The agency lists its top choices, including “The Dad Blog UK,” which then proudly creates its own post to show off the shiny winner’s badge.

Example of a website displaying a winner badge

And here, you can see the link in the Backlinks report in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer:

Example of embedded badge link in the Backlinks report, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Types of backlinks to avoid

Now that we’ve covered some of the best kinds of backlinks you can build for your site, we need to look at the types of backlinks you should avoid. 

Granted, some of these types of links may give some sites short-term gains. But more often than not, these links can do significantly more harm than good. Plus, the truth of the matter is most do nothing for your site and are simply a waste of time and money. 

7. Link schemes 

The use of unnatural links to affect rankings in Google Search results is known as “link spam” or “link schemes.” Link schemes include both inbound links to and outbound links from your website.

Some examples of link schemes include:

  • Buying and selling links.
  • Excessive link exchanges.
  • Requiring links as part of a Terms of Service or other agreement.
  • Footers or templates with links that are distributed in mass. For example, hard-coding a link to your website into the WP Theme that you sell or give away for free.
  • Followed” links on ads. 
  • Over-optimized, keyword-rich links in guest posts and comments.

Private blog network (PBN)

The most popular type of link scheme is the use of private blog networks (PBNs). They’re a collection of websites made purely to link to one another and raise the website’s organic search exposure. 

PBNs give the impression that a website has “earned” backlinks from other sites. You create trust signals artificially by linking to your “money” site from all the other sites in your PBN in the hopes that Google will see them as real sites and rank you better in response.

Link building with PBNs (or any link scheme) is risky and can even trigger a Google penalty. 

Automated links

Using automated link building software to send links at scale to one site is not new, especially within the black hat SEO community. 

However, there is an increasing trend of people packaging these links as link building services, like “foundation links,” at incredibly low prices for those with less experience looking to outsource their link building efforts. 

Example of automated links used as a service

This can be dangerous, especially if you are not in control of the automation process and don’t understand what you are getting.

These tools build a massive network of links from blogs, social bookmarks, wiki pages, etc., all pointing back to one central site. They often include layers of complex, tiered links designed to increase the amount of link equity going back to the main site.

Similar to PBNs, these links are designed to manipulate your rankings on the SERPs and are, needless to say, against Google’s webmaster guidelines.

8. Low-quality or irrelevant directory links

As mentioned above, creating business profiles on high-quality listing sites can be a great way to secure quality exposure. 

However, making these at scale on any directory, regardless of the quality, is considered yet another spammy practice.

9. Low-quality forum backlinks

Spamming forums with links to your site is a pretty old-school link building technique that, in honesty, doesn’t do anything for your site. 

If links are ever placed in forums, they should appear naturally as part of a genuine discussion. 

This example from Hacker News shows someone advising different flight simulators as part of a discussion. This is the only way any links should be placed in forums—when used to give genuine advice or offer resources to other forum users.

Example of forum links

10. Non-newsworthy press release links

An official statement issued to the media is known as a press release. It’s frequently used to announce anything noteworthy a business has done to get media attention. Press releases are often used to cover the following:

  • Launch of a product, service, or business
  • Major updates to a company, such as its rebranding, restructuring, or acquisitions
  • Information about a significant crisis

Although press releases serve a great purpose when done correctly, they don’t work so well when the story you are pushing out to the press is not newsworthy. Creating press releases solely to build links is considered a spammy practice.

Of course, if your company has achieved something of merit, experienced a significant change like an acquisition, or released a new product, that’s worth sharing with the press. However, don’t send out a press release about “bring your dog to work Tuesdays” in hopes of building lots of links.

Example of a good press release by Ahrefs

What to look for in a great backlink

So now that we have looked at the different types of backlinks you should build and avoid, let’s look at what kinds of backlinks are valuable for your overall SEO strategy. 

Backlinks coming from trusted, authoritative websites

If a website has a strong backlink profile, it is also likely perceived as an authority in its industry.

Links from high-authority sites also promote trust with search engines, sending a signal that basically says, “Hey, Forbes thinks this site is worth mentioning; check it out.” 

Example of authoritative referring domains
Example of authoritative referring domains from the Referring domains report in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer.

Links with anchor text including your target keywords

We wrote about the correlation between the importance of anchor texts with appropriate keywords for better rankings. To comprehend your page’s content and the keywords it should rank for, Google uses anchor text.

Here are three examples of different anchor texts pointing to the same page sourced from the Backlinks report in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer. The first two mention the target keyword “anchor text” within their anchor texts, while the third one mentions “anchor text” in the surrounding text:

Example of various anchor texts

However, it is essential to remember that overuse of keywords within anchor text can be seen as manipulative by Google. 

A niche-relevant page that links to yours

Links that are topically relevant to your site are essential and help Google understand your site. However, this is even more true when the page is niche-relevant. 

For example, if I have a site about hiking, getting a link from a general news site’s article on hiking is good. But getting a link from another hiking site pointing to mine as an authority on hiking is better.

The more focused the website is on your niche, the better. But what ultimately matters here is the context of the link within the page and its topic.

Example of a backlink from a niche-relevant page

Followed links

Followed links are the gold standard of backlinks. Everyone wants one because they can distribute link equity to your site and promote trust signals with search engines. 

Any link can be considered “followed” if it doesn’t have link attributes like nofollow, sponsored, or ugc. 

Each link attribute has a set purpose and provides context to search engines about the link and the page you are linking to. Unfortunately, many people misuse link attributes, sometimes purposefully. 

Followed vs. nofollow link example

Followed links are often used to cite sources with editorial links. For example, writing an article and quoting the results of a relevant study will link to the website where that information was found.

A current trend is for sites to use the incorrect link attribute only to reach out to you and inform you they will be happy to change the link to “followed” for a fee. This should be avoided, as it can be considered a paid link.

Backlinks from pages with strong backlink profiles

When acquiring links, we want to ensure they pass as much link equity as possible to our page. A page with a strong backlink profile of its own is generally going to provide more link equity.

Page with strong backlink profile

Link equity is significant because it is linked to PageRank, which is what Google has been using since forever. In other words, the more link equity a page has, the better the probability of it ranking highly.

Final thoughts

Building high-quality backlinks will always be a crucial part of SEO, and the important thing is to build the right links that will positively impact your website. Ideally, backlinks that not only move the needle but also increase brand awareness and drive referral traffic.

Have you got questions? Ping me on Twitter.



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SEO

How To Build A Diverse & Healthy Link Profile

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How To Build A Diverse & Healthy Link Profile

Search is evolving at an incredible pace and new features, formats, and even new search engines are popping up within the space.

Google’s algorithm still prioritizes backlinks when ranking websites. If you want your website to be visible in search results, you must account for backlinks and your backlink profile.

A healthy backlink profile requires a diverse backlink profile.

In this guide, we’ll examine how to build and maintain a diverse backlink profile that powers your website’s search performance.

What Does A Healthy Backlink Profile Look Like?

As Google states in its guidelines, it primarily crawls pages through links from other pages linked to your pages, acquired through promotion and naturally over time.

In practice, a healthy backlink profile can be divided into three main areas: the distribution of link types, the mix of anchor text, and the ratio of followed to nofollowed links.

Let’s look at these areas and how they should look within a healthy backlink profile.

Distribution Of Link Types

One aspect of your backlink profile that needs to be diversified is link types.

It looks unnatural to Google to have predominantly one kind of link in your profile, and it also indicates that you’re not diversifying your content strategy enough.

Some of the various link types you should see in your backlink profile include:

  • Anchor text links.
  • Image links.
  • Redirect links.
  • Canonical links.

Here is an example of the breakdown of link types at my company, Whatfix (via Semrush):

Screenshot from Semrush, May 2024

Most links should be anchor text links and image links, as these are the most common ways to link on the web, but you should see some of the other types of links as they are picked up naturally over time.

Mix Of Anchor Text

Next, ensure your backlink profile has an appropriate anchor text variance.

Again, if you overoptimize for a specific type of anchor text, it will appear suspicious to search engines like Google and could have negative repercussions.

Here are the various types of anchor text you might find in your backlink profile:

  • Branded anchor text – Anchor text that is your brand name or includes your brand name.
  • Empty – Links that have no anchor text.
  • Naked URLs – Anchor text that is a URL (e.g., www.website.com).
  • Exact match keyword-rich anchor text – Anchor text that exactly matches the keyword the linked page targets (e.g., blue shoes).
  • Partial match keyword-rich anchor text – Anchor text that partially or closely matches the keyword the linked page targets (e.g., “comfortable blue footwear options”).
  • Generic anchor text – Anchor text such as “this website” or “here.”

To maintain a healthy backlink profile, aim for a mix of anchor text within a similar range to this:

  • Branded anchor text – 35-40%.
  • Partial match keyword-rich anchor text – 15-20%.
  • Generic anchor text -10-15%.
  • Exact match keyword-rich anchor text – 5-10%.
  • Naked URLs – 5-10%.
  • Empty – 3-5%.

This distribution of anchor text represents a natural mix of differing anchor texts. It is common for the majority of anchors to be branded or partially branded because most sites that link to your site will default to your brand name when linking. It also makes sense that the following most common anchors would be partial-match keywords or generic anchor text because these are natural choices within the context of a web page.

Exact-match anchor text is rare because it only happens when you are the best resource for a specific term, and the site owner knows your page exists.

Ratio Of Followed Vs. Nofollowed Backlinks

Lastly, you should monitor the ratio of followed vs. nofollowed links pointing to your website.

If you need a refresher on what nofollowed backlinks are or why someone might apply the nofollow tag to a link pointing to your site, check out Google’s guide on how to qualify outbound links to Google.

Nofollow attributes should only be applied to paid links or links pointing to a site the linking site doesn’t trust.

While it is not uncommon or suspicious to have some nofollow links (people misunderstand the purpose of the nofollow attribute all the time), a healthy backlink profile will have far more followed links.

You should aim for a ratio of 80%:20% or 70%:30% in favor of followed links. For example, here is what the followed vs. nofollowed ratio looks like for my company’s backlink profile (according to Ahrefs):

Referring domainsScreenshot from Ahrefs, May 2024

You may see links with other rel attributes, such as UGC or Sponsored.

The “UGC” attribute tags links from user-generated content, while the “Sponsored” attribute tags links from sponsored or paid sources. These attributes are slightly different than the nofollow tag, but they essentially work the same way, letting Google know these links aren’t trusted or endorsed by the linking site. You can simply group these links in with nofollowed links when calculating your ratio.

Importance Of Diversifying Your Backlink Profile

So why is it important to diversify your backlink profile anyway? Well, there are three main reasons you should consider:

  • Avoiding overoptimization.
  • Diversifying traffic sources.
  • And finding new audiences.

Let’s dive into each of these.

Avoiding Overoptimization

First and foremost, diversifying your backlink profile is the best way to protect yourself from overoptimization and the damaging penalties that can come with it.

As SEO pros, our job is to optimize websites to improve performance, but overoptimizing in any facet of our strategy – backlinks, keywords, structure, etc. – can result in penalties that limit visibility within search results.

In the previous section, we covered the elements of a healthy backlink profile. If you stray too far from that model, your site might look suspicious to search engines like Google and you could be handed a manual or algorithmic penalty, suppressing your rankings in search.

Considering how regularly Google updates its search algorithm these days (and how little information surrounds those updates), you could see your performance tank and have no idea why.

This is why it’s so important to keep a watchful eye on your backlink profile and how it’s shaping up.

Diversifying Traffic Sources

Another reason to cultivate a diverse backlink profile is to ensure you’re diversifying your traffic sources.

Google penalties come swiftly and can often be a surprise. If you have all your eggs in that basket when it comes to traffic, your site will suffer badly and might need help to recover.

However, diversifying your traffic sources (search, social, email, etc.) will mitigate risk – similar to a stock portfolio – as you’ll have other traffic sources to provide a steady flow of visitors if another source suddenly dips.

Part of building a diverse backlink profile is acquiring a diverse set of backlinks and backlink types, and this strategy will also help you find differing and varied sources of traffic.

Finding New Audiences

Finally, building a diverse backlink profile is essential, as doing so will also help you discover new audiences.

If you acquire links from the same handful of websites and platforms, you will need help expanding your audience and building awareness for your website.

While it’s important to acquire links from sites that cater to your existing audience, you should also explore ways to build links that can tap into new audiences. The best way to do this is by casting a wide net with various link acquisition tactics and strategies.

A diverse backlink profile indicates a varied approach to SEO and marketing that will help bring new visitors and awareness to your site.

Building A Diverse Backlink Profile

So that you know what a healthy backlink profile looks like and why it’s important to diversify, how do you build diversity into your site’s backlink profile?

This comes down to your link acquisition strategy and the types of backlinks you actively pursue. To guide your strategy, let’s break link building into three main categories:

  • Foundational links.
  • Content promotion.
  • Community involvement.

Here’s how to approach each area.

Foundational Links

Foundational links represent those links that your website simply should have. These are opportunities where a backlink would exist if all sites were known to all site owners.

Some examples of foundational links include:

  • Mentions – Websites that mention your brand in some way (brand name, product, employees, proprietary data, etc.) on their website but don’t link.
  • Partners – Websites that belong to real-world partners or companies you connect with offline and should also connect (link) with online.
  • Associations or groups – Websites for offline associations or groups you belong to where your site should be listed with a link.
  • Sponsorships – Any events or organizations your company sponsors might have websites that could (and should) link to your site.
  • Sites that link to competitors – If a website is linking to a competitor, there is a strong chance it would make sense for them to link to your site as well.

These link opportunities should set the foundation for your link acquisition efforts.

As the baseline for your link building strategy, you should start by exhausting these opportunities first to ensure you’re not missing highly relevant links to bolster your backlink profile.

Content Promotion

Next, consider content promotion as a strategy for building a healthy, diverse backlink profile.

Content promotion is much more proactive than the foundational link acquisition mentioned above. You must manifest the opportunity by creating link-worthy content rather than simply capitalizing on an existing opportunity.

Some examples of content promotion for links are:

  • Digital PR – Digital PR campaigns have numerous benefits and goals beyond link acquisition, but backlinks should be a primary KPI.
  • Original research – Similar to digital PR, original research should focus on providing valuable data to your audience. Still, you should also make sure any citations or references to your research are correctly linked.
  • Guest content – Whether regular columns or one-off contributions, providing guest content to websites is still a viable link acquisition strategy – when done right. The best way to gauge your guest content strategy is to ask yourself if you would still write the content for a site without guaranteeing a backlink, knowing you’ll still build authority and get your message in front of a new audience.
  • Original imagery – Along with research and data, if your company creates original imagery that offers unique value, you should promote those images and ask for citation links.

Content promotion is a viable avenue for building a healthy backlink profile as long as the content you’re promoting is worthy of links.

Community Involvement

Community involvement is the final piece of your link acquisition puzzle when building a diverse backlink profile.

After pursuing all foundational opportunities and manually promoting your content, you should ensure your brand is active and represented in all the spaces and communities where your audience engages.

In terms of backlinks, this could mean:

  • Wikipedia links – Wikipedia gets over 4 billion monthly visits, so backlinks here can bring significant referral traffic to your site. However, acquiring these links is difficult as these pages are moderated closely, and your site will only be linked if it is legitimately a top resource on the web.
  • Forums (Reddit, Quora, etc.) – Another great place to get backlinks that drive referral traffic is forums like Reddit and Quora. Again, these forums are strictly moderated, and earning link placements on these sites requires a page that delivers significant and unique value to a specific audience.
  • Social platforms – Social media platforms and groups represent communities where your brand should be active and engaged. While these strategies are likely handled by other teams outside SEO and focus on different metrics, you should still be intentional about converting these interactions into links when or where possible.
  • Offline events – While it may seem counterintuitive to think of offline events as a potential source for link acquisition, legitimate link opportunities exist here. After all, most businesses, brands, and people you interact with at these events also have websites, and networking can easily translate to online connections in the form of links.

While most of the link opportunities listed above will have the nofollow link attribute due to the nature of the sites associated with them, they are still valuable additions to your backlink profile as these are powerful, trusted domains.

These links help diversify your traffic sources by bringing substantial referral traffic, and that traffic is highly qualified as these communities share your audience.

How To Avoid Developing A Toxic Backlink Profile

Now that you’re familiar with the link building strategies that can help you cultivate a healthy, diverse backlink profile, let’s discuss what you should avoid.

As mentioned before, if you overoptimize one strategy or link, it can seem suspicious to search engines and cause your site to receive a penalty. So, how do you avoid filling your backlink profile with toxic links?

Remember The “Golden Rule” Of Link Building

One simple way to guide your link acquisition strategy and avoid running afoul of search engines like Google is to follow one “golden rule.”

That rule is to ask yourself: If search engines like Google didn’t exist, and the only way people could navigate the web was through backlinks, would you want your site to have a link on the prospective website?

Thinking this way strips away all the tactical, SEO-focused portions of the equation and only leaves the human elements of linking where two sites are linked because it makes sense and makes the web easier to navigate.

Avoid Private Blog Networks (PBNs)

Another good rule is to avoid looping your site into private blog networks (PBNs). Of course, it’s not always obvious or easy to spot a PBN.

However, there are some common traits or red flags you can look for, such as:

  • The person offering you a link placement mentions they have a list of domains they can share.
  • The prospective linking site has little to no traffic and doesn’t appear to have human engagement (blog comments, social media followers, blog views, etc.).
  • The website features thin content and little investment into user experience (UX) and design.
  • The website covers generic topics and categories, catering to any and all audiences.
  • Pages on the site feature numerous external links but only some internal links.
  • The prospective domain’s backlink profile features overoptimization in any of the previously discussed forms (high-density of exact match anchor text, abnormal ratio of nofollowed links, only one or two link types, etc.).

Again, diversification – in both tactics and strategies – is crucial to building a healthy backlink profile, but steering clear of obvious PBNs and remembering the ‘golden rule’ of link building will go a long way toward keeping your profile free from toxicity.

Evaluating Your Backlink Profile

As you work diligently to build and maintain a diverse, healthy backlink profile, you should also carve out time to evaluate it regularly from a more analytical perspective.

There are two main ways to evaluate the merit of your backlinks: leverage tools to analyze backlinks and compare your backlink profile to the greater competitive landscape.

Leverage Tools To Analyze Backlink Profile

There are a variety of third-party tools you can use to analyze your backlink profile.

These tools can provide helpful insights, such as the total number of backlinks and referring domains. You can use these tools to analyze your full profile, broken down by:

  • Followed vs. nofollowed.
  • Authority metrics (Domain Rating, Domain Authority, Authority Score, etc.).
  • Backlink types.
  • Location or country.
  • Anchor text.
  • Top-level domain types.
  • And more.

You can also use these tools to track new incoming backlinks, as well as lost backlinks, to help you better understand how your backlink profile is growing.

Some of the best tools for analyzing your backlink profile are:

Many of these tools also have features that estimate how toxic or suspicious your profile might look to search engines, which can help you detect potential issues early.

Compare Your Backlink Profile To The Competitive Landscape

Lastly, you should compare your overall backlink profile to those of your competitors and those competing with your site in the search results.

Again, the previously mentioned tools can help with this analysis – as far as providing you with the raw numbers – but the key areas you should compare are:

  • Total number of backlinks.
  • Total number of referring domains.
  • Breakdown of authority metrics of links (Domain Rating, Domain Authority, Authority Score, etc.).
  • Authority metrics of competing domains.
  • Link growth over the last two years.

Comparing your backlink profile to others within your competitive landscape will help you assess where your domain currently stands and provide insight into how far you must go if you’re lagging behind competitors.

It’s worth noting that it’s not as simple as whoever has the most backlinks will perform the best in search.

These numbers are typically solid indicators of how search engines gauge the authority of your competitors’ domains, and you’ll likely find a correlation between strong backlink profiles and strong search performance.

Approach Link Building With A User-First Mindset

The search landscape continues to evolve at a breakneck pace and we could see dramatic shifts in how people search within the next five years (or sooner).

However, at this time, search engines like Google still rely on backlinks as part of their ranking algorithms, and you need to cultivate a strong backlink profile to be visible in search.

Furthermore, if you follow the advice in this article as you build out your profile, you’ll acquire backlinks that benefit your site regardless of search algorithms, futureproofing your traffic sources.

Approach link acquisition like you would any other marketing endeavor – with a customer-first mindset – and over time, you’ll naturally build a healthy, diverse backlink profile.

More resources: 


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Google On Traffic Diversity As A Ranking Factor

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Google answers the question of whether traffic diversity is a ranking factor for SEO

Google’s SearchLiaison tweeted encouragement to diversify traffic sources, being clear about the reason he was recommending it. Days later, someone followed up to ask if traffic diversity is a ranking factor, prompting SearchLiaison to reiterate that it is not.

What Was Said

The question of whether diversity of traffic was a ranking factor was elicited from a previous tweet in a discussion about whether a site owner should be focusing on off-site promotion.

Here’s the question from the original discussion that was tweeted:

“Can you please tell me if I’m doing right by focusing on my site and content – writing new articles to be found through search – or if I should be focusing on some off-site effort related to building a readership? It’s frustrating to see traffic go down the more effort I put in.”

SearchLiaison split the question into component parts and answered each one. When it came to the part about off-site promotion, SearchLiaison (who is Danny Sullivan), shared from his decades of experience as a journalist and publisher covering technology and search marketing.

I’m going to break down his answer so that it’s clearer what he meant

This is the part from the tweet that talks about off-site activities:

“As to the off-site effort question, I think from what I know from before I worked at Google Search, as well as my time being part of the search ranking team, is that one of the ways to be successful with Google Search is to think beyond it.”

What he is saying here is simple, don’t limit your thinking about what to do with your site to thinking about how to make it appeal to Google.

He next explains that sites that rank tend to be sites that are created to appeal to people.

SearchLiaison continued:

“Great sites with content that people like receive traffic in many ways. People go to them directly. They come via email referrals. They arrive via links from other sites. They get social media mentions.”

What he’s saying there is that you’ll know that you’re appealing to people if people are discussing your site in social media, if people are referring the site in social media and if other sites are citing it with links.

Other ways to know that a site is doing well is when when people engage in the comments section, send emails asking follow up questions, and send emails of thanks and share anecdotes of their success or satisfaction with a product or advice.

Consider this, fast fashion site Shein at one point didn’t rank for their chosen keyword phrases, I know because I checked out of curiosity. But they were at the time virally popular and making huge amounts of sales by gamifying site interaction and engagement, propelling them to become a global brand. A similar strategy propelled Zappos when they pioneered no-questions asked returns and cheerful customer service.

SearchLiaison continued:

“It just means you’re likely building a normal site in the sense that it’s not just intended for Google but instead for people. And that’s what our ranking systems are trying to reward, good content made for people.”

SearchLiaison explicitly said that building sites with diversified content is not a ranking factor.

He added this caveat to his tweet:

“This doesn’t mean you should get a bunch of social mentions, or a bunch of email mentions because these will somehow magically rank you better in Google (they don’t, from how I know things).”

Despite The Caveat…

A journalist tweeted this:

“Earlier this week, @searchliaison told people to diversify their traffic. Naturally, people started questioning whether that meant diversity of traffic was a ranking factor.

So, I asked @iPullRank what he thought.”

SearchLiaison of course answered that he explicitly said it’s not a ranking factor and linked to his original tweet that I quoted above.

He tweeted:

“I mean that’s not exactly what I myself said, but rather repeat all that I’ll just add the link to what I did say:”

The journalist responded:

“I would say this is calling for publishers to diversify their traffic since you’re saying the great sites do it. It’s the right advice to give.”

And SearchLiaison answered:

“It’s the part of “does it matter for rankings” that I was making clear wasn’t what I myself said. Yes, I think that’s a generally good thing, but it’s not the only thing or the magic thing.”

Not Everything Is About Ranking Factors

There is a longstanding practice by some SEOs to parse everything that Google publishes for clues to how Google’s algorithm works. This happened with the Search Quality Raters guidelines. Google is unintentionally complicit because it’s their policy to (in general) not confirm whether or not something is a ranking factor.

This habit of searching for “ranking factors” leads to misinformation. It takes more acuity to read research papers and patents to gain a general understanding of how information retrieval works but it’s more work to try to understand something than skimming a PDF for ranking papers.

The worst approach to understanding search is to invent hypotheses about how Google works and then pore through a document to confirm those guesses (and falling into the confirmation bias trap).

In the end, it may be more helpful to back off of exclusively optimizing for Google and focus at least equally as much in optimizing for people (which includes optimizing for traffic). I know it works because I’ve been doing it for years.

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The Complete Guide to Google My Business for Local SEO

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The Complete Guide to Google My Business

What is Google My Business?

Google My Business (GMB) is a free tool that business owners can use to manage their online presence across Google Search and Google Maps.

This profile also puts out important business details, such as address, phone number, and operating hours, making it easily accessible to potential customers. 

Google My Business profile shown on Google MapsGoogle My Business profile shown on Google Maps

When you click on a business listing in the search results it will open a detailed sidebar on the right side of the screen, providing comprehensive information about the business. 

This includes popular times, which show when the business is busiest, a Q&A section where potential users can ask questions and receive responses from the business or other customers, and a photos and videos section that showcases products and services. Customer reviews and ratings are also displayed, which are crucial for building trust and credibility.

Business details on Google My Business profileBusiness details on Google My Business profile

Using Google My Business for Local SEO

Having an optimized Google Business Profile ensures that your business is visible, searchable, and can attract potential customers who are looking for your products and services.

  • Increased reliance on online discovery: More consumers are going online to search and find local businesses, making it crucial to have a GMB listing.
  • Be where your customers are searching: GMB ensures your business information is accurate and visible on Google Search and Maps, helping you stay competitive.
  • Connect with customers digitally: GMB allows customers to connect with your business through various channels, including messaging and reviews.
  • Build your online reputation: GMB makes it easy for customers to leave reviews, which can improve your credibility and trustworthiness.
  • Location targeting: GMB enables location-based targeting, showing your ads to people searching for businesses in your exact location.
  • Measurable results: GMB provides actionable analytics, allowing you to track your performance and optimize your listing.

How to Set Up Google My Business

If you already have a profile and need help claiming, verifying, and/or optimizing it, skip to the next sections.

If you’re creating a new Google My Business profile, here’s a step-by-step guide:

Access or Create your Google AccountAccess or Create your Google Account

Step 1: Access or Create your Google Account:

If you don’t already have a Google account, follow these steps to create one:

  • Visit the Google Account Sign-up Page: Go to the Google Account sign-up page and click on “Create an account.”
  • Enter Your Information: Fill in the required fields, including your name, email address, and password.
  • Verify Your Account: Google will send a verification email to your email address. Click on the link in the email to confirm your account.

Step 2:  Access Google My Business

Business name on Google My BusinessBusiness name on Google My Business

Step 3: Enter Your Business Name and Category

  • Type in your exact business name. Google will suggest existing businesses as you type
  • If your business is not listed, fully type out the name as it appears
  • Search for and select your primary business category

Adding business address to Google My Business profileAdding business address to Google My Business profile

Step 4: Provide Your Business Address

  • If you have a physical location where customers can visit, select “Yes” and enter your address.
  • If you are a service area business without a physical location, select “No” and enter your service area.

Adding contact information to Google My Business profileAdding contact information to Google My Business profile

Step 5: Add Your Contact Information

  • Enter your business phone number and website URL
  • You can also create a free website based on your GMB information

Complete Your ProfileComplete Your Profile

Step 6: Complete Your Profile

To complete your profile, add the following details:

  • Hours of Operation: Enter your business’s operating hours to help customers plan their visits.
  • Services: List the services your business offers to help customers understand what you do.
  • Description: Write a detailed description of your business to help customers understand your offerings.

Now that you know how to set up your Google My Business account, all that’s left is to verify it. 

Verification is essential for you to manage and update business information whenever you need to, and for Google to show your business profile to the right users and for the right search queries. 

If you are someone who wants to claim their business or is currently on the last step of setting up their GMB, this guide will walk you through the verification process to solidify your business’ online credibility and visibility.

How to Verify Google My Business

There are several ways you can verify your business, including:

  • Postcard Verification: Google will send a postcard to your business address with a verification code. Enter the code on your GMB dashboard to verify.
  • Phone Verification: Google will call your business phone number and provide a verification code. Enter the code on your GMB dashboard to verify.
  • Email Verification: If you have a business email address, you can use it to verify your listing.
  • Instant Verification: If you have a Google Analytics account linked to your business, you can use instant verification.

How to Claim & Verify an Existing Google My Business Profile

If your business has an existing Google My Business profile, and you want to claim it, then follow these steps:

Sign in to Google AccountSign in to Google Account

Step 1: Sign in to Google My Business

Access Google My Business: Go to the Google My Business website and sign in with your Google account. If you don’t have a Google account, create one by following the sign-up process.

Search for Your BusinessSearch for Your Business

Step 2: Search for Your Business

Enter your business name in the search bar to find your listing. If your business is already listed, you will see it in the search results.

Request access to existing Google My Business accountRequest access to existing Google My Business account

Step 3: Claim Your Listing

If your business is not already claimed, you will see a “Claim this business” button. Click on this button to start the claiming process.

Editing business information on Google My BusinessEditing business information on Google My Business

Step 4: Complete Your Profile

Once your listing is verified, you can complete your profile by adding essential business information such as:

  • Business Name: Ensure it matches your business name.
  • Address: Enter your business address accurately.
  • Phone Number: Enter your business phone number.
  • Hours of Operation: Specify your business hours.
  • Categories: Choose relevant categories that describe your business.
  • Description: Write a brief description of your business.

Step 5: Manage Your Listing

Regularly check and update your listing to ensure it remains accurate and up-to-date. Respond to customer reviews and use the insights provided by Google Analytics to improve your business.

Unverified Google My Business profileUnverified Google My Business profile

Step 6: Verification 

Verify your business through postcard, email, or phone numbers as stated above. 

Now that you have successfully set up and verified your Google My Business listing, it’s time to optimize it for maximum visibility and effectiveness. By doing this, you can improve your local search rankings, increase customer engagement, and drive more conversions.

How to Optimize Google My Business

Here are the tips that I usually do when I’m optimizing my GMB account: 

    1. Complete Your Profile: Start by ensuring every section applicable to your business is filled out with accurate and up-to-date information. Use your real business name without keyword stuffing to avoid suspension. Ensure your address and phone number are consistent with those on your website and other online directories, and add a link to your website and social media accounts.
    2. Optimize for Keywords: Integrate relevant keywords into your business description, services, and posts. However, avoid stuffing your GMB profile with keywords, as this can appear spammy and reduce readability.
    3. Add Backlinks: Encourage local websites, blogs, and business directories to link to your GMB profile. 
  1. Select Appropriate Categories: Choose the most relevant primary category for your business to help Google understand what your business is about. Additionally, add secondary categories that accurately describe your business’s offerings to capture more relevant search traffic.
  2. Encourage and Manage Reviews: Ask satisfied customers to leave positive reviews on your profile, as reviews significantly influence potential customers. Respond to all reviews, both positive and negative, in a professional and timely manner. Addressing negative feedback shows that you value customer opinions and are willing to improve.
  3. Add High-Quality Photos and Videos: Use high-quality images for your profile and cover photos that represent your business well. Upload additional photos of your products, services, team, and premises. Adding short, engaging videos can give potential customers a virtual tour or highlight key services, enhancing their interest.

By following this comprehensive guide, you have successfully set up, verified, and optimized your GMB profile. Remember to continuously maintain and update your profile to ensure maximum impact and success.

Key Takeaway: 

With more and more people turning to Google for all their needs, creating, verifying, and optimizing your Google My Business profile is a must if you want your business to be found. 

Follow this guide to Google My Business, and you’re going to see increased online presence across Google Search and Google Maps in no time.

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