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What are links and their importance in SEO (On-page & off-page links)

by | Feb 18, 2021 | All Blog

But, what if you’ve already created interactive and innovative content, which answers the questions people are searching for, but your website is still not ranking? With the increasing competition, just publishing good quality isn’t enough anymore. The one component that is vital for SEO is link building; external and internal and backlinks. 

Ideally, to outrank your competition, you need to establish authority and prove to Google’s search engine bots that your content is better than that of your competitors. By earning high-quality links, you can increase credibility for your brand, thereby increasing the chances of your website ranking on the top positions of SERPs. 

Even Google has confirmed that links are one of the most important rankings factors, especially those coming from trustworthy sites. Hence, the importance of link building can’t be denied. 

However, what is a good link building strategy? What are the different types of links and which ones are bound to increase your rankings? If you have such questions too, this blog can be used as an ultimate guide to understanding all the specifications of links for SEO, including some good and bad practices. 

What Are Links?

What are Links?

Let’s begin with the basics, and understand what links are exactly when it comes to SEO. Simply put, any HTML hyperlink that points from one webpage to another is known as a ‘link.’ These links can point from third-party websites back to your website, or from one webpage on your website to another. 

Coming to its inception, the internet was named the ‘web’ as it was intended to have the ability to link between pages and sites. Hence, links are one of the most prominent components as they connect various sites and pages for consumers, helping them find relevant information. 

Google’s Alex Russell pegs links as the superpower of the internet, as he says

“URL sharing is proto-social behaviour. It’s what enabled the web to spread and prosper, and it’s something we take for granted. In fact, if you look at any of my talks, you’ll see that I call it out as the web’s superpower.”

Depending on where the link is pointing from, they can be classified into three types; internal links, external links, and backlinks. 

What Are Internal Links?

Arguably, one of the easiest yet most underrated ways of link building is internal linking. Basically, internal links are hyperlinks that target or point to the same domain that link exists on. In a nutshell, an internal link is one that redirects the user to another page on the same website. 

The Purpose of Internal Linking 

The thought of directing a user on another webpage on the same website may seem trivial, however, many marketers over the years have come to realize the importance and purpose of link building. 

Direct Link Equity 

While this doesn’t have a game-changing impact, internal links are a great way to build credibility and promote pages that are not performing well. For example, you have optimized one service page on your website, redirected multiple external links, and over time, that page has gained high authority. You can share this high authority with other web pages on your website that aren’t performing well. 

Determine Your Most Important Pages 

Internal links are a great way to tell users and search engine bots which are the most important pages on your website. This is because crawlers use the site structure to navigate and understand your website. If there are many pages pointing links to one particular page, it shows that the page is important. 

Keep The User On Your Website 

When a user lands on your page, especially through a search engine, they are mostly looking for a particular answer. Ideally, when they land on your page, they will get their answer and leave. Unless you provide a link to a relevant page that gives them more information and even urges them to convert into paying customers. 

In a nutshell, we can’t control external links much as they come from third-party websites. However, internal links are your own website and you must make use of this as much as possible. 

So, while building external links should be your high priority, don’t forget to focus your efforts on optimizing the internal links of your website. 

What Are External Links? 

What are External Links?

External links are often confused with backlinks, however, there is a small distinction between the two. Essentially, when your website provides a link that points to a third-party website, it is referred to as an external link. 

Now, it may seem unlikely, but there are multiple reasons for adding a link that redirects to another website. However, regardless of the purpose, ensure that you have adjusted the settings in a manner that when a user clicks on the link it opens in a new tab. 

What Is The Purpose of External Links? 

Ideally, you wouldn’t want to redirect your users to another website while they are browsing yours. However, there are a couple of reasons for adding a link to a third-party website, some of which are listed below: 

Enhanced User Experience 

When a user lands on your website, your main aim should be to provide them with all relevant information about the topic they are looking for. Hence, by adding an external link to a third-party website that gives the user more information about a specific topic, you can enhance their experience on your site. 

Increase Credibility 

Did you know, Andrey Lipattsev, Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google, said links, content, and RankBrain as the top 3 factors for Google’s search results? While this is a compelling statistic, the fact that we’ve provided the link to the source of this statistic makes it more believable. Hence, by adding external links to the source of the information you’re providing makes the content more credible. 

What Are Backlink Links? 

Backlinks are created when a third-party website provides a link from their website to yours, essentially passing over some of their link juice to your website. Arguably, these links are one of the most important factors when it comes to SEO as it plays a huge role in determining which SERP rank will your website get.

Why Are Backlinks Important In SEO?

In layman terms, backlinks are extremely valuable as they provide a ‘vote of confidence’  from a third-party site. Hence, backlinks indicate to search engines that your website is credible and that other sites are vouching for it, and if multiple sites are linking back to a website, the search engine can denote that the content is of high quality. 

Hence, if you’re looking to secure a high rank on search engine result pages for higher visibility and spreading brand awareness, you need to get as many backlinks for your website as possible. 

That being said, not all backlinks impact your website in the same way, hence, it’s imperative for you to carry out backlink analysis. 

What Is Backlink Analysis & Why Does It Matter 

As mentioned previously, search engines consider links as a factor to determine your site’s authority. However, there are certain links that give more credibility than others. Hence, it’s essential to conduct a backlink analysis, which can help you get a better understanding of the type of links your website has and their ability to help your site rank on search engine result pages. 

Moreover, some backlinks can cause more harm than good, like spammy or unnatural backlinks. Backlink analysis can help you identify these bad links and can help you resolve the issue before Google levies a penalty. 

Another component that you should consider in your backlink analysis is analysing the backlinks on your main competitor’s website as well. 

This will help you understand how many links you need to outrank them. Moreover, this will also give you opportunities and ideas that you can implement as part of your link building strategy. 

Once you have completed this analysis, you need to analyse how many quality backlinks your website has. 

What Are Quality Backlinks? 

Just running behind links won’t help you rank your website. You need to focus on getting high-quality backlinks. But what is a quality backlink?

There are certain criteria that determine the quality and credibility of a backlink. Some of the most prominent ones are: 

  • The quality and authority of the linking site 
  • The linking site provides the link with a do-follow status, i.e. providing full SEO value 
  • The location of the link on the website 

Basically, a link from a respected site, which is posted within the site’s main body content and is set to a do-follow status will provide the maximum SEO value. 

Another concept that you can follow while determining the quality of backlinks is Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines’ E-A-T. This is an acronym for Expert, Authoritative, and Trustworthy. Websites that don’t have these characteristics are low-quality, hence, links coming from them aren’t of much value. 

What Are Nofollow Backlinks?

Technically, a no-follow backlink is added on a website along with a rel=”nofollow” tag applied to them. The purpose of the tag is for search engines as the link indicates that the bots shouldn’t consider them as backlinks. Hence, these links have little to no impact on search engine rankings. 

Which Links Should Be No-Followed? 

  • Comments in blog sections 
  • Forum posts or other user-generated content 
  • Paid advertisements 
  • Links created from widgets 

Types of Backlinks And What They Mean

There are various ways of earning backlinks, and each of these techniques provides a different quality of backlinks. Mentioned below are the most prominent and commonly used types of backlinks. 

What Are Article Backlinks? 

The most common way to get backlinks is by publishing content on third-party article and blog submissions sites. The idea is to provide high-quality and informative content to websites that create content relevant to your niche. In the content, you can provide a backlink to your website by choosing a highly searched keyword.  

What Are Editorial Backlinks?

Editorial backlinks are achieved through editorial mentions which are placed within relevant and high-quality content. Ideally, editorial backlinks are created when a website is citing information or data that is published on your site, or when they are quoting your company’s representative, or when your site is included in a roundup post. 

What Are Guest Blogging Backlinks?

Blogging has moved past being just a hobby and many prominent bloggers allow companies to publish their content in the form of guest posts. In these posts, you can give your website a backlink in the author section. While guest blogging has become highly popular and is part of almost every company’s SEO strategy, you need to be careful regarding which sites you choose. Not only do these sites need to be high-quality, but they also need to be relevant to your business or niche. 

What Are Backlinks In Business Profiles?

There is a host of business listing sites, which act as online Yellow Pages, wherein you can add a listing for your website and receive a backlink. Additionally, you can do the same through review sites and industry directories too. 

What Are High PR Backlinks? 

Considered as one of the highest levels of authority or page rank, high PR backlinks are when a PR site links to your website referring your business to their readers. Not only is this one of a more powerful type of backlink, but it also increases your brand awareness and revenue.

What Are YouTube Backlinks? 

Your YouTube channel is a great way to get a host of good quality backlinks for your brand. Generally, links from YouTube have a no-follow tag, however, there are few ways to get a do-follow link from this channel, which are listed below: 

  • Add a link to your website in the ‘About’ section of your page 
  • Add links in the description of each video 
  • Add links in the custom links section. However, it’s important to note that while you can add a number of links in this section, add the link to the most relevant page in the first box as only that link has the do-follow tag. 

What Are Spam Backlinks?

Also known as bad backlinks, toxic backlinks, or even unnatural backlinks, spam backlinks are referred to those links that come from low-quality spam websites. 

These backlinks can cause serious damage to the credibility of your website and directly impact your website’s ranking as well. This is because the presence of these bad links on your profile indicates to Google that your site may be connected to the bad quality site and might have low-quality content too. 

Additionally, you might also have to face Google’s Penguin penalty, which can severely impact the traffic coming to your website. 

Speaking purely regarding SEO metrics, spam backlinks will have one or more of the characteristics mentioned below: 

  • Low domain authority 
  • Low citation flow 
  • Low trust flow 
  • Low MozRank 
  • High spam score 
  • 100+ outbound links in a single page 
  • The domain has not been indexed by Google 

How To Identify Spam Backlinks? 

There’s no doubt that you must get rid of spam backlinks to avoid any damage to your website’s reputation and ranking. However, before that, you must first identify which backlinks are spam. With advancing technology and a host of various tools, this task has become mostly automated and all you need to do is choose the best from a long list of tools that can identify spam backlinks. 

Best Tools To Identify Backlinks

Moz

Moz is a prominent name when it comes to best practices in SEO. Hence, it’s no surprise that its Link Explorer feature is one of the best on the market. With a simple interface that is packed with a plethora of information, Moz has coined a new dynamic to help determine the credibility of scores known as DA (Domain Authority). After Google’s PageRank was stopped, most marketers refer to Moz’s DA to determine a site’s quality. 

DA is a score provided by Moz’s algorithms which considers all the SEO variables on a site. Essentially, the higher the DA, the more credible the site. It goes without saying that this score plays a huge role while determining which links are spam. 

Another metric that Moz uses to determine which links are spam is the Spam Score. This score is given to links based on the toxicity of the site it comes from. If you have a backlink from a site that has a Spam Score of above 60%, you are at risk of dragging your page rankings down. 

There are two options in the Link Explorer that can show you a site’s backlinks: Linking Domains and Inbound Links. 

When it comes to Linking Domains, you can see a list of domains that link back to your site. All you need to do is analyze the list and determine to filter out those links that come from websites with a low DA and Spam Score. 

AHREFs

Another favourite among digital marketing specialists, AHREFs gives its users all the tools necessary to track their keyword rankings and backlinks. A fair easy-to-use site, this tool also provides insights regarding what your competitor is up to. 

The most prominent part of this tool is the metrics it considers while determining the credibility of backlinks. Moreover, you can also easily check which of your links are do-follow or no-follow. 

Ubersuggest

Known for its backlink profiling features, Ubersuggest is both fast and accurate when it comes to providing a list of backlinks on your website and their source sites. 

Moreover, with an inclusion of the domain score, the tool also measures the strength of your website from a scale of 1 to 100, in addition to other data pointers like: 

  • Do-follow versus no-follow status 
  • Referring domains, including .gov and .edu domains 
  • A year-on-year analysis of the growth of your backlinks to give you an overview of how quickly your backlink count is growing

How To Remove Spam Backlinks?

Now that you have identified the spam backlinks on your website, you need to remove these links and the best way to do that is to check your profile from time-to-time and cleanse the bad backlinks. 

But how?

There are a couple of ways to accomplish this, some of the most effective ones are listed below. 

Contact The Owner of The Website

Another technique you can use is directly contacting the owner of the website and ask them to remove the spam backlinks from your website. Even though the success rate may be low with this step, it is the most straightforward way to get rid of spam links entirely.  

You can use tools like Whois or WhoIsHostingThis to find the website host and ultimately identify who is the owner of the website. 

Remove The Pages With Spam Backlinks 

If one particular page has too many spam backlinks, you could consider downgrading the page to a 404 or 410 page. But, you should note that you can’t do this for too many pages as too many 404 pages on a website can also send a negative message to Google. 

Stop Using The Domain 

If spam links are attacking too many of your pages, you could consider trashing the entire domain and starting over. You could redirect the current domain to the new URL. 

Without a doubt, this should be the last resort and should only be considered if there are too many spam links on your domain. 

How To Report Spam Backlinks To The Bot?

The most efficient way of stopping the negative impact of bad backlinks on your website is by disavowing them from Google with the help of Google’s tool. So, if none of the options mentioned above work for you and there aren’t too many spam links on your website, you could consider simply disavowing them. 

This won’t necessarily remove the links from your website, but Google won’t consider them, hence maintaining your site’s reputation and avoiding the threat being penalized by Google’s Penguin algorithm. To disavow backlinks, follow the steps given below: 

  • Identify the spam backlinks on your website 
  • Create a list of these toxic domains in a .txt format 
  • Upload the document on Google’s Disavow Tool or simply report the domains to Google and the search bots will ignore them while analyzing your website 

What Are Broken Links? 

As the name suggests, a broken link refers to links that don’t open and instead lead to an error page. Some of the reasons why links don’t work are: 

The website is no longer available

A webpage was moved without a redirect being added

The URL structure of a website was changed

While there are many more reasons, these are the most popular. Additionally, when the page is redirected to the error page, you will be informed why the page is not working. 

These links are important as search engines consider the number or broken links, which can have a negative effect on your rankings. Additionally, your visitors too will most likely leave the site if they land on an error page, without exploring any other pages on your website. 

How To Fix Broken Links? 

Fixing broken links can highly benefit your website as it adds context to your website, improves the user experience, and earns you some brownie points when it comes to Google’s search bots. 

Fixing broken links is fairly easy, and all you need to follow is a three-step process, which is listed below: 

Step 1: Find the broken links 

There are multiple tools to accomplish this, and most of these tools are free. Some of the best tools to find broken links are: 

  • Google Analytics 
  • Xenu 
  • Broken Link Checker
  • Screaming Frog SEO Spider
  • Internet Marketing Ninjas Sitemaps Generator Tool

Step 2: Create A Backlink Report 

Once you have identified which links are broken, you need to create an excel sheet with all these links. You can either copy and paste this information or export the data from tools like Google Analytics and Xenu. 

Once you have the data, add another column next to it and add the links where you would like to redirect the broken links too. 

Step 3: Redirect From The CMS 

Once the file is ready, upload the document on the website’s CMS. Depending on your CMS, you can directly upload the file or you will have to manually update each link. 

Once done, make sure you check the previously broken links to ensure they are redirecting properly.  

Final Thoughts 

The only constant in the landscape of SEO is that it is always changing, but currently, the most important metric of building a strong digital presence is building high-quality backlinks. So, take a leaf out of our extensive guide and get to building links! 

If you need any assistance or guidance from professional digital marketers, LeGusTry, an experienced digital marketing agency is just a call away. Contact us today to start building backlinks and eventually, a strong digital presence.

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