By J’Nel Wright
If you’re new to digital marketing, you may have already heard about backlinks. Adding these links to your content is a great way to increase the exposure and shareability of your post.
Writing engaging content is good; it’s an essential part of any digital marketing campaign. But adding links and understanding the value they bring to your content makes it even better. Using a strategy that helps reach your goal can be tricky, but it’s well worth learning. Why?
“Google uses links to find out what content on your site is related and the value of that content,” says Meike Henricks, digital marketer at Yoast. “By following links Google can work out the relationship between the various pages, posts and other content. This way Google finds out which pages on your site cover similar subject matter.”
When you hear someone refer to backlinks, they could be talking about anything from internal and external links to nofollow links, dofollow links, and conceptual and anchor texts. We will discuss all of those strategies in future posts. Right now, we are going to focus on internal and general external links and explore their functions.
Start with an Inside Job
Internal links connect readers with internal information and resources such as ebooks, event information, blogs, homepages, etc. “The biggest benefit is that it keeps users on the website and takes them down the rabbit hole that is your website,” explains Megan Ross, director of SEO and content strategy here at Osmond Marketing. It’s an effective way to keep readers engaged on your site because links simply direct readers to another part of your site—an infographic, a product description, an article, or even the biography of a staff member. And that helps improve your Google ranking.
“Internal linking strengthens the overall search-optimized value of a website. Inner linking does so by providing clear paths for spiders, prolonged sessions for users, and a tight-knit network of pages and posts,” explains marketing expert Neil Patel. By creating a site that offers readers a variety of thoughtful, well-organized content, you can reap the benefits of internal links. However, the real ranking game rests on what’s happening outside.
Then, Take It Outside
Internal links are important. But external links—or what we are actually referring to when talking about backlinks—add real impact to your site. External links are what Google relies on for site rankings. And getting a high-ranking site to link to your site via an external link is the ultimate goal. But be selective when choosing sites to link. Because the value of that linked site can either help or hurt your site’s ranking. Here’s why:
There are “bazillions” of links we can choose for our content. But not all links are alike, so let’s talk about link value. When it comes to determining the value of a site’s external links, Google uses hundreds of complicated metrics to determine rank. As a general rule, these are some common factors Google considers when ranking sites:
- How popular is the site that is linking to you?
- Does it relate to your site’s content?
- Is it trustworthy?
- How high is the domain authority?
- How many links on your source page lead to the same page?
- How many root domains are linked to the target page?
- How are anchor texts used and how many variations exist that link to the target page?
Because we want to add value to our site, find those sites that score high in the rankings. There are numerous online link analyzer tools (often they require a subscription) that provide summarized data on a link’s value, domain authority, etc. You may be surprised to discover some of the more familiar sites don’t rank as high as others because of links.
Remember: Location, Location, Location
Where you place your link is almost as important as who you choose to link to—almost.
When more than one link appears on a web page, Google divides the value of those links. In most cases, Google will place higher value on the first link listed near the top of your content page compared to those that appear further down. And the logic behind this is surprisingly human.
“Of course, you’d pick the link visitors would likely click on, and Google would want to do the same,” says Moz.com’s Cyrus Shepard. “Google’s Reasonable Surfer Patent describes methods for giving more weight to links it believes people will actually click, including links placed in more prominent positions on the page.”
But, placing ranking and link values aside, using external links in your content is promoting high-quality content across a variety of channels. And that is a win-win for readers.
“Your willingness to include valuable external links demonstrates that you care about your readers,” writes content marketing expert Casey Cline. “Instead of wanting to greedily hold onto every second of their attention, you provide them with the resources they really want and need to fully explore the topic, and generously include external links to accomplish this.”
The staff at Yoast, an SEO optimizing software company, agrees. “Our mission is SEO for everyone. We strongly believe in equal chances for everyone on a connected web. By asking you to add that outbound link, we ask you to connect your website to the next website. And that website to the next website.”
When it comes to improving your Google ranking, start with high-quality, original content. Then be sure to add internal links to support your content. Finally, add external links in the hopes of connecting with large, like-minded sites to expand your social reach. And as your followers grow, your Google ranking should grow as well.
Watch for a future blog on dofollow and nofollow links!