A recent December 2021 study by Ahrefs tested the impact of links when it comes to Google rankings. Links were disavowed in three Ahrefs articles for one month to see if removing their value would impact the articles’ Google rankings.
What did they find? Links still matter! Both traffic and ranking keywords within these three articles went down. When the action was reversed and the disavow files were removed, the articles’ traffic went up again.
Using Google’s disavow feature definitely impacted the traffic, but the study concluded that the three articles have lower traffic now than when they first started because the links were tampered with. Ultimately, Google will devalue links for you so that you don’t have to utilize their disavow file feature. What does this mean exactly? The links you place are important and should not be removed.
In order to understand why links are important, we must first understand what backlinks are and how they affect SEO. A backlink is essentially a link from one website to another. They are an important SEO tool because they represent one site’s confidence in another site’s content and performance. When a site has several backlinks, it signals to search engines that this particular site has worthy content that readers can benefit from finding. This, in turn, improves a website’s search rankings, which will boost a business’s sales and much, more more.
What’s a “Good” Backlink?
Good backlinks will help your website earn traffic and boost its search engine rankings. A good backlink has a few distinct qualities:
- It leads to a reliable, relevant, and authoritative site that could provide additional information about the subject of the article or website where the backlink lives. For example, a pool installation company may have a backlink on their website to a trusted website that provides relevant statistics on pool installation. They may also include a backlink to a news story on a popular source’s website about how people benefit from getting pool installation.
- It’s relevant. Along the same lines, the backlink must make sense in terms of where it is placed on a webpage. If a backlink leads to a news story about pool installation, is the information around that backlink about pool installation? Throwing in backlinks just because isn’t helpful; in fact, it can hurt your website’s reputation and rankings.
- Its anchor text is fitting. Using relevant anchor text for backlinks is a smart SEO strategy. Readers will click anchor text with a backlink if it is relevant to what they’re reading. Plus, search engines can determine the topic of a webpage based on the anchor text that is linked. Using the same example, a proper anchor text would be “benefits of pool installation” if you wanted a reader to click on a news story that offers reasons why they should consider pool installation for their own home. Using “click here” or something similar as an anchor text won’t help you in terms of SEO, and readers may find such language untrustworthy.
What’s a “Bad’ Backlink?
Bad backlinks can hurt your website’s search engine rankings, as they tell Google that you aren’t trustworthy. A bad backlink looks:
- Repetitive. If your website has several backlinks that all lead to one website, it’s going to look spammy in Google’s eyes. Instead of a bunch of backlinks to one source, it’s best to build links to several authoritative, relevant, and trustworthy websites. This will let Google know that your website is also trustworthy.
- Ill-placed. If you link to your website in the comments section of another website or through another suspicious method, Google will think it is spammy.
- Irrelevant. When backlinks are not helpful to readers, they are unnecessary to add. If Google sees these useless backlinks, your website may be deemed spammy and untrustworthy.
- Hidden. When websites hide backlinks using different fonts, font colors, and punctuation, this is a major red flag. This means the backlinks were added suspiciously and they aren’t actually helpful to a website or its readers.
Building Backlinks On Your Website
The backlinks on your website can make or break your Google rankings. As we’ve learned above, good backlinks on your website can earn Google’s trust and boost your search engine rankings. This means that you need to find relevant information on trustworthy websites to link to on your own website. Look to popular websites that are considered leaders in your industry. For example, Ahrefs is a trusted website and source for those that work in digital marketing. When Ahrefs is linked on a company’s website that offers digital marketing services, this backlink simply makes sense, and Google agrees!
Earning Backlinks For Your Website
Earning backlinks back to your own website can be trickier, especially if your website is on the newer side and it doesn’t have much traffic yet. Here’s what you need to do:
- Create helpful, relevant, and interesting content for your website. If you own a business, you’ll likely have service pages and contact information on your website; but what will help you most is developing a blog for your business’s website. This blog must provide relevant content to your industry and particular niche. When you have well-written, SEO-optimized content on your website, it’s going to be a bit easier to earn backlinks.
- Find broken links on suitable websites that are within your industry/niche. You can reach out to the owners of such websites in a friendly, helpful way by pointing out the broken backlinks. You can suggest linking back to your own website. Google has tools to help find these broken backlinks.
- Design a helpful infographic with backlinks to your site. Other websites can pay to put it on their own, leading to earned backlinks for you! The key here is to create an authentic, helpful infographic that hasn’t been seen before.
- Write guest articles. This method doesn’t only earn you a backlink; it also builds your business and website’s reputation and helps establish them on the internet. High-quality websites in a number of industries offer guest posting opportunities, which you can find online. You can also discover these opportunities through social media.
Tracking Your Backlinks
Once you start building and earning backlinks for your website, it’s important to also track them. Here’s why:
- You don’t want broken backlinks living on your website. Readers will be led to broken pages, which can deem your website untrustworthy.
- Search engines may give you link-based penalties, which can hurt your website’s rankings.
- De-indexing can hurt your website as well.
Monitor your backlinks by reviewing your guest posts every so often. Check to see if spammy or otherwise untrustworthy websites are linking to yours and track the live statuses of your backlinks. You should always review your website’s rankings often to see if your backlinks are negatively affecting your SEO.
Backlinks Are More Important Than You Originally Thought
As stated in our introduction, a study by Ahrefs demonstrated that backlinks are very important for a website’s reputation, traffic, and overall search engine rankings. As you build and earn backlinks for your website, look for websites that are highly authoritative and relevant to your industry and niche. Carefully track your website’s backlinks, but don’t hastily remove them without thinking it through; you may not be able to get your original traffic back if you tamper with your backlinks without SEO strategies in mind.