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This is one of the most frequent questions we hear from newcomers to SEO, and sometimes even from those who’ve been working with it for awhile but are looking for new strategies:
Well, right off the bat, here’s the spoiler: There’s no single answer to the question. There’s no good answer to the question. In a lot of ways, it’s the wrong question to ask when analyzing backlinks for SEO, because the entire issue of backlinking revolves around quality over quantity.
So today, we’re going to take an in-depth look at backlinks: How Google views them, what backlinks bring the most SEO juice, and strategies you can deploy to try to increase your quality backlink count.
Let’s begin with the basics…
PageRank is one of the many indicators that Google uses to determine a webpage’s overall search engine results page (SERP) placement. It’s one of their oldest indicators, and it’s also believed to be among the most important overall when deciding on SERP ranking.
A website being linked to by many sites with a strong PageRanks is virtually guaranteed to be high up on the results page.
Simply put, the principle behind PageRank is this: The more links a web page receives from other pages, the more important that page must be. And the more reputable those linking pages are, the more reputable the linked page must be.
PageRank is expressed as a value from 0-10. A page with PR0 is junk, like some random teenager’s personal blog or a page that’s clearly machine-written. A PR10 rank is nearly unheard of since it would basically indicate a page which is both among the top destinations online AND with an impeccable reputation. Even incredibly popular pages, such as ESPN or eBay, will generally only have PageRanks of PR8 or PR9.
It’s also worth mentioning that PageRank is not a linear scale, it’s (roughly) exponential. A PR3 page link is about ten times as valuable as a PR2 page.
This is why we say that quality backlinks for SEO are the key, and raw linking numbers simply don’t matter. A single link from a single page with a high PageRank score, like PR5 or above, is literally worth more than hundreds of low-quality links.
Which brings us to the next major question:
Obviously, everyone would love to be directly linked to by the front pages of Wikipedia, Amazon, Facebook, or one of the other top-twenty websites with PR9 ratings, but that’s not on the plate for most growing businesses.
For lower-tier (but still important) websites with strong mid-range PageRanks, these are the major criteria Google uses when evaluating the quality of the link:
If the pages linking to you meet most of these criteria, you will almost undoubtedly see big boosts to your SERP based on it. It’s also worth mentioning that it’s not always necessary to meet all of these criteria. Huge volumes of traffic can outweigh somewhat lower relevance.
On the other hand, an excess of poor, spammy, or especially paid-for links can do great harm to your SERP ranking.
Now, of course, we come to the crux of the problem: How do you get high-quality backlinks when you cannot, of course, directly control other web pages?
First, let’s talk about your web page. Then we’ll talk about things you, personally, can do to try to influence your backlinks for SEO.
The first and biggest suggestion is simply to always link to others in the same way you’d like to be linked to. Be the change you want to see, as the old motivational phrase puts it.
The next step is to work on your own on-page optimization. The better your page is optimized for SEO in general, the more authority that will give to your own links. And that’s a very important aspect to remember: In the same way that bad web pages linking to you will drag your SERP ranking down, you don’t want to be the bad web page dragging someone else’s SERP down either.
Don’t be the jerk.
Here are some of the major SEO optimizations you can perform which should have the biggest impact on your authority and relevance.
That basically covers what you can do with your web page. Now, let’s look at other activities you can engage in which can potentially boost your quality backlink numbers.
So, what else can you do to improve your backlink quality? This is a tricky topic since many of these techniques involve direct person-to-person outreach to other webmasters. Nothing says they’ll necessarily go along with your suggestions, so bring your best people skills.
As a broad guideline, you’ll want at least as many high-quality backlinks as they have when competing for specific keywords. This gives you a rough goal to shoot for.
This is one of the best ways to get some extra backlinks, as well as extra viewers. If you can make a few contacts with similar blogs to yours, trading off guest blogs is pretty much always a win-win proposition. The same is also true of podcasts, vlogs, or other media outreach types.
It’s extremely bad form to simply email another website asking them to link to you, and they probably won’t do it. However, getting connected with them via social media and then posting some of your materials can sometimes make it happen.
Conferences, trade shows, and similar in-person events are excellent opportunities to network and meet like-minded webmasters you could collaborate with later.
Is someone pushing for change in your industry, or even trying to organize some sort of charity drive for cancer or something like that? Get onboard! Everyone involved will likely be sharing links, so you’ll get some SEO juice as well as engaging in useful activities.
This is tricky, but if there are certain pages you find linking to you that you don’t want, contact them directly and ask to have your links removed. Unfortunately, there’s no telling how their webmaster will react because it’s almost unavoidably an insulting request.
Lastly, there’s one special case we should address:
A few years ago, it was common for online businesses to issue press releases for anything and everything since websites like PRWeb would publish them with little or no editorial oversight. Accordingly, these press releases would also tend to be full of links and keywords, sometimes to the point that they were barely human-readable.
However, beginning in 2013, Google began taking a very dim view towards such efforts. Major PR websites saw their relevance slashed, and those “heavily optimized” releases began being treated as extremely low-quality links. In other words, spammy press releases started truly being treated like spam and could begin harming a business’s SERP rankings.
Obviously, this does not mean you should cease issuing press releases entirely! They still have legitimate public outreach value. However, you should be aware that in most cases, they will do very little for your SEO. In worst cases, they can harm it.
Here are a few guidelines:
Basically, press releases simply aren’t a good source for SEO boosts anymore and should only be used when there’s a good business or outreach-related reason.
The TL;DR is simply this: Quality backlinks are FAR more important than quantity. Make your own web page as high-quality and linkable as possible, while engaging in outreach aimed at bringing your site to the attention of larger pages whose links would boost your SEO.
Finally, it’s important to mention that Google’s search algorithms are constantly changing. Keep up with news on their latest initiatives so you can stay ahead of the curve on good SEO practices.
And if you’re looking for a great way to track your site’s performance, evaluate your SEO, watch backlinks, and get great improvement suggestions: check out SEOPressor Connect. It has the features you need for great SEO!
How many backlinks are too much for you? Have you ever get penalized from Google? Leave a comment down below to share your experience with us.
Updated: 21 July 2017