Links are an important part of SEO. Without links, Google (or other search engines) may not discover your pages, or might not think that they’re important. Sometimes, though, you might want Google not to follow a link. Or you might want to tell them a particular is sponsored, or added to your page by a user. Why’s that? And how do you implement this on your website? Learn all about sponsored, nofollow and ugc links here!
Links and SEO
When you link to another website, search engines may count that as a ‘vote’ for the page you’re linking to. Pages which have many such ‘votes’, from authoritative and trusted websites, may rank higher in the search results as a result (as they, in turn, become more authoritative and trustworthy). That makes links a kind of currency.
That’s why a good SEO strategy should always consider how the types of content, marketing and PR that you do will encourage other websites to link to you. If you’re not already thinking about how your site can earn links from others, our guide to link building tips and tactics is a good place to get inspiration on where to start.
In the past, but still even today, people try to game the system by buying links. Obviously, that’s not the way to go; Google’s penguins might come after you! That’s why we recommend holistic link building, which boils down to creating great resources for your audience and reaching out to get the word out, eventually leading to more links.
But, what happens if you want to link to a page, without voting for it? And, what stops people from finding ways to cheat the system, such as posting links to their site on your website; on comment forms, forums, or social media profiles?
In these cases, we need to use a special type of link, to tell search engines that it shouldn’t be trusted.
The nofollow attribute
In the early days of SEO, many unscrupulous marketers realised that they could easily get hundreds of links to their pages by leaving spam comments on other blogs, by buying links from webmasters, or from placing links on any site which allowed user-submitted content.
To combat this, in 2005 Google introduced a way to mark a link as untrusted; specifically, a way of saying “don’t follow this link”. By adding a nofollow attribute to your links, they’d no longer count as votes. It also became Google’s policy that any link which is paid for (typically an advert, paid placement, or similar) should use a nofollow attribute to indicate that it shouldn’t affect their ranking calculations.
That’s because paid links are the same as a ‘vote’ for a page. For instance, if someone pays you to put an ad on your website, you might send some visitors to the advertised page or product. Since it’s not a natural endorsement, link value shouldn’t pass on to this particular page; search engines shouldn’t rank it higher because you’ve received some kind of compensation for that link.
This also made it possible to link to a page which you don’t endorse, but you still want to use it as an example in your copy (e.g., “I tried this product, but it was horrible”).
Today, almost all comment systems and social media platforms automatically add a nofollow attribute to user-submitted content.
What does that look like?
Let’s take a closer look at a link. In HTML, a plain link looks like this: <a href="https://www.example.com">example link</a>. You probably use these types of links a lot throughout your content. You use them to point readers to interesting, related content on your own site or someone else’s website.
If you want to indicate that you don’t trust the site you’re linking to, or that it’s a paid placement, including the nofollow attribute would look like this: <a href="https://www.example.com" rel="nofollow">example link</a>.
So far, we’ve only considered whether external links should be nofollow’d. In some cases, it might also make sense to mark an internal link with a nofollow attribute. In Yoast SEO, we automatically add a nofollow attribute to internal links which point to your login or registration pages. This prevents Google from wasting resources crawling and evaluating those pages.
Links contain valuable information that can help us improve search, such as how the words within links describe the content they point at. Looking at all the links we encounter can also help us better understand unnatural linking patterns. By shifting to a hint model, we no longer lose this important information, while still allowing site owners to indicate that some links shouldn’t be given the weight of a first-party endorsement.
In September 2019, Google announced two new types of link attribute. It’s now possible to mark links as sponsored or ugc (short for ‘user-generated content), as well as nofollow. They explained that:
The sponsored attribute should be used to identify links which are specifically the result of paid placement; e.g., sponsored placements, advertorials, paid links, and similar.
The ugc attribute should be used to identify links which are created by users (e.g., author links in a comment form), which therefore aren’t necessarily trusted or endorsed by the page’s author.
In both cases, these work similarly to the original nofollow attribute – they tell Google note to count the link as a ‘vote’. We don’t know precisely how Google uses this data internally, but they’ve hinted that it’ll help them understand more about the link. That might improve how they count ‘votes’ and evaluate pages.
What does that look like?
That means that we have four different types of HTML markup for links:
A normal link, with no rel attribute
A nofollow link: <a href="https://www.example.com" rel="nofollow">example link</a>
A sponsored link: <a href="https://www.example.com" rel="sponsored">example link</a>
A user-generated content link: <a href="https://www.example.com" rel="ugc">example link/a>
Whilst each of these attributes describe different types of links, it’s possible to combine various rel attributes in one link. For instance, a sponsored and nofollow attribute can exist in one link: <a href="https://www.example.com" rel="nofollow sponsored">example link</a>.
This is useful, because not all search engines support the two new rel attributes, so it’s best practice to use the nofollow attribute along with the sponsored and ugc attribute.
So, now you know what these links and rel attributes look like. But why and when should you use them?
When should you use which attribute?
The sponsored attribute
An advertisement or link you get paid for or in any other way should use the sponsored attribute. The reasoning behind this is that Google sees links to a page as an endorsement; you link to an article because it’s a valuable resource you’d like to point your users to. When you get paid to place a reference to another website your motivation is different. It might be something you wouldn’t link to without compensation. With the sponsored attribute Google can differentiate these “unnatural links” from normal links.
As other search engines won’t recognise this sponsored attribute (yet), we do recommend to add the nofollow attribute to this type of link as well.
The UGC attribute
You should use the ugc attribute whenever users of your website are able to create content or links on it; e.g., in the comment section on your site. If you’re on WordPress, there’s no need to worry about this attribute; WordPress automatically adds a ugc attribute, as well as a nofollow attribute – a specific request from our team – to the links in the comment section on your site.
The nofollow attribute
As not all search engines support the sponsored or ugc attribute (yet) you should still add the nofollow attribute to both these type of links as well.
Creating sponsored or nofollow links in WordPress
While this might sound a bit complicated when you’re not an HTML native, qualifying links is simple with the WordPress block editor and Yoast SEO. Since Yoast SEO 14.4 we’ve added an option to easily add a sponsored or nofollow attribute to a link in your content.
If you want to nofollow a link or qualify it as sponsored (and nofollow at the same time), click on the link icon, paste your link and you’ll see these options:
Select the option of your choice by moving the slider and you’re done!
You’ve had this great idea. You’ve built this amazing website. And then, you want that website to attract visitors! You want to be found! What to do? How do you get started with SEO? How do you start with SEO on a brand new site? In this blog post, I’ll talk you through the 7 steps you need to take in order to get your SEO strategy up and running.
So, you’ve started your first site and you want it to be found, so you can share your thoughts and views with the world. What to do? Let’s go through the steps of starting with SEO!
Install Yoast SEO
Provided that your website is on WordPress, installing Yoast SEO should be the first step in your SEO strategy. Our Yoast SEO plugin will help you to make sure your website is crawlable and findable. Yoast SEO will immediately take care of some technical SEO issues, just by being installed on your website. Besides that, our plugin will help you to construct your website in such a way that Google will understand and rank it. We offer a free and a premium plugin. If you’re just starting out, you’ll probably won’t need our premium version yet, although it can already save you some valuable time.
Get that first link
Google needs to know your website exists. And, in order for Google to know about your awesome new site, you need at least one external link towards your site. The reason for this: Google crawls the web. It follows links and saves all the webpages it finds in a very large database called the index. So, if you want to get into that index, you need (at least) one external link. So make sure to get that link from an external website!
What do you want to rank for?
Make sure to attract the right audience to your website. Who are your customers? For whom did you build this website? What terms do your customers use when searching on Google? And what’s their search intent, what kind of content are they looking for? Find out as much as you can about your audience.
SEOs refer to this stage as doing your keyword research. This is a hard and important phase. There are a lot of helpful tools that make doing keyword research easier. Some of these tools are free, others are rather expensive. While these tools will make the difficult phase of keyword research easier, you should remember that you can’t outsource your keyword research to a tool. You really need to think about your audience and about the search terms they are using. It’s also important to analyze what you’re seeing in the search results pages when entering your keywords. Take your time for this phase. It is crucial. If you do your keyword research correctly, you’ll come up with a long list of keywords you want to rank for.
Set realistic goals
For a new site, it is rather hard to rank high in the beginning. Older sites already have a history, established their authority and a lot of links pointing towards them. That means that Google’s crawlers come by more often at older sites. For a new site to rank, you’ll always need to be a little patient. And remember: some search terms will be out of reach for a new site because there’s too much competition. Trying to rank for [WordPress SEO] will be rather hard for any new blog, because of some fierce competition on that term from Yoast.com.
If you’re just starting with your site, try to aim at ranking for long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords are keywords that are longer and more specific and have far less competition than the popular head keywords. After a while, when your site starts to rank for the long-tail keywords, you could try and go after the more head keywords.
As I already mentioned in step 2, Google follows links. Google also follows the links on your website, your internal linking structure. It crawls through your website following the internal linking structure of your site. That structure is like a guide to Google. Make sure your internal linking structure is flawless. That’ll help with your ranking.
If you start with a brand new website, you’ll probably don’t have much content yet. This is the perfect time to think about structure. Now it is relatively easy. It’s like having a new closet and you haven’t started buying clothes. Now is the time to think about the things you want to put on the top shelf and which items you want to hide in the back of your closet. So, decide which pages are most important to you. What are the pages you want to rank with? Make sure that these pages have the most internal links pointing towards them.
In order to get ranked, you need to have content. A very important step in how to start with your SEO is to write amazing content for all these search terms you want to be found for. The content analysis in the Yoast SEO plugin will help you to write that content. Our analysis will help you to write a text that is both readable and SEO friendly.
External links are important to get your site in high positions in those search engines. But gathering those external links can be a hard process. Make sure to write content people want to share and link to. Original ideas and great, valuable content will make the chance that people would want to share that much bigger.
Of course, reaching out to people and making them aware of your awesome website and product can be a good strategy to get those external links too. Read more about a successful link building strategy or find out what link building is first.
And then what?
The truth is that SEO is more than these 7 steps. This is only the very beginning, the steps you take to start with SEO. In order to get longterm high rankings in the search engines, you need to do hard work. Your content has to be amazing, your site structure has to remain flawless (and that’s challenging when your site is growing) and you’ll have to keep earning those external links. The only way to really do that, in the long run, is to make sure that your audience enjoys visiting your website. If you want to rank the highest, make sure your site is the very best. Good luck!
Link building is an essential aspect of SEO. You can write the perfect post, but if search engines can’t follow at least one link to it, it will most likely spend its days forever waiting in vain for visitors to admire its outstanding content. For Google to find your post, it needs links from other websites. The more links, the better. But, beware, the quality of links does matter! Not every link is worth the same. Even worse: some links could negatively affect your site. Here, we’ll explain how link building works. We’ll also guide you to more in-depth articles if you want to learn how to do it well.
Before we dive in, if you want to learn more about link building strategies and other essential SEO skills, you should check out our SEO training! It doesn’t just tell you about SEO: it makes sure you know how to put these skills into actual practice!!
What is a link?
Simply put, a link, or a hyperlink, is a connection between two pages on the internet. With a link you can refer people to a page, post, image or other object on the internet. Links exist for people in the first place: with a link you can easily “travel” from one web location to another.
But links serve search engines well too; search engine robots follow links to discover pages on the internet. This is called crawling. For a robot to find your website, you’ll need at least one hyperlink to it from a website that gets crawled already. Making sure you get that first link is one of the things you really need to do when you launch a brand new website.
A link in HTML
In the coding language HTML, a hyperlink looks like this:
<a href=”https://yoast.com/wordpress/plugins/seo/”>Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress</a>.
The first part contains the URL you’re linking to. In this case, it’s the URL of the Yoast SEO plugin page (https://yoast.com/wordpress/plugins/seo/). The second part (Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress)shows the clickable text that you’d see on the page. We call this piece of text the ‘anchor text’.
The anchor text serves two purposes: it should describe what the linked page is about and it should entice people to click. If a link has a well-crafted anchor text, this has two advantages: 1) More people click on it, leading to more direct traffic and 2) It will help search engines understand what your page is about, possibly leading to more traffic from search engines. Of course, you can’t control how others link to your site, but you can use it to improve your internal links.
What is link building?
Link building refers to the marketing efforts to get links from other websites to your website. It’s seen as one of the most powerful tools to achieve higher rankings for your site in search engines. If a lot of high-quality links lead to a certain page, search engines will consider it a popular or meaningful article, and, therefore, they’ll rank it higher.
Links aren’t all equal. Some links are worth more than others. For instance, a link from an authoritative website, preferably topically related to yours, is worth more than a random link from a small website nobody knows. So, if you have a restaurant, you’d rather get a link from a restaurant review (on topic) on The Guardian website (high authority), than, let’s say, a link from your aunt’s horseback-riding school website. This makes choosing sites you’d love to get links from easier, but at the same time, it makes it a lot harder to get those coveted high-quality links.
Because link building isn’t easy, lots of shady link building methods emerged in the past. People tried to game the system, for instance, by buying links from link farms. That’s why link building has got a somewhat nasty reputation.
Consequently, Google intervened with serious penalties as a result. If your site gets linked to from websites with a questionable reputation, it can completely disappear from the search results. So you better refrain from any of these risky link building tricks. If you play it fair and smart though, you can gain a lot from link building.
What should you do to get links?
Now we get to the million dollar question: what should you do to get those valuable links? We believe in a holistic link building approach. You’ll have to create a website that people want to link to. It sounds so simple: Create high-quality, funny, original or exceptional content people want to share. But how do you do this?
First and foremost, find out who your audience is. Who are you trying to reach with your content? What kind of content do they need? What information are they looking for and what kind of questions do they ask? Which words do they use? And, what kind of websites do they visit?
If you can answer these questions, it will be easier to create content that fits your audience’s needs (for instance, by using the principles of content design). Also, when you’ve created that page with valuable content for your audience, and you know where your audience is (which websites they visit), you’ll have a starting point for your link building activities: you can start reaching out to those website owners. That’s what link building is, in a nutshell: Sharing your article with parties that might be interested in sharing it too. That’s why it’s key to target the right niche for your shop or blog. This focus decreases the number of people you’ll have to contact and increases the chances of actually getting a link.
People will only link from their website to yours if it’s in their audience’s (or their own) interest. Convincing them to link will only happen if your product or content really is exceptional. Offering them to try or use your product (if you have one) for free might help convince them. And always make sure to contact them personally, as this will lead to better results. Read all about this process in our step by step guide to link building.
Link building for bloggers and pros
Link building requires time, effort and persistence. As a blogger, you might dread link building even more. If you can relate to this, Caroline’s post on her struggles with link building as a blogger is a great read.
Have your bases covered and want to take it a step further? Then we’d advise you to read this article with advanced link building tips by Kris Jones. You’ll learn which tools you can use to find out which sites already link to you and what you can do to get more of those. Find out everything about broken link building, reclamation link building, the so-called skyscraper technique and more.
Pssst… if reaching out really isn’t your thing, you can always start with some “internal link building”: fix your internal linking structure!
Link building remains the SEO industry’s white elephant. Many proclaim that link building is spammy, dead, and even harmful to your SEO. But link building remains a primary part of an effective performance-based SEO strategy. And when executed properly contributes to higher organic search rankings.
I recently gave a presentation at YoastCon 2019 outlining my white hat toolbox of advanced link building methods. Which I’ve used for nearly two decades. First as founder and CEO of affiliate juggernaut Pepperjam, later as Chairman of Internet Marketing Ninjas, and more recently as CEO of US-based Top 10 SEO company (and Yoast Preferred Partner) LSEO.com. Some of you have probably heard of some of these tactics and some are probably hearing about these for the first time. Regardless, my hope is to provide you with specific, actionable link building tactics to boost your SEO.
What’s important to remember is that each link building tactic should be practiced strategically. This way you derive the greatest long-term benefit for your website. Stop looking at link building as a static tactic to manipulate search engines. Instead, focus on giving users value and building relationships within your industry. Your success will be dictated by your long-term investment in SEO, not short term thinking or tricks.
Why link building remains important
Is backlinking really one of Google’s top factors in their algorithm? Yes, link building still remains at the top with content followed closely by RankBrain.
Google’s algorithms remain incredibly dynamic, incorporating hundreds of vectors and considerations for each individual search. As sophisticated as search engines become, they’ll still rely on users and third parties to help them determine what content is considered useful to users. Links help search engines bridge that gap.
Beyond algorithmic benefits, backlinks serve functional purposes for your website:
Provides referral traffic
Indexes orphaned or isolated pages
Contributes on-page value to readers
Serves as a citation for research
Builds relationships within your existing industry
Really, link building should serve as an extension to an effective content marketing campaign. When you publish new content to your website you should also build links to the page. Much like paid media can help boost traffic to a landing page, so to can a link from a popular website. In the end, they both serve as an advertisement for that page, only one practice is free.
Link Building Considerations
Competitor research tools like SEMrush and Spyfu provide a treasure trove of important information about links. These tools, and others than focus specifically on backlinks, such as Majestic and Ahrefs, provide insights on the quality and quantity of links pointing to any website you’d like to analyze.
It’s important to understand that not all links are equal. Just because a link points to a competitor website in and of itself doesn’t justify a strategy to acquire it. In fact, based on your link analysis you may conclude the link should be avoided. Disregarding the addition of a ‘nofollow’ attribute for a second, it’s pretty obvious when a backlink is from a source of authority or spam.
Generally, SEOs search for backlinks that are authoritative and relevant. Determining authority can be based on Moz’s newly updated Domain Authority metric or you can dig deeper under the hood to examine specific metrics associated with a particular website, such as total traffic, traffic value, number of new unique visitors, the total number of referring domains to that website, etc.
In terms of link building, the number of unique referring domains is generally more important from an algorithm standpoint, then the sheer number of backlinks pointing to your site. But both are valuable to consider when analyzing links.
For the most part, a large portion of your backlinks will be generated naturally as your website ages and other websites link to your evergreen content. Keep in mind that effective SEO requires you to produce new quality content consistently over time. Producing high-quality content is worth your attention and investment.
Keep these considerations in mind when building backlinks to your website:
Never pay for links as it’s a violation of Google’s terms of service
Stay away from private blog networks that appear to be owned by a single entity
Don’t engage in guest posting opportunities for the sole purpose of link building; Instead contribute high quality content to extend your thought leadership
Build links that improve the on page value of new or existing content
With that said, let’s explore 15 advanced link building techniques that will help you improve your SEO performance over time.
Advanced link building tactics
Link reclamation is the easiest and most straightforward link building tactic readily available for any website. The idea is to reclaim a backlink to your site that previously existed but is now broken or removed.
You can use tools like Moz’s Fresh Web Explorer to type in your brand and find any unlinked mentions across the web.
You can use specific search operators to find mentions of your brand and check whether or not the page provides a link back to your website. From there you can reach out to the publisher and request a link back.
Furthermore, you can set up Google Alerts to your email address whenever your website or brand is mentioned across the web. Unfortunately, Moz’s tool only goes back four weeks, so this helps you stay consistently on top of your brand and continually finding new backlink opportunities.
Tip: To find an editor conduct a site: search using the domain name followed by the keyword “contact us”, “about us”, “email”, etc.
Broken link building
Broken link building is essentially the same strategy as link reclamation, only it involves leveraging broken backlinks from pages all across the web.
In the interim, you can use this Google Chrome extension to discover any broken links present on a page during your research.
But to find the goldmine of broken links you’ll need to do some topic research using SEMrush or Ahrefs. For this example, we’ll use Ahrefs.
Type in a keyword related to your industry and use search operators to find the most popular blogs or content publishers in that niche. For example, you can use sites like Quicksprout and Moz for the SEO industry.
Plug the domain into Ahrefs Site Explorer
Click on ‘Best by Links’ under the Pages tab in the left column
Filter by 404
Click on Dofollow Links and examine the list of pages linking back to that page
You can also scrape educational resources and blogs related to your industry and filter URLs by 404 using ScreamingFrog.
From there, you could recreate or even improve upon the previous page (called a skyscraper technique – see below) and reach out to publishers letting them know they have a broken outbound link and that you can easily replace it with high-quality relevant content.
Tip: Use this tool to look at what the broken page was and why it was linked to in the first place.
Reverse engineered competitor link building
Leverage SEMrush or Ahrefs to download a CSV of 3-5 of your top competitor backlinks. Filter your spreadsheet and tag by gTLD (.com, .org, .de, etc), industry, geography, DA / PA, traffic, total unique referral domains, and other metrics deemed valuable to your campaign.
The key here is to nerd out on all the data and think through how and why your competitor earned each link and simply do it better. Have fun with disqualifying links you’d never want and celebrate when you know you’ve got existing content (or have a plan to write new content) that will undoubtedly earn a link from the target site.
This is a good time to define the Skyscraper technique. In short, the Skyscraper Technique is when you identify content that ranks for a keyword you’d like to rank for (or in this case – a link that exists within content you’d like a link) and then you write something that’s even better. More on this in a bit, but let’s stay focused on reverse engineering competitor backlinks.
Using filters you can look for opportunities related to:
Thought leadership pieces
Local reach out
Look for opportunities to join existing conversations with value-added content (i.e. provide a quote, offer a link to research or an infographic) and even go as far as replacing broken or dead links with better content.
This strategy is entirely white hat and offers the best potential to find new relationships in your field. It’s not easy. Instead, it’s terribly time consuming, but if you want to dominate SEO it’s absolutely worth your time and energy.
Resource link building
Resource link building requires manual outreach and has a low success rate. But links acquired through resource link building tend to generate quality website traffic in addition to passing authority to your website.
If you’ve ever searched for a discount on a particular type of clothing or top clothing store you’ve typed in something like, “best cheap hats” or even “best men’s clothing stores”.
Look at the results, they’re all great listicles and resources.
But there are also more sophisticated methods to derive resource pages for both B2B and B2C companies.
This is a good example of a resource page from a major publication in the SEO industry:
Using this operator string ‘Intitle:keyword AND intitle:resources AND inurl:resources’ you can find existing resources for business and services in your industry with ultra specific listings.
To find this page, I used the following query:
After you find resource pages that are suitable for your company and industry, you can contact the author and ask for a mention. When crafting an email, be sure to stress the value that your business offers its customers and ask what you can do to qualify for that list.
Skyscraper and modified skyscraper
We’ve mentioned the Skyscraper Technique above as a key way to think about how to build great content that is worthy of a back link. The idea is to find a piece of content ranking highly on Google for a keyword you’d like to rank for and create a better version of the content. “Better” may mean adding a video, writing longer form content, adding useful images and / or infographics, or otherwise extending the quality of the contact that ranks highly for your target keywords.
In truth, the Skyscraper technique requires a considerable allocation of time and resources and there is no guarantee it will work. While it many cases the Skyscraper does indeed work (when coupled with an aggressive link outreach strategy) it’s more of a core philosophy around content marketing and link building than a specific SEO tactic. However, don’t discredit the approach.
After two decades of experience, I can tell you confidently that building great content is the most effective way to acquire new backlinks to your website over time. Using the Skyscraper technique is absolutely worth the effort since the concept is all about making the necessary investment required to compete at the highest levels of search engine marketing.
Note that you should always strive for your content to be over the top amazing sauce; don’t just attempt to be “a little better.”
If you think the Skyscraper technique sets a high bar for content marketing Rand Fishkin’s
10x content takes things to the next level. 10x simply means ten times better than all existing content on the web. So how do we do this when we’re competing against major brands and publications? Try doing something entirely unique.
Fishkin provides an example of creating a chart of the most trusted movie review sites.
From here, you can use the same follow-up as the skyscraper method to earn backlinks.
Just keep these concepts in mind when crafting a piece of 10x content:
Experiment with new mediums and formats
Create visceral content
Answer an important question at length and with extensive detail
Keep this in mind – both the Skyscraper technique and 10x content Technique make clear the importance of going over the top when building content. Writing thin content or using dated SEO strategies are highly unlikely to yield long term results.
Piggybacking off of the idea of experimenting with new mediums, I strongly encourage you to experiment with a new form of guest posting using infographics as content. This strategy is called “guestographics.”
Remember this little formula: ‘Great Content + Targeted Outreach + Added Value = Links’
Use tools like Buzzsumo and Ahrefs Content Explorer to find trending content in your industry. Think through how you can take a trending topic or evergreen content and turn it into an infographic. Instead of submitting a guest post around the topic – you guessed it – submit a high-quality infographic that links back to your site (preferably to Skyscraper or 10x content that you wrote to rank for a target keyword).
You get what you pay for so think big on both sides (e.g. creative + placement). This will likely require that you hire a graphic designer. Consider hiring someone on Upwork or Freelancer to hire an affordable design expert.
Ego bait is a proven performer in performance-based SEO link building and can be used in a variety of ways. The idea is to appeal to an influencer’s “ego” by tagging them in a piece of content or the snippet of a post to encourage them to read the post and link back to it in the future.
Targeted sharing serves as a very popular form of ego bait. Other ideas and strategies include:
Creating a post with a reference list of thought leaders that includes a link to their website and/or social media profiles (BTW – I bite for these all the time with link backs. LOL)
Placing @mention to ping thought leaders and mention them in the post.
Email influencers once a post is live and request a comment.
Invite others with influence to contribute content to your site and interview them.
The idea is to encourage interaction between you and an influencer to start a conversation and build a relationship. Being controversial or humorous will increase your chances of getting a response. While the goal is to earn a link to your website you must first give something of value (a compliment, a ranking, a shoutout) in return.
One of the most effective ways to build links (and recognition) is to become a thought leader. Becoming a thought leader means contributing your thoughts on topics that you are an expert and that you care deeply about. Most people would agree that thought leadership means having your finger on the pulse of your industry and continuing to inspire and educate readers in your industry. Naturally, people will link back to you as a resource because it will naturally help them strengthen their own content.
Here’s some ideas to help cultivate your own form of thought leadership:
Podcast interviews in return for a link
Do local media interviews (TV, radio, print, community websites)
Contribute to research (i.e. MOZ Local ranking factors, Special Guest App Talent Booking Surveys)
Create Viral Social Media Content (memes, infographics, studies, data, etc.)
Selectively contribute to industry roundups
Guest post on industry websites and hobby blogs
Speak at industry conferences and events
I’ve personally contributed to nearly 400 publications, written 3 books (new one coming out in May), and publicly spoke over 100 times, which have created tremendous backlinking opportunities for me. While I don’t only do it for the backlink, I always ask for a backlink. Every time.
Create original research
Conducting research is one of my favorite advanced link building strategies because of the positive impact it can have on your brand, the value that it can add to your industry, and because if done correctly can result in a lot of high-quality links to your website. The idea is to conduct research via surveys or other means to collect data that answers industry questions or otherwise helps your target audience better understand questions they find curious.
For instance, if you are in the coffee industry you can poll customers to discover the most popular times of the day people drink their second cup of coffee. But also how many cups of coffee people drink on average per day/week/month, preferences around coffee brands (i.e. K-Cup, Nespresso, Starbucks, Pete’s, etc) and coffee type (medium roast, dark roast, etc), most popular caffeine alternatives to coffee (i.e., Red Bull, 5 Hour Energy, Tea, etc), and public opinion around whether or not coffee is healthy for you or not.
Once you have enough interesting research data you can write content and publish it on your website (i.e. Top Five Caffeine Alternatives to Coffee). You can do this in one or multiple forms. It is also possible to use the data to contribute content to high authority third party websites. You can also put together a press release announcing the findings. With the goal of the data being used by news agencies or getting picked up by industry websites. Another way is to write a white paper, ebook, or brand your research around an annual industry survey (i.e. Annual Moz Local SEO Ranking Factors).
Research should follow proper protocol call for statistical significance; consider partnering with an academic institution or professor to add authority to your research. Email other industry veterans who would be interested in providing feedback on this research and create a roundup post for additional backlinking opportunities.
Create tools and widgets
If you build a tool or widget that becomes a resource for your industry, the number of organic backlinks you can earn may catapult you to the top of search results for hard to rank for target keywords.
There are two different ways to think about earning links through tools and widgets. One option is to build a tool and host it on your website. For instance, you are a mortgage company hosting a mortgage calculator on your website. It can in and of itself become a valuable reason for people to visit your website. If you are in the digital marketing space creating tools to help people measure keyword density, analyze backlinks, or evaluate keyword rankings, it can make your website a destination for fellow Internet marketers. This can result in free web traffic and links.
A second option is to build a widget that others host on their websites. Make sure it contains a link back to your website. For instance, let’s say you own an eCommerce store that allows others to post products for sale. You can create a widget that displays the specific products of each seller. This allows the sellers to post those products via a widget on their websites. Of course, the products will link back to your eCommerce store.
Ensure the tool or widget is functional and creatively leverages your own data or API data from third parties to display info in an easily digestible manner for users. Be creative and prepared to spend considerable resources to get it right. But the upside potential of building a tool or widget that becomes an industry standard can deliver greater ROI than any other advanced link building strategy.
Influencer link building
Influencer link building is especially helpful because it connects you to a pre-established audience of like-minded people.
Identify influencer networks like Intellifluence or Upfluence to find influencers that have websites; there are literally tens of millions of influencers globally. Once you find influencers related to your brand, reach out to them to discuss potential opportunities for promotion.
The key is to offer influencers value before they laugh you off. Consider offering BETA access to software, free high-quality content, a groovy product you’d like reviewed, etc.
Follow guidelines for disclosure in your specific geography. Remember that the FTC in the US requires influencers to disclose promotional partnerships with brands, especially when money is exchanged for promotion.
The moving man method
This next link building tactic is vastly more complex. It also doesn’t always yield the highest success rates, but it’s something to think about. Essentially, the idea is to secure a link from a page that is tied up in a redirect chain.
It operates on the principle that companies, websites or services constantly undergo rebranding or discontinue their services altogether. This leads to URLs being redirected without the knowledge of site owners who linked to the original URL.
To find these links, you’ll need to find an URL that is being redirected on a competitor’s site. You can do this by using backlink data you retrieved during competitor research. Enter the URL of the outdated page/resource in any tool that’s capable of extracting backlinks for a specific URL (not just the whole domain). Extract these redirected links to a spreadsheet and begin reaching out to publishers. Let them know of the issue and offering to replace the link with a relevant piece of content.
Building a promotional database
Keep the steam of your link building campaign going with the following tactic. You should build a database of partnerships and relationships you’ve built for future content opportunities.
Each time you have a new piece of content that you want to be promoted or engaged with, follow up with influencers and thought leaders you’ve connected with in the past. This can serve as an instant traffic boost to your content, especially if you syndicate some of it.
Promote content you want linked!
Finally, the easiest way to get links to content is to get eyeballs on it. Use traditional outreach strategies from email campaigns to paid promotion to drive traffic to a page and see if anyone links back to it.
It’s perhaps the most organic link building tactic out there and it provides real value in the interim.
The rules of link building may change every few years or so, but its utility remains the same. If you don’t think link building is important, you are wrong. If you don’t think there are still white hat tactics to link building, you are also wrong.
As a Yoast Certified Partner, my agency LSEO has helped numerous Yelp users scale their brand using these advanced link building techniques. Take your brand to the next level by adopting some of these link building tactics or find an agency partner that can help!
Link building means, in short, that you’re getting links from other websites to your own blog. It helps your posts to rank. Link building is not an easy task, as you are depending on third parties to link to your website. And not only that, you don’t want a link from every website. Spammy websites or websites that have little to do with your niche, are not valuable at all. I’ve tried link building, the holistic SEO way, and will share my experiences here. If you want to learn more about this, read this article Marieke wrote about link building from a holistic SEO perspective.
Asking for relevant links
To get relevant backlinks, you should know the websites you would like to get a backlink from. Send them a polite email requesting to place a link to your content, if it’s relevant to their audience as well. Please note that often, you will not get a reply at all. To improve your chances of getting a link to your website, your content should really be unique. Trying to get a link for a blogpost that is extremely basic and could’ve been written by anyone, is less likely to succeed than when you provide some very good content: content people can only find on your website. If you, for example, are a planner guru or the nation’s funniest mom blogger, it’s way easier to get a link to your website than if you just started out.
Do your hands get sweaty by the idea of having to email your fellow bloggers to ask for links? Fear not! Luckily, there are a lot of Facebook Groups, where bloggers post they might be working on a blog post that, for example, collects the best recipes for Easter, the best bullet journal tips or something different. You can often drop your link in the comments if you’ve written about the topic requested and with a little bit of luck, you’ll be featured in a blog post. It depends on your country which Facebook groups could be suitable, so ask your fellow bloggers or look around on Facebook.
Another option to get links to your website, is through guest blogging for other blogs. Often, blogs are looking for input from fellow bloggers and in return will let you link to your own content. You’ll not only get a link to your website from a relevant website, you’ll get attention from the readers of that particular blog as well. Visit your favorite blogs and check to see if they accept guest submissions. They’ll usually mention this on their contact page or their collaboration page. Please note that a website could have certain guidelines before they accept your guest blog. It has to be unique content, but it also has to be in line with that website.
Do your thing
Link building for bloggers can be hard. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. When you’re already working on optimizing your posts, finding your voice and creating original blog posts, you might not want to add another massive project to your list. Because that is what link building is: it is not something you do just once. That’s why I’ve decided to quit my attempts at link building. I find it removes the focus from my blog entirely and turns into a popularity contest, at least in my mind. Not only that, I am not someone who finds it easy to reach out to other bloggers to request links in their content.
Instead, I’ve decided to focus on my own website and on helping others. I’ve found that I’ve received backlinks whenever I give a talk at a conference or after I helped someone with their website. This is not something that I take for granted, but when it happens, I realize why I’ve spent a few hours helping a blogger out with a bug on her website. For me, this means that I stay true to my own beliefs without having to focus on an entire strategy that is not my thing. And I found out that this is a link building strategy in itself: it helps my reputation as a blogger in the Dutch community. Find whatever works for you. And if you are actively building links, could you tell me your strategy?
“If nobody writes about it, then the content is a tree falling in the forest without anyone there to listen.” That’s how Dixon Jones, Marketing Director of Majestic, illustrates the importance of getting the right links to your content. We proudly announce that Dixon will be speaking at YoastCon 2017 on November 2!
Dixon Jones has worked at the forefront of search marketing since 1999. He became the Marketing Director of the world’s largest link analysis engine, Majestic, in 2009, transforming the SEO industry by providing link intelligence on a scale not previously open to the industry. Here, you can discover what he has to say about link building in 2017.
Majestic is all about links. If you compare links to other ranking factors, like content on a page or technical optimization, how would you rate the importance of links? Any examples to illustrate this?
In March 2016 Google’s Andry Lipattsev revealed that links remained one of Google top three ranking factors. In February 2017 Google’s Gary Illyes confirmed that the PageRank algorithm that made Google what it is today was still part of the algorithm. So yes – links are highly important, but these days there is a big difference between “a link” and “a link that counts”. Most links are hardly worth the screen they are written on.
Over the years link building changed a lot. Obviously, buying links is not the way to go. But what do you advise site owners if they want to get valuable links?
In a white hat world, you really should be considering the nature of the people that will be reading the page that the link is on. Are they real people? Is it a real story that relates to them? Does the link add to the story and is it a continuation of the user’s quest for knowledge? Is your content the END POINT for that quest?
Some site owners might find it easier to get links from Facebook or Twitter than from other websites. How do social links compare to links from other websites? What would you invest in more?
Facebook and Twitter create short term noise, but unless that noise translates into others writing evergreen content that links to your site, the benefits are transitory on social. But I think of Social links as a stepping stone to long term success. They give you a tannoy to broadcast a new message… but if the wrong people listen, then nobody will write about what you have to say. If nobody writes about it, then the content is a tree falling in the forest without anyone there to listen… does it make a sound?
When a site owner analyzes their site with Majestic SEO they’ll get a trust and citation flow score. How can they put these metrics to use to help them optimize their site?
Understanding how we create those metrics really helps. The data is not simply scraping Google or looking for some sort of reverse engineering of Search Visibility. Trust Flow really is a score that relates at scale to the quality of a page. The simple workflow is:
Find candidate sites for getting links to your content.
Find the influencers on these sites.
Convince them of the merits of your business and content.
You can start by just typing in a keyword into Majestic to find the candidate sites or you can look at up to 10 competitors and find the hubs of authority for your niche. Both strategies can work well.
Majestic is often used for competitor analysis. Is there a set workflow in Majestic that you can recommend to a new Majestic user who wants to analyze the competition?
Yes. Many people use the “Clique Hunter” to look at sites that link to three or four or more competitors but not to themselves. For some businesses, this creates quite a list, but re-sorting the list can put the best candidates near the top. To the right of each domain is a little cog. Use the cog to select candidate sites to approach and select the “add to bucket” button. You can do this all day, and when you are ready, click on the bucket icon at the top of the screen and you can export all the sites out as a .csv file to approach the influencers for these sites.
Alternatively (and indeed – in addition) I strongly urge users to set up a campaign dashboard as soon as they have an account on Majestic. This starts tracking their niche and from these dashboards, you can easily analyze the sites in any of Majestic’s tools by using the “Export Sites To…” button.
We assume this interview has convinced people to go see your presentation at YoastCon on November 2! In the unlikely case someone is still in doubt, what’s the main reason they shouldn’t miss it?
The chart below shows how our Gamification system has distributed 1 Million “badges” on Majestic. Only 3% of all badges were for areas of our site related to comparing websites. This tells us that most users are really only scratching the surface of what Majestic can do for them. Yoast’s conference is a chance to go deeper. You’ll find out things about links analysis you never knew was possible.
How does a new website start ranking? Does it just magically appear in Google after you’ve launched it? What things do you have to do to start ranking in Google and get traffic from the search engines? Here, I explain the first steps you’ll need to take right after the launch of your new website. Learn how to start working on the SEO for a new website!
One of my closest friends launched a birthday party packages online store last week. It’s all in Dutch and it’s not WordPress (wrong choice of course, but I love her all the same :-)). After my friend launched her website, she celebrated and asked her friends, including me, what they thought of her new site. I love her site, but couldn’t find her in Google, not even if I googled the exact domain name. My first question to my friend was: do you have another site linking to your site? And her answer was ‘no’. I linked to her site from my personal site and after half a day, her website popped up in the search results. The very first step when working on SEO for a new website: gettingat least one external link.
Why do you need an external link?
Google is a search engine that follows links. For Google to know about your site, it has to find it by following a link from another site. Google found my friend’s site because I put a link to that site on my personal site. When Google came around to crawl my site after I put the link there, it discovered the existence of my friend’s site. And indexed it. After indexing the site, it started to show the site in the search results.
After that first link, your site probably will turn up in the search results. If it doesn’t turn up, it could be that the settings of your site are on noindex or is still blocked by robots.txt. If that’s the case, you’re telling Google not to index your site. Sometimes developers forget to turn either of these off after they finished working on your site.
Some pages are just not the best landing pages. You don’t want people landing on your check out page, for instance. And you don’t want this page to compete with other – useful – content or product pages to show up in the search results. Pages you don’t want to pop up in the search results ever (but there aren’t many of these) should have a noindex.
Yoast SEO can help you to set these pages to noindex. That means Google will not save this page in the index and it’ll not turn op in the search results.
My friend’s site now ranks on her domain name. That’s about it. She’s got some work to do to start ranking on other terms as well. When you want to improve the SEO for a new website you have carry out some proper keyword research. So go find out what your audience is searching for! What words do they use?
If you execute your keyword research properly, you’ll end up with a long list of search terms you want to be found for. Make sure to search for those terms in Google yourself. What results are there already? Who will be your online competitors for these search terms? What can you do to stand out from these results?
Then you start writing. Write about all those topics that are important to your audience. Use the words you came up with in your keyword research. You need to have content about the topics you want to rank for to start ranking in the search results.
Take a look at your results in the search engines once you start ranking (the so called snippets). Are those meta descriptions and the titles of the search results inviting? Are they tempting enough for your audience to click on them? Or should you write better ones?
Which pages and posts are most important? These should have other pages and posts linking to them. Make sure to link to the most important content. Google will follow your links, the post and pages that have the most internal links will be most likely to rank high in the search engines. Setting up such a structure, is basically telling Google which articles are important and which aren’t. Our brand new text link counter can be a great help to see if you’re linking often enough to your most important content.
Google follows links. Links are important. So get the word out. Reach out to other site owners – preferably of topically related websites – and ask them to write about your new site. If Google follows multiple links to your website, it’ll crawl it more often. This is crucial when you do the SEO for a new website, and will eventually help in your rankings. Don’t go overboard in link building for SEO though, buying links is still a no-go:
Nowadays there are a lot of online platforms where you can create your business profile. The idea is that you can be found on those platforms and that the backlinks to your site will benefit your SEO. But is it really worth investing your time and money in those kind of directories? Get the answer in this Ask Yoast!
Marcial Bollinger emailed us asking:
“There are a lot of possibilities nowadays to add an online profile for your site on all sorts of directories, etc. It might give you a lot of backlinks, but are these worth anything for SEO?”
In the video, we help you decide whether your should invest time in creating profiles on online directories. Do they boost your SEO?
“To be honest, probably not. The only reason to create profiles on sites like that is if those sites actually have traffic. If they have traffic, then having the profile probably has an SEO benefit too. Because, in that case, probably the links are worth something to Google, as they see that that site is a living thing and people really use it as a reference.
So if you can make a profile on one of those sites, by all means do. If you can make a profile on a site that you don’t think anyone would ever get to and you’re just doing it for Google, stop doing it. Stuff like that doesn’t work anymore, so don’t. Focus on sites that people might actually will find you on and if those sites are in your area or in your niche, then use them. If they don’t exist, then focus on something else.
In the series Ask Yoast we answer SEO questions from followers. Need some advice about SEO? Let us help you out! Send your question to [email protected].
Every SEO strategy is focused on ranking as high as possible in the search engines. To do this, we all try to design and develop a website that Google’s secret algorithm will love. That’s basically what SEO is about. The factors in Google’s algorithm can be divided into two categories which will determine the ranking of your website: on-page factors and off-page factors. Here, I’ll discuss the differences between the two, explain the importance of on-page SEO and go over the most essential on-page SEO factors.
On-page and off-page SEO
On-page factors all have to do with elements of your own website. On-page factors include technical set-up – the quality of your code – textual and visual content and user-friendliness of your site. On the other side there are off-page factors, like links from other websites, social media attention and other marketing activities outside your own website. If you focus on off-page SEO you mostly aim to get more links to your site. The more relevant links you get, the higher your ranking in Google will be. Want to get more links to your site? Read our series about link building.
Importance of on-page SEO
On-page SEO consists of all the elements of SEO you can control best. If you own a website, you can control the technical issues and the quality of your content. We believe on-page issues should all be tackled as they’re in your own hands. If you create an awesome website, it will definitely start ranking. Focusing on on-page SEO will also increase the probability that your off-page SEO strategy will be successful. Link building with a crappy site is a very tough job. Nobody wants to link to articles that are badly written or boring.
In our view, there are three major on-page SEO factors. These three pillars are the ones you should focus on:
The quality of your code should be high. Check if you’re not unintentionally blocking crawlers from indexing your website (we still see this happening!). WordPress is an SEO-friendly platform and our free Yoast SEO plugin takes care of most remaining technical SEO challenges, without you even noticing it. So if you’re using WordPress and configured Yoast SEO well, you’ll have most technical aspects of your on-page SEO covered.
Why do people visit your site? Most likely because it contains information they’re looking for. Therefore you should write excellent content. Search engines like Google read your text. Which site ranks highest is for a large part based on the content of a website. That content should be about the right keywords, informative, and easy to read.
The third and final pillar is User eXperience. Users need to easily understand your website. They should be able to find what they want in a heartbeat. They should know where to click and how to navigate through your site. And it should be fast! A beautifully designed website is nice, but you should definitely make it your top priority to create a user-friendly website first!
The Yoast SEO plugin helps you to easily optimize the text of your posts and pages. People use it to try and get higher rankings. But unfortunately, perfectly optimizing your post does not magically put it at the top of the search results. So, if your perfectly optimized post isn’t ranking, what could be the matter? What is keeping your content from reaching that coveted #1 position? In this post, I’ll discuss five reasons why content doesn’t rank, even though it has been optimized with the Yoast SEO plugin.
1. There’s too much competition
In most cases, the reason a post doesn’t rank is that there’s simply too much competition. If you optimize your blogpost for competitive keywords and keyphrases, such as [cat behavior], [robot vacuum cleaner], or [real estate agent], chances are high you won’t rank for that term.
To find out if this is the problem, check the results pages for your keyword. Do high authority sites, such as Wikipedia or Amazon, dominate the first page? Do you see many sites that have already firmly established themselves in this niche? Odds are, your site doesn’t have the authority that these other sites have (yet). So you can optimize all you want, but unfortunately, that’s not enough to rank high in the search results if your niche is too competitive.
How to fix it:
If you want to rank for highly competitive terms, you should try a long tail keyword strategy. Write blog posts that target related long tail keywords and phrases before tackling the competitive keywords. If these long tail articles start ranking, you’ll be able to rank for more competitive terms as well. Such a strategy requires long-term efforts, but in the end, it will pay off.
If your post doesn’t show up in the search engines at all, technical issues could be preventing it from appearing in the search results. You could have conflicting plugins causing problems, and we’ve also seen some themes that actually prevent Google from indexing your site. And, while Yoast SEO takes care of many technical issues under the hood, it should be set correctly to do that properly.
If you were ranking well before, but suddenly disappeared from the search results, go over your site’s security and make sure you weren’t hacked! If a site is hacked, existing content will decrease in ranking as well. New posts won’t rank as easily as they used to do. This will all evolve rather slowly, depending on how much crap is published on your site, without you knowing it. In most cases, getting hacked probably isn’t the cause of ranking troubles. But if you’re sure none of the other problems apply to your site, it may be worth looking into. Of course, it’s always a good idea to make sure your security is tip-top!
How to fix it:
First, make sure that Yoast SEO is indeed set correctly. In the first step of the Yoast configuration wizard you’re asked whether your site is ready to be indexed. If you answer ‘no’ and forget to change it to ‘yes’ later, your content will not appear in the search results! But, if this is the case, you will see a warning in your Yoast SEO general dashboard, so that’s easy to check. For individual posts and pages that aren’t ranking: check the ‘advanced’ tab in the Yoast metabox underneath the post whether search engines are indeed allowed to show the post in the results. Keep in mind, that after you change a setting to allow search engines to index your content, it may still take a while until you see it starts ranking.
If your Yoast plugin settings are all correct, it’s time for some more digging. Check your plugins and/or theme and make sure your security is in order!
3. Your site doesn’t have a proper internal linking structure
Another reason why your content doesn’t show up in the search results: a crucial part of your SEO strategy is not in order. Don’t underestimate the importance of site structure – the internal linking structure – for your SEO strategy. Having a clear site structure leads to better understanding of your site by Google. If your internal linking structure is poor, chances to rank high are lower – even when your content is well-optimized and awesome.
How to fix it:
Start adding those links! Make sure that your important posts and pages have the most internal links to them. But don’t randomly add links: make sure you add relevant, related links that add value for your users.
If you just started out with your website, your content won’t instantly rank. Not even if every page is optimized perfectly and every bullet in Yoast SEO is green. To be able to rank, you’ll need some links from other websites. After all, Google has to know your website exists.
How to fix it:
In order to get (more) backlinks, you can reach out to other websites. You’ll need to do some PR or link building. Ask them to mention your site or talk about your product and link to your site. You can also use social media to get the word out! Learn all about link building strategies in our All-Around SEO training!
5. You’re targeting the wrong type of intent
One final thing that could be the reason your content isn’t ranking: it doesn’t match the intent of people searching for your keyword. Search intent is becoming an increasingly important factor for search engines these days: do people want to buy something, go to a specific website, or are they looking for information? Even if you’re targeting a more long tail keyphrase, if your content doesn’t match the dominant intent of searchers, odds are search engines won’t show it in the results because it won’t be what people are looking for.
Let’s look at a few examples. Say you’re a dog trainer who wants to rank for puppy training services, so you optimize for [training your puppy], with transactional intent in mind. But if you look at the search results, you’ll see that there are informational videos, and all the results explain how to train a puppy yourself. So searchers actually have informational intent. This can work the other way around too. If you’ve written a step-by-step guide for your blog on how to make your own garden decoration, aiming to rank for [flower garland garden decoration], you may have trouble ranking for that term if people just want to buy that, not make it themselves.
Now, it should be noted that not every search term has one dominant type of intent. Also, it isn’t impossible to rank with content for differing intent. Still, it can be worthwhile to look into this if your optimized content doesn’t rank in the search engines.
How to fix it:
Unfortunately, you don’t have the power to change the intent of search engine users. But you can adapt your content strategy. If your optimized content isn’t ranking, take a good look at the search results (preferably in private mode) and analyze what you see. Is one specific type of result dominant? Are there images or videos? Which related queries are shown? This is where your opportunities are. If you find mostly informational intent for a query, you can write content about that to get people to your site, establish your brand as a reliable source of information and stay top of mind when people do want to buy something. If you find a lot of images in the search results, you may need to focus more on image SEO. Take what you see on the results pages
Optimized content not ranking?
There are multiple reasons that could prevent a post from ranking. If you optimized it correctly with Yoast SEO, the most common cause will definitely be that the competition in a niche is just too fierce. Unfortunately, SEO is a long-term strategy. You need to work hard and be patient. In the meantime, there are a lot of other aspects of your SEO (site structure, link building) you can tackle. Try to focus on all aspects of website optimization, try to be that best result. It will pay off eventually!