What are backlinks?
Backlinks are links from outside domains that point to pages on your domain; essentially linking back from their domain to yours. To a larger degree, your backlink profile is made up of backlinks from external sites (also known as referring domains) that contribute to the overall strength, relevance, and diversity of your domain’s backlink profile.
The total number of backlinks can often include many links from the same referring domain or multiple referring domains. It’s common for referring domains to link back to your content if it is relevant, authoritative or useful in some way to their own domain. In an ideal world, that’s how backlinks are accumulated; unique content that other websites want to be associated with.
Generally speaking, backlinks are considered to be a “vote” of confidence for the content that’s being linked to on your domain from outside sources.
Why are backlinks important?
Backlinks are important for Search Engines and users alike. From a user’s perspective, backlinks provide a way for people to find other sources of information on the same or related topics.
For example, if the consumer is visiting a page about the “best smartphones” he might find links out to other carriers, cell phone providers or user-generated review pages. Links create a solid consumer experience because they transfer the user directly to additional desirable information if needed.
For Search Engines, backlinks help to determine the page’s importance and value (i.e. authority). Historically, the number of backlinks was an indicator of a page’s popularity. Today, due to the way backlinks are evaluated based on different industry-related ranking factors, it is less quantity focused and more about the quality of sites from which the links are coming.
Alternatively, too many backlinks from many unreliable domains can hinder the authoritative signals of your domain.
What does a good Backlink Profile look like?
A natural link profile has a variety. The links come from different domains and links will have different strengths.
To best understand your backlink profile, it makes sense to look at a few top-level KPI’s such as the referring domains and IP’s, the country from where the backlink is coming from, and the Top-Level-Domain.
There are domains that are better to receive links from than others. These are domains that are “trusted” sources and have higher domain authority.
For example, links from educational institutions (.edu) and government entities (.gov) tend to carry a lot of authority and indicate “trusted” content or sites to search engines.
Backlink Ranking Factors
|Ranking Factors||Description||Suite Area / Action|
|Backlink||There is still a correlation between high rankings and the number of backlinks, but this trend will continue to decrease moving forwards.||To track the backlink profile for your project domain, see Links > Overview.To track the backlink profile of any domain, see Research > Backlinks.|
|Anchor Text||The percentage of links with keyword continues to decline.||To see the Top Ten anchor texts for your project domain, see Links > Overview. Click on the hyperlink to take you to the list of backlinks using those anchor texts.To see all the anchor texts for any domain, see Research > Backlinks > Anchor Texts.|
|News Domains||Pages in the middle of the first SERP have the most links from news domains. An indication that current content ranks highly.||To see how many news domains (e.g., nytimes.com) are linking to your project domain, check Links > Overview.|
|New and Lost Links||URLs ranked with positions 1-4 have significantly older links on average than in the previous year. The differences across all rankings have become greater.||Check how many new and lost backlinks any site is getting on a daily basis by going to Research > Backlinks > Backlinks > New and Lost Links.|
How do backlinks help SEO?
Make sure your backlinks appear to be natural. Don’t ask webmasters to link back to your pages with a specific anchor text since this can haphazardly result in a pattern that may get noticed by search engines and cause you to get a linking penalty, a la Penguin. Also, don’t do anything shady or unnatural to create backlinks, like asking a site to put a link in the footer of every page on their site.
NEVER offer to pay someone for links! If you’re trying to build backlinks by pushing sponsored content, it has to explicitly say “Sponsored” on it. That’s an FCC regulation. Most publishers will mark these backlinks as “nofollow” but they still have link value and they can drive traffic to your site.
At one time, directories like DMOZ were a good place to add listings and get backlinks. However, these large web directories aren’t really relevant anymore. But, if you do find industry-relevant directories or niche communities online, it can be worth building a relationship with the webmasters to get a backlink from this type of site.
.GOV domains are quite valuable since they can’t be started by just anyone. So they inherently have more domain value.
How do I build backlinks?
Outreach to webmasters should be personalized. You can list reasons why you like their brand, think your brand would partner well with them or citing articles and other contents they published are great ways to make them more receptive. Try to find an actual point-of-contact on professional sites like LinkedIn. A generic blast of “Dear Webmaster…” emails is really just a spam campaign.
Who links back to my site?
It’s important to monitor the backlinks your site is accumulating. First, you can verify that your outreach is working. Second, you can monitor if you pick up any shady backlinks. Domains from Russia and Brazil are notorious origins of spam. Therefore, it can be wise to disavow links from sites originating from this part of the world through Google Search Console as soon as you find them – even if they haven’t impacted your site… yet.
A backlink is a reference comparable to a citation. The quantity, quality, and relevance of backlinks for a web page are among the factors that search engines like Google evaluate in order to estimate how important the page is. PageRank calculates the score for each web page based on how all the web pages are connected among themselves, and is one of the variables that Google Search uses to determine how high a web page should go in search results. This weighting of backlinks is analogous to citation analysis of books, scholarly papers, and academic journals. A Topical PageRank has been researched and implemented as well, which gives more weight to backlinks coming from the page of a same topic as a target page.
Some other words for backlink are incoming link, inbound link, inlink, inward link, and citation.
Backlinks are offered in Wikis, but usually only within the bounds of the Wiki itself and enabled by the database backend. MediaWiki, specifically offers the “What links here” tool, some older Wikis, especially the first WikiWikiWeb, had the backlink functionality exposed in the page title.
Search engines often use the number of backlinks that a website has as one of the most important factors for determining that website’s search engine ranking, popularity and importance. Google‘s description of its PageRank system, for instance, notes that “Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for page B.” Knowledge of this form of search engine rankings has fueled a portion of the SEO industry commonly termed linkspam, where a company attempts to place as many inbound links as possible to their site regardless of the context of the originating site. The significance of search engine rankings is pretty high, and it is regarded as a crucial parameter in online business and the conversion rate of visitors to any website, particularly when it comes to online shopping. Blog commenting, guest blogging, article submission, press release distribution, social media engagements, and forum posting can be used to increase backlinks.
Websites often employ SEO techniques to increase the number of backlinks pointing to their website. Some methods are free for use by everyone whereas some methods, like linkbaiting, require quite a bit of planning and marketing to work. There are also paid techniques to increase the number of backlinks to a target site. For example, private blog networks can be used to purchase backlinks.
There are several factors that determine the value of a backlink. Backlinks from authoritative sites on a given topic are highly valuable. If both sites and pages have content geared toward the topic,
the backlink is considered relevant and believed to have strong influence on the search engine rankings of the web page granted the backlink. A backlink represents a favorable ‘editorial vote’ for the receiving webpage from another granting webpage.
Another important factor is the anchor text of the backlink. Anchor text is the descriptive labeling of the hyperlink as it appears on a web page. Search engine bots (i.e., spiders, crawlers, etc.) examine the anchor text to evaluate how relevant it is to the content on a webpage.
Backlinks can be generated by submissions, such as directory submissions, forum submission, social bookmarking, business listing, blog submissions, etc. Anchor text and webpage content congruency are highly weighted in search engine results page (SERP) rankings of a webpage with respect to any given keyword query by a search engine user.
Changes to the algorithms that produce search engine rankings can place a heightened focus on relevance to a particular topic.
While some backlinks might be from sources containing highly valuable metrics, they could also be unrelated to the consumer’s query or interest.
An example of this would be a link from a popular shoe blog (with valuable metrics) to a site selling vintage pencil sharpeners. While the link appears valuable, it provides little to the consumer in terms of relevance.
Do High DA Backlinks From Blog Comments Help Rankings?
If you have ever left a comment on NeilPatel.com, you’ll notice that there is no URL field.
Well, a few years ago, blog commenting exploded. I was literally getting thousands of spam comments a day from people just leaving a comment for the purpose of link building instead of providing value to the community.
Sure, there are spam plugins like Akismet, but it doesn’t catch everything.
Now, most blog comments contain the nofollow attribute in which they tell Google not to follow the link or drive any “SEO value” to that URL.
But still, people still leave blog comments for the purpose of link building.
So, over the past 7 months, I’ve been running an interesting experiment to answer the age-old question…
Do backlinks from blog comments actually help rankings?
First off, for this experiment, we used “domain score,” which is similar to domain authority.
If you want to know your domain score, the backlinks report in Ubersuggest will tell you what it is.
With this experiment, I sent out an email to a part of my list looking for participants and had 794 websites apply.
From there, I set the following criteria:
- English-only sites – It’s easier to rank on many of Google’s international search engines even without building links. I removed non-English speaking sites as I didn’t want to skew the results.
- Low-authority sites – I removed any website with a domain score greater than 20 and any site with more than 20 backlinks. The reason being is when a site has a lot of authority, they tend to rank easily for new keywords, even if they don’t build any new links.
- No subdomains – I didn’t want a WordPress.com site, a Blogspot site, or even a Tumblr site. Again, this would skew the results so I removed them.
After eliminating the sites that didn’t meet the above criteria, I was left with 314 sites.
Of those 314 sites, many dropped off because they didn’t complete the required work on their part (which was to write a blog post), so I was left with 183 sites at the end that participated.
How the experiment worked
Similar to my previous link building experiment and my on-page SEO experiment, I had these websites write a 1,800 to 2,000-word blog post on whatever subject that was relevant to their site.
The websites had 2 weeks to publish their content and then after 30 days, I looked up their URL in Ubersuggest to see how many keywords each URL ranked for in the top 100 spots, top 50, spots, and top 10 spots.
As I have mentioned in the past, Ubersuggest has a big database of keywords. We are currently tracking 1,459,103,429 keywords.
Now, most of these keywords are barely searched but a decent amount of them get hundreds, if not thousands, of searches per month. A much smaller percentage of keywords generate hundreds of thousands or even millions of searches per month.
In other words, the majority of the keywords people are searching for are long-tail phrases.
We then spent a month building links and then waited another 3 months to see what happened to each site’s rankings.
But here’s the thing: We didn’t build the same type of links to all sites. Instead, we broke the 183 sites into 4 groups (roughly 46 sites per group).
Here were the groups:
- Control – we didn’t build any links to these sites, we just wanted to see what happened to their rankings over time with no focus on link building.
- Nofollow high domain score blog comment links – with this group, we built 10 links through blog comments. The links pointed to the newly written post and they were from blogs that had a domain score of 50 or higher and they all contained a nofollow attribute.
- Dofollow high domain score blog comment links – with this group, we built 5 links through blog comments. The links pointed to the new post and were dofollow from blogs with a domain score of 40 or higher. (I reduced the domain score criteria for this category and the link quantity as we struggled to find a large number of high authority blogs that pass link juice in the comment section.)
- Dofollow low domain score blog comment links – with this group, we built 10 links through blog comments. Each link pointed back to the article and it was from a blog that contains a domain score of at least 20 but no higher than 39. (I was able to build more links here as there are many more low domain score blogs than high domain score ones.)
Keep in mind with the link building for groups 2, 3 and 4, there was no specific anchor text agenda. Because the links were built through blog comments, it was too hard to control the anchor text as we didn’t want to be spammy.
And each comment left on the blog contained at least 75 words as we wanted to ensure that each comment provided value and the core purpose wasn’t just link building.
Alright, so let’s dive into the results.
Do you really need links to rank on Google? Well, the chart below says a lot…
As you can see over time, you will naturally grow your search rankings even if you don’t build any links.
Of course, if your content is amazing and you do on-page SEO, you’ll rank higher, but still not growing your link count doesn’t mean you will rank for anything out there… instead, you will still rank for long-tail terms that aren’t too competitive.
Nofollow high domain score blog comment links
Now the results from this group were interesting…
As you can see, the sites in this group had better results than the control group even though the links were nofollowed.
Keep in mind, though, that it could be many variables that caused this, such as the content quality may have been better.
Overall, the sites did perform better than the control group but not by a substantial amount.
Dofollow high domain score blog comment links
Google is sophisticated, they are able to know if a link is from user-generated content (such as blog comments), so I assumed even though the links where dofollow they still wouldn’t have much (if any) impact.
But, shockingly, sites in this group had the largest gains.
As you can see from the chart above, links from high authority sites, even if it is through user-generated content, help with rankings. They just have to be dofollow.
Dofollow low domain score blog comment links
With this last group, we were able to build more dofollow links because we focused on sites with lower authority.
And as you can see from the chart above, it did help with rankings more than building nofollow links but it didn’t help nearly as much as getting links from blogs with higher domain scores.
We built 10 links instead of 5, but the quantity didn’t help as much as having high domain score links. This group increased their rankings by 337% versus 828% that group 3 experienced even though they had half the links.
Again, we still saw gains, just not as large as the previous group.
Who would have thought that building links through blog comments still helps?
Now, if you are going to use this tactic, you’ll want to focus on blogs that have dofollow comments.
If you aren’t sure how to find them, you can perform a Google search for the following:
- “title=”CommentLuv Enabled”” KEYPHRASE – this will showcase blogs that have CommentLuv enabled which means they pass link juice.
- “dofollow blogs” – you find a lot of blog articles listing out blogs that have dofollow links. Some of them look like this but you will have to double-check each site as many are nofollow even though bloggers claim they are dofollow.
- Followlist – this is a directory of blogs that have dofollow links.
When building links, focus on higher domain scores as it has a bigger impact on rankings.
In addition to that, you’ll only want to leave a comment if you can provide value. Don’t stress the anchor text, focus on the quality of your comment as you don’t want to be a spammer.
Posting spammy links will just cause your comment to be removed.
Lastly, don’t just leave a valuable comment for the sake of generating a link. Make sure it is on relevant blogs as well. And if that means the blog doesn’t have as high of a domain score that’s fine because the data above shows that even low domain score links still help (just not as much).
So, have you thought about leaving more comments on other blogs? It’s a great way to get your brand out there, generate referral traffic, and boost your rankings.