Many agencies and businesses undertake PR efforts without fully realizing the direct impact these efforts could have on their website’s SEO.
A new era of SEO began in 2010 and part of this change was that backlinks became a more influential factor in growing the authority of your website and improving your organic search rankings.
Online PR efforts are a powerful addition to any well-rounded SEO strategy and should be a component of any traditional PR efforts your business may be undertaking. Below I outline the value of backlinks for SEO and how to secure these backlinks through your PR efforts.
What is a backlink?
A backlink is created when one website links to another website or webpage. Whenever another website links to your website, you have gained a backlink! Backlinks can be embedded in clickable images, anchor text, or even hidden in code (this is more black hat SEO – we won’t get into that right now).
Value of backlinks for SEO
When embarking on a traditional PR campaign, many companies are solely focused on gaining prestigious front-page print coverage or booking TV and radio spots. However, backlinks remind us of the power of web coverage. Linked attributions and references to your brand have a huge benefit in terms of boosting your brand awareness, as well as furthering your SEO and online marketing efforts. Even an unlinked mention, which is a reference to your brand name in plain text on another website, has value.
Backlinks offer many benefits. From a traditional PR perspective, any mention of your brand and/or website online is a cause for celebration. These third-party mentions and references build brand trust and encourage more visitors to your website. When someone reads an insightful quote from you on a website, a hyperlink leads them right to you and your business.
From a SEO perspective, backlinks have another benefit. Backlinks offer SEO power because they send some of the website’s juice onto your website. It’s essentially a vote of confidence from another website, saying this page is a worthy source and contributes something of value. This then helps raise the authority of your website, which can have a drastic impact on your search engine rankings.
Strive for do follow links
The best links in terms of SEO value are “Do Follow” links. When you are adding links to your blog or website by clicking “Insert Link,” they are Do Follow by default. However, a website can choose to make a hyperlink “No Follow” if they don’t want to pass the authority or “juice” of their website to yours.
To create a No Follow link, the website owner just has to make an alteration in the HTML code for that link. If you inspect the code, a No Follow link will display as follows:
<a href=”http://www.website.com/” rel=”nofollow”>seoplus+</a>
While Do Follow links have the most power in terms of SEO benefit, No Follow links and unlinked mentions of your company name are still good for brand awareness, and still hold SEO value, just to a lesser degree.
Pursue the right kind of backlinks
In SEO’s early days, backlinks were the cat’s meow – an almost all-powerful tool to get your website ranking better. Back in 2010, if your site had the most backlinks, you were likely to be ranking above your competitors, regardless of if their site had better quality content, etc. However, this led to a surge in the overuse of paid link-building websites and a flood of very spammy links to inauthentic, phony websites.
Enter Google’s Penguin algorithm. The Penguin algorithm was introduced as a way to limit the power of these low-quality backlinks and reward those with an authentic web presence and backlink profile. With Penguin’s update in Fall 2016, it has become part of Google’s core ranking algorithm and is now a real-time update. This means that Google will now be doing crawls of your website on a rolling schedule, offering more opportunities for Google to find spammy backlinks on websites. Sites that continue to pursue spammy backlinks will have these backlinks devalued. As a result, they will continue to drop in the search engine rankings.
How to find your current backlinks
To investigate your backlink profile, you can use a service like Majestic. Majestic allows you to view a complete list of your current incoming backlinks and referring domains.
Majestic also allows you to view your website’s citation flow and trust flow, two metrics which can help you gauge the authority of your website. Citation Flow is a metric which evaluates how influential a site is by the number of sites that link to it. Trust Flow is a metric which evaluates how trustworthy (quality, authority) a site is based on the trustworthiness of the sites that link to it (based around the assumption that authoritative, trustworthy sites tend to link to other trustworthy, authoritative sites).
With the CF and TF metrics, anything over 20 is generally considered a quality backlink, while anything approaching or over 40 is great quality, and continues to go up from there. For reference, The Wall Street Journal has metrics in the 80s, which is near as good as it gets! If you can secure a placement and a link on a website like this, Google will like you very much!
How to get rid of spammy backlinks
Spotting a spammy backlink is often quite obvious if you are doing authentic outreach yourself. In this situation, the old adage is true: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is! Avoid pursuing websites that offer paid links with no substance. Sometimes paid opportunities can be acceptable and even good quality, but should be accompanied by unique, quality content – like sponsored placements, guest posts, etc.
If you find that your website has incoming backlinks from spammy websites that you think could be penalizing your website and preventing you from achieving a higher rank in search results, you can disavow the backlinks. With Google’s real-time rolling updates, the next time your website is crawled, you can expect to see a boost in your rankings after your backlink profile has been cleaned up.
How to find good quality backlink opportunities
There are many strategies for obtaining quality backlinks. These include pursuing authentic media coverage (with a web component), seeking a backlink on community partner websites, obtaining links through leaving reviews on service providers’ websites, becoming a guest blogger for sites that offer backlinks in your bio, obtaining business directory listings, and more.
You now have the power of backlink knowledge, and with great power comes great responsibility. Disavow any low-quality, spammy links that could be bringing your website down and pursue quality backlinks through your ongoing online PR strategy!