Links are not dead. As long as interconnected networks form the internet, links matter. According to SEMrush, 4 of the top 8 ranking factors are based on link signals. On average, Google’s number 1 organic search result has 3.8 times more backlinks and 3.2 times more referring domains than numbers 2 through 10. Link signals account for 28% of Google ranking factors for local organic search – more than any other factor. This combined makes link building and technical optimization the most effective SEO tasks.
Not all links are helpful though; the harder a link is to get, the more valuable it is. Google’s quality guidelines prohibit deceptive links and strategies that don’t provide useful content to users. Unnatural anchor text may be penalized by their guidelines. Text advertisements that aren’t tagged as sponsored, hidden, or low-quality links embedded in widgets, widely distributed links in footers, and forum comments with optimized links in the post or signature are all restricted. Hidden links, doorway pages, and thin affiliates are prohibited as well.
Page elements also affect link quality. Regarding outbound links, expert pages tend to link to many high-authority on the same topic, giving greater value, but many poor quality links can create a “bad neighborhood”, lowering link value. For incoming links, a higher link count indicates higher authority, but high-quality incoming links are hard to come by and should be added over time. Domain age also affects link quality; links from newer domains aren’t as high value but may gain value over time. If links are inaccessible by search crawlers it won’t count, but PDF links that are available online can be crawled by search engines.
A good link profile is diverse, relevant, and trusted. Links should come from varied domains, IP addresses, and different types of sites. There should be keywords in anchor text and surrounding content, and links should have high page and domain authority to build trust.
When trying to build a better link profile, these tips can help. Creating long-form content gets an average of 77% more links than short articles. Answering common questions can also build your link profile. Instead of focusing on social shares, develop strategies for both link building and social media. Creating good content pays off. The more useful content you have, the greater chances someone else will find that content valuable. Make helpful content, and links will come.