What is external SEO all about? External SEO, more commonly known as off-page SEO is basically link building/marketing – Acquiring the most relevant backlinks from as many relevant high authority sites to achieve and maintain high rankings on the SRPs. A relevant backlink is an inbound link from one of the pages (with relevant meta information such as the title, description, etc.) of another similar-topic website.
Planning a successful link building campaign
In order to plan and execute a successful link building campaign for your site, you first need to understand that link building is a long and tedious process. One that requires skillfulness and extensive knowledge on the topic of SEO.
However if you persevere, stick to white-hat rules of SEO, animal-proof (Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird) your SEO campaigns by staying updated, you will eventually taste the fruit of success.
Fundamental off-page SEO concepts
Before we begin the link building process, let’s first go through and understand some fundamental concepts.
What is a backlink?
A backlink is an inbound or incoming link (hyperlink) to a particular website, referenced from another website. Search engines rely on links to crawl the web and evaluate the authority and relevance of millions of websites.
What is an anchor text?
An anchor text is the text you click on that takes you to a referenced url. i.e. (This sentence is an anchor text).
It is recommended that the anchor texts of inbound links be diverse (mix of target and non-target keywords, brand mentions, synonyms of target keywords, non-related words, etc.) and not all “exact match” to the target keyword that a site is aiming to rank highly for on the SRPs.
A link profile with majority of inbound links that have exact-match anchor texts looks very unnatural, and search engines will devalue these inbound links or even de-index the site.
Anatomy of a Strong Backlink
- High domain authority
- High PageRank
- High TrustRank
- Relevant co-citations
- Relevant page title
- Relevant content topic
- Target keywords in anchor text
- Placed in main content area
- Age of page
- Age of backlink
- Dofollow link
High Domain Authority
All inbound links pointing to a website’s main domain (www.example.com) as well as its internal pages contribute to the domain authority.
Getting a backlink from a high domain authority site is always valuable. Sometimes, that is all you need in order to get on the 1st page of Google for a target keyphrase.
PageRank is only one of over 200 ranking factors which Google uses to calculate and decide which page should rank over another.
Inbound links pointing specifically to an internal page of a particular website contributes to the PageRank of the specific page.
However if a page of say PageRank 6 has two outgoing links, the outgoing PageRank is diluted into half (PageRank 3 each).
With everything else equal (i.e. Relevant page title, equal number of backlinks, etc.), a site with a higher PageRank will rank above the site with a lower PageRank.
Sites that receive a lot of quality relevant inbound links are more trusted than sites that receive lots of inbound links from low-quality, spammy sites.
Getting a link directly from a very trusted site such as Entrepreneur.com will increase your site’s TrustRank tremendously. Obtaining a second-tier, third-tier, or fourth-tier link will also increase your site’s TrustRank but the value starts to drop the further it goes.
Let’s have a look at the following scenario:
Your website provides financial consultation and you are not able to get a link directly from Entrepreneur.com. However you’re able to obtain a third-tier link from one of the websites that Entrepreneur.com links to.
Entrepreneur.com => Financesite.com => Bizservices.com => Yourfinancialsite.com
100% TrustRank => 50% TrustRank => 25% TrustRank => 12.5% TrustRank
The above figures are made up and only used to demonstrate the point.
If you are getting inbound links from an external page (Page A) and it is linking to Page B and Page C which are both relevant to your site’s content topic, this is a strong signal to search engines that your site is relevant to that particular topic.
Relevant Page Title
The page title should summarize the page’s content topic. Or rather, the main content topic should reflect the title of the page. Search engines use the page title as an important ranking factor when it comes to displaying relevant search results to the user.
Relevant Content Topic
Similar to the above Relevant Page Title ranking factor, an inbound link from a page with relevant content topic to your site will increase your relevancy score.
Target Keywords in Anchor Text
The anchor text of a link is another ranking signal that search engines use. The wide-spread belief before the 2012 Google Penguin Update was that a keyword rich anchor text was a strong ranking factor.
As a result, many webmasters started over-optimizing their inbound anchor texts by stuffing their target keywords in (exact match), in attempt to manipulate their rankings. Majority of the sites with over-optimized keyword-rich anchor texts who were hit by the update saw a big drop in rankings.
Post-Penguin, anchor texts should not be over-optimized. i.e. If you want to rank for “financial consultation”, your anchor texts shouldn’t all be “financial consultation”. There should be a good mix of different types of anchor text. It should sound natural as if someone were to mention your brand name in a conversion.
Here are a few examples of the different types of anchor texts a property/real estate website should have a good mix of:
Exact match – “Properties for sale”
Broad match – “List of properties for sale” or “Properties for sale in [country]”
Synonyms and related search terms – “Condos for sale” or “Private property for sale”
Brand mentions – “Realtoria Property Investment Firm”
Non-related – “visit this page” or “click here”
It’s good to have a couple of inbound links with exact match anchor text from high domain authority sites. Just make sure it looks natural and doesn’t make up the majority of your backlink profile.
Placed in Main Content Area
The location of the backlink is also an important factor. A footer link isn’t worth as much as a sidebar link, and a sidebar link isn’t worth as much as an editorial link in the main content section.
Age of Page
How long a page has been in Google’s index is also a ranking factor. Creating a website is getting much simpler. There has been an increasing number of fly-by-night sites and many webpages come and go frequently. Therefore the older the page, the more trustworthy it is (provided it is frequently updated).
Age of Backlink
Similarly, the older the backlink, the more TrustRank it gets.
Dofollow links are regular links without the rel=“nofollow” attribute in the HTML code and they allow PageRank or Link Juice to be passed on to the linked page.
Example of a regular dofollow link (allows PageRank to be passed on):
<a href=“http://example.com/”>anchor text</a>
Example of a nofollow link (doesn’t allow PageRank to be passed on):
<a href=“http://example.com/” rel=“nofollow”>anchor text</a>
While you’re in the process of acquiring dofollow links, you also want to obtain nofollow links.
Although you won’t get any PageRank from a nofollow link, the main reason you also want to include nofollow links in your link profile is that search engines are able crawl a nofollow link and read its anchor text.
Even though you don’t get any PageRank flow, you’d still be awarded points for relevancy. Not to mention a link profile with thousands of dofollow inbound links and without a single nofollow backlink looks a little fishy.
In a Nutshell…
Basically you want to acquire as many backlinks from other sites that are closely related to the topic of your site and your site’s internal pages.
You also want a diverse and natural-looking link profile;
Links from different types of sites (blogs, news sites, .edu & .gov sites, forums, directories, social media, etc…) with natural linking patterns, and a good mix of dofollow and nofollow links. (No heavily keyword-optimized anchor texts!)
External SEO is basically link building and creating social signals for search engines to determine the authority of your site as well as the context of your site. Here’s a guide to SEO link building you should really check out.
Do be careful however not to violate any of Google’s Content Quality Guidelines or participate in link schemes (A.k.a. Black-hat SEO) while in the “joyous” process of link building. As long as you avoid doing any Black-hat SEO, you’re most probably doing White-hat SEO.
I hope this beginner’s SEO tutorial has given you a better understanding on the topic of SEO as a whole. To have a more holistic digital marketing landscape, we cover the core modules of Digital Marketing that includes :
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