Even in the modern era of SEO, links are still considered by many to be the #1 ranking factor.
And link building is still a very controversial topic: some SEOs swear by it, others will tell you links don’t matter as much as you think.
But there is one topic that divides SEOs (and SEO enthusiasts and beginners alike): quantity and quality of links.
Should you go with a very high amount of low to medium quality links or a large amount of high quality ones?
Let’s dive deep into the topic, and we’ll start by explaining why links are important in SEO.
Why Are Links So Important to Rank in Search Engines?
When first search engines were built, they stemmed from a simple idea: to rank the “best” websites at the top, we just need to figure out which websites are the most discussed ones.
Like in scientific research, when something is quoted a lot, it must be good, right?
So that’s how early search engines operated: they counted the number of links to websites, measured relevance through keyword identity (ugh!), and then ranked websites thanks to links.
As you can imagine now that the World Wide Web is bigger and we know about virality and social media, that didn’t go well.
Something can be shared or quoted for other reasons than its intrinsic value.
So major search engines, Google included, took action against this, and tried to make their search results less and less reliant on links.
Links can easily be manipulated
Another problem with links is that they can easily be manipulated: nothing prevents anyone from creating thousands of fake, crappy websites just to link to the ones they want ranking.
And people did that, for a while – they spammed the web with bad links just to rank better.
Obviously, this doesn’t exist anymore, right?
I wish this were true, but it unfortunately still does – even though way less than it used to.
Links are not in Google’s best interest
I’m not going to go through the history of link building and link penalties, but here is the gist of it:
Google’s (and other search engines’) business model is to sell ads shown to people on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
Its business interest is to provide the best results possible so that people keep returning to the SERP, and Google can sell more ads.
Another way to say this is: Google does not want its search engine to be manipulated. The weight of links in the algorithm must then be carefully set, otherwise, SERPs will become flooded with spammers, which will hurt Google’s business.
Still, backlinks are very important to get websites to rank higher – links are far, very far from dead.
So how do we get good ones?
The Modern Age of Link Building: How to Get Good Links in 2022?
As you may or may not know, paid links (i.e. you pay me, and I link to you) are against Google’s Webmaster guidelines.
It doesn’t mean you can’t do it, it means that:
- You should’nt expect it to be super valuable
- It’s not a viable long-term solution to build a business online.
We usually don’t recommend that option.
Links are like going to the gym, or trying to lose weight: if there’s an easy solution that seems too good to be true, it probably is.
You have to put in the work.
So let’s look at quality over quantity.
The Importance of Relevance
Let’s imagine for a moment that you need to recommend a Chinese restaurant to a friend.
And you know of 3 different Chinese restaurants that have been recommended to you in the past by 3 different people – one each:
- One is a Cantonese chef
- One is a friend of yours who is really into pizza
- The last one is another friend’s mother.
Which restaurant would you recommend to your friend, without having ever visited any of the 3?
Probably the one recommended by the Chinese chef.
Because that recommendation felt most relevant.
You see that in a real-world situation, relevance plays a big role in how we recommend or judge things without in-depth knowledge.
This is exactly the same for search engines.
If you have to judge websites selling auto parts, the one with links from car enthusiasts’ websites might be the most relevant one to show.
It is therefore very important for links to be relevant, i.e. come from a website that covers the same topics as yours, or speaks to the same audience.
If you’re a store selling sports apparel, links from people in the textile industry, as well as links from sports-related websites, will weigh much more than links from, say, a mattress company.
Quality over Quantity of Links in SEO
What is link quality?
So how do we judge the quality of a link?
People usually look at metrics like:
- Domain Authority (from Moz)
- Domain & URL Rating (from Ahrefs)
- or Domain Authority Score (from SEMRUsh).
These are KPIs calculated by SEO tools to gauge the “strength” of a domain or specific URL.
They try to replicate the old PageRank metric that Google used to give to webmasters. It then stopped in efforts to make manipulating the algorithm more difficult.
Basically, these tools calculate how many websites are linking to one specific website, and output an “authority score” based on the score of other websites.
But riddle me this: would you rather have a link from a DA50+ (Domain Authority 50+) website that has nothing to do with your industry, or a DA20+ website that covers topics closely related to yours?
I’d choose the latter almost every time.
Unfortunately, there is no surefire way of judging the intrinsic quality of a link – you have to look at the website as a whole, the URL it is on, and how relevant it would be to your website.
What is link quantity?
When we talk about building a large quantity of links, it’s usually through automated methods that allow you to link from a large number (tens or even hundreds of thousands) of websites, without ever looking at their relevance or quality.
If you agree with everything we discussed so far, you can see why this tactic can be a problem:
- Relevance doesn’t play a role at all
- Because of the large amount of links, you are clearly trying to manipulate the search engine, which can (or will) backfire.
What Does “Quality over Quantity” Really Mean?
When I say you should go for quality links instead of a large quantity of links, what I really mean is that you should not try to take shortcuts.
Links are earned, not built.
Please, read that sentence again, and ponder what it means for your link building efforts.
- You should be trying to earn links, not build them.
- You should be trying to craft shareable content that adds value to your and other people’s websites, and outreach to people to share them.
- You should be building relationships with other publishers, producing press releases to improve awareness around your brand, products and services.
- You should be outreaching to people who mention your brand without linking to you.
But let me make this clear: none of this is easy. There are no shortcuts, no cookie-cutter strategies.
Just plain hard work.
How to get started with link building then?
There are plenty of resources online to get started earning links. Here are some basic ideas of tactics to use:
- Craft shareable content (infographics, videos, templates, etc.) that people will want to share, and outreach to webmasters in your niche
- Find unlinked brand mentions and outreach
- Build evergreen content and outreach
- Write press releases for products or services and outreach
- Produce market research and outreach
You’ll see that “outreach” is there every step of the way because that’s the only way to build high quality links in 2022.
If you want to get started designing a great link building strategy for your business, you can also book a call with me 🙂