If you spend even five minutes researching what is important to search engines so you can get your website to rank, you’ll come across the term backlinks. Backlinks is the term we use to describe links from other people’s sites back to your own – hence the name backlinks. A little more digging will reveal that backlinks are actually one of the most powerful components of the SEO (search engine optimization) puzzle, but also the most difficult to put in place. 

The problem with backlinks is that, in many cases, you have little-to-no control over when, where, and how many backlinks you can get. This means that the most popular authority sites that are linked to frequently tend to stay at the top of the results pages, while smaller and newer websites struggle to get a foothold. This has led many search engine optimizers trying to game the system, which in turn has led to Google penalizing sites for using the wrong types of backlinks. So what are the different kinds of backlinks and which ones get the green light from Google? Let’s take a look. 

Backlinks Google Tends to Like

Editorial Backlinks (Natural Backlinks) 

The best backlinks in Google’s opinion are those that are mentioned naturally within the body text on the page. This means the links are within the blog post or page content, not within footers, sidebars, or footers. When a link appears as part of relevant text it shows Google that your content is of value to others and is much more likely to rank your page in search results. 

The best of the best backlinks are links from sites with high domain authority, as these websites are already viewed by Google as being sites that are generally trusted. If you can get backlinks from sites like these you’ll seriously accelerate your site’s search engine rankings. 

Of course, any backlinks from honest sources can help, so don’t feel like collaborating with other sites and businesses with lower authority is a waste of time. If they are done as an honest recommendation to your audience, they’ll certainly contribute to your site’s ranking improvement. Also keep in mind that back linking isn’t just done to improve your search engine ranking, but also to improve your traffic from related and relevant sources. 

Another way these sites can give your site credit without referencing your content directly within a paragraph is if they refer to you as a great source of information, such as in a bulleted list on a “best of” post or on a resources page, if you do a guest post or interview on their site and link back to your site within that post, or if they credit you as the creator of an infographic, image, or video.  

How to Get Good Backlinks 

You need to remember that Google’s highest priority is to show their users the best results for the terms they are searching for, and that means offering them the best experience possible. Therefore your main focus should be on creating quality evergreen (or frequently updated) content that answers your audiences burning questions, perhaps educates them, or guides them through a process. 

If you mention a resource on another site within your content, don’t be afraid to reach out to them and let them know that you did so. They’ll check out your post and if they like it they may share it with their audience or link to your site in return in one of their upcoming posts, podcasts, or videos. 

Backlinks Google Doesn’t Seem to Like

Now we’ve covered what Google does like, let’s briefly discuss what it doesn’t. This is a topic that is fairly straightforward and if you follow the rules outlined below you can stay far away from all the types of backlinks Google doesn’t like. 

*It is recommended that you don’t… 

  • Pay directly for links 
  • Avoid link exchanges that don’t make sense 
  • Don’t use software or bots 
  • Spam forums or comments with your links 

Most of these will go without saying if you know the difference between black hat and white hat marketing, but make sure you keep your distance from these tactics. 

Backlinks Google Likes: Other Things to Be Aware Of 

As with any SEO technique, there are other aspects to take into consideration when developing your backlink profile. Here are a few key aspects of backlink building you should be aware of: 

  • Directories and social media profiles help – yes, you create these backlinks yourself, but it shows Google your business is legitimate and established. The more authoritative the directory or social media site, the better. Listings on the Yellow Pages and Yelp are great, as are Facebook Pages and LinkedIn profiles. 
  • “Do Follow” “No Follow” – it’s possible to use HTML to tell Google whether or not a link should be tracked. Normally, Google will notice when a link is clicked and will give it SEO value, but when the link is marked as “no follow” Google (and other search engines) ignore it. You want links to your site to be “do follow” links. There is a Chrome extension you can install called the NoFollow Simple Chrome Extension which will check a link’s code. This shouldn’t be too much of an issue and isn’t generally worth worrying about initially as you build up your content, but it is something to be aware of as you grow. 
  • Guest blogging and posts on authoritative sites help – there’s always some argument about whether or not guest posting still works or not, but when it comes to SEO they most certainly do. Another tactic you can use is to create content on authoritative sites like Quora and Medium with your own links in the content and in your profile, as this will also count as good backlinks for your site. 

It’s important to understand that the landscape of what Google favors for SEO and which sites and pages it chooses to display in search results is ever-changing, so the best thing you can do is keep an eye on updates and see what major authority figures in online marketing think is important and what is negligible. However, if you can only focus on one thing it is to create content your audience will love and share – whether that be through blog posts, video, or podcasting. If you can nail your content the backlinks will flow in naturally.  

*Even though it is recommended not to use these methods, experienced SEOers who know what they’re doing have successfully used some of these tactics to increase rankings.