A solid SEO campaign consists of many different efforts, but building a robust backlink catalog is among the most important.
Backlinks are part of what tell search engines that you’re out there producing valuable content worthy of a high SERP ranking. They also help you establish yourself as a trusted authority in your field.
However, it’s essential to understand that one link isn’t necessarily equal to another.
While a high-quality natural link will help your SEO strategy in a big way, a poor-quality or irrelevant link can actually hurt your efforts.
Here’s what you need to know to ensure your backlink catalog is filled with the quality links you want.
What is a Natural Link?
A natural link is more or less precisely what it sounds like — a backlink that’s organically generated — meaning the owner of the linked site hasn’t personally created it.
They haven’t paid someone else to create the link for them, either.
Although fully organic links are fantastic, you can request or otherwise pursue links from desirable websites and still have them scanned as natural to Google’s algorithm.
However, they must:
- Appear in a natural context, meaning the content surrounding it makes sense editorially.
- Provide genuine value for those who might read it.
- Have appropriate anchor text that is correctly integrated into the rest of the surrounding content on the page.
In other words, a natural link is the type of link that’s been rightly earned.
Someone somewhere was exposed to the linked content, found it valuable, and made the call to link back to it based on that value.
In the eyes of search engines like Google, this is far and away the best type of link to have.
Why is Natural Link Building Important?
Google is the world’s largest, most trusted search engine for a reason.
They’re wholly dedicated to delivering the most relevant possible search results on any possible topic, and they do an excellent job of it.
It makes sense that they go out of their way to protect the integrity of their search results, and ensuring backlinks are legitimately earned is part of that.
That said, natural link building is important because it’s what Google and other search engines prefer.
Fill your backlink catalog with plenty of quality natural links, and you can trust that your site will rise to the top of the SERPs.
On the other hand, if you try to get around this in the wrong ways, your site may actually be penalized instead of rewarded.
Google’s algorithms are getting smarter all the time, so it’s no longer possible to game the system the way people used to.
Today’s best SEO practice is to keep your link building efforts as natural as possible for that reason.
What are the Different Types of Links?
Google has never officially released a complete rundown of its ranking factors.
However, there has been enough research released for experts to know that, along with content quality and RankBrain info, your backlink catalog is one of the top three.
Here’s a look at the various types of links to know.
Tier One Backlinks: The Best Backlinks for Your Site
These are the good type of backlink — the natural kind you get through organic link building efforts.
The more of these you have, the more your backlink catalog will help your search engine ranking. Some different types of links included on this tier include:
- Editorial backlinks from credible publications or blogs.
- Relationship-based backlinks, also from credible publications or blogs.
- High-quality guest blogs that provide genuine value.
- Niche directories, such as Yelp or the Better Business Bureau.
Tier Two Backlinks: Links to Limit as Much as Possible
Backlinks that fall under this category won’t necessarily get you penalized by search engines, but they don’t help you much with your organic search ranking, either.
It’s also highly possible that future updates to Google’s algorithm will devalue them completely, so take note. Link types on this tier include:
- Header, footer, or sidebar links.
- Any links that otherwise appear on every page of a website.
- Low-quality, mass guest posts created solely for link building purposes.
Tier Three Backlinks: Links That Carry Penalties
And of course, there are certain types of backlinks that are considered the worst of the worst.
Including any third-tier backlinks in your catalog can earn you penalties that could damage not only your SERP rankings but your site’s reputation. They include:
- Low-quality generalized directories.
- Comment spam left on blogs, news articles, and so forth.
- Paid links, especially those that follow an identifiable pattern.
- Backlinks from irrelevant sites.
What Makes a Good Link?
A natural link is a “good” link practically by definition, and it’s far and away the best type of link to have.
Natural links don’t come attached to tracking parameters. You won’t find them embedded in sponsored content of any kind, either. To review, good links also have qualities like the following.
- It comes from a relevant website related to your industry or niche.
- It comes from a site both users and Google consider trustworthy (no spam, intrusive advertising, or poorly written content).
- It makes sense from an editorial standpoint.
- It’s appropriately earned, meaning it’s not paid for, required by contract, or illicitly created.
Also, keep in mind that a particular backlink doesn’t necessarily have to be perfect across the board to help you.
For instance, it can still have value even without the ideal anchor text, placement, or “follow” vs. “no follow” status, especially when it comes from a trusted authority. It just needs to be as natural as possible.
How Can You Build Quality Natural Links?
Natural links that occur 100 percent organically are always the very best kind to have, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do to build a better backlink catalog.
Just tailor your strategy with your business goals and Google’s best link building practices in mind.
1. Focus on providing value over asking for links
Whether your link building strategy involves actively pursuing quality backlinks or not, one of the best things you can do is produce exceptional content.
Not only does stellar quality raise the chances of getting wholly organic shares and backlinks, but it makes you more likely to get a “yes” to any backlinks you request.
Although paid links have always occupied a Google grey area, emerging algorithms have ways of keeping track of this, so it’s best not to try to buy links.
However, suggested or requested links with genuine value and context can still be considered natural, so you can safely pursue those.
2. Improve upon popular content
Staying on top of current trends is always a solid content strategy, but don’t stop there.
Instead, go out of your way to identify relevant content that’s doing well and build something better that piggybacks off of it.
This is called the Skyscraper Technique and is particularly effective for addressing anything controversial.
Once your content is finished, definitely share it around yourself and across your social media channels. But reach out to other people who can help give your creation legs, as well.
It’s more effective than simply hoping your piece catches on by itself.
3. Create different types of content
Diversification is an integral part of any well-crafted content-building strategy, so don’t limit yourself to just one topic or type of content.
Offering multiple options gives interested third parties more different choices as to how, when, and where they link back to you.
Make sure you tailor each of your efforts to suit your various audiences. Pay attention to what types of content do well on each social media platform where you maintain a brand presence.
Naturally, you’re hoping for a viral hit, and planning is always a better way to get one than simply guessing or assuming.
4. Actively encourage your audience to share
Again, don’t simply publish or share your content and hope others like it enough to share it themselves.
If there’s something specific you’re hoping people will do, they appreciate being told what to do with a call to action, so don’t be afraid to add one.
If you want them to retweet something or share it in a specific way, just ask.
And if there’s anyone, in particular, from whom you’d especially like to see a share, reach out to them directly.
Take care to select people who would genuinely be interested in what you have to offer and pleased to share it with their audience.
5. Use ego bait to appeal to key influencers
A share from a top influencer is definitely something worth pursuing, but it’s a good idea to sweeten the pot a little with some good, old-fashioned ego-stroking.
Instead of simply reaching out and asking for a share, try asking for an interview instead. It’s a great way to create a beneficial situation for all involved.
The influencer gets a great chance to improve their own visibility. You get great content your audience will love.
Plus, the sheer shareability of the finished piece will likely mean quite a few valuable backlinks and shares from the influencer, their team, and their audience.
Wrap Up: Help Your SEO Strategy Stay Ahead of the Curve
With Google’s algorithm getting more astute with every update, you don’t ever want to sleep on your SEO campaign and assume it’s good enough as it is.
So whether you’re working on natural link building or upgrading a completely different aspect of your strategy, it’s essential to stay on top of emerging trends, act fast, and keep ahead of the curve.
Make sure your SEO campaign for this year is fully set up for success by checking out our list of SEO trends to watch. Then, you’ll be fully prepared for everything coming your way!