There are many reasons why backlink strategies are as central to digital marketing strategies as they are.
Perhaps most notably, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) hinges on them for organic referral traffic, brand awareness, and authoritativeness. In fact, Backlinko found that 75% of all online content gets ZERO links.
Thus, link-building strategies are arguably a core pillar of SEO and a lucrative endeavour. However, between old, obscure black hat strategies and a shifting digital landscape, they may pose a considerable challenge.
With that and current trends in mind, let us explore some notable ways to get quality backlinks in 2021.
Backlink Types and “Link Juice.”
Since all backlink types matter, let’s begin by identifying backlink types and establishing how they relate to “link juice”. Let us also briefly explore what that vital factor is and why it matters.
Backlinks are mainly divided into four types:
- User-generated content (UGC)
Apart from accurate categorizations for transparency, those backlink types have different interactions with link juice. This colloquial term essentially refers to the PageRank score, which is the core distinction to make when looking for quality backlinks in 2021 and beyond.
Search Engine Journal helpfully explains what Google’s PageRank is, but let us summarise to keep information consolidated.
PageRank was, and is, a page authority (PA) score system that determines just that; how authoritative and trustworthy a page is. This was its goal since its inception in 1996, and that’s how it functions to this day.
The reason why this matters at all in this context is simple. PageRank tracks links between sites to track interactions, affiliations, and endorsements. In turn, it would transfer PageRank score, or link juice, from linking sites to linked sites. Understandably, this eventually facilitated many underhanded SEO tactics, where backlinks would function as link juice siphons.
As a countermeasure against black hat SEO tactics and link spam, Google introduced nofollow tags in 2005. Over time, it expanded on the concept of sites disavowing links and labelling them accurately, creating two more similar tags.
Follow and NoFollow
The original pair of link tags is (do)follow and nofollow.
In HTML code, a (do)follow link looks like this:
<a href=”https://example.com”>example anchor text</a>
Most links are follow links by default unless tagged otherwise, and they allow for link juice transfers. That’s why many sites now carefully vet their follow links and frequently limit demonstrational, sponsored, or user links as nofollow.
A nofollow link will instead look like this:
<a href=”https://example.com” rel=”nofollow”>example anchor text</a>
This is where the name comes from; the rel=” nofollow” tag. Nofollow links tell Google that sites don’t endorse the links in question, and thus no link juice transfer occurs.Since all backlink types matter, let's begin by identifying backlink types and establishing how they relate to Link juice. Click To Tweet
Sponsored and User-Generated Content (UGC)
In September 2019, Google introduced two new tags that function similarly to nofollow tags; sponsored and UGC tags.
A sponsored link will thus look like this:
<a href=”https://example.com” rel=”sponsored”>example anchor text</a>
This tag naturally denotes that a link is sponsored and shouldn’t count as an endorsement. In the context of modern content marketing, this is an invaluable distinction to make.
Finally, a UGC link will look like this:
<a href=”https://example.com” rel=”ugc”>example anchor text</a>
This tag denotes user-generated content with similar applications.
Both tags see frequent use for other purposes beyond labelling accuracy, such as indexing and crawling. But in the context of getting quality backlinks in 2021, they practically function identically to nofollow links.
Follow and NoFollow: How to Get Quality Backlinks in 2021
With these essential distinctions out of the way, let’s explore some ways to build a solid backlink strategy. These practices won’t distinguish between follow and nofollow, since your strategy will need both. Of course, you will want to prioritize, but you can’t safely lean too heavily on one or the other.
#1 Examine Your Competitors’ Backlinks
First and foremost, as with all things in business, you’ll want to monitor what your competition is doing. Examining their backlinking methods will provide potentially actionable insights, as well as enable an interesting follow-up strategy.
At its core, it’s a simple enough concept; your competitors may reveal practices you may consider. For example, you may identify a site that links to your competitors, but not you. In that case, you can carefully examine why that is and adjust your content accordingly to earn backlinks.
The “skyscraper” Technique, Adjusted
With these insights, you may then engage in what’s called the skyscraper technique. Initially coined by Backlinko’s Brian Dean, this technique is relatively simple:
- Identify popular content in your industry
- Improve it and add value
- Promote it to expand your reach
Knowing where your competitors get their backlinks makes this approach even more straightforward. In short, provide more valuable content to sites that give them backlinks to earn yours.Backlinks are mainly divided into four types: Follow, Nofollow, Sponsored and User-Generated Content. Click To Tweet
#2 Engage in Guest Posting
Along similar lines, guest posting remains valuable today. Most sites will, of course, tag your backlinks as nofollow or UGC, and some will restrict backlinks to bio sections. Guest posting takes considerable effort; you must do copious research for authoritative sites to accept your content.
However, guest posting still has considerable merits:
- It provides organic traffic.
- It increases brand awareness and exposure.
- Regular, quality guest posts cultivate professional relationships.
Thus, guest posting is a very valuable strategy to consider. It may take commitment to build follow backlinks for PA, but all backlinks are practically useful nonetheless.
#3 Seek Interviews and Podcasts and Don’t Discount Blog Comments
Another way to build backlinks is to expand your presence, and thus the spaces where you can have backlinks. Having covered guest posts, you may want to provide interviews, guest appearances in podcasts, and even blog comments.
Interviews will come naturally with time and quality, and there isn’t much you can do to force it. However, you may scout podcast directories such as Apple’s and Google’s and popular ones like Spotify and Stitcher. Finding podcasts related to your niche, you may then reach out to their hosts with your pitch–and portfolio in hand–to arrange a potential collaboration. This kind of engagement is easy if you already have a solid social media strategy in place, of course.
Lastly, on professional engagement, blog posts are not redundant either. Engaging through comments expands your potential reach, and any backlinks in comments or bios strengthen your strategy.
#4 Account for Business Listing Websites and Business Associations
Similarly, there are two business-side backlink avenues to explore; business listing sites and business associations. With domain authority (DA) becoming increasingly important in SEO, these are safe ways to get quality backlinks in 2021 and beyond.
Business Listing Websites
The value of a presence on business directories should be self-evident. Not only does it enhance your local SEO, but it also expands your presence. Therefore, they may also provide backlinks for your website. Consider some directories that are relevant today:
- Google My Business (GMB)
- Bing Places
- Yellow Pages
- Chamber of Commerce
Speaking of the Chamber of Commerce, you may be part of a business association. Such associations will frequently feature backlinks to their members. See if yours has one for you–or even join associations specifically for the backlink. Any business association can also have benefits beyond that one link.In the context of getting quality backlinks in 2021, they practically function identically to nofollow links. Click To Tweet
#5 Produce Informative Content
Finally, such practices aside, the spearhead of getting quality backlinks is content quality. There’s no denying that; all strategies may yield short-term benefits, but “quality is king”. Quality is the best way to ensure you get organic backlinks, follow and nofollow alike. Furthermore, content quality also affects SEO, boosting your engagement and social signals – much like backlink traffic does.
Update Your Content
First and foremost, ensure you update all content that allows it. Consider, for example, year-specific “best of” or “tips and tricks” lists. News articles don’t usually allow for updates, but such lists and pieces do. As such, you can revise and update your content to allure more backlinks. At the same time, you’ll be enhancing your overall SEO by providing more “fresh” content.
Speaking of news articles, you may also use helpareporter (HARO) to expand your scope and acquire backlinks. HARO states it “connects journalists seeking expertise to include in their content with sources who have that expertise”. If you have the expertise to share, this may be an excellent opportunity to earn backlinks and produce valuable content.
Follow, NoFollow, or Both?
With all the above strategies in mind, you may still wonder why they didn’t distinguish between follow and nofollow links. Rest assured that both are vital; follow links boost your PA, true, but both produce traffic and exposure. A healthy backlink strategy includes both, especially since too many of one without the other may incur penalties from Google.Most sites will, of course, tag your backlinks as nofollow or UGC, and some will restrict backlinks to bio sections. Click To Tweet
To summarise, getting quality backlinks in 2021 won’t be a breeze. However, it doesn’t need to be an impossible challenge, either. Monitor your competitors to stay ahead and embrace UGC; seek interviews, comment on blogs, and possibly reach out to journalists; remember business listings and associations; update your content. Never forget that “content is king” and that providing value is the spearhead of SEO. With these fundamental tenets in mind, you will have a solid foundation for building a successful backlink strategy. Follow or nofollow, sponsored or UGC, backlinks of all kinds are valuable and will help your business thrive.
About the Author:
William Turner is a freelance digital marketing consultant and copywriter with a keen interest in SEO’s intricacies. He frequently contributes articles to Link Department, where he shares the insights he has gathered over the past decade.
Disclaimer: The author’s views are entirely their own and may not always reflect Mauco Enterprises’ views.
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