The State of Natural Backlink Construction & Optimization in 2021

Want to learn more about natural backlink construction and optimization in 2021? The text below covers the topic in-depth!

Inbound links and citations are often sought after by pretty much anyone managing a site, but many individuals end up with either too few or bad ones. In their rush to improve the situation, more than a few people end up making things far worse. Some even turn to potentially dangerous practices that could have their sites marketed as little better than spam.

Site operators need those from high-quality sources to reduce what some have called a toxicity score that measures how close some of the sites that link to them are to spam.

In spite of all the confusion regarding the best way to develop inward links, several major campaigns in the last few years have actually made great strides toward optimizing their plans and getting the most out of them.

Creative Link-Building Programs That Really Took Off

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Experienced online marketers probably remember what people used to call the Slashdot effect. Commentators on the technology news giant’s front page would occasionally post a link pointing back at a relatively small yet interesting site, and they’d end up getting so much traffic in the process that it would take down their servers.

While it’s somewhat doubtful that this ever really had a detrimental impact on any sites like some people have humorously claimed, it certainly did give people a healthy amount of traffic while helping to establish their sites as polished authority sources when it came time for search engines to check into them.

Tech-savvy news consumers have taken advantage of this in the last couple of years. Some reports have claimed that a couple of links back from sites like Fark and Imgur have substantially altered their performance in the rankings. These have become so commonplace that people use terms like farked to describe the impact that even a single link might have on the overall performance of their site.

While it’s not normally possible to market directly to these sites and shady link sharing schemes never work out, those who have been able to legitimately get popular posters to send links back to them have found that they’ve enjoyed quite a bit of success without risking any increase to their toxicity score.

Guest Post Tracker is another excellent example of this trend. Some creative site owners have looked over the list of blogs from GPT and found ones that they could contribute content to in the form of guest posts. Considering that the tool only ever allows people to locate ones that they can post legitimate articles to, it normally encourages positive inward link construction.

Travel and fitness bloggers have been using this to great effect, which is extremely important considering just how competitive the market is for those fields.

Publishers who accept guest posts in this way get useful content, which in turn helps to continue to increase the chances that they themselves end up with a useful link that drives attention back to their site.

It’s certainly become one of the more practical ways to build a brand while generating links, and it now looks like many traditional broadcast sources are turning to it as well. Some news aggregator sites that have normally only ever linked to conventional outside publications are now asking for guest posts. They’ll normally solicit either blog postings or interviews from those who manage startup companies in the tech sector, which has leveraged this kind of promotion for a long time.

The most dramatic examples are of those who’ve been able to share information back and forth on a regular basis so they can keep the lines of communication, and therefore link-building, open.

As one may expect, this is most common in the IS sector, where readers clamor for expert advice and aging computer industry publications attempt to reinvent themselves. Sites that once belonged to printed magazines have been able to bring themselves completely around by offering people a place to share advice on their own products and services, who in turn are happy to post usable material because they’re able to link back to their sites from a location with a recognizable name.

Those who don’t find themselves in such an auspicious position can still take advantage of some useful tricks to get better inward links.

Obtaining Higher Value Backlinks for Your Resources

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Bill Gates famously opined that content is king and everything else is subordinate to it. Nowhere is this more true than in the field of search engine marketing. Individuals who are struggling to get natural backlinks to their site would do well to keep this in mind. Other content creators are always looking for authoritative sources to back up their claims, and they’ll naturally link to your content if it fulfills their needs. This is one of the most cost effective link-building strategies out there.

Independent bloggers might want to consider posting explanatory content alongside all of the opinion pieces and sponsored material that they post. This is a good way to attract other authors who might want to prove to other readers that whatever they’re saying is, in fact, true.

At times, a business or another organization may find that their name is mentioned in some content, but they’re never linked to. This is perhaps most common on blogs and social posts, but it’s also become common in resource descriptions for things like podcast episodes and the small paragraphs that accompany contact detail listings.

Savvy website operators will reach out to the individuals who operate the locations that have mentioned their names and request a link. Naturally, there’s no reason that someone has to share a link, and in some cases, it could be hard to ever reach a real person. Considering just how easy it is to fire off a couple of email messages, however, there’s also no reason not to try this tactic.

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In order to increase the possibility that someone will link back to a site, Internet marketing managers will need to make sure that their content is discoverable in the first place. Adding the main keyword of an article to its URL is an excellent way to increase the visibility of a post without tripping any spam sensors.

Making sure that all meta descriptions and image notifications are filled out will also help dramatically in this respect, though it’s important to avoid potentially unsafe levels of keyword stuffing. There’s no reason to shove keywords into every single heading the way that people used to.

Perhaps the most effective place to earn backlinks is from within one’s own site.

Internal Links That Count as Natural Backlinks

Google has traditionally allowed site operators to link to their own resources from within their sites, and their algorithm will actually count these toward the number of authoritative resources that link to their content. However, there are certain rules in place to prevent abuse.

At one time, unsavory types started to put huge numbers of internal links at the bottom of pages in the hopes of ranking really high on SERPs for certain keywords. This tactic worked and was quickly adopted by spammers. Rogue pages even take advantage of some loopholes involved in it, which has led to the proliferation of so-called link hacking schemes.

Site operators will naturally want to avoid these sorts of plans, but they’ll still want to look into the possibility of increasing the number of incoming links they have on their own sites. Ending articles with some contact details that are then linked to a “Contact Us” page is quite useful. Google also has a tendency to up-rank links to an “About Us” page that actually points to what they claim to point to.

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Designing a sitemap is also a good idea since it provides a link to everything inside of a site’s hierarchy without making it look as though one is attempting to post a ton of potentially harmful links. All a sitemap consists of is a simple XML file or even a plain text set of hyperlinks that lists URLs along with important metadata about each one.

These are generally designed to be human-readable, and they’ve even been promoted by accessibility advocates. Individuals who use adaptive browsers often need them to help with crawling certain types of sites, so the fact that one is there could also improve the usability of a site as well as its ranking.

Not all inward links are created equally, however, so site operators are also going to want to be sure that they get rid of any that come out of shady areas of the Internet.

The Importance of Disavowing Links

All of the major search providers have provided disavow tool¬†for years, but a relatively small percentage of those who run their own sites ever use them. These tools give site operators the freedom to neutralize the influence that links have on their current rankings. These are especially useful for those who’ve been beleaguered by web scrapers who steal content from a site and then spread it across the web.

At times, these bots can inadvertently post the same links over and over again. Since search algorithms aren’t able to distinguish between these and real links, it’s possible that they might accidentally think the owner of a site is actually the one behind a spam operation.

Unrestricted use of these tools could actually do more harm than good since it’s relatively easy to disavow oneself of a high-quality link that’s actually helping their web resources in the rankings. It’s very important to only disavow those links that are genuinely suspicious. A good rule of thumb is to look for repetitive or unreadable metadata associated with a particular backlink.

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If the metadata is simply full of numbers with no discernible pattern, then there’s a good chance that a link is fraudulent. Those that seem to have been posted on blogs or social media accounts belonging to real people are usually real, though they might not have actually been posted by the person they’re claiming to be. Fortunately, links from jokes and spoofed accounts usually don’t count against a person.

Those from known toxic domains can cause issues, though, and should be done away with. SEO tools like Ahrefs may be used to locate a list of toxic backlinks. In general, these tools will provide site operators with a list of their current links and rank each one on a scale of 1-100 or so.

The canonical scale created by the developers of the Semrush project considered any link with a score of between 0 and 44 percent to be a normal site and will often encourage content creators to leave these alone. Those with scores around 45-59 percent are marked as possibly toxic. Links that exceed this measurement will get flagged as potentially serious problems and should normally be disavowed.

For the time being, this is usually sound advice, and most people will probably want to follow along with these recommendations. Nevertheless, it’s always possible that the terms of service agreements shared by the legal departments of search companies could change in the future.

The Future of Natural Backlinks

SEO specialists often claim that Google is always changing its algorithm, which is true to an extent. That being said, it’s highly doubtful that they’re going to liberalize their policies to the point that natural backlinks become a thing of the past. If anything, it’s more likely that future policy alterations will lead to an increased focus on the legitimacy of links. A number of otherwise legitimate sites could potentially lose their rankings in the process.

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Improvements to machine learning algorithms have helped the major search engines identify when bots post links on web forum sites and message boards. Historically, it was difficult to tell the difference between genuine posts on these sites and those made by bots. As search engines become empowered to deal with the issue, they’ll probably begin culling large amounts of spam from their SERPs listings. Webmasters will want to take the opportunity to disavow suspected links before these tools rate their sites down.

Alterations to the underlying code that powers most web browsers will also change the way that links work in the near future.

Enhanced cross-origin isolation features are already starting to limit the amount of information that’s being sent each time an end-user clicks on a link. SEO authors who rely on a fire hose of data collected from natural traffic will want to start planning for drastic changes to the way this technology works.

People don’t even have to look toward the future if they want to see backlinks in action because there is a large number of sites that have recently revamped themselves to increase the amount of natural traffic they receive in this way. One of the big ways they’re putting these techniques to work is by culling pages from their sites, as surprising as that might sound.

Cutting Back on Pages to Increase Search Ranking

Culling out zombie pages is something that most of the larger eCommerce sites do now. Eventually, every major website is going to end up with a large number of resources that don’t really do anything and simply serve to increase the number of times they rank on a major search provider without actually improving their ranks. When real people click on these links, they’re likely to simply bounce back because the content there does nothing for them.

Retail giants like Amazon and eBay make sure to purge out old product and auction listings daily. More than likely, they’re pulling down hundreds or even thousands of pages on a daily basis. At one point, it was recommended that the structure of sites should never dramatically change, but that’s no longer seen as a wise decision today.

Cutting back on the sheer number of pages a site has, especially if they’re now inaccurate or out of date, is a good idea. When these are replaced, it’s also a good idea not to simply reuse the previous URLs to reduce the risk of search engine collisions. That being said, it’s also every bit as important to look at who is linking to a page before it gets taken down.

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Pages that have a large number of good inward links are hard to come by, so these should normally be left alone. It can be tempting to go to town and start removing pages as though one was wielding the digital equivalent of the Grim Reaper’s scythe. However, caution should be used when dealing with this technique as well as any other.

Link building, as well as the assessment of various hyperlinks once they’re in place, may seem like a great deal of work. Those who take an opportunity to get ahead in the process now should find that it becomes significantly easier to maintain in the future, especially if their content starts to generate the good kind of links that readers and search engines love.

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Published on March 29, 2021 by Peter Hughes; modified on October 10, 2023. Filed under: , , .

Peter Hughes is a digital marketing consultant and author. Peter has more than 10 years of experience in SEO and Internet marketing.

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