Off-page SEO: netlinking as a performance tool
It is important to know that Google has based its algorithm for ranking search results on the links that sites make between them, so the backlinks. Specifically, Google explores websites and takes into account the incoming links, among other factors, to rank the page in question on the SERP (Search Engine Result Page). The off-page SEO refers to the link building strategy, that is to say the fact of generating a maximum of “quality” links pointing to your website to strengthen its authority.
What is a link or a backlink?
It is a way to share something with others. And, that’s what Google’s algorithm is based on, if something is shared a lot, it’s popular, it’s loved and therefore it should be on top (this is a quick schematic).
So this is what a backlink is originally: a reference / mention / recommendation, allowing to make something known.
The backlink has other names: link, hyperlink, hyperlink … they are synonyms.
What is Netlinking, Link Building or off-page SEO?
Off-page SEO, on-page SEO: what are the differences?
Why is netlinking so important?
Let’s take the example of two event organization websites with similar content. Which site will rank higher? If the sites use similar on-page SEO strategies, off-site SEO signals can help determine which site will rank higher in search results. It’s important to know that Google measures off-page SEI factors, such as the number and quality of backlinks. So if one of the two sites has more backlinks from reputable sources, while the other site has received no online mentions, the former will likely rank higher.
Think of a website with no off-page SEO as a wedding with no invitation. No one would come!
Link building: what are we talking about?
Link building strategy: success factors
At this point, you will have understood that all links are not equal. Thus, the main objective of a link building strategy is to obtain quality backlinks, that is to say from sites that are authorities in their field. It is also very important to keep in mind that the quality of links is more important than their quantity. That said, as an off-page SEO technique, link building is not limited to targeting authority sites. Of course, authority is very important, but it is not the only factor in off-site SEO success. In other words, what is the anatomy of a “good” backlink? This is what we will explain in the following.
The anatomy of a backlink: what is a quality link?
There are many factors influencing the quality of a link. And this is where all the work of the seo agency must focus: getting quality links.
Indeed, you will find many providers capable of setting up hundreds, even thousands of links for 5 euros. But let’s be serious, if it worked everyone would be number 1.
So what is the difference between this multitude of links that cost almost nothing (free netlinking in short) and a real link building work?
- Quality criteria number 1: relevance (“Real backlinks” vs. directory backlinks or links in forums)
A long, long, long time ago (we insist that you understand that today it is over), it was enough to modify 2 or 3 things on a site and to register it in free directories for it to be well referenced.
So there is software, called submission software, that has entire databases of free directories and that, once set up, does all these listings for you. So you begin to understand how these providers can sell you a few thousand backlinks for the price of a Smurfs comic book.
Besides that, there are other programs (automation programs) that can be set to send messages to forums (where registration is also free). If you are a real estate agency, for example, you may end up with hundreds of links from a Russian-speaking name on a car tuning forum or with nonsensical messages linking to your site from a forum on dieting.
The forums are sometimes not even in French. In short, the links are absolutely not relevant. In addition to all these problems, let’s remember that the context (the theme) of the backlink is very important but we will talk about it in criterion number 4.
- Quality criteria number 2: the authority of the site that makes the backlink
Now let’s talk about the “power” of the backlink. You know, the famous PageRank that some, in the jargon of the profession, call the “juice”. That is to say the essence transmitted by the link to the site to which it is made.
According to this PageRank algorithm, all sites have a score. The higher the score, the greater the power transmitted. For example, if tomorrow Google decided to make a link to the site of your hair salon, there is a good chance that it will become popular and will be better positioned. Indeed, this link will influence its ranking.
Now if the link is made from your neighbor’s blog that nobody knows and will read, there will be little impact.
Why? Because a link from an authoritative site is more powerful than a link from a less authoritative site. Here, we could almost replace “authoritative” by “popular”.
- Quality criteria number 3: the reliability of the site that makes the backlink.
Yes, but, you may ask, if this site is popular for the wrong reasons? For example, there is a little bit of everything and anything on the internet. And sometimes the anything is very popular.
For this Google also ranks the sites according to their reliability. A recent update allows to see this. In order to fight against fake news, Google takes more and more into account this criterion. So there are sites (usually listed on wikipedia) that benefit from an exhaustive explanation:
And others which are considered as lambdas sites:
We can legitimately think that the first ones benefit from a trust index in terms of reliability that the others do not enjoy.
A backlink coming from the first ones will generally be more efficient than the rest.
4. Quality criterion number 4: the anchor text and the context of the backlink
Let’s start with the context because it is extremely important. And let’s start from the beginning: what is a backlink?
We have explained that it is a kind of recommendation or indication. A referral to another site or another page on the site. If your field is real estate, it seems only natural that people in your field or customers should link to you.
For example, you can have links from the websites of your financial or banking partners, links from the websites of your insurance partners, links from the websites of your colleagues if you conduct joint operations… as well as links from the personal blogs of your clients or people in the same geographical area as you.
Of course it’s not limited to that, you can also organize a charity event and have a link from the association for which you did it. Or you can have a link from the car garage for which you have found the premises in which it operates.
But generally speaking, the context/theme of the site should be that of your sector of activity with some exceptions. If, on the other hand, being a real estate agency you only have links from websites of web agencies, it is likely that they are less effective than backlinks from players in your sector.
Then, after the theme of the site that makes the link, there is also the context of the page on which the link is made. To stay in real estate if you get a backlink indicating that you are an actor of the “loi pinel à Toulouse”, it is preferable that it comes from a page talking about “la loi pinel”, or else “real estate investment” or “tax exemption” in general or else from a page talking about “Lyon” or “real estate in Lyon”.
The possibilities are numerous but it must make sense. Talking about the pinel law in Lyon in an article explaining hair transplants… it’s a little bit like a hair on the soup. It’s not good.
The E-A-T: magic formula for quality backlink
The E stands for Expertise. The A stands for Authoritativeness and the T stands for Trustworthiness. We will not dwell too much on the concept itself but it reflects well what we must do to get backlinks.
Showing expertise, that is to say giving detailed information, explained, showing that we know the subject well is fon-da-men-tal when we talk about something and we want to be positioned on it.
Then to become a “specialist” of the domain, that is to say to be mentioned even without backlink. It is a proof of authority and the fact of being known for such or such professional aspect will allow to obtain backlinks.
Finally, for reliability, you need to get reviews, participate and become a source for projects like wikipedia or get awards in rankings. Being quoted as a source on large media already considered reliable can also help.
We will come back to these E-A-T criteria in a future article.
Backlinks: history and impact on SEO
Google introduced backlinks in its algorithm since its creation in 1998. Already at that time, the search engine considered links as votes of confidence that would facilitate the identification of relevant and quality content. However, the original system quickly showed its limits, because it was based mainly on the quantity of backlinks and not on their quality. Basically, the more links you have, the better it was. That’s why many SEOs took advantage of it to create fake links and spam the system. This is no longer the case today… Google has changed its algorithm to focus on the quality of backlinks rather than their quantity.
But this has not stopped the “fraudulent” practices for all that, including “Google bombing”, which is to ensure that a website is well ranked in the SERPs for irrelevant search terms, unrelated to the subject by creating many links. In concrete terms, the practice consists of exploiting a feature of the PageRank algorithm by creating several hyperlinks to a site, links associated with a word or phrase. When this word or expression is typed on Google, the targeted site then appears at the top of the SERPs, thanks to these artificial links.
Google bombing has been used for political purposes, targeting personalities such as George W. Bush in 2003: when typing “miserable failure” on Google, the official website of the White House appears at the top of the results, with the biography of the former American president. But in 2007, Google changed its algorithm once again to counteract Google bombing practices. The search engine also deployed its Penguin algorithm in 2012, which allowed it to fight against spam.