Since the beginning Google has valued backlinks as the number one ranking factor in its algorithms to determine which pages deserve to be found in the top positions of the search results. This still holds true today.
Simply put, unless there is zero competition you won’t rank without links pointing to your site. But luckily there is no need to try and build countless numbers of them anymore – quite the opposite applies…
In this post I’m going to show you why in link building less is more and how links from high authority websites in combination with linkless brand mentions are the future of off-page SEO.
A Brief History Of Link Building
Up until a couple of years ago you could literally point hundreds or thousands of links to your site and achieve to rank in the top positions of Google.
But in April 2012 things finally started to change and we witnessed the famous Google Penguin update to roll out, which penalized over-optimized websites that used spammy techniques such as keyword stuffing in anchor texts and massive link building campaigns to gain a ranking advantage.
The update had an impact on roughly 3.1% of all English search queries.
What followed was more Penguin updates being released throughout the years:
Penguin 2.0 (May 2013) – Penguin 2.0 was targeted to the page level, but had only moderate impact on search results.
Penguin 3.0 (October 2014) – Penguin 3.0 was not an algorithm but a data-based update and affected less than 1 percent of all English search queries in the U.S.
Penguin 4.0 Announcement (September 2016) – Penguin is now part of the core algorithm and works in real-time.
High Authority Links
Nowadays, as we are seeing another shift in Google’s search algorithms, you have to be much more subtle to get the optimum results from your link building campaigns.
Oftentimes it’s better to have only a handful of links pointing to a site from authoritative sources that Google trusts, than hitting it with the kitchen sink and trying to get a reference from every page on the web that you think might not be considered as spam.
But how do you determine the authority and trustworthiness of a website?
That’s exactly what Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz, and his team were thinking when they developed the Open Site Explorer – a tool that provides a ranking score for domains called ‘Domain Authority’ that indicates how well a website is able to rank in the search results.
To give you a better idea of how the tools works, I’ve entered the homepage URL of sports retail giant Nike into the Open Site explorer search bar.
Here are the results that came up:
Now, Domain Authority (DA) is mostly determined by a site’s link profile. The more powerful the profile is, the higher the authority. As you can see in the screenshot above nike.com has a DA of 92, which is reeeally high!
And since DA is the same for all the pages of a website, there also is Page Authority (PA), which is an indicator for how well a single page of a domain is able to rank. Again, the more powerful the link profile of a page is, the higher its PA is going to be. In our example the Page Authority of https://www.nike.com/ is 93 with roughly 1.1 million links pointing to it.
By the way, Domain and Page Authority range on a logarithmic scale from 1 to 100, with 100 being the highest authority a website or page can possibly achieve. Each new site/page automatically starts with a DA/PA score of 1.
Here are some other examples for high authority websites in the IT/tech niche:
tech.co (DA: 72)
techcrunch.com (DA: 93)
venturebeat.com (DA: 89)
wired.com (DA: 95)
engadget.com (DA: 94)
If you can manage to get links from these sources, it’s likely that you will see a jump in rankings over time. Of course, this also always depends on the competitiveness of the keywords you are trying to rank for. The more competitive your niche or industry is, the more links you will need to build.
Linkless Brand Mentions
Links from high authority sites are not the only way to increase your rankings, and in fact, combined with linkless brand mentions they become even more effective as we are going to see soon in a case study below.
But before I provide you with a real-life example of how well links and brand mentions work together, let’s first summarize what we know about the latter.
‘Basically, if you publish high quality content that is highly cited on the internet – and I’m not talking about just links, but also mentions on social networks and people talking about your branding, crap like that (…)Then you are doing great.’ said Google Webmaster Trends Analyst Gary Illyes in September 2017.
This quote shows that Google has started to consider brand mentions as one way to measure authority, which makes a lot of sense if you think about it – people talking about popular brands online without necessarily linking to a business’s homepage. In fact, most people don’t even own a website to link from and they can still talk about Nike’s newest running shoes on facebook!
And just as links from high authority sites are more valuable than links from social media platforms, the same also applies to brand mentions.
What’s also worth mentioning is that if a brand or business gets lots of attention, there should be far more mentions than actual links pointing to it. There is no direct proof for that claim, but again it makes the most sense.
A Small Case Study
By placing about 50 links mixed with brand mentions on high quality sites, such as davidsdiy.com (DA 36) , celebrific.com (DA 45), and intothelifestyle.com (DA 27), over the course of 6 months, we were able to achieve the following results for the website of one of our clients:
Google organic search traffic increased by 47% in January alone.
Within 1 month a total of 16 keywords out of 43 saw an increase in rankings. 33 of them are now ranking in the Google Top 3, with 5 of those 33 landing in the top 3 during this 30 day cycle.
Also, check out this list with all the keywords (sorry, but for obvious reasons I had to blur them out) and their changes in rankings. Some of them made quite big jumps!
If your business could use significant jumps in rank position within the SERPS, and you want effective tactics that get results for years to come, then contact our team for a FREE consultation. We’re waiting to help you become our next success story.