For better or worse, search engines judge your website by the company it keeps.
This is why establishing backlinks with popular and authoritative sites plays an outsized role in whether your SEO sinks or swims: your placement on search engine results pages (SERPs) is heavily, heavily influenced by the quantity and quality of backlinks to your site. And while most types of backlinks bolster a site’s reputation and rankings (albeit to varying degrees), others can hamper your SEO efforts.
Three key variables determine the value that a backlink contributes to your site: 1) the recognized quality and authority of the linking site, 2) whether the linking site encodes the link with “do follow” status (providing full SEO value to the link), and 3) the link’s location on the website. In short, links from respected websites, set to “do follow” status, and posted within the site’s main body content will deliver the greatest value from an SEO perspective.
Here are 14 different types of backlinks, ranging from the most beneficial to those you’re better off steering clear from:
Backlinks Most Advantageous to SEO
1) Editorial backlinks
Editorial mentions that refer to your site – and include a link placed within relevant, high-quality content – make for the ideal backlink. Commonly, editorial backlinks are created when your own content is cited as the source of specific information (such as an article or infographic), when a company representative is quoted or interviewed, or when your site is included in a link roundup on a particular topic.
To attract editorial backlinks, create evergreen content that demonstrates your status as a thought leader, such that your site and your brand earn acclaim as a go-to resource for interviews and industry insight. Create engaging, shareable content that has the legs to go viral. To build out your content strategy, leverage SEO tools capable of recognizing popular keywords and topics that competitors have been successful with – but your site has yet to cover.
2) Guest blogging backlinks
When providing well-established sites with guest posts, it’s often possible to include an editorial backlink to your own site. Practicing guest blogging outreach to solicit valuable sites for these opportunities should be a key piece of just about any SEO strategy.
3) Backlinks in business profiles
Creating digital profiles for your brand on business listing sites, social media, industry directories, and review sites most often comes with the opportunity to post a backlink (or a few). Search engines view these entries as evidence that a site is well established.
4) Backlinks from webinars
Webinars (and recordings of them) offer particularly valuable content for sites to link to. Sites will often embed webinars in their own pages along with a link and mention of your brand as well. Use tactics similar to blog promotion to achieve these backlinks: sites you target for guest blogging may also want to add your webinar as a resource.
5) Free-tool backlinks
Offering a valuable tool – for free – is another strong method of earning both attention and backlinks that have a deep and long-lasting impact on SEO. This can mean creating a simple-but-useful asset, such as a cost calculator valuable to those in your industry, or providing a lite version of a paid tool you offer. To encourage backlinks, promote the tool with sites that have a similar audience to your own (using SEO tools to uncover them), as well as your guest blogging site targets.
Other SEO-Boosting Backlinks
6) Acknowledgment backlinks
Sites often publish acknowledgements when a brand makes a donation, or has a representative speaking at or sponsoring an industry event, etc. SEO tools that recognize where your competitors earn their backlinks can help you identify and strategize around potential opportunities for earning your own acknowledgements as well.
7) Guest post bio backlinks
If a site that accepts guest blogging doesn’t allow backlinks within the content, it usually will do so within the author’s bio. Even when outside of editorial content, these backlinks still have a positive impact on SEO.
8) Badge backlinks
One clever technique for establishing backlinks is to come up with a badge to award to other brands as recognition for their status or achievement in some capacity. When those sites proudly post the badge on their sites, you get a link back to your own. Again, you’ll want to make deft use of SEO tools to recognize sites with similar audiences to yours, in order to determine targets for your badge program.
9) Backlinks derived from press releases (on topics worthy of media interest)
When your brand has a newsworthy announcement to make, putting out a press release can serve as a foundation for your PR and marketing tactics, while also producing backlinks from publications that cover the announcement and the published release itself.
10) Comment backlinks
Posting genuine and relevant commentary on content – and including a backlink – is usually acceptable if it adds value to the conversation. However, if executed in a spammy manner, this technique can end up having negative effect on your reputation with search engines. Be careful not to overdo it.
Types of Backlinks to Avoid
11) Paid Links
Search engines are built to assess your site’s value based on its genuine, earned popularity with other sites. Google warns that buying and selling links can negatively affect a site’s placements in search rankings. When you buy links in pursuit of an SEO advantage, you don’t get what you pay for.
12) Backlinks in press releases that are not newsworthy
Creating press releases solely for the sake of producing backlinks is a spammy practice, which may have a negative effect on SEO.
13) Low-quality or irrelevant directory links
Creating profiles in directories that aren’t trustworthy and respected (or in those that simply aren’t related to your brand) can be viewed as spam and harm your SEO efforts.
14) Low-quality forum backlinks
Forum posts by your brand – and especially any that include backlinks – should be limited to high-quality forums and genuine discussions. Attempts to spam links on these venues may have an effect opposite to what is intended.
Kim Kosaka is Director of Marketing at Alexa.com, whose tools provide insight into digital behavior that marketers use to better understand and win over their audience.