Updated: Dec 17, 2019
Backlinks are one of the most vital assets to SEO today and will continue to be so well into 2020. While a large number of high-quality backlinks will be able to get great results, quality over quantity will remain a virtue when it comes to backlinks and other SEO strategies.
What Are Backlinks and How Can You Prepare a Website for Them?
Also known as external backlinks or inbound links, backlinks are external links on other sites that link to yours. If you want to develop an effective backlink strategy in 2020 and beyond, you'll want to make sure your website can facilitate it.
Check for and Fix All On-Site Optimization Issues
Marketers frequently launch link acquisition campaigns before their website is ready for it. You should optimize your website to ensure that your backlinks are useful. As a result, you won't need as many links to improve your website's SEO if you already have some good SEO practices in effect.
Prepare your site for backlinks by fixing all technical and UX issues before launching a link building campaign. You can do this by performing a site crawl using Screaming Frog or another site crawler. In turn, this will give you a clear idea about what you need to do to improve your site.
User experience (UX) will also pertain to SEO, meaning that technical issues could also impact how users interact with your website. Check for problems that could negatively affect your UX such as:
Poor mobile optimization
Duplicate meta descriptions or page titles
Addressing these could mean the difference between a rewarding backlink strategy and a useless waste of time, effort, and sometimes, money.
The Importance of Redirects
One factor that can influence your website's authority is the use of 301 and 302 redirects. You can use 301 redirects to redirect a broken address to the correct one, which restores link equity to the page. 302s, on the other hand, are temporary redirects and are more often than not accidental. If you find any 302s in your backend, you should turn those into 301s.
Redirecting with WordPress
Using WordPress, it's easy to create 301 redirects. Using the redirection plugin, you can make sure that you won't lose any backlinks when creating new URLs or changing them.
However, keep in mind that redirecting a page to another is essentially the same as creating a brand new page, which means that you might lose some authority behind that link in the process, especially if the new page has no authority.
Reclaiming Links with 404s
Use Google Search Console to find any 404s on your site by accessing the following in the menu: Crawl > Crawl Errors > Not Found. Site crawlers like Screaming Frog can also gather information about all 404s along with 302 redirects and redirect chains, among other errors.
Once you've found all of your site's 404s, you can begin creating 301 redirects to relevant existing pages.
Develop a Strategic Platform Architecture
While you may want to link to sales-driven pages such as your homepage or specific services or products, you're more likely to generate organic traffic by getting backlinks to pages that contain rich and helpful content. These pages can include blog posts or individual outreach-driven pages that people will want to link to inform their audiences further.
Develop an Internal Linking Strategy
In addition to backlinks, you can also boost your pages internally using interlinks. When developing blog posts or other content, link to other blog posts or particular service and product pages using relevant anchor text. Interlinking also helps search engines like Google find and index your pages when more indexed pages link to them.
Develop Content That's Linkable
When developing a backlink strategy, ensure that you have plenty of linkable content, i.e., informational content that bloggers, journalists, and others will be willing to link to enrich their content. If people find these via organic searches in Google or other search engines, they may link to it without any need for outreach on your part.
Checking the following can help you develop the foundation for a reliable backlink strategy:
Link Relevance: Determine this using link building tier strategies.
Authority: Measure all of your site's metrics using Google Analytics or other tools.
Quality of Links: Take a look at the link profile of all backlink opportunities.
Traffic: Find opportunities that show promise regarding traffic boosts.
Editorial Standards: If a link is more difficult to land, the opportunity will be more valuable, while links that are easier to get will likely be less valuable. In other words, if you have to work a bit to get a link and your prospect has higher editorial standards, it's probably worth it.
Overall Quality of Opportunities: Your links should appear with other links on websites that have certain quality standards. Gauge the quality of your opportunities by learning about the other sites they link to, determining whether these links are relevant to an article's content, and finding out what type of authority the linking site has among audiences and for SEO.
Types of Backlinks to Avoid
There are certain opportunities you should stay away from, including:
Blog comments that come across as spammy
Footer and sidebar links that feature irrelevant content
Automated backlinks using software to spam links, resulting in penalties on search engines
Where to Build Backlinks
If you want to boost your backlink strategy in 2020, there are specific channels that will build your website's authority.
1. Social Media
Take advantage of all relevant social media platforms to build links, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. Leverage these by sharing content on your site that your audiences will read and, in turn, share with others.
2. Citations and Business Listings
If your business appears in an extensive network of business listings with plenty of citations, you can further build trust as people find you.
3. Specialized Directories
These types of directories are focused on specific niches and feature relevant follow links.
4. Geo-Targeting Directories
If your business is local and has a brick-and-mortar location, using geo-specific directories can have a significant impact on helping more people find you.
5. Relevant Blog Comments
While avoiding spammy comments is crucial, you can look for the industry--or topic-relevant pages--that allow comments and links to your content to provide more information, usually on forums or blog posts.
Websites such as Quora enable users to answer a nearly unlimited amount of questions that people have, in which answers you can include links that inquiring users are more likely to click.
Using forums and other platforms as a regular commenter also gives your business a human face that others are more likely to trust.
6. Relevant Guest Posts
You can build a relationship with a blogger or magazine in your industry that allows other industry professionals to submit guest posts. Reach out to these if you would like to create high-quality content with organic backlinks.
If you submit consistently high-quality guest posts, you'll develop relationships that can help you get more backlinks while building your reputation as an industry authority.
7. Merging Expired Websites
Another strategy worth trying is finding relevant expired domains and creating 301 redirects to your existing website. These are often more difficult to find.
An Emphasis on User-Centric Content for Backlinks in 2020
If you want to develop a solid backlink strategy that gets the best results, always write content that helps and satisfies users. The better your content is for users, the better you'll perform in search engines while also building your audience.
Don't focus on the links and instead focus on developing a relationship with industry professionals and your audience. The more you build your backlink strategies around the user, the more rewarding they'll be in the long run.
Keeping all of this in mind, you can develop a backlink strategy in 2020 that gives you the best possible results.