Backlinks remain one of the most important ranking factors for SEO in 2024 and beyond. Also referred to as inbound links, backlinks are links from other websites that point back to pages on your own website.
The quantity and quality of backlinks signals search engines like Google that your content is valuable. Websites with more high-quality backlinks tend to rank higher in search results pages (SERPs).
However, not all backlinks have the same impact. If you want to leverage backlinks to improve your website’s search visibility and traffic, you need to focus on building quality backlinks using proven SEO best practices.
Let’s explore the top 6 vital indicators you should track to enhance your backlink building efforts:
1. Backlink Quality
The single most important factor is the quality of sites linking back to you. Backlinks from authoritative, reputable websites in your niche act as votes of confidence in your content.
Sites like .edu and .gov domains, established media publications, and industry leaders carry much more weight than generic blogs or directories.
Aim to earn links from trusted sources that Google deems credible. The higher the domain authority of your backlinks, the bigger the SEO value they confer.
2. Backlink Quantity
While quality trumps quantity, a healthy volume of backlinks remains important for SEO. Strive to build a diverse portfolio of quality backlinks at scale.
As a general guideline, most sites need at least 50-100 referring domains linking back to them before seeing significant improvements in rankings.
The more quality links you have, the stronger your link’s profile will be. Just ensure you focus on trusted sites, not spammy links from low-quality domains.
3. Backlink Anchor Text
The anchor text used in your backlinks also matters for SEO. Anchor text refers to the clickable words that users see for a link.
Ideally, you want a natural mix of branded and keyword-focused anchor text backlinks. Avoid over-optimization with too much keyword repetition.
Here are some best practices for anchor text variety:
- Branded – Your brand name (e.g. Acme Tools)
- URL – Your root domain (e.g. acmetools.com)
- Keywords – Related to your content focus (e.g. “power tools”)
- Generic – Descriptive phrases (e.g. “click here”)
Shoot for a healthy anchor text profile with no more than 25-35% optimized around target keywords.
4. Link Diversity
To avoid over-reliance on any one source, strive for backlink diversity. The more diverse your links are from different websites, the better.
Key metrics to track include:
- Referring domains – The number of unique domains linking to you
- Root domains – The number of different root domains (e.g. wikipedia.org vs en.wikipedia.org)
- Top referral sources – Percentage of links from top 10 referrers
Compare your link diversity to competitors using analysis tools. Aim for a well-distributed link portfolio from an array of quality sources.
5. Referring Domains
As mentioned above under link diversity, referring domains represent the number of unique domains that link back to your site.
Benchmark tools consider 30+ referring domains as a strong foundation. The higher this number, the more authoritative sources vouching for your content.
Referring domains also help diversify your backlink portfolio, reducing dependency on just a handful of sites.
6. Link Velocity
Lastly, pay attention to your link velocity, or the speed at which you acquire new backlinks over time. Slow and steady organic growth is ideal.
Rapid spikes from low-quality links or link schemes can actually hurt your rankings. On the other hand, a stagnant backlink profile can be a red flag.
Monitor your link velocity month-over-month to spot new opportunities or assess the impact of link building campaigns. Steady progress wins the race when it comes to sustainable SEO gains.
How to Know If Your Backlinks Need Work
Wondering how you stack up? Here are 6 signs your website may be lacking in quality backlinks:
- Low click-through-rate (CTR) from search to your site
- Traffic to your site is flat or declining month to month
- Struggling to rank for competitive keywords in your niche
- High percentage of links from low-quality sites per analysis tools
- Heavily reliant on just a handful of referring domains
- Few, if any, links from high-authority sites in your field
If one or more apply to your site, your backlink profile likely needs work. The good news is with a sound strategy, you can actively build and earn quality links.
Tactics to Build Strong Backlinks
Now that we’ve covered what makes a strong backlink profile, here are proven tactics to build quality links sustainably:
1. Create Comprehensive, Useful Content
Great content provides the fuel for linkable assets like guides, tools, and data studies. Consider:
- Long-form guides and tutorials
- Product comparisons and reviews
- Market research and original data
- Interactive tools, quizzes and calculators
- Curated lists and roundups in your niche
Optimizing these resources with keywords and compelling titles increases chances of attracting backlinks.
2. Conduct Backlink Outreach Campaigns
A structured outreach strategy is key to earning placements from relevant sites.
- Identify sites in your niche to pitch for backlinks
- Personalize emails to editors, bloggers, and webmasters
- Follow up and build relationships over time
- Offer guest posts or contributor content
Response rates typically range from 5-10%, so persistence pays off.
3. Exploit Brand Mentions
Monitor brand mentions and react by providing value to earn links:
- Google Alerts for brand name
- Respond to questions and feedback on social media
- Send useful resources when mentioned
The goal is to turn brand references into opportunities to contribute value – and links.
4. Leverage Influencers and Partners
Well-connected influencers and partners can unlock access to authoritative domains:
- Identify relevant influencers on social media
- Partner with reputable brands in your space
- Arrange sponsored posts and guest articles
- Get featured on their blog, podcasts or videos
Influential co-marketing expands your brand’s reach and brings new link opportunities.
5. Participate in Web Directories
While less influential than in the past, high-authority directories still confer SEO benefits:
- Niche-specific directories related to your focus
- General directories like Best of the Web, Cision, and Buzzsumo
- Local business directories for geo-targeted SEO
Claiming and optimizing your listings signals relevance.
6. Strategic Guest Blogging
When done right, guest posts on authority sites can drive quality links:
- Prioritize sites with DA 40+ over new blogs
- Ensure posts are in-depth and provide real value
- Limit to 1-2 guest posts per site maximum
- Secure a branded bio link as part of posting
Guest blogging takes effort but earns placements on authoritative niche sites.
Maintaining Links Moving Forward
With a solid backlink building strategy in place, staying disciplined over time is key to sustaining progress.
Use Link Tracking
Leverage Google Analytics, Ahrefs, or SEMRush to monitor new links pointing to your domain. This helps assess the impact of link building efforts.
Assess New Links
When you acquire new links, be sure to evaluate their quality and relevance via metrics discussed above. Avoid low-quality links from spam sites.
Find New Opportunities
Continuously mine your analytics for referral traffic and links to uncover new prospects. Reach out and pitch relevant sites driving visitors.
Clean Up Toxic Links
Monitor links pointing to “bad neighborhoods” with many low-quality sites. Disavow or request removal of unhelpful links.
Diversify Referral Sources
If too many links come from the same root domain, diversify by expanding outreach and content promotion to new publishers.
Final Verdict: Building Links Takes Time and Strategy
In the end, sustainable backlink development requires patience and a methodical, long-term approach. But by tracking these vital indicators and investing in quality over quantity, your efforts will pay dividends in the form of improved domain authority, search visibility, and ultimately increased organic traffic.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither are strong backlink profiles. But with the right vision and commitment to executing the tactics outlined above, your website can steadily climb the SERP rankings and become an authority in your space.
Focus on providing value, establishing relationships with influencers, and promoting your best assets – the quality links will follow in due time. Trust in the process, track your progress, and keep forging high-value links that pass the test of SEO best practices.
The rewards will come. With a sound backlink building strategy powering your efforts, your website’s full potential for organic growth and visibility will come into focus.