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SEO competitor backlink analysis

Reverse-engineer a strong backlinking strategy by taking stock of what’s working for your competitors. Join Ahrefs’ Patrick Stox and Dialpad’s Debbie Chew to learn how to uncover valuable backlink opportunities that can help your sites rank higher.

In this webinar, we'll cover:

  • Identifying competitor link strategies with SEO tools

  • How to spot the best backlink opportunities

  • Tips for link outreach and acquisition

Meet your hosts:


Speaker, Daniel Waisberg

Patrick Stox

Product Advisor, Technical SEO, Ahrefs

As well as lending his expertise to internal product teams, Patrick shares his technical SEO knowledge further afield as an Ahrefs brand ambassador. Previously a lead author and reviewer for the SEO chapter of the Web Almanac, he also organizes several SEO groups, including the Raleigh SEO Meetup. Twitter | LinkedIn

Speaker, Crystal Carter

Debbie Chew, Global SEO Manager, Dialpad

With almost a decade of digital marketing experience, Debbie leads the global SEO strategy at Dialpad and is deeply passionate about sharing her SEO knowledge with other marketers. She has previously spoken at MozCon and SearchLove, while her work has been featured on BuzzSumo and Ahrefs.

Speaker, Mordy Oberstein

Mordy Oberstein Head of SEO Branding, Wix

In addition to leading SEO Branding at Wix, Mordy also serves as a communications advisor for Semrush. Dedicated to SEO education, Mordy is an organizer of SEOchat and a popular industry author and speaker. Tune in to hear him on Wix’s SEO podcast SERP’s Up, as well as Edge of the Web. Twitter | LinkedIn

Crystal Carter Head of SEO Communications, Wix

Crystal is an SEO and digital marketing professional with over 15 years of experience. Her global business clients have included Disney, McDonalds and Tomy. An avid SEO Communicator, her work has been featured at Google Search Central, brightonSEO, Moz, Lumar (DeepCrawl), Semrush and more. Twitter | LinkedIn


Transcript: SEO competitor backlink analysis

Crystal Carter 0:00

Today we're going to be talking about SEO competitor backlink analysis. And y'all are in for a treat because we have two panelists here who are fantastic at backlinks, at all aspects of backlinks and we're going to cover it from lots of different angles. So you're going to get a really well rounded introduction, or top up of your knowledge around backlinks. So to give a little roll call, we're going to be joined today by Debbie Chew. Debbie is a fantastic backlink and link building expert. My name is Crystal Carter. I'm head of SEO Communications here at Wix, we're joined by Patrick Stox of Ahrefs. And we're also joined by Mordy Oberstein, my partner in crime, my podcast co-host, writer on the Wix SEO Hub, international speaker, Yankees fan, Mordy Oberstein.

Mordy Oberstein 0:51

Thank you for the last one, that was the most important one. Thank you for that.

Crystal Carter 0:56

Okay, so in this session, it's important to know and please tell anyone who joined late because they always ask. We love you all. But they always ask the same question. Yes, the webinar is being recorded. The YouTube link of the recording will be sent to you via email after the webinar. So I know that we're going to cover a lot of stuff during this webinar, don't worry, you'll get the link, you can go back and watch it on YouTube. And you could stop and start and play along as you go later on. So don't worry if things don't make sense just in the first instance, you can stop and start and go through it, as well as questions in the q&a panel. We have people who are going to be answering those as we go along as best we can. We are also going to be curating some of the themes to ask our panelists at the end. If you liked this webinar, join next month. Actually, we're not doing August. We are doing July. So join us next month for our next webinar. And then join us again in September for webinars after that and you can find those on the Wix SEO Learning Hub afterward. And without further ado, we're going to get into some of our presentations. So we've done our introductions. We're now going to hear some insights from Patrick Stox. Then we're going to hear some insights from lovely Debbie Chew. And then I'm going to tell you a few different things that you can do to support your backlink campaigns and your backlink activity on Wix. And then we're going to do the q&a as led by the wonderful, fantastic Mordy Oberstein.

Mordy Oberstein 2:24

Quick point of order, marketers have to market, don't forget to check out our SEO newsletter Searchlight over at the Wix SEO Hub and our podcast SERP's Up.

Crystal Carter 2:34

Yes, where you can hear all of this information, and more. So with that, we're gonna head over and over to Patrick. Patrick, if you'd like to share your screen.

Patrick Stox 2:46

Can you enable screen sharing?

Crystal Carter 2:50

That would be a great, great thing for you. Just a second.

Mordy Oberstein 2:55

I think I got it. Yep, got it. Cool.

Crystal Carter 3:00

That does it.

Patrick Stox 3:03

All right. Hey, everyone. Excited to be here. Thank you for the awesome introduction, Crystal. Mordy always, always a fan. As Crystal already said, I work at Ahrefs. I'm pretty active in the SEO community, I'm really not going to cover any of this. For those that don't know, a link basically, is when you click something that takes you to another page, that's a link. There are different things that make some links better than others, you know, the page that it's on how relevant it is to the pages linking to the anchor text, or like what the link says that kind of thing. Links are like votes, they help you rank better in Google, you're basically saying I trust this site. I like this site, I'm gonna link to it. I think that content is good. So you should rank them higher. And Google uses that. According to Google, one of their folks has said that it's literally one of the top two ranking factors, content and links. We've run tons of studies because we have more link data probably than anyone Ahrefs. We found that generally better links correlate with more traffic. Now, warning, correlation is not causation. Anyone that does any data analysis will tell you. But generally, if you've got a page with good content and good links, you're going to rank better than a page with good content, but no links. I actually proved this a couple years ago, I used what's called the disavow file in Google and I basically said don't count links for a bunch of my posts, and the results kind of speak for themselves. We lost a bunch of traffic, we lost a bunch of rankings. It hurt us, don't do that. It's a bad idea. So bad, that I think I was the first one to actually try this.

And we've also run big studies. I think this study was over a billion pages. And we found that 92% of pages have almost no links. Now, two thirds of those actually had zero. But another 26% had one to three referring domains, like one to three different sites that link to them. So there aren't that many pages on the web that really have good links that are viewed as kind of authoritative that people are vouching for, that people think the content is good. It's a surprisingly small subset of pages. And those pages answer a lot of user queries, so they tend to get a lot more traffic. If you're going to start link building, the one thing that I always recommend, especially for like local service companies, which typically I've worked with a lot in the past, start with your competitors, look at the links they have. First off, find your competitors, we've got a way to do this for free. The whole competitor report lists dozens of competitors. Within Ahrefs it's, which is Ahrefs Webmaster Tools. This will show you in a nice, competitive view chart. But if you don't want to do that, it's fine. You can just search on Google and see who your competitors are. And this is actually just a random page on my own website about purple laser pointers. And my competitors are some niche laser sites and Amazon and eBay, basically. But yeah, just pick a few terms that you know are relevant to you and you can find who your competitors are.

With that, you want to see what links they actually have. So again, this is another free tool, you put it in any domain you want, you'll get, I think it's 100 that it's limited to, it tells you what links are going to your pages. With that, what you want to do is just look at common links, it's basically links to companies to pages that are in the same niche as you are probably the links that you also want, they're probably the ones that are easiest for you to get. So this is kind of your low hanging fruit. I'm going to show you a better example here using accountants. So like some local accountants to me, I'm in Raleigh, North Carolina. So I just picked a few. A link intersect tool, there's several of these out there, but basically, you can enter a bunch of competitors, and get the co-occurrence of their links. So five of these sites have a link from whatever domain, you can do this again for free. And there's a bunch of free backlink checkers too. It's just a lot more trouble to go through one at a time and unlimited data. So these guys have helped speed up the process of it. And this is kind of what that looks like. So, a website, probably about accounting firms, there's three of these companies here locally that have links from them. So that's probably a link that I want to go after. Same thing like us, I'm sure that's an accounting organization of some kind, probably already a member, may not have filled in the website information when filling out the form and signing up for that. So more than likely, I might have a profile there, my client does, I can just go in and say like, oh, this is my website, and boom, got a link from there. That's the kind of thing you want to look for.

You want to work your way through the individual links, see what they're getting, look at the sites and find patterns for that. Now I have a much more scaled process I use personally, I put a link to this blog article. This hasn't with exporting sites. I did this for I believe whoever is in the top 10 in the top 50 US cities. And also as a way to do it with local markets to find local specific links. So I basically said don't just look at accountants, go look at lawyers, go look at dentists, go look at other service industry folks in the same market and look at what kind of links they're using. I personally even use an API for this. So this takes me like all of 10 minutes to do. If you're exporting, I would say a couple of hours and then another hour or so on the classification. So it's more work upfront. Well, I would still say less work than trying to go through one at a time but in general more work upfront but a faster process when you start to go looking at the links that you want to get. So patterns, certain things you'll find niche specific. So these are basically all the links that I found that I would classify as niche specific for accountant links. I could probably go through the sites and look at how and get these in an afternoon. So it's not that it's gonna take you forever to go through these. It's not that it's a tonne of work, I would say these links are some of the most valuable you can get whatever links are niche specific to your industry. They're probably some of the easiest ones for you to get, but also they're the most relevant links. So they're going to be valuable, they're going to help move the needle and help you rank better. Lots of other ways to look at patterns, you'll see things like directory sites, local citations, coupon websites. That's about all I found, actually, when I was looking at just the accountant links. But when I started to look at the city specific links, I found a world of different opportunities. So again, this is relevant in Raleigh, but we have a bunch of colleges and universities here. I found that their forum, their websites, people are getting links from jobs, from scholarships, from clubs, sponsorships, from discount codes, these are all opportunities for you to get locally relevant links. Tons of city specific magazines, different event type sites that I found stuff on for the surrounding area, the greater state North Carolina, tons of opportunities, these are folks that are generally looking for content.

Then it might be that they want to feature a local business, it might be that you're doing good in the community, you donated something, you spend your time volunteering, any number of reasons can show up for why they're getting these links. But in general, if other local companies are getting these, that is an opportunity that you can probably get into. There are also tons of local news magazine sites, food blogs. Some interesting other patterns that I saw were people involved with weddings here. Basically every DJ, every photographer, every event planner, they were all talking about the weddings and the events that they were doing, and they were all linking to each other, which I thought was pretty fascinating. You know, if I was, say, a dentist here, I might even get involved with weddings, do some kind of thing like, oh, get your teeth whitened, bride and groom. Because more than likely, I could probably get some links for some other local companies out of that. Just being involved with the wedding. It was very similar for real estate. So like realtors, apartments, HOA communities, they were all linking to local restaurants, local things to do. So if I'm an event space, if I'm a restaurant, more than likely, I'm going to reach out to some of these folks and be like, hey, I'm here. We're awesome. Do you want to add me to the list you already have?

There's just a tonne of patterns. These are again, common ones. I've seen it across like different niches. But any suppliers, affiliations, meetups are popular, especially if you're sponsoring a meetup, buying them some pizza or something or some sodas, you typically will get a link out of that. Local podcasts, charities, sponsorships, different awards, like city awards, who's got the best burger in town? Who does the best landscaping? All kinds of options are opportunities for that. Coupons, different directories for things in the city. Again, these aren't super complicated, or super hard to get. They're things that your competitors are already getting links to, or folks in your city are already getting links from. So more than likely, you can get these, these are kind of low hanging fruit, they should be fairly easy. I would say, again, if you spend a day, two days, three days, you'll probably cover most of the links that you can get within your city and within your niche. So it's not super time consuming. It is time consuming, but it's not as bad as I think a lot of people think. And I've done this many times over the years with different companies. And usually I would say results are shown within a couple months. They tend to go right, right up towards the top if they were, say like middle of page two, middle of page three for some of their main terms. So it does work. And that's all I've got. I'm excited to see what Debbie is sharing and Crystal after that. So thank you all, appreciate your time.

Crystal Carter 14:48

Thank you so much, Patrick. That was really, really cool. I think we have a lot of great questions in the chat, a lot of people who are interested in links. So we were talking in that section about how, now you can understand the sort of linking environment, the kinds of links that other people in your space are getting to help their content rank. As Patrick was saying, a link from another website to your website is like a vote. It's like somebody saying this person is good. And I think this person is good. And I think that person is good when they link to you, when they post a URL from their website and to your website. And yeah, you've explained it really well. Debbie is now going to talk to us about a couple of examples and a couple of ways that once you've done that research, once you've had a look at all of the different kinds of links that people are getting in your space, how you can go about getting some of those links to your website in order to help you get some great SEO results.

Debbie Chew 15:47

Awesome. So let me share my screen now. Thank you, Patrick. I think we have a good segue into my talk today. So basically, hi, everyone. My name is Debbie. I'm the Global SEO manager at Dialpad. Of course, thank you, Crystal and Mordy, and everyone at Wix for having me to talk about links today. I do want to kind of expand on a few things that I think will be helpful for everyone to help you have a better understanding of what really works for your competitors. But I do want to also remind you to also look beyond your competitors, which Patrick touched on a little bit as well. So earlier, we've kind of talked about that link intersect or a link gap analysis to see, you know, what are domains that are linking to your competitors, but aren't linking to you. If we have a better idea about what works in your industry, I think that's gonna be really, really helpful information that you can use to guide your own link building strategy. So in order to figure that out, the big question that we want to figure out is, what are your competitors best pages by links? Right? So Patrick earlier shared about like, where are the sites you can get links from, but I also want you to look at what are the pages you want to get links to. So when you are able to figure out what is this valuable, link worthy asset that you can create for your website, that's going to be something that can really help increase your chances of getting links, you can use that as a way to maybe pitch journalists, or share it on social media, and it kind of goes viral. And that might be a way for it to increase its visibility and get links that way. So I wanted to go with an example. So let's say we have this dog walking service. And so we use Ahrefs, and then we're looking at who are our competitors. And we identify as a potential competitor, or Angie's List for pet sitters. So in Ahrefs, we can go to the Site Explorer at the top, and then enter in the URL And then on the left, there's the best buy links, we can click on that. And then you'll see the results here. What we're going to do is ignore some of the pages like the homepage or like the signup page, but we're going to focus on some of the remaining pages that you see. So we have dog friendly cities, I'll share the pages in the next slide that's coming up. So there are a few and then there if we keep scrolling down, there's a lot more that we can look at.

And what I did was I pulled all those URLs into this table. So I have the title of the page, the URL of the pages, and then also the referring domains. So I can see which ones have gotten a lot of links. And then the most important thing here is to look at each page, and then categorize them by the content or page type. So for example, the first one is on top emerging dog friendly cities. This is a research that rover did with I believe it was Zillow, they looked at which cities in the US are going to be really dog friendly. And so if you're a dog lover, you can potentially consider renting or buying a house in those cities. So that was kind of the purpose of that research. And the insights is kind of something that you might not have ever heard of before. But it's also very interesting. So it's unique, new and interesting, and that gets people's attention, essentially. Aside from that, we have a tool. So they have this tool where, for example, if you see some sort of plant and you're not sure if it's going to be poisonous or not to your pet, you can look it up and there's this really cool tool that Rover has to help you understand that. And so I think this is another content type that can really help people get links, as well as it's just a very informative piece of content that is helpful. And that's why I've gotten links.

Another one that I wanted to quickly talk about is the listicle type of page. So they have 100 most popular dog names. So you know, if you're a pet dog owner, and you just got a new puppy, you might be looking for a name for your dog, right. And so having that listicle is just a super helpful resource for you. And if someone else is writing a blog post about, I don't know, some tips for when you first have, or how to take care of a puppy. If you're a first time dog owner, I might link to this 100 most popular dog names because it's relevant to the topic that I'm writing about. So from my experience, topics are pages that are based on research, or like a tool or even a listicle. It can be dog names, it can be even a list of different stats for a specific topic. Those are really great ways to get links, no matter what industry you're in. So definitely look into what exactly your industry is doing. Make sure you don't only look at one competitor. But we're also going to do this process for two or three competitors. And if you know, if you have the time, you know, look at more of the pages that have gone links and really categorize them and Tally those up. The end goal is to really get a pulse on, you know, how is your industry or how's your niche building links. So the more competitors you analyze, you can avoid potential bias. So for example, if you only look at one competitor, and they only rely on creating a lot of guides for their website, and that's what has gotten links in the past, that might not be the best way for you to get links, you also want to look at what other competitors are doing.

I wanted to kind of quickly share that I have done something like this for six different industries in the past. And I shared my findings. In a talk that I did back in March at Searchlove. I wanted to share one key finding that I think would be helpful for this audience. With the study that I did, I looked at six different industries that are really competitive in terms of buildings to see for competitive niches, what exactly are people trying to do? What types of pages have people gotten links to? And therefore what pages should your website also have. And so I kind of separated out the DR90 Plus websites and I found out the top three types of pages that have gotten a lot of links are number one, a product or service page, it's like a dog walking page. Number two is a guide. So maybe like how to choose a dog harness for your dog. And then number three is research. So the Zillow and rover piece that I mentioned before. So make sure if you will try this methodology, do it for your industry, and really see what shows up in terms of what is your industry? How are they building links, it's going to be typically different from other industries. And you know, if you do this research, make sure to give me a shout out, let me know, what are some of your findings, happy to talk about that.

Another thing I wanted to quickly go over was, that's aside from just looking at your competitors and your specific niche, as Patrick mentioned, you should also look at what are some of the complementary businesses to yours. So two reasons I recommend this, number one, there might be really cool and unique ideas that other companies are doing in terms of link building that you can repurpose for your own niche. And then another thing is also, if you're able to identify the different partners, you can kind of build a network around and you're able to sort of create Win Win relationships with these people, they can help potentially distribute your content. You can also do co-marketing with them to collaborate on link worthy assets. One quick thing to kind of help you ideate who these competitors are, you can just ask ChatGPT so this is what I did. And so they gave me a bunch of potential other businesses for me to reach out to and try to create a relationship with. So last thing I wanted to touch on before you start doing your link building and make sure to also understand Google's guidelines in terms of like, what are things that they want you to avoid what is considered spammy link building. So if you see any of your competitors, or complementary businesses engage in any of these. So like excessive link exchanges, buying or selling links, which is relatively common, or like forums, man, spam, you should avoid doing that. Because they're essentially against Google's guidelines. So a lot of times when it comes to link building, you need to try it out for yourself to see what tactics actually works for your company, what might work for someone else might not actually apply to you. And so you need to just try it out yourself, and see the results and iterate from there. So you know, again, if you see there's a bunch of foreign comments that are linking to your competitor, that doesn't necessarily mean that this is actually links that help their website, it might actually be hurting their website. So you need to really be careful when you do all this analysis and decide, you know, what is next. So that was what I wanted to share today. Feel free to find me on Twitter. And I also write for Wix as well. Yeah, happy to answer any questions during the q&a section. Thank you.

Crystal Carter 26:26

Fantastic, thank you so much. And there's some great examples of ways that you can do link building there. We have got some great chat questions. Mordy, are you getting the questions ready for everyone?

Mordy Oberstein 26:39

I've got a notebook full of quick questions.

Crystal Carter 26:42

Lots of questions. Okay. So what's gonna happen now is I'm gonna go through a few Wix resources for helping you to manage some of your link building activity, I'm gonna go quickly so that we have time to get to your questions. And you're gonna get this deck after the webinar finishes, and there are links to everything that I'm talking about, so that you can explore it in a bit more depth afterwards. So I'm going to talk to you about a few of the backlink management resources that we have on Wix. So one of the things that we were talking about is when you're getting links, it's really important for you to track the links that are coming in and whether or not your link building efforts are going well. So Debbie was talking about, for instance, if you did a report, and if you were getting lots of traffic to your report, and let's say that the news, the local newspaper, picked up on your report on like, how many dog walkers are there are in the city of San Francisco. For instance, let's say you did a big survey of all the dog walkers in San Francisco. And they wanted to see that well, you know that it was on the news, the local newspaper, but it might have been on other websites as well. So when you go into your Marketing Overview Report you can see your referral growth over time.

Now sometimes, traffic from external links is referred to as referral traffic. And in Google Analytics, you'll see this and also in Wix Analytics. And here, if you select organic social, which are those link building signals, they're not exactly the same. And you would also select referral, and you can see your growth, for instance, on this one. And you can also see, for instance, the different channels that you're getting across that as you're going through as well. And the other thing that you can see is the value of your links. So for instance, it might be that newspaper, and then all of the people who come from that newspaper buy something. That means that's a really valuable backlink for you for lots of different reasons. So, for instance, if you go to the order conversion by traffic source report, then you can filter by referral, which tells you where the link came from. So this is the external website that has a link to this website. And then you can also see information about the traffic source. And you can also see information about those sales that were related to that over that period of time within that report.

The other thing that's useful to think about when you're doing backlinks, some of the comments were saying how can I add a link to my website? Well, the thing about backlinks is that once it's on their site, you're not in charge of it so you don't exactly add it, they add it. Sometimes people add it wrong. Sometimes they might add it without the www or they might misspell something or they might do something to that effect. And if that happens then the links are not as valuable to you as it might be if they've done it properly. Now if that happens, you can use the URL redirect manager to redirect their misspelled link to your properly spelled link. So here I have communities with two ends. And thank you for the link. I wish you'd spelled it properly. Here's a redirect to my actual page that has the community. So in the Wix URL Redirect Manager, you can manage that. And you can find that in your Wix SEO tools. Another thing that's useful is to track your links. Sometimes people use something like a coupon code or, or a promo code if you're doing a campaign or you are working with an influencer or doing something to that effect. It might be that you use a coupon code. We have coupon code generators, and you can generate a coupon and you can give them the code. And then you can see, for instance, if something was working there.

We also have something that automates canonical tagging. And for the beginners out there, don't be afraid of that word. It's not a big deal. It sounds more technical than it is. It's basically like stamping, saying that the content is yours and you are the original writer of the content. And what happens on Wix is when you make your blog, or whatever content you had, we automatically canonicalize your page. So if you do something called content syndication, for instance, if you publish your page on a different place, or if somebody else publishes your page, or your content on a different place, we have the canonical that tells Google that you are the original poster of that content, and it helps you to help with your content syndication. Additionally, we also have lots of resources on the Wix SEO Hub. There are a few people asking about backlinks and learning more about backlinks. For the beginner point we have a great article from Ashwin that talks about backlinks 101. Once you get to grips with that, you can have a peruse through Debbies's web articles about link building, about how to get started, she shares some great examples there. She also talks about sort of the link building myths and things there and we also had Debbie join us for a podcast as well. In fact, I'm realizing we need to get you on the podcast Patrick. Don't worry about links. And with that, I'm going to jump into your questions. And again, we're going to send links to all of them. So I'm going to stop sharing, and we're just going to get to your questions.

Mordy Oberstein 31:47

We did, by the way, give Patrick a backlink on the episode there. He talked about how to choose the right SEO tool. There's so many questions. Thank you Patrick that was really interesting. Someone asked about the T shirts, why are you both wearing matching T shirts. That is the very famous Ahref shirt that just says t-shirt. It's a classic, classic SEO t-shirt.

Thank you for mentioning about traffic Crystal, I think one of these gets lost in the discussion about links is that links are good, because they bring traffic to your website. Not just further, quote unquote, SEO link juice, which helps Google find you and be able to crawl your pages as well. Yeah, another benefit. So one of the other benefits really quick about links is, Google's let's say, you have a link from And Google is crawling ESPN's website and they stumble across your link to your website, they will theoretically follow that link, see your website and start crawling and indexing and reading your content as well. So it's a great way for pages to be discovered. Link building tags, Debbie touched on it. Link building sometimes can be relationship building, especially the local scene. If you're a local business, and you go, say at the local county fair, you can make relationships with other people at that fair who are related to your business. And you can theoretically evolve to the point where you're like, oh, you do that? And you do that? Great. I'll link to you on my website. Oh, really, it makes sense for me to link to you as well. Don't do an exchange on purpose that way. But if it comes out naturally, that's another issue. That's a great way to get links. It's the teammate technique. And it's where I see that maybe you have done something on your website, you talk about a certain topic, I could help you spruce that up a little bit, and make that even better, and add on some points you might have missed. And I might even have a blog post on my website that talks about that which you would naturally link to, because I helped you with it. It's content. It's about literally what you're talking about, and the natural result is going to be a link. So relationship building and link building really kind of go hand in hand.

Crystal Carter 34:11

I agree with that. I mean, I'm sure Patrick and Debbie would agree with that as well. I think it's a really great place for beginners. If you have sponsored the cupcakes at the church picnic, then ask for a shout out on the church website. I'm just saying. Patrick, I don't know if you have any insights on things like that for beginners to get started with some links that are based on their relationships.

Patrick Stox 34:34

What Mordy said, especially for local links. You know, you want to be on a podcast, go meet the person and go to a meet up that they're at. Yeah, it's that way really, no matter what it is, you know, I got the link from the podcast apparently because I did the podcasts. I'm active in the community more. He's a great guy. He hooked me up there. So that kind of stuff helps me, I'm sure that's probably how I like it. All of the links to my own website or a lot of the stuff to Ahrefs, people share my content when I write because I've established those relationships. So it really does help. Absolutely.

Mordy Oberstein 35:14

Social media, by the way, is a great way to get links. Patrick did a post before that mentioned disavowing links. And that it didn't really make a difference. I saw that. I said, hey, let's cover that in a podcast I do called Edge of the Web, it's an SEO news podcast. And we covered that on the podcast. And we linked to Patrick's article, which I saw from Patrick's social media. So social media is a great avenue to build links. Okay. With that, there are a lot of questions. One of the questions I got is, are all links equal?

Crystal Carter 35:52

I think that's great, what do we think, Debbie?

Debbie Chew 35:56

I would say no. So there are spammy links that I kind of talked about earlier. Like, for those typically, if you're not familiar with what disavow does, please do not use it. Like that's what John Mueller at Google has said many, many times. So I mean, naturally for, all websites out there, they have some random spammy website that links to them, you can just ignore that because Google is already ignoring that. But in terms of are all links the same? I would say there are the links that can potentially drive traffic, but they may not be from very authoritative sites, perhaps they're from a really relevant site. So with the dog walking example, maybe in another county, another dog walker, there are links to you that's really relevant, and potentially could drive traffic to your website. Whereas if it's ESPN linking to your dog walking website that seems kind of odd, I guess. Yeah. So I think you need to have a look at it from different angles, and also figure out like, what are your goals in terms of SEO? Are you trying to build links to improve the rankings of your pages? Are you trying to build links to actually just drive traffic to your website? Or potentially drive leads? And people who are actually your audience? So those are a few things that I would look at. You can also look at metrics. The traffic of that website that's driving links. There's just a lot of different things to look at. So it's definitely not all the same. Right?

Crystal Carter 37:41

And Patrick, in your tool, you class the links in different ways, don't you?

Patrick Stox 37:45

Yeah, depending on the size they are, the strength. We have UR which is a page level strength metric. But then there's all the other data. I think, in general, Google counts links more where they're more likely to be clicked. So a link in the header or footer is worth less than a link in the body. So I mentioned the anchor text right to start with. So what that link actually says, it's kind of a pet peeve of mine, when people link with, learn more, click here, read here. So all that is basically saying to Google like, this page is about learn more. If it says the service, that's useful information.

Crystal Carter 38:44

So anchor text is when you have a hyperlink, anchor text is the word that's underneath the link. So essentially, I try to think of it as almost like the door or the label or the door. So let's say it's like what's behind the door. And if the door just says, open, you have no idea what's behind the door. If the door says kitchen, then you're like, great, that's the kitchen, I want to go to the kitchen. So you will go through the kitchen. But if you're just labeling with nothing, then that's not really giving them details. And so all of the anchor text gives Google information about your site, which helps them to understand your site as well. And yeah, it's really, really, really...I can't agree with you more about click here.

Mordy Oberstein 39:30

Conceptually speaking, I think what you're trying to say is, the websites that are linking to you and the text that they're using to link to you create a semantic relationship between you and the other websites. We're talking about relationships, Google's trying to establish a relationship, saying okay, what's your relationship to this topic that this website is talking about that's linking to you--is your relationship. Is this random? It's trying to better understand and contextualize who you are, what you do and how relevant you are for that topic by your associate. Who are you friends, basically. And if your friends are nothing to do with what you're talking about, then maybe there's something going on here that's a little bit weird.

Another question that comes up often, that's come up in the chat is, is there a magic number? Is there a magic number of links that you need? Is there a magic number of websites that you need linking to you? What's the magic number to get the rankings?

Debbie Chew 40:26

First, the limit does not exist.

Mordy Oberstein 40:29

Does it not exist or are you just not sharing it?

Patrick Stox 40:33

I mean, potentially more than your competitors. But there's so many other factors too, content and, you know, Google's other 200 ranking factors. So links are just like one one part of it. Again, they're kind of a major part. But if you're not doing external linking, at least do internal linking, links from one page on your site to another, you control them, those are easy to add, so all this stuff adds up. And I don't think anyone would legitimately give you a number that says you need 578 links. It just doesn't work that way.

Crystal Carter 41:11

I think also, Mordy you touched on this about crawling. When we think about links, if somebody writes a piece of content, and it has no links internally and has no links externally linking to it, that's kind of like a tree falling in the woods making no sound is what that is, it's a lonely, lonely page. Rather than a number, think about competitors, have a good look at competitors to give you an idea of the kinds of links you should be getting. If you think about something that's like a news post, good news articles will tend to have lots of links coming off of them. Whereas if you have one piece of content that doesn't have one, that's a news article, and it doesn't have any links to it, that's kind of saying that this piece of content doesn't have any votes, that's good. There aren't that many people linking to it. I don't know if you'd agree, Patrick, that it can vary by industry. For some industries, it's really important to have a good volume of links. And for some industries, it's less important.

Patrick Stox 42:19

Oh, yeah. A lot of what I focused on here was local service businesses. And sometimes the folks even ranking in the top five, they have 20 or 30 links. And that's it. Right? You know, someone like Google is gonna have billions.

Mordy Oberstein 42:34

And I think that's something to keep in mind. Patrick mentioned before, that links are not the only factor. I think what happens with links is it's so quantitative, I can get 100 of them, I can get 1000. Now I'm going to win. We get hyper focused on getting the links, when really, links are one part of the equation I have. I've literally outranked Search Engine Land, Search Engine Journal, and you know all the other websites with a small little website that has no links, because that made sense for that particular query with those particular pages in that particular instance. And really, me running around trying to get links wouldn't really have been the most beneficial use of my time. So don't think that now that I've listened to this great webinar, I have to go out there and I have to get a million links. That's not how it works. Question, Debbie, which is more important, internal links, meaning one page on your website, linking to another page on your own website, or external links, meaning another website, linking to your website.

Debbie Chew 43:45

I think in terms of priority, definitely, the internal links is just such an easy sort of low hanging fruit for you to do, no matter what content that you create on your website, you should always have internal links from other pages, so that you make sure like Google can crawl your website and make sure to find those pages and its relevance. So at the very bare minimum, when you publish a new piece of blog, or a new blog, for example, try to find other places within your website that you can link to there. And then let's say, assuming that you've written the best piece of content on this topic, you've added some internal links within your website, you can kind of let it sit for a little bit, maybe give it a few weeks or a month or so and see how it ranks. So let's say, a month later, you're ranking on the first page, but you're at the bottom of the first page. At that point, you might want to consider maybe trying to build a few links to it so that Google understands like okay, this is a piece of content that people feel is trustworthy and good. And I'm not going to now make it go from 10 to the first page, number one on Google. So that's kind of my recommended approach to it. You don't have to put in 1000s of links to this page.

Crystal Carter 45:15

I think in my experience, I found that sometimes depending on how your website's configured, it can depend as well. For some big sites making sure you're very strategic about your internal links can be important for how you show on the SERP. Because if you have lots of content around a similar topic, then it can affect whether or not you showed in results and how you show there and which content gets the priority as well. So yeah, I think that they're absolutely both important.

Mordy Oberstein 45:51

If you're looking to learn more about internal linking, we have some posts added. We did a webinar with Cryus Shepherd about it. So check out the Wix SEO Hub for more on internal linking, check out the Ahrefs blog, I'm sure they also have a bunch of resources on internal linking. Hey, Patrick, do social media links count?

Patrick Stox 46:09

Generally no. Pretty much every social media platform uses what's called no-follow, which in the past has told Google like, don't pass value through these, I'm not gonna say they don't help because like what Mordy mentioned earlier, he saw one of my posts there, he linked to it from his podcast. So for exposure, you can reach an audience that you wouldn't have ever reached, some writer for a newspaper or Search Engine Land or something might see that and write it up, and then boom, you just got a link because of the social. So I wouldn't discount it. But the links themselves on social, no.

Mordy Oberstein 46:57

With that, we touched on it just a second ago about the different types of links, there's a no-follow link. And that relates to a question that someone asked regarding: I sponsored something and I paid to have my logo, let's say appear up on their website, and that image links back to my site. Does that link out? If I paid for it?

Patrick Stox 47:26

That's complicated. Technically, it shouldn't. Technically that should be marked, sponsored or no-follow. Google does have some systems to look to try and identify whether that is a paid for link and discounted if it is. But there's always a chance that it actually could be counted as well. Like if their systems don't care, if it's not marked up. Potentially, it could. But hopefully, you're sponsoring something because you want to be sponsoring it and not and not doing that just for the links.

Mordy Oberstein 48:04

Can we quickly run through what it means when we say no-follow link or sponsored link versus what we'd call a follow link?

Crystal Carter 48:15

I was just gonna say I dropped a link in the chat. I'll drop it again. We have an article on the Wix SEO Hub also about no-follow links. So I'll drop the link there as well.

Debbie Chew 48:25

Cool. So basically, by default, all the links on the web are follow. So basically, if I'm linking to this other page, I'm showing Google I vote for this content, I think it's good. Now, there are situations where if that person paid me money to sponsor something that I'm hosting, then I should actually let Google know that this link was through a sponsorship. And I can mark that link as a sponsor. And then there are other situations where, let's say, people are able to comment on my website. And for some reason, they are able to get a link from my website to their website and I don't want that to count. That's a situation where I would add a no-follow. Basically, if you think about user generated content. So a random blogger goes on Debbie's blog and comments. There's no vote of confidence there. I just want to make sure that link is a no-follow. Or for example, I think some higher domain rating websites like Forbes, maybe, or Huffington Post, they might also just no-follow their links because they don't want people manipulating their authority and showing Google mixed signals basically.

Crystal Carter 50:02

I think it's kind of like you don't vouch for everyone. The bigger your site gets, the trickier it is to check every single link that comes through the door. Something like the Huffington Post, or like everybody who comments on your blog, you can't check everyone to see if every single link that they share is a good quality link. And you don't want people to think that this link is great. Because it may or may not be and you don't know. So that is kind of what the no-follow is supposed to signal. It's supposed to say,either that Mariah Carey meme like, I don't know her, or, I can neither confirm nor deny whether or not this content is decent. That's kind of what it's supposed to say.

Mordy Oberstein 50:51

Yeah, because you know, it's a two way street if you're linking out to other sites. So if I have a baseball blog, and I'm linking to ESPN, Google's looking at who I'm linking to. I'm linking out to a bunch of really shady sites that are trying to steal money from people. I'm betting maybe that's not a great website to rank. So what you link to also says something about who you are. So if you write a blog post, and people put whatever link they want in the comments. Oh, no. Now Google's gonna think I'm not reputable. Because the people in the comments are linking out to all these crazy websites. But there's a label or there's a status, you can attach to the link called user generated. It goes like Okay, we got it. These are random blog comments, and we're not going to hold it against you, kind of thing.

Which brings us to another question, let's say a bunch of really non reputable websites, and obviously we spoke about it before, but let's just discuss it. A bunch of non reputable websites are linking to me. The exact question was, how can I remove links people have established that I don't want right? So Joe is a terrible person. He's got a terrible website, and he's linking to your website. Oh, no. What do I do, Joe's linking to me? How do I get rid of that link?

Crystal Carter 52:07

What do you think? What do you say, Patrick? You use that disavow thing, I think that's what some people think that's for?

Patrick Stox 52:13

I mean, I think that's what it was originally for. But years ago, Google kind of changed the way they worked. Where before you would want to remove any bad links or you might be penalized. Now, Google plays a lot nicer rather than penalizing people, giving the manual penalties. You either have to do outreach and say like, please remove this link and then anything you can't get removed, that was what the disavow file was for. The disavow tool was to remove anything extra, to say like, please don't count these against me, I screwed up. I made this mistake. But their systems changed. I don't even know six, seven years ago, probably, where they just tend to ignore any spammy links now or any bad links. So I would not touch a disavow tool unless I had a manual penalty these days. But I know a lot of people do it as a routine maintenance thing. I personally think they're shooting themselves in the foot, they're probably getting rid of some links that are helping them. So this is not something that I would do.

Crystal Carter 53:23

Yeah, I've seen this situation, I think somebody mentioned something like this. Somebody had some malicious traffic coming through. So they had some really spammy links coming into them that were sort of like bad bot traffic or something to that effect. I don't know if you've seen other ways of addressing this, but in the end, they migrated their site. So they changed their domain. And rather than doing a straight 301, they actually had a page that was like, we have a new page at this page. So if it was a human who got there, they would go to the new link. And if it wasn't a human, then they wouldn't, they would just end there. So that was an extreme case. And I doubt that many people are going to be in that sort of situation. But you know, I think it is also a question of thinking about the page that they're linking to. So if they're linking to a specific page, you have control over the page that they're linking to, you have control over the content that they're linking to. So there's potential opportunities that you can take some action on that side if you're getting terrible traffic, but I think it's unlikely that's happening to you.

Mordy Oberstein 54:38

So TLDR for the most part, if you know bad actors are linking to you from their websites, Google's pretty good at just ignoring it. So you should too. The last thing that I really want to talk about which people have brought up is, we mentioned Google's guidelines. Can we maybe just run through a couple of scenarios or situations or aspects that violate these guidelines because that line of trying to build links, and violating Google's guidelines is a very thin line. I'll get you started off. Somebody comes on LinkedIn and says, hey, would you like to guest post on my website, and I will guest post on your website, and we'll trade links. Technically that's a violation of Google's guidelines. That's how thin the line is.

Debbie Chew 55:36

Yeah. So I think the way that I approach something like that company is Dialpad. We are a SaaS company so we integrate with a lot of different tools. And let's say so, for example, like HubSpot, we integrate with them. If for some reason, HubSpot wants to create this content that's super relevant to Dialpad and our audience. I wouldn't say no. I don't have a reason to say no, because I know the content that they write is really high quality. So in that case, I would accept it. And if I can write something that's super high quality for HubSpot, and it goes through their editing process, and they kind of vet everything that I write, including the links, and they find it acceptable. I don't see why not. Or why Google should discredit that relationship. So there are specific situations. So I usually think of it more like, if I'm genuinely writing good content for this other blog and they're also writing it for us and it's not just for the backlink, we also want to write something that's helpful for each other's audience. I think it's okay in that situation.

Crystal Carter 56:53

Do you think it's the question of user value?

Debbie Chew 56:56

Yeah, user value, and not doing the guest posts for the link, but more of the user value there. It's all about intent.

Mordy Oberstein 57:08

If the intent is to get links or whether it's, I have something good to say, let's share with our mutual audiences. Patrick, I'll give you the last word.

Patrick Stox 57:20

So I would say a lot of new folks, they'll just go to like and buy a package of 100,000 links, do not do that. Anything that is at some crazy scale, if it sounds too good to be true, if it's some automated process, if they're like, we're gonna add you to 500 websites or whatever, don't do it. It's not going to help you, at worst it could very well hurt you, you could actually get a manual penalty from that kind of thing. Links take work, they take relationships. Really, if it sounds too easy, just think twice.

Mordy Oberstein 58:04

Don't buy links, I think is the bottom line. If someone has to sell you a link, don't buy it.

Crystal Carter 58:11

Well, thank you all. Thank you all for coming. Thank you, Mordy, for fielding all those fantastic questions from our fantastic audience. Thank you, everyone. We have lots of backlink content on the Wix SEO Hub. So please go and check that out. We have podcasts. We have this fantastic webinar, we have loads of articles. Do visit Patrick on the Ahrefs blog where he has lots more content on links and a lot of the studies that he referenced as well. And you can see lots of content from Debbie on links and she also has a website with some great work that she's done there. So yes, thank you to Patrick. Thank you to Debbie. Thank you to Mordy, thank you to everyone in the audience. And we'll see you again at our next webinar in July.

Mordy Oberstein 58:57

Thank you everyone.

Debbie Chew 58:58

Bye everyone.


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