A comprehensive selection of the different types of backlinks. We review them, see what Google says about them and discuss ways of obtaining these links the right way
Inbound links (also known as
or external links) are still one of the most important factors which Google uses to determine a website’s position in the organic search results. Links provide significant insight into website authority and trust. Links from on-topic, high-authority and trustworthy websites directly impact your website’s search visibility while providing increased brand awareness and referral traffic.
There are many different types of links you can obtain to improve the
search engine optimisation
of your website. We’ve pulled together a selection of some of the various forms of backlinks you can source and explain what they are, what Google has to say and how to go about earning links the right way.
LINK TYPE INDEX
Article Directory Links
Author Bio Links
Automatically Generated Links
Blog Comment Links
Contextual & Editorial Links
Domain Redirect Links
Bookmarking Site Links
Forum Comment Links
Forum Signature Links
Guest Post Links
Press Release Links
Private Blog Network (PBN) Links
Resource Page Links
Sitewide Links (Run of Site Links)
Social Profile Links
Social Media Post Links
User Profile Page Links
Web Directory Links
What are Article Directory links?
Article directories (Also known as content farms) allow users to submit articles that can get syndicated across a range of different websites. Other website owners can browse these websites and copy the content for their own website. If you have added links back your website, there is a multiplying effect of gaining extra links the more the content gets syndicated.
What Google says about Article Directory links
With the Google Penguin update on April 24, 2012, sites started to get penalised, Matt Cutts, former head of Google Web Spam team released a video explicitly saying to refrain from using article directories.
How do I build Article Directory links the right way?
Just don’t. One link isn’t going to get you penalised, but it won’t help you at all, and if you have a lot of them it’s likely to get you penalised. Don’t waste your time.
What are Author Bio links?
The most reputable content websites include author profiles with every published article. In the past, there was a bit of a trend to add exact match anchor text throughout the author bio description. Author Bio’s are typically shown on each article they publish or on dedicated author pages which showcase their profile along with other material attributed to them.
What Google says about Author Bio links
John Mueller comments on Author Bio pages and whether these are necessary for SEO. He says they are not. You can watch video here:
Although he doesn’t specifically address link building via Bio links, he comments how Author Bio pages affect the ranking of a website they reside on.
Common sense would suggest adding anchor text links into bio profiles is a bit spammy. As Google is able to locate author bios easily enough and discount them there really is little point pursuing this sort of strategy.
How do I build Author Bio links the right way?
If you decide to link from the author bio on articles you are publishing, consider brand or naked links (these are links where the anchor text is your company name or website URL). Refrain from using keyword-rich anchor text, and remember to link to your social media profiles. Be aware of the trustworthiness of the websites you link to when creating content – linking only to sites which advance your reputation.
Google’s John Mueller Answers Whether Author Bio is Necessary
What are Automatically Generated links?
You’ve no doubt been pitched at some time or even swayed by the promise of building multiple backlinks for specific anchor keywords over a short period. Such guarantees can be tempting and more often than not utilise automated programs such as Rookie, SEO Hammer or WebEffector which post links in comments, forum and wiki posts etc. These auto-generated links may work in some instances in the short term but are not only a violation of Google guidelines, but an inadequate and manipulative approach to building backlinks which pollutes the web.
What Google says about Automatically Generated links
In a page outlining what Google determines to be
they mention that “using automated programs or services to create links to your site” is a link scheme and therefore a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
How do I build Automatically Generated links the right way?
Automatically Generated Content ~ Google Quality Guidelines
What are Blog Comment links?
Dropping links in blog comments was a very popular way of link building until Google tried to put a stop to that with the introduction of the
nofollow link in 2005
. Blog comment link building involved posting comments on blog posts and putting keyword-rich text in the name field and linking through to a landing page. This process was automated and blog comment spam became a massive problem for website owners. Links were also placed within the comment itself.
What Google says about Blog Comment links
Leaving a comment with your name is fine, you have nothing to worry about.
If there is an imbalance of backlinks detected on your site which reflects links primarily obtained from comment posts you might be considered to be participating in a
How do I build Blog Comment links the right way?
Commenting on blogs should not be done for the purpose of gaining links. A link may be a side effect, such as when used to answer the needs or questions of the
If you are commenting on relevant, authoritative sites, commenting correctly can help build your reputation with your audience and also build traffic to your website.
When commenting, you should take into account the following:
Ensure the site you are commenting on is high quality and relevant to your industry
Use your full name, not a spammy exact match keyword
Use an email address connected to a Gravatar
Write comments that other readers will find valuable
Don’t automate blog commenting
Don’t use keywords instead of your name
Don’t have large volumes of comments
Don’t comment on spammy sites
What are Blogroll links?
Blogroll links are typically sitewide links that appear in the sidebar of a blog that the owner of the blog likes and wants to share.
What Google says about Blogroll links
Blogroll links are typically sitewide links these were heavily targeted by link purchases to gain links. Google can see these as unnatural and a lot of websites were negatively affected in the Panda Update.
Matt Cutts on Unnatural Link:
Having said all that, Blogroll link can be natural and if you have some of them and you didn’t go out buying links you should be fine to have some. See John Mueller’s comments in this Google Hangout.
How do I build Blogroll links the right way?
If you want to build them, don’t go overboard, only get a few of these links. A few things to keep in mind for obtaining these links:
Anchor text should be your brand name and link to your home page
The content on the site where the link is hosted should be very relevant to the target page being linked.
What are Contextual & Editorial links?
A contextual link is a link to another relevant website within a body of content, the links can be keyword-rich or just branded, because of the nature of the link they are typically given editorially. Ie the writer (editor) of the article has decided to reference another website to support the content of their site. You’ll see a lot of these links throughout this article.
What Google says about Contextual & Editorial links
These are precisely the type of links Google wants to see; we suggest reading through their “
” Guidelines which suggests non-editorial links are a violation of their guidelines:
“creating links that weren’t editorially placed or vouched for by the site’s owner on a page, otherwise known as unnatural links, can be considered a violation of our guidelines.”
How do I build Contextual & Editorial links the right way?
You don’t buy or incentivise for these links. If you do, they are technically no longer Editorial links. If you decide to purchase links you need to consider the footprint you might leave. Essentially you need to produce outstanding content, be active in the digital community and build a collaborative network and keep in regular contact. In the further reading section below we’ve linked to a few informative articles on techniques to help increase the number of contextual and editorial links to your site.
What are Domain Redirect links?
Domain redirects are a legitimate tool in an SEO’s arsenal; the 301 redirect passes existing authority from one domain to another, unfortunately, every tool can be bastardised.
Back in the mid-2000s, buying up expired domains which had inbound links and redirecting them to the target site helped boost rankings. It was suggested that redirecting an older domain to a newer domain would help get a new site out of the Google Sandbox faster.
Various other techniques evolved around domain redirects including building up links to throw away domains and redirecting that domain to a “money site”, enabling you to simply drop those redirects if the links started to hurt your SEO efforts.
What Google says about Domain Redirect links
John Mueller from Google commented on a question posed by a Redditor:
“Whitehat or blackhat? Seo consultant advised me to buy a similar domain to the main, they will create web2.0, backlinks, blog comments and forum posts to that domain. I then use a 301 redirect to the main domain. He says that’s how everyone’s ranking quickly these days.” ~ OrcaAnon
“The 301 basically makes the main site canonical, meaning the links go directly there — you might as well skip the detour, it’s just as obvious to the algorithms & spam team.” ~ John Mueller
What is not discussed; if spammy links are detected by Google, does breaking the 301 redirect chain enable the domain to recover?
How do I build Domain Redirect links the right way?
The using of 301 redirects are a valid way of redirecting domains or pages, building up spammy links to a domain and redirecting them to other site is not, that’s spam.
So in short, do it for a few domains that are legitimately yours and you have a legitimate reason to do so. Don’t use it as a technique for spamming the search engines.
Google Pops the Redirect Link Building Balloon
What are Bookmarking Site links?
was founded in 2003 and popularised the social bookmarking of websites which allowed users to annotate, edit, categorise and share links to sites they found valuable. These platforms became a source used by many webmasters to build inbound links to their website and significantly leverage their visibility in the search results. Those days are now long gone with most reputable bookmarking site links now nofollow nowadays.
What Google says about Bookmarking Site links
John Mueller had a few things to say about using social bookmarking sites for link building:
“I don’t think those pages would have any effect on your ranking because probably we’re also ignoring those social bookmark sites and any links from there. That’s a really, really old SEO strategy and we have a lot of practice in recognizing those kind of links and just ignoring them.”
How do I build Bookmarking Site links the right way?
Don’t pay someone to bookmark your pages, don’t go crazy on a whole lot of random sites. Essentially there is no value in bookmarking links so don’t waste your time.
What you can do is engage in communities related to your site by sharing and commenting. Using these communities to build trust by providing valuable insights, content and problem resolution increases the chance that other users may read, share and link to your content. For example, find a good subreddit community aligned with your content and start actively engaging with others today.
Google’s John Mueller on Social Bookmarking for Links
What are Footer links?
A footer link is a sitewide link that lives in the footer of a website. These were used a lot in the early days of link building with keyword-rich anchor text links being purchased in the footers of high ranking websites.
What Google says about Footer links
Zineb Ait from Google commented on Footer links, see tweet below in French, which translated says:
I will let the algo work. Sitewide links in footer or header do not carry much weight in general.
So any link from a footer doesn’t carry a huge amount of weight, and sitewide links are not encouraged and don’t benefit your SEO.
How do I build Footer links the right way?
There are legitimate reasons why outbound links may appear in a footer, for instance; a corporate entity may have more than one website for their B2B platform. When linking to other websites in your footer keep in mind these simple guidelines;
Use brand terms for anchor text, not keyword-rich words
Links should be relevant, when not, ensure they are nofollow.
The focus here should not be on building backlinks, so only add links which improve user experience.
What are Forum Comment links?
Forums or discussion boards are online communities for like-minded people to hang out and discuss various topics and issues about a common interest. Forums are generally free and open for everyone to join.
Forum links come in 3 types
What Google says about Forum Comment links
John Mueller is pretty clear in his
answer to a question on this
Just to be absolutely clear, if you are dropping links to your site in other people’s forums in the hope of gaming search engines, then that’s considered web-spam and can be taking into account by both our algorithms and our manual web-spam teams. It doesn’t matter how much “PR” the other site has, it doesn’t matter if it’s a .gov forum — what you’re doing would be considered web-spam by us.
If you care about how search engines like Google view your site, I’d recommend cleaning those link-drops up, removing the link to your site, and not doing that in the future. ~ John Mueller
How do I build Forum Comment links the right way?
You don’t. This is not to say you there are not valid reasons for linking in forums and discussion boards. Links within comment posts do play a significant role in helping those within your online community and it’s for this reason why the majority of forums and boards these days nofollow such links.
Before you submit a link within any post, consider the value it will bring to your community; is the link just self-serving or is it something you feel others will genuinely benefit from? Forums and discussion boards are a great way to build trust within your community, use it wisely and it will benefit you greatly in the long-term.
Google: Forum Link Drops Can Get You In Trouble
What are Forum Signature links?
Forum signature linking is a technique used to build backlinks to a website by posting in forums that allow keyword-rich outbound links in a member’s signature.
What Google says about Forum Signature links
Forum Signature links get a special mention in Googles guidelines as an example of an unnatural link which violates Googles Guidelines ie
Forum comments with optimized links in the post or signature.
Read more here…
How do I build Forum Signature links the right way?
You don’t really. If you are posting in Forums legitimately, consider the following for your signature:
Links should be nofollow
Don’t keyword stuff, link with your brand name to your home page
Be very careful of the neighbourhood
Don’t do it for link building
Google: Link Schemes
What are Guest Post links?
Guest blogging is the process of writing a guest blog post on another website’s blog to gain a link back to your own website. Guest bloggers offer to write content for other blogs in their niche, with the benefit of increased backlinks and referral traffic.
What Google says about Guest Post links
Google posted a blog on its website which discussed large scale campaigns for the purpose of gaining links in articles,
read more here
. The key quote is this:
Google does not discourage these types of articles in the cases when they inform users, educate another site’s audience or bring awareness to your cause or company. However, what does violate Google’s guidelines on link schemes is when the main intent is to build links in a large-scale way back to the author’s site.
In a lengthy post from Matt Cutts, he announced the
decay and fall of guest blogging for SEO
Okay, I’m calling it: if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop. Why? Because over time it’s become a more and more spammy practice, and if you’re doing a lot of guest blogging then you’re hanging out with really bad company.
But then followed up with some clarification:
“It seems like most people are getting the spirit of what I was trying to say, but I’ll add a bit more context. I’m not trying to throw the baby out with the bath water. There are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community, etc.). Those reasons existed way before Google and they’ll continue into the future. And there are absolutely some fantastic, high-quality guest bloggers out there. I changed the title of this post to make it more clear that I’m talking about guest blogging for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes.”
How do I build Guest Post links the right way?
Don’t be spammy. Create quality content only which answers the needs of your audience. Avoid guest posting on websites which require payment in exchange for publishing. Guest posting can be a part of a
where further exposure to your article can be drawn from social media platforms from alliances within your collaborative network with a side benefit of earning backlinks naturally. There are a number of good resources out there to draw from on how to Guest Post the right way, see more in-depth discussion in further reading.
What are Infographic links?
Infographics are a
visual representation of data laid out in an appealing manner and have become a quick and easy way to build authoritative links by appeasing audiences with attractive visuals.
The process involves;
Add embed code to make it easy to share
Use keyword-rich anchor tag
Submit site to Reddit (or Digg back in the day)
Earn links with exact match anchor text.
What Google says about Infographic links
Matt Cutts had a fair bit to say in this article
, which is worth reading in full. The key paragraph is this:
In principle, there’s nothing wrong with the concept of an infographic. What concerns me is the types of things that people are doing with them. They get far off topic, or the fact checking is really poor. The infographic may be neat, but if the information it’s based on is simply wrong, then it’s misleading people.
I would not be surprised if at some point in the future we did not start to discount these infographic-type links to a degree. The link is often embedded in the infographic in a way that people don’t realize, vs. a true endorsement of your site.
How do I build Infographic links the right way?
Although they still provide value it is important to be careful with a number of elements, here are a few things you should be aware of;
Ensure your data is accurate
Be aware that Infographics typically work better on Desktops that on Mobile phones
When creating an embed code to share the graphic more easily, don’t use keyword-rich anchor text and ensure the link goes to an appropriate page and don’t make backlinks compulsory to those sharing the graphic.
What are Paid links?
Paid link building is when you hand over cash or something of value in return for a link back to your website.
What Google says about Paid links
Google has long viewed buying links very poorly and calls it a
Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link.
If you get caught, you will be penalised.
How do I build Paid links the right way?
Avoid purchasing links of any kind, concentrate on building awesome content and broadening your collaborative network, the more your content is shared increases the possibility that your content will earn links naturally.
What are Press Release links?
Press Releases are official statements from companies for the purpose of announcing newsworthy content to interested parties. SEO practitioners quickly realised you could get keyword-rich anchor text links back to your website from Press Release websites that were sprouting up all over the place.
What Google says about Press Release links
Google sees Press Releases as advertisements and therefore those links should be nofollow.
How do I build Press Release links the right way?
There are still valid reasons to submit a press release if you have something newsworthy to say; newsworthiness increases the chance your story gets picked up and linked to from a reputable source. There are a lot of maybe’s there so it’s important to ensure you have something really newsworthy.
If you do submit a Press Release to a site, check the following:
Ensure links are nofollow
Only post to press release websites which are reputable and have a significant reach
Post to sites where quality assurance is part of their editorial process.
Google: Links In Press Releases Are Unnatural Links & Should Be Nofollowed
What are PBN links?
A Private Blog Network (PBN) is a network of sites built for the purpose of linking to a “money” site. A lot of PBNs leave a detectable footprint, ideally, a PBN would leave zero footprint which is quite hard to do, more sophisticated PBNs attempt to limit their footprints by:
Using different IP addresses
Using different C Blocks
Only linking to 1 money site
Use different domain registrars
Use different Content Management Systems
Use different theme templates
Use different sets of plugins
Mix up the anchor text
Block research bots, eg Majestic, Ahrefs etc
This list could go on…
What Google says about PBN links
PBNs are clearly against Googles Guidelines, so don’t be fooled into thinking there is a legitimate way of building links via a PBN. If you do pursue this approach be very aware of the risks.
How do I build PBN links the right way?
You don’t, PBNs are a black hat approach to acquiring backlinks. We’ve selected a few articles well worth reading to gain further insights into PBNs.
These links aren’t for the purposes of you to follow, but they are great for learning more about PBNs:
What are Reciprocal links?
When there is an agreement between two websites to link to each other this is a reciprocal link arrangement. They were very popular in the early days of the web and initially gave a good boost to a website’s rankings.
What Google says about Reciprocal links
Google addresses this directly and calls it a
Excessive link exchanges (“Link to me and I’ll link to you”) or partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking
How do I build Reciprocal links the right way?
It’s not something you should proactively do, if you have the odd reciprocal link, it is not going to hurt you. But definitely don’t pursue this tactic.
What are Resource Page links?
A resource page is a page on a site that lists helpful links and resources for a particular topic. For example, a food blog about Veganism might have a resource page dedicated to Vegan recipes. Resource page link building is the process of actively pursuing backlinks from websites that curate useful industry resources and getting your website included in the list of resources.
What Google says about Resource Page links
We couldn’t find any comment specifically on link building via Resource Pages. Let us know if you have?
How do I build Resource Page links the right way?
Common sense prevails in this instance, have a look at the quality of the site and page:
Look at the quality of the sites with the resource page
Look at the existing resources to ensure they are high quality
Does the page get traffic?
If the above boxes are ticked then it’s probably worthwhile being included in the list of resources. Check out the further reading below for further ideas.
What are Review links?
There are two types of review links you can gain:
The first is a review you write for someone one else which is posted on their website as a testimonial with a link back to your website
The second is a review another person does of your product or service and links back to you.
What Google says about Review links
It all depends on how you get the links as to Google’s opinion of them. If you are procuring the review links by sending free product, then this is seen by Google as a
and should be avoided.
How do I build Review links the right way?
Don’t give out free product for the purpose of getting links. If done judiciously gaining a few links here and there isn’t going to get you banned, but I wouldn’t be making it a strategy. The same goes with writing a few reviews that get put up as testimonials, a few here and there is fine – just don’t go overboard.
Reviews and testimonials when done right has a positive impact on your search rankings just seek to use them as a backlink strategy.
What are Sitewide links?
Sitewide links are links that appear on every single page of a website, typically they are in the footer of a website and/or in the sidebar “blogroll”. They were used heavily prior to the Google Penguin update.
What Google says about Sitewide links
Matt Cutts was asked the question: “Are sitewide backlinks considered good or bad by Google? Or do they just count as 1 link from the whole domain?” and he goes on to give the answer in the video below.
How do I build Sitewide links the right way?
Don’t build sitewide links proactively. Sitewide links shouldn’t use keyword-rich anchor text, be careful which sites they are on don’t do it on a systematic large scale. There are some legitimate reasons for having sitewide links, but it’s not a strategy you should be pursuing as the links have limited value and the sitewide effect can be negative.
What are Social Profile links?
Social profiles quite often allow users to add a link to their website or blog, profile link building sites refers to the process of signing up to lots of social media accounts for the primary purpose of dropping a link in that profile.
What Google says about Social Profile links
We couldn’t find any specific commentary on this from Google (let us know if there is), but we liken these to Social Bookmarking links in that Google would largely ignore them.
How do I build Social Profile links the right way?
A few exceptions aside, most social profile links are not hugely valuable in building backlinks. Social profiles though are important in building your online visibility, trust and authority within your industry. These profiles enable you to share your content and experience with the right people and grow your network which can lead to acquiring natural, organic backlinks to your content.
Create a Profile, Get a Backlink: Do Profile Link Building Sites Actually Work?
What are Social Media Post links?
When you post a link back to your website from Facebook / Twitter / Reddit etc, these are social media post links and are typically are nofollow and considered User Generated Content (UGC).
What Google says about Social Media links
Social media is not a direct SEO ranking factor, you should be using social media for branding, traffic, and building up your network. Social media posts have a positive effect on your reach, lead to inbound links and impact ranking. But it’s a different strategy.
How do I build Social Media Post links the right way?
You’d be hard-pressed to be penalised for social media post links. Don’t be spammy.
What are User Profile Page links?
It’s quite common when you create a user account on a website a user profile page will be associated with it. Many user profile pages allow for links to be placed, similar to the Social Media Profile page links we have spoken about above but cover a broader range of website types than social media websites.
What Google says about User Profile Page links
Similar to Social Profile links, we couldn’t find any specific commentary on this from Google (let us know if there is), but we liken these to Social Bookmarking links in that Google would largely ignore them.
How do I build User Profile Page links the right way?
As mentioned this is not a tactic you would use on a large scale, a few links here and there are ok. See below for a few things to keep in mind:
Put a link in profile pages for sites you actively participate in
If you are active, your link will drive traffic which is a plus
These links have limited SEO benefit, so not worth your time creating profiles just for the sake of the link
Don’t bother paying someone to create hundreds of profiles building links.
An example of a high-quality site where you can drop a link in your profile is Gravatar, an avatar site owned by WordPress.
Create a Profile, Get a Backlink: Do Profile Link Building Sites Actually Work?
What are Web Directory links?
Web directories (also known as link directories) provide an online list or catalogue of websites. They were very popular prior to search engines eventuating and evolving the way we know them today. At the time, being listed in some of the key (and not so key) web directories provided a significant boost to your rankings.
What Google says about Web Directory links
A lot of websites received penalties from spamming low-quality directories to get mass links.
Gary Illyes tweeted the following back in 2016:
We suggest you click-through and read the thread above, as always there is nuance. It’s not that all directory links are bad, but it is important to learn how to determine what is a good link and what is not so you know which ones to avoid.
How do I build Web Directory links the right way?
There’s a lot of nuances required in building directory links the right way, we may revisit this and write a complete article at a later date. In the meantime, check out the link in our further reading section below to learn more!
Are Web Directories Still Relevant for SEO in 2019?
What are Widget links?
Widgets are bits of embedded code that you place on your website and the widget performs a function or displays information. Eg weather widgets, calculators, social media embeds etc.
Here’s an article from back in 2011
that goes into how to widgets were used for link building back in the day.
What Google says about Widget links
Google wrote a blog specifically addressing widget links titled “
A reminder about widget links
“, the key takeaway is:
“Some widgets add links to a site that a webmaster did not editorially place and contain anchor text that the webmaster does not control. Because these links are not naturally placed, they’re considered a violation of Google Webmaster Guidelines”
How do I build Widget links the right way?
You don’t do it for any SEO benefit, that is a recipe for being penalised. If you do create a widget which includes a link, ensure you do the following:
Ensure links are nofollow
Ensure links are for brand terms.
A reminder about widget links
Phew, you made it to the end!
The value of link building really comes down to the types of links you attract, how you attract them and the quality of those backlinks which can make the difference between being rewarded or penalised.
How you go about link building and the types of neighbourhoods you “reside” in will have a big impact on your SEO. SEO can be a laborious process and it’s tempting to seek the seemingly easy path.
In the long run, short cuts never work out. Your success will boil down to the quality of the content you produce, the communities you participate in and the value you provide to your audience and your collaborative network.