Google discusses natural backlinks
During a meeting during Google SEO office hours, someone asked John Mueller to explain what Google means by quality backlinks. John offered a recommendation on how to approach the problem of attracting natural backlinks.
What are backlinks?
A backlink is a link from a webpage to someone else’s webpage.
The term backlink probably originated when websites engaged in reciprocal linking strategies and one website was linked to a second website in exchange for linking to the first site. The link to the site was called a backlink.
They are also called inbound links. This name was born as a way to differentiate them from outbound links (links that point from one site to another site).
And finally they are also called external links in order to differentiate them from internal links. External links are links that point to a page from outside a site. An internal link is a link that points to a page from the site.
There are many ways to rank backlinks. There are paid links, reciprocal links, guest post links, etc.
It is possible to classify backlinks into two categories. There are natural backlinks and unnatural backlinks.
Arguably, there are quality backlinks as well, but for the purposes of this article, quality backlinks can be classified as a natural link.
And a natural link is simply a link that happened after a webpage caught someone’s attention.
How does Google identify natural links?
Here is a spoiler: John Mueller does not reveal how Google identifies natural and unnatural links.
But it talks about the mindset to earn the types of links that Google prefers.
“I’ve heard a lot about backlinks, which Google considers quality backlinks.
Regarding quality, what exactly do you mean by quality backlinks and how does Google analyze natural and paid backlinks? »
Google’s Mueller paused and looked up, considering how to answer the question.
John Mueller’s response:
“So my recommendation…I think especially if you’re just getting started is not to focus on backlinks because it’s very easy to get stuck in a situation where like you said Google wants quality backlinks or Google wants natural backlinks so I will make my backlinks look like quality or I will make my unnatural backlinks look natural.
And it’s very easy to spend a lot of time focusing on that.
So that’s something where, from my perspective, I would focus on your site first and really work to grow it very heavily first.
The mindset to spot opportunities
Mueller went on to explain that he was keen to spot opportunities for self-promotion, one of the most fundamental aspects of getting a site noticed.
And then over time you might see there are opportunities where you can mention your site with other people in regards to advertising maybe, in regards to other ways of create something really fantastic and point it out to others and say, like to this cool thing I did.
And then they link to your page because they think, oh that’s really neat.
And basically, when it comes to links, Google’s view is that those should be things that aren’t curated by you, that aren’t paid for by you, that aren’t created by you.
But they should rather naturally be people who say well, that’s really cool, I really like that.
Similar to how if you’re making a website you’ve probably seen a lot of other sites where you say that’s cool I’m going to link to that I’m going to reference that because that’s something useful for my users.
Obviously (and Mueller has said this in the past), links don’t happen by themselves. He has publicly stated that website publishers can’t just wait for people to find your site.
Mueller also said self-promotion is important.
How a site is promoted is where Google and SEOs diverge in their approach. Build and tell is very simple.
The first part is to build. This means researching what people want to read or tend to link to, then create something that will appeal to them.
Awareness is the second part, which involves letting others know what has been built, especially people who tend to link to this type of content.
The Build and Tell approach could very well be one of the best ways to promote a site in a way that encourages natural links. Building without saying won’t necessarily work.
Mueller recommended self-promotion, so instead of focusing on linking, it might help to focus on building and storytelling.
Watch John Mueller discuss quality backlinks starting just after the 35 minute mark: