What Are Natural Links? (+ How To Get MORE)
If you’ve spent any time reading up on SEO, you’ve probably come across this term as the gold standard of link building.
One of the key activities of SEO is encouraging more backlinks to be created that point to your content, in order to convince Google that your site is relevant, informative, and important enough to appear at the top of its results pages.
Natural links are links that appear organically rather than being artificially placed, providing an authentic vote of confidence for the quality of your content.
What Are Natural Links?
Like most things in the world of SEO, there is some disagreement about what exactly constitutes a natural link. The disagreements come down to the extent to which a website actively tries to encourage the placement of links to its content.
While there’s no argument that a link that is paid for is decidedly not natural, or that explicit link-building schemes such as link exchanges aren’t natural either. Some purists might say that even a gentle nudge in the form of an email request to place a link renders a link unnatural, while others view this as a standard marketing practice that results in natural links.
Rather than getting caught up in these kinds of details, we’ll focus on the big picture of what natural links are:
- They are not artificially placed as a result of payment or a link-building scheme
- They do not contain tracking parameters, so they are not monetized
- They don’t appear in sponsored content
- They make sense in the context in which they’re placed
- They provide value for the reader
In short, they’re placed because the website owner who chose to include the natural backlink found genuine value in your content and chose it over options to enhance their content and provide a better user experience.
Natural Links and SEO
Natural links are considered very beneficial for SEO because they lack the inherent risk that comes along with what might broadly fall under the umbrella of unnatural links.
Google considers link schemes – activities aimed at creating a large number of links in order to manipulate page rank – to be in violation of their webmaster guidelines.
However, SEO is a large industry, and companies and agencies alike evidently spend a lot of time, effort, and capital to improve their search rankings. Some of these activities may technically fall afoul of the official guidelines, but they appear natural enough to be accepted by Google’s algorithms.
The SEO benefit of natural links is to Google they are a strong indicator that your content is worthy of being linked to. You didn’t have to pay anyone to link to it, because it’s valuable enough on its own.
While links that are technically the result of some link-building activity may appear natural and result in a similar SEO boost, it’s always possible that Google will become increasingly sophisticated and be able to detect link-building activities that perform well today.
With natural links, this risk is minimized or even eliminated, which helps to ensure to the long-term success of your website even in the event of algorithmic updates.
In reality, most high-ranking websites have some combination of natural links and links that wouldn’t technically be considered natural, but having a high number of natural links in the mix can improve their rankings and protect them if some of the other links become problematic in the future.
Benefits of Natural Links
Natural links are considered high-quality links, especially when they come from high-DA websites. The perks of getting more of these highly coveted links include:
- Increased traffic – The ultimate aim of SEO activities is to make a website more easily discoverable in search, so that more traffic can flow to that website. Traffic is directly correlated with revenue, so the traffic boost from natural links can make a real impact on your bottom line.
- Snowball effect – The more high-quality natural links you have, the likelier you are to get more as other high-DA websites come across your website and feel confident that you are reputable and worth linking to because you’ve been vetted by others. When you’re starting out, getting those first natural links can be a challenge but it’s comforting to know that the more you get, the easier it is to continue getting them.
- Less expensive – Contrary to popular belief, there is still some cost associated with getting natural links. You have to be link-worthy, which generally means investing in quality content creation. However, natural links imply that no money was exchanged to place the link.
- Greater recognition – Natural links on popular websites in your niche can expose entire new audiences to your business, boosting your recognition in the industry. This can result in business opportunities on top of the SEO benefits
- Higher rankings – This is related to the increase in traffic you can expect from natural links, but it’s a distinct benefit: as your domain authority and page authority rises, and your website obtains a higher PageRank score (an internal Google score), your overall website becomes more reputable. This means that other websites that are mindful of their reputation will feel confident associating with you through links or other collaborations.
Clearly, having a variety of natural links in your backlink portfolio can lead to great outcomes for your business both from an SEO perspective and more broadly in your marketing efforts. But if you can’t actively try to get these placed, what can you actually do to get more natural links?
Natural Links Best Practices
Luckily, “natural” doesn’t mean completely hands-off. By following these best practices you can increase your chances of scoring some of these desirable natural links. Then, as we mentioned, you’ll likely find that once the ball is rolling it becomes easier to obtain more of these links more frequently.
Create strong content
If you’re getting tired of hearing this from SEOs, we have bad news for you. The importance of great content in landing natural links, or high-quality backlinks of any kind, isn’t going to change any time soon.
Google themselves say the following:
“The best way to get other sites to create high-quality, relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can naturally gain popularity in the Internet community. Creating good content pays off: Links are usually editorial votes given by choice, and the more useful content you have, the greater the chances someone else will find that content valuable to their readers and link to it.”
So, what kind of content lends itself well to natural linking? Think about what gets traction and gets shared online. Here are some ideas to get you going:
- “Ultimate Guides” to something in your niche
- Visual content such as short videos, particularly when they’re entertaining
- New and improved versions of a well-performing piece of content in your niche
- Interactive content such as quizzes
Share your content
Creating great, shareable content is part of the puzzle, but you also have to get the word out about it. It doesn’t matter how great a blog post is if nobody ever gets a chance to read it.
Any time you create a piece of content, repurpose it across your social media channels. Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest can all be effective places to share your content so that it has a chance of being discovered by more people and, ultimately, to generate some natural links for you.
Another way to share your content is by emailing sites that may potentially link to it. Sure, some might not consider this a completely “natural” approach, but in reality, you are just making others aware of content that they might be more than happy to link to if it provides value for their readers.
While it’s definitely the case that one fantastic piece of content has the potential to drive traffic and generate natural links for a long time to come, you never want to sit back and relax too long when it comes to SEO.
If you’ve got the attention of some high-DA websites that are providing natural links for you, great! Keep generating content consistently so that they have more reasons to keep linking to you.
Find speaking opportunities
Depending on your industry, you may be able to find speaking opportunities at events and conferences in your niche. These can be in person, or even online. Events like this are often written and blogged about which can result in natural links. Plus, you’ll be establishing yourself as a resource and thought leader in your industry, which can lead to more mentions and opportunities in the future.
Be active online
For other websites to become aware of your content, it helps to stay active and engaged in your online communities. Commenting on blog posts and sharing others’ content can go a long way in generating goodwill that can potentially lead to natural links.
Natural links should make up a sizable portion of your backlink portfolio. Not only will they help your website perform better in Google’s search results, but they’re also a strong indication that you’re doing something right. Others are finding real value in what you create, and linking to it without any kind of compensation. Need help creating link-worthy content? Loganix can help. From content creation to a full SEO strategy, we can help make your business more discoverable.