When Links Set Websites on Fire – Webinar Recap


I recently presented for Semrush.com on the topic of amazing backlinks that catapult ecommerce success. It was a fun webinar (outside of 1 or 2 small technical issues at the beginning!) and I really enjoyed chatting to Shelly, James and Bibi about this topic. Along with the video above, here is the transcript of this presentation.

The topic of this webinar was the power of link building. Our host Shelly Fagin began by inviting our expert panel to introduce themselves. Bibi Raven (Bibi the Link Builder) is based in the Netherlands. James Brockbank of Digitaloft is based in the UK. Duncan Colman is the director at Spike Digital. 

Before beginning his presentation, Duncan highlighted some useful resources about link building worth checking out:

The Highest SEO Impact Backlink

Duncan then launched into his presentation. Duncan’s definition of the highest SEO impact from a backlink includes the following factors:

  • Overarching authority — the number of brand searches that the website gets, and other indicators such as Moz rank and Semrush rank.
  • Domain-wide traffic — the site linking to you gets high monthly traffic across the domain.
  • Page-level content relevance — the page giving you a backlink is relevant to what your site’s page is about?
  • Page-level traffic — the page linking to your site also ranks in its own right. 
  • Link context — the link is semantically a strong positive vote for your web page. 

Reaching out on LinkedIn about the highest SEO impact from backlinks, Duncan found that 93% of people agreed with his data-driven definition. 

It’s important to note that not all links are created equal. The way to look at link building if you want organic search growth is to try and tick all of those important factors in terms of relevancy, context, overarching authority, and page-level prominence. 

Another important point to remember is that a link-based algorithm is essentially a voting system. Not all votes are created equal, which reinforces the previous point. You need to think of websites and their influence and their power and how that can translate into SEO traction.

The Power of Good Links: Case Study #1

Duncan then discussed a link-building case study from 2019. His agency was working with an online pharmacy and they began to notice links in certain niches (medical websites, nutrition sites, supplement sites) were generating quite a lot of power. Perhaps Google was looking for a link to tick expertise, authority, and trust factors.

In August 2019, there was a shortage of HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) patches in the UK. The Daily Mail wrote a story about this shortage, noting that women were being forced to buy HRT patches from abroad. The online pharmacy Duncan worked with happened to sell these patches, which gave the company the chance to provide the Daily Mail with an expert quote. 

The owner of the company gave a quote to The Daily Mail, and the online pharmacy got a link from the article that was published on The Daily Mail website. In terms of SEO impact, the pharmacy went from zero results in the top three before the link to eight results after the link. In terms of users visiting the site, there was a 615% percent growth. 

The Power of Good Links: Case Study #2

The second case study was for an ecommerce website that had an important category page that Duncan wanted to improve rankings for. After creating a long-form piece of content and doing some link outreach to authoritative websites, the category page received one link from Cosmopolitan; a very authoritative website. The Cosmo link jumped the eCommerce category page from zero top three rankings in September 2020 to 25 top three rankings now. 

It’s evident from these case studies that tonnes of link building is not necessary. One good link is often enough to catapult a page up the rankings. In fact, as Google’s John Mueller recently said, 

“There could be one really good link from one website out there. It’s a really important sign that we should treat this website as something that is relevant just because it has that one link.”

Are Directory Links Worth It?

The webinar moved on to a question and answer session. One viewer wanted to know whether directory links are worth it and how you should decide on a suitable price to pay for such links. To decide if directory links are worth it, you need to define the value from them. The value of directory links could be more traffic, more leads, or more sales, but this value should be worth more than what you pay for the links. 

It’s also worth noting that directory links are more beneficial in certain niches. For example, lawyers benefit a lot from appearing in certain local directories. Any traffic you get from directory links should be qualified traffic, which means these links attract people that are likely to convert into paying customers. Just getting more traffic from local links probably isn’t worth it if the traffic doesn’t ultimately convert. 

How to Earn Links from Authoritative Media Sources?

James answered this question from the perspective of specializing in digital PR. Ultimately, getting those authoritative links comes down to adding value. Regardless of whether the tactic is building linkable assets or reactive PR, it has to come down to adding value. If you want to land coverage and links from the edia, there has to be a reason to link. 

Remember also that journalists at the bigger media publications rarely link to a website’s homepage. There has to be something that adds value, and it comes back to links being navigational. If there is a great piece of content worth linking to, then that’s one of the best ways, but that content has to add value to the journalist’s article.

Use people, use knowledge, use expertise, and really jump in doing something a little bit different and add value to a journalist. Help them out. That’s almost as simple as it gets.

Are Brand Mentions Helpful for SEO?

Brand mentions don’t have the same hit as links. If you work in PR and you’re working tirelessly, you get some really decent content onto some fantastic websites, it’s quite demoralizing if you can’t convert that into links. Unfortunately, we’re a long way from brand mentions influencing rankings in the same way as links. 

Google wants sites to build brands, so if you can do anything to increase brand searches, then that’s a good thing. However, a link trumps a brand mention every time. 

Nofollow and Other Link Attributes

In terms of nofollow links, Duncan’s opinion is that if you look at his case studies and change all the links to nofollow ones, the results would likely remain the same. You’ll probably have an ideal link you go for, which would be a followed link but that equity can come via links tagged in this way.. 

If you limit everything you do because you only want that ideal link, you actually lose opportunities, because a brand mention somewhere, a nofollow link, or social share could all have positive future outcomes. 

Also, if you look at the top tier news websites, most of them have a blanket nofollow strategy for their external links. Those links have to add weight because of the authority behind them. A nofollow link on a top tier media site often turns into secondary coverage. In this lens, nofollow links can be a great catalyst for earning further followed links.

Links from Wikipedia

One viewer wanted to know whether getting cited on Wikipedia is helpful. If a competing website has links from Wikipedia, it’s not necessarily the right strategy to emulate that and try to get lots of Wikipedia links to your site. The people that edit Wikipedia can pick up on sites that appear to be trying to game the system for links and they won’t let any old business create their own Wikipedia page. 

If you really want to get a link from Wikipedia, the advice is to find a gap on a Wikipedia article in your industry. Create content that fills that gap and try and get it cited as a source on there. This comes back to adding value. 

Getting Links for Unique Products

The final question for this webinar was about how to get links to unique products that nobody else sells. If the product is unique, then it will have a unique product title. If it’s unique as in they’ve manufactured a product, then it’s going to rank in its own right but this will be a gradual process.

What also works is marketing the product through other channels like Facebook paid social, Google Shopping, and Google paid search. As the product gets sold, people will start to google search it. 

You can also use PR strategies. If the product is genuinely unique, tell journalists about it. Shout about why it’s great, and create that demand and drive those searches for that product.

The webinar concluded at this point. 

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