One of the most powerful tools in your SEO arsenal just might be something invisible (sort-of). Backlinks are one of the best ways to increase your rankings on search engines and drive traffic to your website.
What are Backlinks?
In short, a backlink is a website link from another site to yours.
By now you might have a handle on the basics of SEO and you’ve worked out that it is a bit more than just shoving your keywords in all over the place. Google and other search engines are sophisticated little creatures and can easily see through that kind of basic tactic.
Search engines are looking for websites that are relevant authorities on the topics that people search for. Repeating the topic keywords will help you to a certain extent but using backlinks has far greater power. Search engines put more weight into the intelligence and information that lie behind good quality backlinks.
The power passed onto your site through the backlink is sometimes called ‘link juice’. This power can work to increase your website’s value or domain authority with search engines.
Backlinks are not an overnight sensation kind of tool, they are more a slow and steady way of improving your website’s domain authority. Over time you will develop a backlink profile which is the sum of all of the good backlinks that you have earned.
Why do you need Backlinks?
Backlinks are like referrals from good quality resources.
If a knowledgeable or popular website includes a link to your site as a reference, this is an indication to Google that you are an authority on the subject.
The more backlinks referring visitors to your site, the more respected your opinion on that topic must be (in the eyes of the Google Bots anyway!).
This can work poorly for you as well, because if a negatively viewed website links to you, this effect will also pass onto you when you are assessed in the eyes of search engines.
How do you get backlinks for your website?
The basic idea behind the backlinks being a good referral system is because they are a good referral system.
If you write something worth reading, then websites with greater reach such as media outlets or influencers will link their readers to you. Because this referral reflects on the bigger site as well, they will apply these backlinks carefully.
Write quality content that gets referenced on other sites
Organically you can achieve backlinks with a good history of dynamic, accurate and relevant content. This is free but does take time. It is like sitting back and waiting to be noticed.
The best way to do this is to create shareworthy content and update it often. Good examples of such content include long-form blogs that share comprehensive and useful information on your niche topic and opinion pieces that invoke emotion or solve specific problems people face.
Creating beautiful infographics and handy charts explaining stuff that people like to share around as a handy resource is also very good for shareability.
Approach popular sites for guest appearances
You can also earn backlinks by actively approaching bigger sites to consider your content for publication, by putting yourself out there as an authority. This can be a better way to get seen but does need to be done strategically as well as tactfully.
Before you approach a site to seek this kind of relationship, it pays to do a bit of study to work out if they are a good site to seek referral from.
You should be looking for good quality sites that are not filled with spam or ‘clickbait’, sites that are considered to be authorities by search engines, and sites that obviously generate a lot of traffic. Sites that regularly update their content are also good.
Several ways you can approach sites to get noticed and hopefully generate backlinks include:
- Offering to submit guest blogs or digital magazine articles with backlinks in your copy or commonly in your author profile
- Referring to influencers or authorities in your post, then let them know that you have done this by email or social tagging
- Write case studies or undertake independent analysis that is of interest to your industry
- Providing expert quotes through services like HARO and Profnet, which link journalists to niche experts
- Commenting on other people’s blogs and community forums
- Appear as a guest on a podcast
- Register as a contributing author on industry blog sites
- Creating practical relationships such as sponsoring events or supporting charities
- Ask to be included, featured, quoted in topical blog posts related to your business
Get an SEO company to organise backlinks for you
When you’d really rather do anything else that all of the above, reach out to an SEO company that can help you monitor your backlinks and build your backlinks to boost your online authority and profile in the eyes of Google. If you want some help with this, get in touch because we love SEO!
When backlinks will not work for you
As well as being linked to a negatively viewed site on your keyword topic, there are a few other ways that you could have backlinks set up but that aren’t really working for you. These may either not drive traffic to your site or increase your domain authority or can work against you and be penalised by Google.
Many bigger websites implement backlinks but set them up as ‘no follow’ links, which means search engines don’t monitor them. These kinds of links protect the bigger site if the linked site turns out not to be so good. Google won’t pick up on these as active referrals to your site and they won’t increase your domain authority.
If the backlink is inserted directly into the relevant keyword text, then Google can penalise this as it considers it to be poor practice. Better ‘anchor text’ for your backlink would be near the keywords, or into a less optimised phrase that is similar.
For example, bad anchor text might be:
‘One way to improve your dog’s health is by using a dog treadmill’, whereas good anchor text would be ‘One way to improve your dog’s health is by using a dog treadmill according to experts at Furryplay.com.’
How you can monitor backlinks and why you should
Because your backlinks are powerful currents generating either positive or negative buzz, you need to keep an eye on them. Backlinks will, if they are working, bring visitors to your site and make you look good to Google.
There are a number of online tools that you can use to monitor backlinks for your website, such as MOZ Open Site Explorer or Linkody. These tools are also extremely handy to assess the potential of bigger sites you would like to approach as we discussed above and check things like domain authority and traffic numbers.
You should monitor your backlinks because:
- The website hosting them could become a negative authority and thus reflect badly on you
- This is how you know which ones are working and which ones aren’t
- You can look out for no-follow links or those that are poorly anchored
- Monitoring can inform your ongoing strategy for improving and creating new partnerships for more backlinks.
It is a slow and steady process, but one well worth the investment it, as the power you can achieve through good backlinks is very valuable to your business indeed.
Strategic Optimisation + Growth consultant for lean start-ups and change-making entrepreneurs enabling them to grow their business in a sustainable and profitable way.