But first, why are backlinks such an essential part of SEO?
Search Engines use links as an indication of the quality and popularity of a website. They use complex algorithms to evaluate sites and pages based on the number of external pages linking to them. And they don’t just measure quantity; search engines look at the quality of these links as well. The more popular and trustworthy a site is, the more valuable links from that site are.
Building a back link profile isn’t the be-all and end-all of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), but SEO experts are all agreed that link building is critical to the success of a website.
Backlinks for Beginners: Our Top Tips
Beginning a back link campaign isn’t easy. Of course, you can list your website in free directories, and comment on forums – there are a few pretty easy, low-effort ways to get links to your website.
But the links that really boost your SEO are the ones that come from high-quality, relevant content published on high-quality, relevant websites. There’s no quick, easy way to get these links, but there are a few things you can do to get started…
1. Produce OUTSTANDING content
This really should be your number one focus if you want to drive organic traffic towards your website. Quite simply, if you want people to link to your website, you need to create unique, interesting, well-written content. And there’s a lot of clutter on the internet; a lot of competition. To stand out, you need to publish content that shows you to be an expert in your field.
Rather than focussing on selling your product, think about how you can solve a problem, answer a question or share some trade secrets. This quote pretty much sums it up:
“Share or solve; don’t shill. Good content doesn’t try to sell. Rather, it creates value by positioning you as a reliable and valuable source of vendor-agnostic information. Your content shares a resource, solves a problem, helps your customers do their jobs better…” – Handley & Chapman, “Content Rules”
That’s it in a nutshell. Forget the sales pitch, set yourself up as a reliable and valuable source of information for your customers. That’s what drives traffic to your website, and that’s the kind of content that people will link to.
Imagine you run a website selling outdoor active wear. Rather than writing a blog post gushing about the latest hi-spec Gortex-adorned, diamond-encrusted hiking boots you just got in stock (save it for the product description), write a post about how to look after your hiking boots. Or what kit you need to start hillwalking. Or even the top 10 mistakes winter walkers make – and how to avoid them…
In an ideal world, you’d create an amazing piece of unique content and the internet would welcome it with open-arms. You’d be viral in 20 minutes. But as you may have already experienced, it doesn’t always work like that.
No matter how good the content, it can be tricky to make an impression, particularly if your website’s fairly new. There are occasions where you’ll need to pursue links more actively. However, having brilliant content that people will want to link to makes it easier. It’s the best place to start.
2. Ensure existing mentions include a link to your site
A quick win on the back linking front is to make sure any existing mentions of you or your brand include a link through to your website. So, if someone’s mentioned you in a review or a blog post but hasn’t included a link, get in touch and ask them to add one.
3. Make the most of existing relationships
Do you know someone who writes for an influential blog or owns a high authority website? Perhaps you have partners you’ve worked with who might be willing to link to your website, or loyal customers who would be happy to write a review on their blog. Use your existing networks to make the most of any opportunities to gain links to your website.
Once you’ve used your most obvious industry contacts for blog collaborations, you can start brainstorming on how to use contacts from other industries. Think about how your products or services can overlap with those of other markets. For example, if you sell furniture and decorations, perhaps you can collaborate with a company renting out office space for a blog about “5 Must-Haves for your Rented Office Space to Present your Brand Professionally”.
Also, share your content on social media. Tag clients and partners that are relevant to the content, as well as anyone that you’ve referenced in your content. Better yet, get hold of their email address and tell them that you’ve mentioned them in your blog. If they like what they see they might share your post on social media or link to your article on their own website.
4. Guest posts and link exchanging
If you’re an expert in your industry or field, there are many bloggers that would be glad to accept a guest post from you. They don’t have to link back to your website, but they generally will publish your bio alongside your article, containing a link back to your blog or website.
You’d be tempted to save all your best content for your own website. But sometimes a link from a high-profile, quality website can be worth sacrificing your own web content for.
Check out this useful article about guest posting for some tips to get you started.
5. Use free tools to create new networks
There’s a lot of clutter on the internet, and it can be time-consuming to sift through all the noise to find the websites or people that might be interested in linking to your site. But there are some short-cuts you can take.
Link Assistant is a free tool that trawls through the web to find websites that might help you build links. It’ll use your chosen keywords to find websites that allow guest posting, or forums and posts for you to comment on, as well as people who review products and opportunities to join giveaways.
Another quick short-cut is to find out who your competitors are getting links from by using Opensite Explorer. Knowing who has linked to your competitors gives you an indication of which websites might be interested in linking through to your site.
6. Be careful about buying back links
If you’re really desperate, you can buy back links. But be careful to buy them from reputable companies. My mum always says that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. So if you find someone promising you a link from a high authority website for pennies, run for the hills.
Buying links is expensive and it may well be worth spending your time on link building strategies that focus on building links to your site naturally. Search engines put a lot of time and resource into weeding out those links that haven’t been acquired naturally. And whilst they can’t detect all paid links, you’re more likely to have success with genuine links that have not been bought.
And so we come back full circle…
The main aim of Search Engines is to provide users with a list of the best, most relevant websites according to their search query. As Search Engine algorithms become more and more intelligent, it’ll become harder and harder to use SEO tricks and shortcuts to rank highly on SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).
To perform well on search engines, you need to play their game. It all comes back to producing outstanding, unique and relevant content. However, the real winners are those who know how to market that great content so that search engines can find it. Use your contacts, make new contacts and keep thinking of creative ways to get your content seen.
I’d love to hear about your experiences around building back links for your website. What’s worked for you? What blockers have you come-up against? Have you got any tips for newbies to the world of back linking? Comment below or get in touch on Twitter @swankyapple