In this article, we bring you invaluable info on backlinks and why they are critical to SEO success. We also offer you the 5 best link building strategies for 2019.
As a small business owner, there are myriad marketing activities you can pursue to boost business. The challenge, with limited time and resources, is the selection and prioritization of a seemingly endless list of potential opportunities.
What are Backlinks?
First of all, for the uninitiated, what are backlinks? Backlinks are simply a link on another website that points back to your website or webpage. It’s really that simple.
For example, if you happen to be a chain of running shoe stores and you write a weekly blog on running technique and injury prevention and the editor of a prominent running magazine sees and likes your post so much they put it in the resource section of their website, you’ve got yourself a bonafide backlink! Your mention has to actually link back to your website though (like I just did to the Wikipedia “hyperlink” page a few words ago) or else it’s useless. It also has to be a ‘followed’ link and not have the ‘nofollow’ tag in the html code.
Likewise, if a running enthusiast with a personal blog that has only 6 followers happens to come across your blog and link to it from his webpage, you’ve also got yourself a backlink.
Why Pursue Backlinks?
1. Search Engine Rankings
The most obvious benefit of backlink building, and typically the sole reason most people pursue this activity, is to increase their search rankings.
Search engines such as Google use complex algorithms to determine your website’s ranking for different search terms (keywords). There are a lot of inputs these algorithms use and backlinks are near the top of this list.
Links to your site count as “votes” in the eyes of Google and are a key ranking signal. The more backlink “votes” your website and content receives, the higher it will rank. But…not all of these votes are equal. The quality, relevance and authority of the linking website are all weighted (which I’ll explain later).
2. Building Relationships
An often overlooked benefit of a comprehensive backlink building strategy is relationships! As I mentioned above, one of the key components of a solid backlink is relevance. You want to seek out websites in your link building strategy that are relevant to your business – and websites that are relevant to your business also offer great opportunities for potential partnerships, referrals and ongoing relationships.
3. Referral Traffic
Depending on the nature of your current marketing channels, a robust backlink plan may very well come with the fringe benefit of referral traffic. Not only does referral traffic offer additional payout for all your hard work but it hedges your bets. For example, if a relevant and authoritative website ends up offering little or no SEO value, you could still benefit from an additional channel for referral traffic!
You can even pursue referral opportunities that you know don’t offer SEO value. A good example of this would be blog comments. Typically your blog comment will be posted and tagged with a “no-follow” reference (essentially this is telling search engines NOT to give your site any backlink juice). However by finding high quality, relevant blogs (or industry/business related forums such as reddit) and offering valuable information or answering a question in your comment, you can generate quality referral traffic to your website.
4. Authority Building
The final ancillary benefit to backlink building tactics is establishing yourself and business as an industry authority.
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How to get Backlinks
So you know backlinks are good for business. You also know this is one of the first SEO strategies you should enact if you want to rank higher in search engines. Finally, you understand a bunch of fringe benefits that come with backlinks such as referral traffic and relationship building. So now what? How do you piece together your strategy?
Before employing certain backlink acquisition strategies you must first understand what makes for the best backlinks. As mentioned above, search engines weigh backlinks according to the linking website’s authority and relevance (there are also lots of other factors but these are the two biggies). When pursuing links, always keep this in mind.
An easy way to figure out if a website is authoritative is to simply type your keyword into Google and see which sites rank highest. These sites (or pages!) are likely to be high authority. If you want to get a little more technical you can use tools like Moz’s Keyword Explorer and Open Site Explorer to look at your prospective linking website’s authority ranking. For example, if you were a flower shop and wanted to rank higher for a keyword such as “flower delivery” you would find through Moz that “https://www.proflowers.com/” has a domain authority of 67 (pretty powerful)
Relevance is another core backlink ranking factor. Make sure the site or page linking to you is relevant to your business. If you’re a flower shop receiving a backlink from a high ranking, authoritative website on luxury cars it’s likely not helping your business (it’s also not giving you nice fringe benefits of relationship building and referral traffic)
The Best Backlink Building Strategies for 2019
Once you know which websites to pursue (authoritative and relevant!) you can begin getting those backlinks! Here are a few go-to strategies:
- Link roundups: Think of the keyword you wish to rank for and in the search bar type “link round up” or “best of” then your “keyword”. The SERP (search engine results page) will populate with a list of high ranked websites that compile relevant links. You can then select and contact these websites with a template email pitching your content for a link! (exp. Hi [website], I was just reading your great [best of / blog title] today – great resources! I just wanted to reach out as I recently published a case study on [topic] and thought it would be a good addition to this list.)
- .edu sites: .edu sites are GREAT for backlinks as they carry a lot of authority. If universities/colleges offer your industry topic as a course or program of study you can reach out to the instructor/prof and request your content (if it’s of high quality and educational – which is always a great way to form content) to be added to their program’s resource page.
- HARO: help a reporter out man! HARO is a website that connects “sources” with reporters. If you think you have newsworthy or engaging content hop on HARO.
- Reverse engineering: If you have the time, patience and interest in really diving deep you can begin to reverse engineer your competition’s website and figure out strategies that worked well for them. Sites like Moz & SEMRush offer free and paid tools that will allow you to type in your competitors web address and see which backlinks currently benefit their website.
- Guest posting, guestographics, podcast guest. You “guessed” it (pun intended). Being a guest content producer not only allows you to place a backlink on that website but also establishes you as an authoritative voice AND gives you some nice referral traffic. Any form of guest posting is a good bet if you have experience in your industry.
Do you have any other tips or feedback to share with our community? If so, please add comments below.
This article was last updated on Monday 23rd September, 2019.
Ira Thomson is North Shore Digital’s Co-Founder and current Director of Analytics & Insights