SEO isn’t just about keywords, meta descriptions, and great content. One of the most effective things you can do to boost your site up the search engines is to acquire backlinks.
What are backlinks? Simply, links to your website from other websites.
Why do you need backlinks?
Google and the rest of the search engines use backlinks to determine the quality and relevance of pages on the web. The idea is that they think that people will only link to other websites and pages if they offer extremely useful, high-quality content and resources, so a backlink to the search engines is like a vote for your page, and your website as a whole. The more you have, the higher you are likely to rank, as long as your website is also fully optimised for SEO.
The important thing to note, as with anything to do with search engine rankings, is that you must get backlinks in the right way. If you do things ethically, by providing the best content you can, linking to other useful and relevant sites and resources – because they can provide your audience with further information, and because you want to build genuine relationships – you will always stay on the right side of the search engines. And long term, you’ll beat out anybody who tries to play the system, no matter what algorithm updates the search engines make.
Why? Because what the search engines want is for people to provide genuinely useful and relevant information on their websites, so that they can provide excellent and relevant results to their users. An important reason why they have all these constant algorithm changes is to do that better, and to drop like a stone any sites that try to cheat their way to a good ranking.
So how do you get people to link to you without paying out a fortune? Read on for free things you can do to build your backlinks:
First of all, write fantastic content!
While this isn’t a proactive step you can take to get backlinks, the kind of websites you want linking back to you won’t do that unless there’s something on your site worth linking to.
You don’t want just any old backlinks, you need them from high authority, high-quality websites, with a good Page Rank.
Sites like that will only link to you if you offer content that helps their audience and provides a great resource, like ultimate guides on your area of expertise, annual surveys of businesses in your field, helpful statistics, tools lists, etc.
1. Guest posting
As a guest post contributor, you can usually put one link in your bio at the end of the article, which gives you your backlink, but if you can, and it’s relevant, you could add a couple of links to pages on your site in the body of your article.
Find sites who will accept guest posts by checking where your competitors are guest posting, as those sites are just as likely to accept a post from you. You can also search for ‘guest post + your subject’ to find pages of sites that will accept them.
Pay attention to the quality of the site and its content before you decide to pitch. It won’t do you any good if it’s a low quality, spammy site.
Check the guest posting guidelines carefully and follow them to the letter. You’ll have a much better chance of your post being accepted.
2. Become a source of good quotes and information for journalists
Sign up to Help A Reporter Out (HARO) and list your areas of expertise. You’ll get a daily email with the latest requests from reporters. Scan through, and when you find a story where you can genuinely help, send the reporter a short message telling them what you can offer. If they use you in their copy, you’ll very likely get a link back to your site.
If someone has already mentioned you or your company on their site in a positive way but they haven’t linked through to you, there’s nothing stopping you dropping them a quick email to say thank you, and ask if they’d mind linking back to you.
Set up a Google Alert for your business name, and you’ll automatically get an email when someone mentions you.
4. Broken links
Broken links happen on every site eventually, where perhaps the site you linked to was taken down, or the content moved.
Here’s how you can make it work for you:
Use BrokenLinkCheck to put in the site you want a backlink from, and see if any come up. If they do, and you already have great content that could replace that dead link, you could just email them and politely tell them you’ve noticed they have a broken link, then suggest that linking to your content would perhaps be a good fit. If it’s a site you really want a link from, you might even consider writing something specifically to fit the subject of the broken link.
You’re being helpful to them by picking up a dead link on their site, and providing an instant potential replacement for them, while you get the all-important backlink.
5. ‘Skyscraper’ content
Brian Dean from Backlinko came up with this idea. Basically what you do is find brilliant content, that’s been shared over and over and linked to by loads of websites, and then create something that outdoes it.
For example, if someone has created an article with 50 Ways to Increase Your Traffic to Your Website, and you’re a traffic and conversion expert, you could write 100 Ways to Increase Your Traffic to Your Website and How to Convert Them to Buyers.
Then you promote it everywhere you can so people actually know about it in order to link to it.
It’s a lot of work, but the results can be epic in terms of your backlinks and general SEO.
Backlinking is a strategy that takes work, but the results can catapult your business up the search engine rankings and bring you more new customers than you know what to do with. And that’s a great problem to have!