Why backlinks are important
Good backlinks boost your search engine rankings. Google et al rely heavily on relevant and reliable links as a ranking factor as they help to determine the quality of a website so it’s no surprise you want to get more backlinks.
Search engines want to churn up the best results and provide end-users with whatever it is they are searching for. The concept of backlinks was introduced to assist this process.
The point of backlinks and link building in general, is so search engines can assess the quality of webpage. The more webmasters directing their readers to a webpage is a good indication the website offers value.
It is a great idea and in theory makes complete sense. The problem is, too many webmasters abuse the rules and use a variety of underhand tactics to manipulate search results.
Google is then forced to take action. In 2012, they updated their algorithm with Penguin which targets websites that have a suspicious number of links from low quality websites directed back to its webpages.
As a result link building receives bad press and many webmasters shy away from including linking techniques as part of their SEO strategy. And that is a big mistake.
Good quality backlinks pointing to your website still carry a lot of weight with search engines – providing they are organic and relevant.
Even no=follow links drive traffic to your website and can have as much impact on your search engine rankings as natural backlinks.
Essentially, an increase in traffic has huge potential to improve your search engine ranking and increases your chances of acquiring new customers. Providing you are publishing engaging content and have a great product you can expect to benefit.
Online business owners simply cannot afford to omit link building strategies from their SEO efforts. And there are plenty of ways you can collect organic backlinks and attract traffic to your website.
It is important to note however, that when employing link building exercises, you have to be careful not to use tactics that could be deemed as an attempt to manipulate search results.
Some SEO agencies will use tactics that may work for the time being, but will ultimately receive a Google penalty further along the line.
The elbow test is to ask yourself whether backlinks have been earned or exchanged. Natural backlinks are earned media. Exchanged links are subject to a penalty.
The list below explains how you can earn natural backlinks, or alternatively increase traffic to your website.
Natural backlinks cannot be guaranteed in each scenario, but every opportunity to drive customers to your website has the potential to increase your search rankings and your conversion rates.
1. Write great content
The best way to earn natural backlinks is to write great content other publishers will link back to. But the key is to publish content other writers need to link back to.
Most content writers embed outbound links to industry news, statistics or relevant information that supports the point they want to make.
Consider the type of content other bloggers are publishing and write an article or produce statistics that will support trending topics within your industry or fringe interests.
You could even try approaching a blog owner with a piece of content you have written that supports a point they are making in their own content. If you compliment their work and highlight you share their thoughts, they will be more inclined to embed your URL in their content.
2. Position yourself as an expert
Search engines are looking for reliable partners. To do this they use trust and authority metrics to assess how much value content on your website offers end-users against specific search terms.
By positioning yourself as an expert in your field, you will earn trust and authority from internet users. Some publishers will give you backlinks, others will share your content, all of which exposes you to a wider audience.
Search engines will pick up on this activity and increase your trust and authority scores – thus you will earn higher page ranks. But the more visible you are online the more backlinks you will receive.
To position yourself as a specialist, you have to be writing high-quality content that offers value to readers. You should be doing this on your blog as a matter of course. But also write for third party sites.
We will discuss specific opportunities for doing this later in this article, but as a starting point, look to contribute to respected industry magazines that have a strong following.
Although these publications are only permitted to provide no=follow links (links that do not count towards your SERPS) they do raise your online profile and can drive traffic.
3. Social media networks
Social media networks are a must for digital marketers and are a great platform to drive traffic.
Your profile should naturally include a link back to your website and take every opportunity to direct traffic to your content or product pages.
4. Befriend influencers
Influencers are bloggers that have authority and a large following in your industry. You can find them through search engines and social media networks.
You have to be patient and a little wily, but befriending influential bloggers in your field can drive traffic and earn you high-quality backlinks. There are several ways to do this:
Nurture a relationship through social media
Leaving intelligent comments and complimenting the work of influencers on a regular basis will raise awareness of your existence. You don’t want to be like Dolores Claiborne, but you do want to get noticed.
When the time is ripe you could send the influencer a private message highlighting a piece of your content they might be interested in. If your content is good enough, they may even follow your blog and post your content on their social media accounts.
Write complimentary content
Another, quicker, approach to capture the attention of influencers is to write an opinion piece of the best blogs in whatever subject and link back to their website.
You can then get in touch with said influential targets, either through social media or email, notifying them of your piece and asking whether they might be interested in posting the link on their website. Bingo – a backlink from a high-authority domain.
Invite them for an interview
It is human nature to have a sense of self-worth, so when you approach an influencer you admire, they will probably agree to an interview and include a link to the piece from their website. At the very least they will post the content on their social accounts.
From an influencer point of view, the purpose of giving an interview is to gain more exposure, so you must have a reasonably strong following to make it worth their while.
5. Offer an interview
On the flip side, you could offer interviews to pro bloggers within your industry. They are always looking for fresh and interesting content.
There are provisions of course. You need to have authority in your field and have something valuable to report. This may be a newsworthy piece, a merger or ground breaking development in the industry.
An ideal scenario is to score an interview with a blogger that owns a high authority domain as the backlink will carry more weight with search engines.
But there is no harm picking up a link from an up-and-coming domain. As their authority scores improve, your backlink also gets stronger.
6. Reverse guest posting
Reverse guest posting is not guaranteed to earn you a followed link, but at the very least it is a good tactic to drive traffic to your website – and earns you a piece of free content from an authoritative figure.
The sequence involves asking influential bloggers or experts in your field to contribute content to your website in exchange for a backlink to their website.
Some bloggers may include a backlink from their website, but in doing so cancels out their link as “link sharing” is one of the rogue tactics Google outlawed years ago.
However, they will probably share the content on their social media account which will earn you a backlink and drive traffic. They may even link to the article from another third party site they contribute towards.
7. Link to 3rd party sites and tell them about it
When you publish content on your blog it adds weight in search engines if you include links to third party sites. And when you do there is the potential to pick up a backlink.
Online businesses will seize any opportunity they can to raise their online profile and reach out to readers with fresh content. They are therefore likely to be inclined to post your content on their social media accounts.
This will naturally drive traffic to your website and a portion of those new visitors may use your content to link back to in their own posts.
8. Write testimonials
Online businesses rely on authentic word of mouth advertising to promote their company. If you have used the services of web designers, digital marketers or the products of any other company, offer to write them a testimonial. They will include a link back to your website.
9. Run a competition
If there is one sure-fire way of driving traffic to your website it is to run a competition. Obviously, the prize has to be appealing enough to cause a reaction.
One of the conditions of the competition is to ask the entrant to give their name and email address. This gives you a mailing list you can use for marketing purposes and drive more traffic at a later date.
10. Sign up to HARO
If you are an expert in your field, sign up to HARO – help a reporter out. The website was established in 2009 so journalists can find reliable and authoritative sources for their articles.
If you can persuade a journalist that you are the most qualified person to answer their question, you will receive coverage in high authority publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur and Huffington Post etc.
This tactic may not earn you a boat load of backlinks, but it will drive traffic to your website from a high-authority domain.
Link building is an essential part of SEO, but you must be very careful that the practices you employ do not manipulate search results. Webmasters that attempt to cheat the system will be penalised by search engine updates.