November 17, 2015

The Power of the Backlink

by Malek Murison

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When you want to understand something abstract, often it’s a good idea to compare it to something in the real world. That’s what we’re going to do with backlinks. Imagine that you run a travel startup. Naturally, you want more business. It might be a good idea to leave business cards with friends, family and anyone you bump into who might be interested in your services. But it’s unlikely that you’ll spend enough of your time wandering around aimlessly to bump into enough customers to keep your business going.

Instead, maybe it would be smart to leave a huge pile of your business cards in a café where people seeking and discussing travel services spend most of their time. That way they can pick one up and get in touch to find out more about what you offer. This, in simple terms, is what a backlink does. They are online signposts linking back to your website, or a specific service or article. Backlinking is all about getting mentioned in the right places, and here’s why it’s so important…

Backlinks are the Foundation of Good SEO

Search engines like Google rank your website more highly if you have a strong number of quality, relevant backlinks. Search engine algorithms typically aim to connect the searcher with the most relevant content possible to what they’ve typed in. So if your site appears to be highly valued by your target audience (if they like it enough to link back to your site and suggest it to others) search engines will place you higher up the list for certain keywords. It’s a perpetuating cycle, allowing you to gain more authority in your field as time goes on.

Backlinks are Constant Publicity, Free!

If you get your website linked back to from a decent source, it’s likely that the link will be in place for a long time. It could be that you’ve landed a spot in the Top Ten Greatest Travel Startups article, or someone’s mentioned you in a forum. Either way backlinks have the potential to provide free, relentless publicity for your business. Because of this it’s vital to ensure you’re linked to in the right places, where the people you want to attract will be exposed to your backlinks.  

Backlinks are an Important Weapon in your Content Marketing Arsenal

Sometimes it’s a good idea to ghostwrite or guestpost your way onto an authoritative site relevant to your industry. If you’re a travel startup, this could be getting the chance to post on a travel blogger’s site, or telling your business story on a respected entrepreneur site. Both give you the chance to publicise your services and link back to your website. Alternatively, more subtle tactics are available, and various content marketing agencies and writers will happily post content around the web with relevant links back to your site.      

Backlinks Naturally Increase Your Traffic Too!

It seems obvious, but against a backdrop of complicated SEO algorithms and content marketing, it’s easy to forget that backlinks in the right places will increase the organic traffic coming to your site. This can only be a good thing.   

Not All Publicity is Good Publicity

Regrettably, there are plenty of sites out there that claim they can give you x amount of backlinks for a certain price. Don't be fooled. Yes, you'll probably get a heap of backlinks, but it's important to remember that the quality of the source is just as key as the backlink itself.

The best backlinks are those that point to your website from another website with higher page authority than yours. In the eyes of a search engine such as Google, it makes little difference to your ranking if you've got a bunch of links from low ranking sites. In fact, it can actually hurt your ranking. The most important thing to remember is to constantly think like a search engine. It's simple really. Google is looking to give its users the best, most relevant search results possible. If your site is being referred to by a load of low ranking sites, nobody will take notice. Google needs to know that its sources, the links it spits out after a search, are trustworthy, relevant and reliable. Imagine you were looking to put a bet on a horse. You want a tip from someone with credibility, with a relevant history and success rate. Google approaches searches in the same way.

A Few Easy-to-Follow Backlink Tips

Building solid backlinks takes time, but their influence cannot be understated.

  • Launching, or releasing a new product or service? Draft up some press releases and submit them to various local and national media sites. You can also send them in to PR-dedicated sites. You might get some articles and backlinks off the back of not very much work, while many media outlets will redistribute your press release for free.
  • If you want to get your name recognised in your particular industry, you need to be where your customers are. Pen some guest blog posts on other popular industry sites and blogs. You'd be surprised, but bloggers and site managers are always looking for fresh content. Work a link back to your site into the whatever you write.
  • Setup and use social media. Link back to content on your site regularly, as well as in all of your bios. Once you're set up, keep your content fresh and your followers engaged. Unique and sharable content is the way to go. Obviously this is a great way to build a following and establish yourself as an industry influencer. But it also increases the chances of receiving links back to your site when your content gets referenced.
  • It's not just your average social media sites that could provide good backlinks. Why not create a Youtube channel and an account on SoundCloud? You don't have to create loads of content, just have enough of a presence that search engines can link one to the other.

Which Backlink Techniques Should I Avoid?

Search engines are getting cleverer all the time. Don't cut corners and think that you can fool them.

  • FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, don't ever buy links from linkfarms, or companies selling hundreds or thousands of backlinks. These are most going to be spam indexes, and Google will frown upon you. Nobody wants that, right?
  • Your company may well turn to an SEO professional to handle all of the details. But be extremely wary of anyone who promises a #1 organic ranking. It's highly unlikely, and as well as constant updates in the algorithms of search engines, there are just too many variables to make this promise.

The key with any backlinking strategy is to be patient, and to use these techniques as part of a wider SEO effort. If you're content is great and your social media is engaging, strong backlinks will pop up over time. Don't cut corners, and make sure you generate your backlinks organically. The bottom line is that you need great content, and an easy to use website. Compel your readers, and search engines will naturally be compelled to rank you higher.