A healthy and robust web presence nets your site visitors, authority, and business. One crucial part of that ecosystem is backlinks! Here at Helix House, we work hard to jumpstart our clients’ backlink profiles to give them the real SEO juice they need to thrive. Let’s talk more about the basics of backlinks, what they are, how they work, and most importantly how to get them!
Backlinks are links pointing from one website to another. If you are linking to another site, they have a backlink from you, and if they link to you, then you have a backlink from them. If the link goes to another page on the same website, that’s what’s known as an internal backlink. In the eyes of a search engine, a backlink is essentially a website pointing at another website saying, “Hey look over there! That’s something neat to check out!”
Backlinks are key criteria for three things: rankings, traffic, and discoverability.
Google’s algorithms see backlinks as a sort of support, or credential. If 10,000 websites link to your page on Topic A, that tells Google that 10,000 people believe you know Topic A inside and out. These links tell Google that other people believe you are saying something worth listening to. The more backlinks you have, the more authority your site has in the eyes of Google, giving you a better chance to rank on the first page for relevant terms and topics!
Backlinks lead to traffic. Links are clickable for a reason — they allow the user to go from one site to another to find out more about what interests them. To you, that means more referral traffic.
Google (and other search engines) are constantly crawling the web to find new content to index and offer searchers. Backlinks help search engines discover your site and it’s contents quickly. This means if your site has a ton of backlinks, then search engines will view it as a popular site. The new content you release will get picked up by the search engines faster too, thus making it easier for potential customers to find! Hey, that sounds great!
Not all backlinks are equal, not by a long shot. You have to do your research to know whether the links you are getting are helping or harming your site. Look at the following criteria to know whether the backlink is good or bad.
Is this site/page that is providing you with a backlink that is relevant to your site? If your site sells sunglasses and you are getting links from a website about software development, then it’s not really good for you. On the flip side, if your pages are being linked to a listing of the 10 Best Sunglasses for Running, then you should be in good shape. The more relatable, the better it is for you!
Finding out the domain authority of the linking site requires using a tool like Ahrefs. Ahrefs uses a 1 – 100 scale to measure domain rating: the higher the rating, the more authority the page has.
Now, of course, you want those juicy links from high authority websites but consider this: ratings increase over time. If you have a link from a great and relevant site, but they currently only have a domain rating in the mid-teens or 20s, remember that the site may be viewed higher in a year’s time, which increases the value of the link in it!
What are the traffic numbers for the website which is providing you with a backlink? How about the linking page? If the site or page isn’t getting actual traffic, this is a problem two-fold. For one, if that page/site isn’t getting many visitors then there is going to be even less referral traffic heading your way through the links.
If the page/site isn’t getting much traffic it can also be a sign that the site is no longer viewed as ‘good’ to Google and other search engines. Having a link here may connect your site to negative SEO practices etc. That’s no bueno.
There are a few ways to acquire backlinks, by building them or by earning them!
Link building is an older term that has developed a negative connotation in some circles. Back in 2012, Google launched an update to its core ranking algorithm titled Penguin. This update was designed to penalize website who engaged in artificial or black-hate via link spamming or buying links or through link networks. It can lead to sites being penalized if the process of link building was not done in a natural, organic way. Some websites were penalized so dramatically that they almost disappeared from Google search results entirely! Scary stuff!
But there’s another way to get backlinks: earn them!
Other sites can go on at length about what goes into earning backlinks but we’re going to distill the process down to its two base components: creating the content and building relationships.
Useful guides, great visuals, and tools readers can use in your industry, well-sourced and researched long-form pieces, great content can take many forms. But not all content is created equal. A well-produced video can be just as valuable as a 2000 word blog on backlinking for instance.
Once the content is created, you need to engage, respond, and interact with those who are engaging with it. Be alive on social media and share your pieces there. Respond to comments and tweets. All of this shows you as a real, trustworthy person who is worth engaging with. Do some personal outreach, build those partnerships, and link to other great sources in your own content to be an active and engaging member of the online community. Your relationships will link back to your work, knowing that you are an active authority on the subject.
Remember, so long as you are putting out great content that will be a good resource for others, you will naturally acquire backlinks as time goes on — but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a great strategy to give you a boost!
Backlinks are just one of the crucial components that give your website authority and the ability to rank well with search engines. When all of these different systems are working in tandem with deliberate intent, you can see your results (and your traffic) explode! Not immediately, of course, you are in this for the long haul and backlinks are an absolutely necessary element of a long term SEO plan.
Need help building your own SEO plan? Worried about your backlink profile? Give us a call and talk with Nate, the guy lives and breathes SEO, and can help you build the perfect strategy to grow your business.