Whether you’re relatively new to SEO or you consider yourself a veteran, it’s likely you’ve heard of backlinks at some point. Despite being a crucial element of off-page SEO, backlinks tend to be one of the most mysterious components of SEO for site owners as they aren’t always easy to come by, especially if your site is new.
A backlink, in the most simple terms, is merely a link from another, external web page -- like a blog post -- to a web page on your own site. Not only can backlinks help grow your website by driving more traffic to it, but they can also tell search engines to trust it, offering a great way to build your online presence.
Read on to learn more about why backlinks are important, how they work and what you can do to get more of them.
What Can Backlinks Help With?
1. Getting More Traffic
One of the primary advantages backlinks provide to your site is the extra boost in traffic. High-quality backlinks can do a lot of the marketing legwork for you, helping direct more visitors to your site. Once they land on one of your pages, you have the chance to impress them with your content, products or services, thereby converting those visitors into fans, subscribers and, hopefully, customers.
2. Building Relationships
Link building campaigns -- the process of actively trying to acquire more backlinks -- can be a frustrating process full of many rejections, but it does provide a great opportunity to get to know more people within your industry. One of the best ways to get quality backlinks is to write guest blog posts or even become a podcast guest (if you’re an expert in your field). Pitch your post ideas to other sites and blogs with high authority in your niche. Be sure to carefully research the organization you’re pitching to before pitching a guest post to guarantee that your post idea will make sense on their blog and with their audience. If your content is good enough, they may ask you to become a regular contributor.
Note: You receive diminishing marginal returns on multiple backlinks from the same website. This means that one backlink from a website can do a lot of good, but getting a second backlink from the same website won’t have the same effect as getting a different backlink from a different site. The goal is to get as many relevant websites as possible linking to your website.
Over time, by networking with other bloggers or site owners, you’ll begin to build a strong network of backlinks to your website which, in turn, will increase your domain authority and get your pages showing up in more search results.
3. Improving SEO
Let’s not forget about the SEO benefits of backlinks. When you get more links pointing to your site, that tells search engines about your site. Trustworthy, reputable websites with a high domain authority tend to rank more highly in search results. If the link comes from one of these sites, this allows search engines know your site is also likely to be trustworthy and reputable. The more backlinks you receive from reputable websites, the stronger your own website’s reputation becomes.
Conversely, getting links from spammy websites can lower your site ranking. Some websites employ black hat SEO practices that can offer good short-term SEO results but will, more often than not, result in penalties later on. For example, one common black hat SEO practice to obtain backlinks involves including a link to a page on your site in a blog comment that you post on an external blog, forum or directory. These “self-created” backlinks are often seen as spam and no one -- especially search engines -- appreciates spam. (Nowadays, most blog comments use a “nofollow” attribute anyway and this instructs search engine robots to not follow those outbound links when crawling a site’s content.)
Make sure to consider the website before getting a link from it. You can use tools like SEMrush to run backlink audits to see if any of those domains linking to you are “toxic.” If they are, you can quickly disavow them so they don’t harm your site’s SEO.
All-Natural Link Building
If cold email outreach, guest blogging or other link building methods aren’t in the cards for you at the moment, that’s alright. One of the best ways to get backlinks is the all-natural way. This method requires very little effort on your part except to write excellent, informative, relevant content on a regular basis and share it via social media and email marketing. Whether that comes in the form of blogs, newsletters, ebooks, white papers or other helpful resources for readers and site visitors, your content will eventually be discovered and you’ll find yourself earning more backlinks than you know what to do with.
To recap, backlinks can earn you more site traffic, help you build relationships with other websites, and give your SEO (and reputation) a well-deserved boost. When outlining your SEO strategy, you should focus on getting backlinks from websites within your niche or industry that:
- Are reputable
- Have a high domain authority
- Use white hat SEO tactics
- Don't use too many links on one page to avoid diluting the value of the original backlink
It doesn’t matter if you’ve just started your first website or you’ve been running one for a while, it’s helpful for SEO purposes to know why backlinks are important and how to build a strong network of them. If you would like to learn how to start your own link building campaign or if you still have questions about backlinks (or any other SEO topic), get in touch with one of our digital marketing experts!