Last week I presented a webinar on the importance of blogging, in which I briefly touched on how blogs are considered “link magnets.” And why wouldn’t they be? Linking to informative, educational blogs is a great way to help searchers learn more about a topic. Perhaps the linked article explores a focus area more in depth, or maybe it offers a new idea, solution or guide to implementation. At any rate, we already know blogs are necessary to help build trust and authority in your brand.
While we will never know all of Google’s more than 200 ranking factors, we do know that backlinks contribute to your rank on the SERP (search engine results page). To be competitive, your website needs backlinks, which are just incoming hyperlinks from one web page to another.
Google uses an algorithm to calculate trustworthiness and to decide which pages to display when a user enters a search query. Search engine crawlers count the number and quality of links to a page to determine how important it is. The idea is that more important sites are more frequently linked to by other trustworthy sites and pages.
In its help center, Google says to make sure other sites link to yours:
“Links help our crawlers find your site and can give your site greater visibility in our search results. When returning results for a search, Google uses sophisticated text-matching techniques to display pages that are both important and relevant to each search. Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote by page A for page B. Votes cast by pages that are themselves "important" weigh more heavily and help to make other pages "important."
Keep in mind that our algorithms can distinguish natural links from unnatural links. Natural links to your site develop as part of the dynamic nature of the web when other sites find your content valuable and think it would be helpful for their visitors. Unnatural links to your site are placed there specifically to make your site look more popular to search engines. Some of these types of links (such as link schemes and doorway pages) are covered in our Webmaster Guidelines.
Only natural links are useful for the indexing and ranking of your site.”
It’s important to note that not all backlinks are created equal. Backlinks must be earned. No matter how tempting it may seem, do not buy links. If Google discovers you using this black hat SEO trick to manipulate rank, your page/website could be de-indexed or penalized. Here is a really great guide on how to tell if you’ve been penalized by Google, how to disavow bad links, and how to recover after penalties. Moz offers a helpful link profile and building tool. There also are a number of other free and paid tools to help you on your journey.
Building a Link Profile
How do you go about earning backlinks?
Blog. Consistently blogging is one way to earn links. When you share your blog and others find it informative, they will share it (on social media, on their website, etc.), which increases visibility and boosts your chances of being linked to.
Guest blog. If another blog has a larger audience and serves a similar niche, guest blogging can be a great way to earn backlinks. Note that the two blogs must be closely related or this tactic will hurt more than help.
Other link worthy content. Create high-quality content that will do well on social media and as links.
Skyscraper Technique. The Skyscraper Technique is a strategy in which you research and find well-performing content that is generating backlinks (use Moz to search competitor’s link profiles), select content you feel could add a unique spin to, create the content and then reach out to the page that linked to your competitor offering them your fresh, new content.
Influencers. Use an influencer finder tool to locate influencers in your industry. Connect with influencers who may link to your expertly crafted content. Proactively encourage site owners to link to your site.
What Makes a Good Backlink?
- Relevancy: Page and domain should be relevant to your key landing pages
- Earned through merit: White hat SEO only
- Authoritative: The link page and linking domain should be authoritative in your industry.
- Diversity: Backlinks from different types of content, such as blogs, press releases and local websites
- Depth: Links should be to various pages on your website, not just your homepage.
- Non-transactional: Backlinks shouldn’t have too much transactional keyword anchor text. Ads should use nofollow tags.
Without backlinks, key pages will struggle to rank, especially with competitive keywords, search engines will crawl content less frequently and you will get less referral traffic from other sites.
If your website is new, it may take some time to build a link profile. That’s OK! Work hard to create compelling content, avoid key pitfalls like buying/selling links, and you’ll be on your way to building links in no time!
Karen Butterfield is an award-winning communications professional specializing in B2B and B2C content creation, copywriting, as well as internal and external correspondence. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Webster University, St. Louis, in 2010 and then served in progressive roles at a community newspaper and publishing company. During her tenure as a reporter and editor, she earned more than a dozen state awards for writing and photography.