What if, when you turned those magical ads off to tweak, test and fine-tune your landing page/site content, the hits kept rolling in for free? What if the impressions, clicks and conversions just never stopped? That’s the potential of organic SEO, and you’re definitely not getting there without backlinks.
Say what you want about Google’s many updates – backlinking is still absolutely crucial to any SEO campaign. You may have heard this term before. It’s okay if you have no idea what it means; I’m here to help. Following is your comprehensive guide to everything backlinks.
Let’s start with the obvious: what the heck is a backlink?
What is a Backlink?
A backlink is simply a link to your website that is placed on another website. So, as an affiliate, let’s say you run a niche site about aboriginal boomerangs (I don’t know, just sounds cool). You have some fun posts and images explaining the interesting history and culture behind aboriginal boomerangs, and you’ve plugged in a few Amazon affiliate links or what have you. If you want that page to rank under the keyword “aboriginal boomerang” on Google, you will definitely need a strong network of backlinks pointing to your page from other pages. When Google and other search engines crawl the web, they take into account how many links are pointing to your page from other sites, giving you a significant rankings bump.
It makes sense, right? If everyone on your block told you that xyz sandwich shop was mind-blowingly good, wouldn’t you feel confident enough to at least try it? Solid backlinks are like the Internet version of word-of-mouth approval.
Why Do Backlinks Matter?
By now, the “why” should be apparent. With a strong network of high-quality, relevant backlinks, you have a major leg up on the ever-shifting Google algorithm. Yes, there is much else to pay attention to in terms of ranking signals, like on-page SEO, meta text, your URL for goodness sakes, and much more, but backlinking is the strongest of them all.
So, to recap, backlinks + other best practices = a high search-engine ranking. What many marketers often overlook, however, because they are blinded by that infectious desire to achieve first-page glory, is referral traffic. Even if the page that you’re optimizing doesn’t make it very high up in the search rankings, if you built a hundred links on decent sites, then you will still see a consistent flow of traffic from all of those sources.
It’s important to note the “dofollow versus nofollow” issue at this junction, just to be clear. There are two types of backlinks, as stated above. “Dofollow” backlinks are coded such that the search engine bot will follow it from the page you built it on to your own website, which counts as a rankings boost. This is often referred to as “link juice.” The link juice flows from a dofollow backlink to your site. In the case of nofollow, however, the backlink “doesn’t count” in terms of boosting rankings. People can still follow the link to your site, but the search engine crawlers won’t use it to boost your ranking. You may be thinking, why the heck would site owners use nofollow? That seems mean. Here’s the problem: everyone wants backlinks. If you own a popular blog, for example, and you have comments + dofollow links enabled, you will be spammed with hundreds and hundreds of weird, trite comments from people who just want the link juice. If you want your comment section to be a place of rational discussion and insightful commentary, you make all links nofollow.
How to Score Quality Backlinks
Alright, you get the point: backlinks are super important. Why would anyone just give you one, though? How do you get site owners, many of whom are constantly bombarded with requests, to link to you? As with all transactions, you must provide value for the site owner in some form or another. There are many, many creative ways to make this happen. I’ll cover a few of the most popular methods:
Create an attractive, linkable resource: Design an infographic, instructional video, whitepaper, book, or some other form of resource, and market it to site owners in your niche. If you’re trying to convince the owner of poodlegrooming.com that they absolutely must link to your “how to set up solar panels” infographic, nobody is going to win in that scenario.
Help a site owner update their broken links: This is a clever little “trick” that benefits both parties involved. Find and download a link-checking tool, and visit sites within your niche to check for broken links. Again, these sites must be closely related to your niche, because when you find a broken link, you will reach out to the site owner and offer your site as the replacement for the broken link.
Put yourself out there: If you simply increase your visibility by creating compelling content on the regular, you will naturally attract links. Moreover, if you personally attend conferences and seminars, securing speaking engagements when you can, you will greatly increase the chance of bloggers at said events linking to your site.
Just ask: Finally, you can always simply email site owners and offer your content as a linkable resource. You still want to provide value, so make sure that you explain to the site owner that their audience will benefit from your take on the topic area. Think from they’re perspective – they just want their audience to be well-informed and engaged.
So that’s what backlinks are, why they’re important, and how you can start building them. I’ll close by reemphasizing relevance. When Google crawls sites, if they see a backlink on poodlegrooming.com pointing to your solar tech site, not only will you not taste the sweet nectar of link juice, but you will likely be penalized. Google doesn’t want its users to be constantly sifting through spam; they want highly relevant content and smart, legitimate site owners to thrive. Keep on the straight and narrow, and that just might be you.
Did this article help you understand backlinks?