Backlinks are essentially links from one website to another and vice versa and it’s a term that despite being overused in the SEO world, still confuses many small business owners because it feels like a “techie” term.
The phrase “backlink” was first coined by Brian Dean and refers to the way that search engines “score” web pages against each other and determine the page ranking in search result pages.
Put simply – if you get enough links back to your website from another website that Google thinks is “authoritative” (i.e. users use search and find that site a lot for a particular keyword or keyphrase) then it’s going to improve your website’s standing (or PageRank – Google’s own scoring system for websites) for that keyword or keyphrase.`
If you have ever been advised to “build you backlinks” by an SEO professional or an agency, then you might want to read on as I will no only explain further why backlinks are important for your business, but I also tell you the secrets of how the professionals do it that you can try on your own website.
So, what’s a backlink again?
It’s link to your website from another website (or a link from yours to theirs and as Google “spiders” the web and crawls your website and web pages it makes a note of what links you have on there and who you are linking to.
Google needs to see links on websites in order to crawl from website to website and as it crawls it notes it’s journey from site to site and the keywords and domain authority shared between the two.
I sourced a really good image I think it explains it better than I can in words from cognitiveseo.com here:
So you linking to other sites and them linking back to you is a good thing and the more links from ‘authoritative’ sites you can get to your own site, the better.
Google ranks each site based on a number of (secret) factors including how many sites link back to it, but you can determine how it views your site with it’s (now also secret) PageRank score. PageRank is the score that Google gives your site based on how “authoritative” it is and is determined by a series of algorithms that process and analyse collected search data.
It’s a type of academic citation and allows a genuine relationship to be counted and scored between two websites and so helping Google understand how to rank your site for particular keywords and keyphrases against other sites in a similar sector or subject matter to you.
How do you get another website to link back to you?
The idea is that you produce content that is so valuable, other websites will want to link to it.
Think of every useful Wikipedia page or an article on a national newspaper website. These are links that are authoritative and probably useful in terms of how they have been written and published.
However, considering that over 4.4. million blogs are published every day, it can be hard to get your own content seen let alone linked back to.
You could pay for a website to link back to you but that is considered a bad practice by Google and you could be penalised.
Google would much prefer to show a user an ‘organic’ backlink i.e. one that has been added out of choice by the page author because if you’ve paid for that backlink is it really that useful to the end user (and Google is obsessed with the end user).
Where can you start with building backlinks?
By understanding who is already linking back to you, you can understand if you should do more of what’s working!
With heyvickijakes.com I have been lucky enough to be linked to from various events for whom I have provided presentations and talks. That type of link is exceptionally useful for the user of the site who can click through to find out more about me and what I was/will be speaking about.
This means that what I’ve been doing in terms of outreach has been working and I should be continuing to outreach to other events and websites in that sector:
That backlink is counted against my domain name unless the website site owner decided to add something called a “nofollow” link to your website link to avoid you taking advantage of it’s domain authority or avoid being penalised by Google.
It could be possible that if you are starting out that you haven’t got any yet.
If that’s the case then your approach should be to research first:
1. Make a list of websites that you would really like to be featured on: news websites, online magazines, front page of Reddit, industry blogs.
If you’re really struggling then literally Google “blogs about [insert your industry here]” and start to browse through the results to see if they are sites you’d like to have your site link on.
Ask for recommendations from your network and start to bookmark ones that you like and feel are trustworthy and of high quality.
You could then run those sites through the backlink checker tool to see what domain authority they have – the higher the better remember!
2. Google search terms that you think your ideal customer would be using to find businesses like yours and make a note of websites that appear in the top 10 results.
Note to see if you can comment on blog posts …or if you can guest post, and then reach out to the site owner with some value to add!
Commenting on blogs is a good way to start building your confidence in reaching out to blogs but it shouldn’t be the only thing you do to build links.
Your research of whether the site accepts submissions, or if up for collaborations should give you an idea if they would be open for you to reach out and pitch to have your link on their site somehow.
Perhaps you can write a blog article. or do a content swap?
Guest blogging, speaking at events or providing free training in a Facebook group are all ways to add value and get featured on someone else’s website.
There might be a recommendations section on their site that you could pitch to be added to because you add extra value to their site visitors on top of what they already offer?
Don’t reach out and expect an answer straight away!
Also don’t expect an answer if you don’t offer to add value in some way.
I get approached A LOT for backlinks and it’s not always the right fit. It OK for website owners to say “no” – don’t take offense. Move on and find another site to pitch to.
This might seem a big deal when you are first starting out but if you can add outreach to your general SEO tasks and make a concerted effort to look for other sites that you can network with, then it gets easier!
What NOT to do when building your backlinks.
In short – don’t cheat.
Don’t pay to be on a site when it’s not right for the end user.
Don’t spam the comments section of blog posts with your links…
…and any links that you do get featured on other website should not mislead the user.
Don’t tell the user that your link is for one thing but them send them to something totally different.
This is considered “blackhat” and cheating by Google It’s seen it all and it’s a practice that has resulted in many changes to the algorithm over the year to try and combat it. Google will remove your site from search listings if you’re a consistent offender.
This 2011 article from The New York Times covers how big brands had external agencies carry out this practice (possibly unknowingly) and is a good read on the subject.
So there you have it – you build backlinks through research and reaching out.
I’m a total introvert but have managed to do this through proving value in the content that I offer a site owner, enough so that they add my website link without asking (much like I have dotted links throughout this article) or through having an actual conversation with the business behind the website.
The rewards of getting your website featured on an industry blog or news site that your admire feels great and it can be for everyone – not just those good at networking.
You just need to be strategic with who you reach out to and then consistently reach out.
I would love to know how you approach your own backlink building in the comments below!