Backlinks are essential to successful SEO. Without them, your organic traffic will really struggle to get started. If you can convince a lot of other websites to link to your website, you’re already halfway to SEO success.
What are SEO backlinks?
A link from one website to another website is known in the SEO community as a ‘backlink’. A certain website has seen value in your own website, and decided to link to it. They’re essentially quoting you as a reputable source, or simply referring their traffic to your website. It’s a vote of confidence, and Google notices.
Why are backlinks good for SEO?
PageRank, famously invented by Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, makes up the bones of the original Google algorithm. This calculation evaluates the quality and quantity of backlinks to a website. From this, Google decides importance and authority on a scale of 0 – 10 and determines your place in the search results rankings.
Google don’t share their algorithm, so SEO tools create their own form of measuring PageRank. SEOs measure the authority of a website with ‘Domain Authority’ (DA) or ‘Authority Score’. These are scores calculated by the common SEO tools MOZ and SEMrush to determine your website authority. They factor in your backlinks and also some other factors.
How do I get backlinks?
There are multiple ways to get backlinks. The methods are the same whether you’re in New Zealand, or any other country.
Here they are in order of worst idea, to best idea:
Pay for backlinks
Of course you can pay for backlinks, but beware. Google has evolved far past the point of merely counting links. It’s judging the quality and legitimacy of those links as well. While paying for backlinks does result in success for many websites, it almost always comes back to bite them.
You don’t pay for backlinks without knowing you’re putting a website at risk of Google’s dreaded manual penalisation. There are multiple reports in the SEO community of penalties being applied because of backlinks, and organic traffic tanking as a result. Any professional SEO will tell you to avoid paying for backlinks, and focus on these more legitimate methods instead.
Ask friends & family
While only slightly more legitimate than paying for backlinks, a few links from people you know isn’t going to hurt – especially when just starting out. If you know anyone that has a website of their own, see if they can find a way to link back to your website.
If there’s a natural way of linking the two together, you’ll be all the better for it. Just make sure to use keyword-appropriate anchor text as the link. Being able to choose the text for your backlinks is a great benefit to this style of link-building.
Building relationships with other companies is an enjoyable (and mutually beneficial) part of running a business. Try and keep link-building in mind when discussing deals. Whether you’re swapping products for services, or resources for discounts, swapping a link or two can be the cherry on top.
Trading links is a common way for non-competing businesses in similar industries to help each other out with Google visibility. Businesses that align well will benefit from referred services.
Probably the most common methods of gaining backlinks. It goes hand in hand with relationship building, as businesses working together will often align their content strategies as well. A shared marketing campaign is a great way to build a link network between two (or more) websites.
Guest posting can be done with a scattershot or sniper strategy.
- Scattershot – send out an email to as many websites you can think of that you want a backlink from. Tell them you’ll write a blog post for their website, and see how many replies you get.
- Sniper – Research the top 50 websites you want to get a backlink from (the higher Domain Authority, the better), and look at the type of content they post on their blog. Then, tailor an email to each specific website and offer to write a specific blog post.
Scattershot is a great strategy to execute on an ongoing basis. Fire out 20 emails a month to a few medium-DA websites and you’ll almost always pull in a few opportunities. You’ll find that often they require payment, but paying for one backlink at a time is unlikely to arouse suspicion from Google.
Backlink generation efforts should always implement sniper strategy first. Create a list of your top 50 target websites with high DA, and get to work. Make sure you tailor each email to the target, and do as much work for them upfront as possible. Think of a blog title and let them know how you can help distribute it. Tell them you can include it in an email marketing campaign, or social media post. The more willing you are to work together, the higher your chances of mutual benefit and an ongoing relationship.
Creating good content
Lastly, the key to any good backlinking strategy is simply to create good content. The best backlinks are the ones that come naturally. It’s a true vote of confidence from another content creator. Create and write content that people want to consume, and you will find that quality backlinks build over time.
The added benefit of a natural backlink is that anyone following it to your website is far more likely to be interested in what you have to offer. Paying or manipulating users for backlinks usually results in awkwardly placed links that aren’t relevant to the viewer.
Remember, Google is looking at what people do after they click a link as well. It’s measuring how long they stay on the new website after leaving the old one, and what they do when they get there.
Are backlinks the key to SEO?
Regardless of how you get your backlinks, the real value comes from providing users with the best experience possible. If the user follows the backlink and finds what they want, Google will recognise this and reward you for providing the answer. As with all things SEO, user behaviour is the ultimate deciding factor.