What Are Backlinks? Why they matter and how to get them

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Backlinks are, in layman’s terms, links used by sites to connect to other sites. We see them all the time in opinion pieces and blogs which cite the news and trusted, industry-specific publications. In the spheres of marketing and SEO the definition is taken one step further to describe backlinks as a key component to SEO strategies. They are incredibly useful for building up a company’s reputation while opening up new business opportunities, and improving a site’s ranking all at the same time.

Needless to say, backlinks aren’t just important, they’re powerful. Backlinks can make or break your site’s SERP ranking by influencing the way Google’s algorithm perceives you. We all know the saying about great power and great responsibility, so having the power of backlinking at your fingertips means you need to have a well-informed strategy rather than linking whenever the opportunity presents itself. This is the linking equivalent of keyword stuffing.

What is it about backlinks that makes them so powerful? How can a results based growth marketing company use them to help you craft your SEO strategy, improving the performance of both your website and your entire business? We’re glad you asked.

CREDIBILITY

To be clear, improper backlinking on your end isn’t the only way that your site’s reputation can be harmed – that’s an easy fix. Other sites that backlink to you, on the other hand, can give you a boost or secure you a decline. When this happens they are called toxic backlinks. Toxic backlinks can be removed through direct communication, your results based growth marketing company, and through Google when all else fails.

In other words, you’re not the only person who is capable of harming your site’s performance so the blame doesn’t lie with you. That said, backlinks from credible and relevant sites can and will do the opposite of toxic backlinking. When backlinks bring external traffic your way your SERP standing improves more than you may realize. Getting a shout out from credible and trusted sources establishes you as an authority figure on the subject and tells readers that you are worth visiting. Otherwise entities with such high standing would not mention you in the first place.

It’s unlikely that your site’s blog is going to be backlinked in an article in Huffington Post or L.A. Times early on so don’t get your hopes up just yet. Instead, get in touch with industry professionals and thought leaders.

NETWORKING

Backlinks are a goldmine for networking opportunities. They build rapport and relationships with other businesses just like your own or with similar interests. In fact, backlinking is more likely to happen with businesses that already know you and can vouch for your brand. That’s not to say you should spam people on LinkedIn with requests to link back to you if you do the same for them. Instead, take the time to build meaningful and mutually beneficial relationships that organically result (pun intended) in collaborative content. We’ll talk more about that later in the post.

Another way to make connections on LinkedIn is through recycling your blog posts. LinkedIn content marketing makes it easier for others in your industry to find you. That’s the very reason people use LinkedIn, and chances are plenty of other users are going the same thing.

REFERRAL TRAFFIC

When you are mentioned or endorsed on another website you can expect a boost in traffic. People are always on the hunt for more content to consume, and providing quality content boosts your reputation amongst prospective customers just as much as it does your peers. Further, the people who come to your site through a backlink are already potentially qualified prospects. If the interest is already present then they’re more likely to engage.

RANKING

Now the most important part- how does this affect your ranking? First, Google likes to see social interaction. It assumes that these interactions are indicators of quality content and things people want to see. If that’s the case, Google is more than happy to provide.

Second, Google rewards you for having backlinks on sites that are performing well. If high ranking sites are linking your content to theirs, Google assumes that your content will provide just as much value. Google is essentially rewarding you for working your way into the good graces of the upper echelon.

There are three primary ways to generate backlinks- naturally, manually, and links that are self-created.

Natural backlinks are backlinks created without any effort on your part. Content that is targeted and consistently high quality is more likely to receive a backlink, so recycling your older content can help you receive natural backlinks.

Manual backlinks are those received through actual effort. There’s no harm in reaching out to other people to discuss backlinking to each other, but you need to be careful about who you’re connecting with. They should be in the same industry or have content that references your industry often.

For example, let’s pretend that an online publication for parents whose children have ADHD wrote a piece on the ways that diet can affect medication. They will likely backlink to sites that consistently provide content about psychology, psychopharmacology, parenting, and nutrition. But they will frequently backlink to some more than others; in this example parenting would take precedence over nutrition. This publication is being mindful of the relevance that someone else’s content has to their audiences.

Self-created links are links that you yourself place to generate traffic. You need to be very careful with these, because this is one of the most common mistakes people make when they try their hand at backlinking. Excessive use will hurt your ranking which completely defeats the process. Here are some strategic ways to backlink to your website:

  • Providing a link on your social media accounts
  • Taking ownership of a page about your business on a review site and providing the link in your contract information
  • If you guest blog for another site you can include a link in your brief biography at the very bottom of the post

Here are some ways that can harm your ranking:

  • Submitting your link to too many directories
  • Repeatedly placing it in the comment section of other sites
  • Repeatedly putting it on forums and message boards

CONTENT STRATEGIES

Content creation and content marketing is a strategy that uses the high value content your site provides to boost your traffic and fortify your brand strategy. Backlinking is frequently used in content marketing because content is the best place to use backlinks.

We already mentioned LinkedIn, which connects you with other industry figures. We only alluded to guest blogging, so we’ll go into more detail now. Guest blogging is when one of your blog posts is featured on another website. This is the most mutually beneficial way to use blog content, as both your site and someone else’s can receive referral traffic. It can be used in content marketing or in a blog content SEO strategy, further demonstrating just how versatile backlinks really are.

Speaking of versatility, let’s talk about formatting and type of content. Consistency of topics and tone are necessary for visitor retention, but it’s recommended to switch up the type of content you use now and then. Using long-form content such as white papers and ebooks prevents monotony, strengthens your reputation, and can generate new leads in readers who prefer long content to short blog posts.

BRING IT ALL TOGETHER

We’ve talked about the utility and importance of backlinking. We also made mention of the ways that backlinking can hurt your ranking and performance. Don’t let this scare you away from trying. The best way to nail it is by partnering up with a results based growth marketing company that uses a strategy created with your unique needs in mind. Why wait? Get in touch with our team today. There’s blogging and backlinking to do!

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