What Is A Backlink, And How Do You Get One?
Okay, backlinks are important. But how do you build them?
As you now know, Google looks at the number of backlinks and the quality of these links to determine the importance of a website. Consequently, SEO experts put a lot of effort into getting more backlinks for their customers. But there are good and bad ways of accomplishing this.
Building quality backlinks takes a lot of effort and time. This isn’t a one-and-done operation. This takes ongoing dedication and effort. Some examples of proper backlink building include:
Guest Posting & Blogging
Are there quality websites dedicated to your industry that accept guest articles? Try contacting them with the offer of one or more free articles on a relevant topic in exchange for a byline with a link back to your website.
But bear in mind that you can’t guest post just anywhere and expect that it’ll help. In fact, for years black hatters have perverted the value of guest posts by ‘creating private blog networks,’ which put out mass quantities of low-quality content for the sole purpose of exchanging backlinks. Google has caught on to this, and penalizes websites accordingly. So, you want to ensure that you only provide guest posts to reputable, respected websites that are relevant to your industry.
Journalists and writers are always on the lookout for experts to contribute quotes for their articles. Some (but not all) will include backlinks to their sources’ websites. Getting quotes in media outlets is a great way to not only get backlinks, but also build credibility within your industry. Even in instances where you don’t get backlinks, this profile page for PMM’s CEO Josh Rubin is a good example of how you can showcase your media appearances – something which both Google and your clients value when it comes to evaluating your authority.
But how do you get quoted in news articles? Websites such as HARO and ProfNet can help you to connect with journalists who have specific needs, and there are other tools that allow you to send interesting pitches to writers. Even monitoring Twitter for relevant conversations between journalists can yield opportunities to connect with writers working on pieces involving your industry.
Business address listings on Google, Yelp, LinkedIn, Facebook, Yellow Pages, and elsewhere count as backlinks. Perhaps more importantly, they also go a long ways towards helping customers find your business! There are many, many such sites. A good way to approach this once you’ve gotten the biggies out of the way – Google should be your first priority – is to make a point of setting up a couple new citation profiles every week or so. Search around for updated lists of reputable business listing sites, and use it as a checklist.
If you aren’t familiar with press releases, these are essentially advertisements in the form of news pieces that tout exciting new developments at your business. While press releases are more or less corporate propaganda, they are published on many prominent news sites with backlinks to your site.
However, not all press releases are created equal. Cheap press release services don’t publish anywhere that will get you worthwhile links. For this to work, you’ll have to work with high quality publishers such as Business Wire or PR Newswire. Beware: it will cost you dearly – about $1,000 for a 500 word press release.
But if you do it properly, it can be worth your money. Also, press releases can be much more than just a block of text. In December 2018, we ran a press release through Business Wire that had multiple backlinks, stylized call outs, and even a video! If you put effort into them, press releases can be not just a source of backlinks, but also serve as a great marketing piece as well.
Donating your time or money to local charities, organizations, and schools is actually a great – yet often overlooked – way of obtaining backlinks. Such organizations often have pages where they promote sponsors and donors, giving you the opportunity to net a backlink from a trusted organization. If such an organization has a donors section on their homepage, that’s even better!
So, now we’re getting to backlinks that have relatively little, or even negative value. The value of web directories has diminished dramatically in recent years. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, when was the last time that you used a web directory to find anything, rather than just doing a Google search? Google recognizes that directories don’t have any real world worth, and so they don’t accord much value to backlinks on them. But there is an exception to this rule. Submitting your website to local, industry-specific and niche directories can net you worthwhile backlinks. But if you can’t imagine a circumstance where someone would use a certain directory, then it’s probably not worth your time.
Paid Ad Links
When we talk about ad links, we’re not talking about search ads on Google or Bing, or social media ads on Facebook or LinkedIn. We’re talking about sites that charge a fee for post a backlink to your site, and which may or may not make it clear that the link is a paid advertisement. Technically, this is a grey or black hat area, as it more or less amounts to link farming when it’s abused. Google describes such arrangements as “link schemes,” and takes a pretty firm stance against them.
When done in a very selective and appropriate manner, such as by paying for advertising – that’s clearly marked as such – on the website of a reputable industry organization, it can work well. Just be careful, as even these links may run afoul of Google’s standards.
Social media is a mixed bag when it comes to backlinks. There is a modicum of value, as social media sites allow you to link to your website in your profile. However, these days Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites mark links as ‘nofollow,’ meaning that they don’t pass SEO value (sometimes referred to as “link juice”) to the linked site. These links won’t do anything to boost your site’s performance in search results.
These are ‘tit-for-tat’ links. For instance, you make a deal with your friend who has a business website to have him place a link to your website, and in exchange your website links back to his. In the dark ages of SEO, this used to be somewhat effective. But these days, Google considers such ‘link exchanges’ to be link schemes, and you may get hit with a penalty if you’re excessive and obvious about it. This isn’t to say that swapping links is always bad, but if your only motive is SEO, then odds are that you shouldn’t do it.
Blog/Forum Comments and Profiles
Many years ago, low-quality SEO firms loved to abuse the comments sections of blogs, forums, and news sites as a way to build backlinks for clients. This approach is pretty ineffective these days, as most reputable sites that are worth having backlinks on have responded to such abuse by making all such links ‘nofollow.’ While sites like Quora and industry-specific forums are great for sharing your expertise and raising your visibility, you’re not going to get any SEO value from them.