Webmasters and backlinks can be fickle friends. For some webmasters, backlinks are a godsend that solves a number of search problems at once. For others, they’re finicky, manipulative tools that cause more havoc to the search world than good.
Whichever camp you fall into, we can all agree that backlinks play a significant role in increasing your website’s SERP rankings and traffic. Some SEO specialists will go even further and tell you that backlinks are more than just ‘significant’ – they’re the single most important factor driving higher search engine rankings.
But before you dive straight into building backlinks, first thing’s first… What are backlinks, and how exactly can they improve your Google page rank?
What is a backlink?
Imagine you’re running a shoe repair business in the pre-Internet era. To spread the word about your business you speak to local shoe retailers about leaving some of your business cards at the counter. After all, someone who owns a pair of shoes is bound to need repairs sooner or later. The shoe retailers – who have known you for years and trust in your repair skills – agree, and soon you have business cards in stores all over your area.
A backlink is the online, 21st century equivalent of these business cards. Not only does it link from one website to another related website, it’s also an endorsement of the latter by the former. In the same way that those shoe retailers agreeing to display your business cards to their customers was an endorsement of your work, search engines view backlinks to your site as a vote of confidence. In short, backlinks tell search engines that your website can be trusted.
How backlinks work when it comes to website rankings
In the shoe repair example, it’s easy to see how the business cards can drive greater interest in the business. With SEO, it isn’t always so straightforward. While independent studies have proven the correlation between backlinks and improved keyword rankings, no one really knows the extent to which backlinks currently influence Google’s PageRank score. It’s possible that we never will.
What we do know is that backlinks are a tried-and-tested method of increasing organic performance and SERP positions. Andrey Lipattsev, Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google, suggests that link building and high quality content are the two most important signals used by Google to rank your website for search. If that information (straight from the source itself) doesn’t make you want to build backlinks fast, we’re not sure what will.
How & when to build backlinks for your website
Before you jump head-first into link building, it’s important to understand the importance of a well optimised and SEO-friendly website structure to effective backlink building.
- Is my website indexed correctly and showing up on Google?
- Is the content I currently serve of a high quality and useful to users?
- Is my content fast and easy to access on all devices?
- Is my website secure?
- Is my sitemap setup correctly?
- Is my website using correct redirect and 404 protocols with no unnecessary chains?
5 ways to create backlinks & improve your page rank
1. Champion link reclamation
Backlink building is an involved process that takes a lot of time and effort. Understandably, this makes it all the more frustrating when hard-earned links suddenly disappear (which, unfortunately, happens quite often). Link reclamation is the process by which you find broken backlinks – including ones that have gone missing – on both your website and other websites and resolve the following issues:
- 404 errors: Reviewing and repairing any URLs on your website that have referring domains but return a 404 error.
- 301 redirect chains: Finding and fixing any 301 redirect chains where a page on your website redirects to another page that’s already redirected.
- Social media links: Finding linked brand mentions that link to your social media accounts instead of your website.
- Domain name misspellings: Locating brand mentions where the author has made an error when inserting a backlink to your page, such as a misspelled URL.
2. Claim unlinked brand mentions
Unlike link reclamation, claiming unlinked brand mentions deals with backlink opportunities, rather than broken or incorrect links. These opportunities take three main forms:
- Unlinked brand mentions: Locating online references to anything directly related to your brand not currently linking back to your brand’s website.
- Unlinked images: Identifying which websites have featured your images without a brand mention.
- Broken link building: Finding pages linking to broken links on your competitors’ websites and requesting those links be updated to link to a similar piece of content you have created on your own website.
In all cases, you’ll want to reach out to the website hosting the unlinked content and politely request that they add a link pointing readers to your website.
3. Create quality, link-worthy content
Writing high quality content that effectively answers searchers queries is an excellent way to up your backlink game. SEO heavyweights HubSpot contend that businesses that regularly publish blog posts receive 350% more traffic than those who don’t. Google has even confirmed this multiple times.
But what is ‘high quality content’, you ask? In short, it’s content that:
- People actually want to read because it provides a benefit to them
- People love so much they want to share it on their own blog or social media page
- Encourages the reader to come back for more
This kind of engaging, useful content has a much easier time gaining backlinks organically, saving you significant time spent on link building. Every content strategist uses a range of techniques to write great, SEO-friendly content, but some of the main steps are:
Know your audience
Make sure that the content you create is targeted squarely at your audience. Figure out their needs, wants, habits, and pet peeves, and then tailor your content to suit.
Conduct keyword research
No matter how good your content is, it’s useless if potential readers can’t find it. Conduct comprehensive keyword research to identify exactly what users are searching for, and weave those keywords into your copy in a natural way.
Go deeper in your content
Websites that produce quality content with exceptional depth are known to soar in search rankings. Long-form content is a must, as it gets an average of 77% more backlinks than shorter articles. Resource-based, link-worthy content such as an “ultimate guide” or whitepaper will also help get you noticed.
Use the Skyscraper Technique
The Skyscraper Technique revisits existing high-performing content and refines it by taking a more in-depth, targeted approach. The refreshed content is then reshared with sites that linked to the original piece of content.
Does your site have existing content? If so, instead of starting from scratch, simply optimise it using the techniques above and republish and reshare accordingly. You can go even further by releasing this content in a different form, such as a video, infographic or interactive piece.
4. Branch out into Digital PR
Just like traditional PR, Digital PR is used to generate awareness of a brand and its products through digital channels such as blogs and social media. Having your brand mentioned in the most authoritative blogs and websites in your industry, with a link pointing back to your website, will significantly boost your page rankings.
In addition to brand mention backlink building, “guest posting” (also known as “guest blogging”) is a very common and effective from of Digital PR. Essentially, a guest post is any content that you write for a website that’s not your own, with the intention of having the other website link back to yours.
If topics related to your industry are generating buzz in the press, reach out and offer your unique knowledge and insights on the topic. Guest posts position your brand as a thought leader in your category and grow a trusting audience, while also increasing backlinks and traffic to your website by:
- Demonstrating your expertise
- Providing industry insights
- Driving brand awareness
- Building an authoritative link profile
Let’s say you’re a vet, and you want to share your expertise with a wider audience to grow your customer base. You can search for pet-related blogs and offer to write an informative post on checking your pet’s health. Ideally, readers will find your content useful, relevant and engaging, your backlinks will grow, and customers may be more likely to consider your company the next time they need to choose a vet.
5. Position yourself as an expert (and actually become one)
Another great backlink building tactic in 2020 is compiling a resource for searchers to read, return to, and reference. Some approaches include:
Competitions & awards
Publishing a well-researched annual review or report – such as a list of “Australia’s top employers” – is an awesome way to achieve high quality backlinks from authoritative companies named on the list. After all, who wouldn’t want to brag about the fact they were voted top of their field?
Guides & courses
In-depth guides and online courses and tests are a great way to get good backlinks. Looking at the example of Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO, one of the SEO world’s Holy Grail texts, shows just how effective publishing these resources can be from a link building perspective:
Online tools that provide an immediate and useful service for customers, such as calculators, generators or translators, are a great way to boost traffic and backlinks. The company NerdWallet has amassed a huge 2 million backlinks by compiling online tools, with their Cost of Living Calculator garnering over 5,000 backlinks alone.
Build backlinks, build your brand
By now, it should be clear to you that backlinks aren’t just one piece of the SEO puzzle: They’re a crucial part that can help other pieces fit together perfectly.
In the end, every little bit of backlinking counts – so go out there and get ‘em!
If you’re not sure where to start or would prefer a little more guidance on improving your SEO, link building, or outreach strategies, get in touch with Yoghurt Digital’s team of digital specialists today!