Since backlinks are one of the top off-site SEO ranking signals that Google uses to rank a web page… and the fact they’re usually free. It’s a no-brainer these should be number one for any business owner to go after with a solid SEO strategy.
But the biggest question I always hear is, “How do I get these backlinks?” Well there are a few ways that are fairly common. In this blog, I’ll be covering the typical ways to get quality backlinks primarily the free way.
Guest posting is probably the number one way to get your website linked to. This involves getting a blog posted on a site relevant to yours. Typically done on websites or platforms with the sole purpose of guest posting. These sites include Forbes, The Guardian, Fast Company, or my personal favorite, Search Engine Land.
The practice here is to write an informative blog or article on a topic relevant to your business. Then you’ll want to have it posted to one of these sites. But of course you make sure you or the owner of that site puts your link in that blog.
The main point of getting quality backlinks is to strengthen your Domain Authority. Higher DA is strongly attributed from sites with an existing high DA that link to yours. The highest score for DA is 100 and Forbes has a whopping 97/100.
Meaning that a backlink from their site to yours is going to net you some high quality link juice!
Seems simple enough. Just create a high quality, informative article that’s publish-worthy to one of these sites and sit back…
Well even if it is that easy for you, know that Google isn’t too fond of this anymore.
Search engine optimizers exploited the PageRank algorithm and gained perceived popularity in Google search results. This resulted in higher search results placing. This is a practice in which Google now labels “misleading the search engines.”
The Google Penguin algorithm update calls for higher standards of backlinking from guest posting sites including:
- Cramming keywords that link to your site into your blog.
- Having the same article published many times across many different sites, especially on sites with a low DA.
- Using and hiring writers to write for you that aren’t very knowledgeable in subjects they’re writing about.
Doing so can get your site blocked from Google’s search engine.
Google doesn’t follow all backlinks to your site from other sites. These are called nofollow links. There are two types of links, dofollow (standard), and nofollow. Nofollow links tell Google not to trace follow that link and pass the juice on.
When guest posting, it is important to make sure the site you want to get a backlink from does not use nofollow links.
This is an easy one. Local directories are the online versions of phone books and are vital for an optimized local SEO strategy. They exist with a sole purpose of providing contact information for your business.
…Well actually it’s to make money off of their upgradeable advertising services.
There are over 10,000 local directories out there. Yet, it’s only important for you to be on ones that matter and are relevant to your industry or the web as a whole. For instance, Yardbook is perfect for local landscaping contractors to have their business listed. It is directed towards customers looking for those local services in their area. While Yellow Pages is more of a general listing site.
Although Yardbook has a much lower DA compared to Yellow Pages, you would want to have your business listed on both. Yardbook is extremely relevant to your industry, and Yellow Pages is extremely relevant to the web as a whole.
What you want to do is avoid sites that are not DIRECTLY related to your business AND have a low DA. You can use this tool I used above to see how sites you’re considering listing with rank.
Don’t know which directories are available to you? Check out yet another free tool from MozLocal. Just enter in some basic info about your business and Moz will pull a list of local directories. These are directories you are either missing from, have incorrect info listed, and are currently on.
The downside is you still have to update these all manually if you want to fix them and it can be very time consuming.
But hey, I know a guy that can do this for you…
It’s important to note that most online directories, while they offer links back to your site, don’t pass on any “link equity” or “link juice” back to your site. They’re labeled as “nofollow” links which essentially tells Google not to follow the link when crawling the directory’s site.
However, there are some good ones out there that offer natural “dofollow” links that will help you get that backlink juice without having to pay. You just have to know which ones those are.
What, did you think I was just going to leave you wondering which sites those are? I wouldn’t do that to you. Here is a really good list from BrightLocal listing out all the best directory sites with dofollow links. Alternatively, typically paying a subscription fee to a lot of these directories will allow your “nofollow” link to become a “dofollow” link.
Check Broken Backlinks
This one seems like a no-brainer. A good website will link out to many sources when posting content. For instance, LawnSite might reference a blog a local landscaper wrote and posted on their site. In that reference they link to that blog they mentioned.
The problem with this, is not all businesses stay in business and not all domains and web pages stay live. Sometimes a domain can move, a web page gets renamed, or the website flat out shuts down.
If any of these are the case, clicking on that backlink will direct to a 404 error if not routed properly. This is no bueno.
But it can be good for you.
If you have content relevant to a broken link that’s published on a website, you can contact the web master and let them know it’s broken. Then tell them you have a link to your site that will work for them and still remain relevant.
Before you think too far into this, you don’t have to click on every single link on a website to see if it’s working. There’s a super handy tool out there called Check My Links. This Chrome Extension will scan the site and look for any links with a 404 error.
Check broken backlinks on sites that are linking to similar topics you already have published on your site. This kills two birds with one stone! It gets a relevant backlink to your site and it fixes a broken one on theirs.
Occasionally, a competitor or someone relevant to your industry that has closes shop. In these cases you can reach out to web masters of websites who have linked out to them.
How do you find these websites you might ask? Simple, you can use a free tool. This tool shows you a limited number of sites linking to the domain you’re trying to take the place of. Otherwise paid versions of programs, like SEMrush, will give you a full list of all these sites.
Create Awesome Content
This is probably the hardest one of all, but paramount to an effective on-page SEO strategy.
Find a novelist or a painter near you and tell them, “All you have to do is write / paint something awesome! You’ve got this!” You’ll probably be met with a furrowed brow and a snicker. You should also probably leave.
Creating awesome content doesn’t come easy, but I can tell you that it can come simply. Just follow some basic principles:
- Write as if you were explaining something to a family member or a friend.
- Write something informative and contextually relevant.
- Use white space! In the age of skimmers, it’s important to keep lines of text easily digestible. In fact, having enough white space between lines increases comprehension by 20%!
- Keep sentences short and simple. I don’t think I need to share a source on why this is important this day in age.
Check out this post from The Hustle on how to write engaging content. The simpler language that is being used the better. You can have your language monitored and highlighted with another handy tool.
Hemingway is a $20 desktop app, but worth it in my opinion if you really care about engaging your readers.
By the way, this blog was edited with Hemingway app.
Why is Awesome Content Important to Backlinks?
Well, would you want to link to crappy content from your site? Probably not.
Great content gains natural traffic that people want to engage and learn from. There is no tricking Google with great, organically driven content. But the copy is just the bones of the piece. It’s important to keep your title tags relevant to search traffic. As well as your alt text on images updated, and even write engaging snippets (meta tags) for Google to show searchers.
Meta tags are a lot like window shopping when a searcher is on Google.
Put your best on display!
So What Did We Learn Today?
We learned that backlinking is one of the best ways to get traffic to your site and rank better in Google.
- Guest posting is a great way to get a link to your site, but be careful with it!
- The benefits of local directories and keeping your business listing up to date and relevant on the web.
- How to check broken backlinks and exchange one of our own to fix the link.
- How to create awesome content by keeping a reader engaged.
- Backlinking and SEO is such a large topic and the amount of blogs and resources covering them are endless.
So stay tuned for more SEO and backlink strategies.