So you’re looking to bring more traffic to your website but you’re not sure how.
You’ve most likely done a bit of research into SEO, PPC, and social media, but found that the more you look into SEO, the further down the rabbit hole you get.
I’ve said it before and I will say it time and time again, SEO is the foundation of all digital strategies, from domain authority, to social pages, to keyword and content optimization, to backlinking. All have their perks and all contribute to each other. But arguably the most effective and strategic SEO tactic is backlinking.
What is Backlinking?
Backlinking is the process of having other sites and sources link back to your site.
When Google and other search engines rank your site in terms of quality, your domain authority is taken into account. Your domain authority essentially is a score that search engines give your site based primarily on both the age of your site and the number of quality websites linking back to yours.
For instance, pretend you wrote a great blog about the prime aeration periods for cool season grasses, such as Kentucky Blue Grass. Then John Deere were to link to your site to reference that blog, your site would gain valuable “link juice” from such a credible source as John Deere. Search engines would then assume John Deere, a credible source, notices your site as a credible source as well.
Although linking out to other relevant sources that match your content can provide you with great SEO value, it is nowhere near as effective as having sites link to yours.
So Why is Backlinking Important?
Backlinking is the number one way to not only receive a lot of organic traffic to your site from other sites, but to also get your site to rank higher in Google and other search engines. In fact, Google has come out and said that backlinks are among their top 3 ranking signals, especially for off-site SEO.
You’ve probably heard the expression, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” This is exactly true with Google. As long as there are multiple credible sources linking to each other, Google will trust these sources for the relevant keywords that each site has.
When a website with a high domain authority links to another site, that link carries what we call “link juice”, or more appropriately referred to as “link equity”. Link juice is simply an idea to express the intangible quality score that the source is providing by supplying a link to a site. Websites that have a higher domain authority would essentially supply more “link juice” through links.
The more juice you have, the higher your domain authority and PageRank increases.
Quantity Versus Quality
It’s important to note that not all backlinks are created equal. There are a lot of digital marketing agencies and freelancers out there that think more backlinks equal higher page scores and domain authority with search engines.
Although this could be true, it is important to note that the links that are coming to your site need to be relevant to the content on your site or from trusted directory sites like Angie’s List, Yelp, or, Houzz.
Back in the old days, when Yahoo! and Ask Jeeves (yes, Ask is still around) were dominant players in the search engine game, Google entered the picture. Google quickly rose to the top with their PageRank algorithm. This algorithm determined the quality of the page based on the quantity of links that linked to it.
Seems simple enough. Get as many sites to link to yours as possible no matter how relevant they are. Yes it worked back then, but Google got smart.
Prior to June of 2012, it was a common practice to develop link schemes to capitalize on the backlinks to your site. People / businesses would pay to have their link distributed to multiple sites, related or not, to simply have more backlinks, even if the content was irrelevant to their site.
So Google came out with an update and improvements to their “Penguin” algorithm. One of the major updates to this change was an update to links on sites. No longer was this trick going to be beneficial to websites.
Google wants to provide the best experience to users possible and displaying a site at the top of search results simply because it has the most links to it isn’t the best way to convey that principle.
Now it is important to have credible, relevant, and quality links to your site. Paying freelancers or agencies to distribute your links simply based on quantity could land you some harsh penalties by Google including exclusion of your site from appearing on search engines!
If you’re looking for more detail on the history of SEO and Google, then check out “SEO Part 1: What is SEO?” where I not only cover the fundamentals of SEO, but also a brief history of it.
Avoiding Low Quality Links
It is possible to receive a manual action from Google resulting in a penalty due to poor quality links directing to your page and is imperative to avoid these.
Google has instituted penalties for low quality and unrelated links. Mostly due to the link schemes and “blackhat” SEO techniques that digital marketers used to use to game Google’s algorithm to rank their site higher on the search results.
Picking up on this hack, the algorithm for Google was updated. However, it doesn’t seem like every “digital marketer” out there has picked up on this update.
Either that, or they don’t care.
Fortunately, I care. I care that your site does not receive any penalties from Google and you can take advantage of quality link juice from credible sources. Some spammy sites will even link to yours without you knowing. You can see the sites that link to yours in your Google Web Masters Tools.
These sites can not only land you those harsh penalties I was talking about earlier, but can definitely impact your SEO quality score.
Here is a really handy guide on how to see which sites are linking to yours and how to check if they’re credible as well as requesting access to have your link removed.
So How Do You Get Good Quality Backlinks?
There are multiple ways to get quality backlinks to link to your site. The problem is they take some quality work.
Here are a few examples I’ll cover briefly on how to get them:
Guest posting is when you offer to post on another site or platform and link back to your website.
Guest posting is most common either on an actual guest posting blog platform and on another organizations website.
However, Google has come out and said that these guest blogging platforms are not such a good idea.
In fact, Matt Cutts, Google’s former Head of Webspam Team had come out and said,
So stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy.
Yes it’s true, but Google’s algorithm simply takes measures to reduce issues of people spamming links.
Guest blogging still works, when it is done correctly.
Local Directories are a fantastic way to increase your local SEO ranking and another great way to get high quality links back to your website. There are a lot of directories out there that you can list your company’s contact information on for free.
There are over 10,000 directories out there. Fortunately Moz has an excellent free tool that lets you see which ones are right for your market and how to add your company’s profile to each.
Checking Broken Links
Another popular way to get backlinks is to check broken links on a website that is relevant to your industry.
Perhaps there is a consumer’s guide to local landscaping ideas but on their website, they have a link to a company’s blog on certain perennials.
If that link is broken, as if the company had changed their website domain or has gone out of business, then it would be smart move to contact the webmaster of that website and make them aware of the broken link.
Then offer to use a similar link to your website to replace it.
But you don’t have to check every single link on a site. All you have to do is scan a page using a handy Chrome Extension for broken link checks.
Create Awesome Content
This of course is easier said than done. It’s no secret that amazing content that informs and instructs the reader is going to get a lot of natural traffic and social shares.
What makes awesome content? My answer to that is context.
People are more willing to engage with content when the context is set. If it’s been an incredibly rainy season, write a great, informational blog on preventing lawn fungus.
If it had been a reasonably mild Winter, write a great blog on the importance of preventative pest control measures.
I could have definitely used one this Winter for the flea and oak mite problem I struggled with.
Hopefully now you have a basic understanding of what backlinks are, what they can do for you, the importance of making sure they’re quality, and how to get a few of them.
It’s important to know that this blog has just touched on a few points of backlinks as well as how to get them.
So if you still feel a little lost, that’s okay, keep reading and don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions.