Building a backlink profile is one of the most important SEO factors if your business operates in a competitive market where the SERPs ( Search Engine Results Pages) are crowded with a high number of companies that offer the same service. Whilst onsite and technical aspects are key, backlinks will separate you from the rest if you’re all chasing the same keywords onsite.
What are backlinks and why are they important
Before going any further, let’s touch on some basics. A backlink, simply put, is a link from a website you do not own to a website that you do own. This is done via a hyperlink that is connected to a piece of text (otherwise referred to as anchor text) that is situated within the content that you publish on the website that you do not own.
Backlinks are important because they provide a vote of confidence for Google and communicate that a website is trustworthy, relevant and will provide the information that you require. If we take a step away from websites for just a second and think of this in terms of an analogy it may make things clearer.
Football analogy explaining why backlinks are important.
- The new kid on the block is good at football but no one will give him a chance at a local team. He even gave his number to a local football coach in hope of a call back.
- A local dad is playing football at the park with his son and sees the boy shooting 30 yard belters
- Local dad talks to his son’s football coach about the new kid on the block
- The boy who gave his number to the football coach is later contacted and given a chance.
It’s a little different to Google, but the point is, the local dad is the backlink for the new kid. Google is the football coach who gave the kid a chance – or otherwise lifted him up in the rankings on Google.
A Brief Overview
Backlink campaigns were extremely easy to run pre Google Penguin. However, since Google introduced the updated algorithm in 2011, backlink campaigns have become harder.
Pre 2012, you could use what was called a backlink farm. This is literally a website designed to provide a link to a website and would be complemented by an exact anchor. This is now considered blackhat SEO. Google’s update was designed to stop SEOs manipulating search engines through spammy backlink activity. The algorithm update also made it more competitive as there is more opportunity to rank as a result of natural backlink activity rather than just paying for thousands of backlinks.
As of 2022, backlink profiles require quality, proper data analysis and consideration when it comes to what your competitors are doing.
Simply pointing a couple of links to a website will not suffice. You must consider many factors including
- Anchor Type (exact, partial, naked, natural)
- How many links does the website you intend on linking from have?
- Is the website you’re linking from relevant to your industry
- What landing page are you going to point the anchor and backlink to?
- Is the website you’re linking from is secure?
These are simply the SEO factors. Next, you need to consider:
- How to source backlinks
- Budget for your backlinks
- Building rapport with publishers
- Ensuring the links remain live after payment is made
Not all backlink campaigns require a budget – some simply need good quality content: you should have written or produced a piece of content that is sharable. If the content you have created is of extremely high quality it will naturally be used on other websites. This is referred to as content marketing.
A good example of content marketing producing backlinks is through the use of PR campaigns. If your PR activity can bait the right journalist, you can get published in a top publication which will result in trickle down usage of your story on smaller news websites. All of this activity can result in backlinks.
The most common method of getting a backlink is through guest blogging. You may be wondering, “What is guest blogging?” Guest blogging is simply publishing an article on another website. Not all guest blogs require a backlink but you should always aim to get one.
Why Guest Blogging Is Important?
Guest blogging is important because it is a guaranteed way to get a link. PR activity and content strategies are the ideal solution but are dependent on success. Purchasing content space on another website is guaranteed and you have control over where the link points. Guest blogging must be done monthly to ensure your backlink profile grows. If you stop and your competitors keep purchasing backlinks, your rankings will be impacted negatively! Be progressive with your backlink activity and keep moving forward in the same way you would if you learnt that an Adwords keyword had a low CPC (Cost Per Click) and a healthy CPA (Cost Per Acquisition).
Dofollow vs Nofollow Links
There are two types of backlinks – dofollow and nofollow. The difference is that dofollow links pass on page ratings to the website that the link is pointing to; whereas a nofollow link does not. In all honesty, both links have value and are worth chasing. If anything you want a balance of both dofollow and nofollow as it makes your backlink profile more natural. Referring back to PR activity, not all naturally gained links from a well-thought-out backlink strategy that includes journalists will be dofollow and guess what, Google will know this! With this in mind, if you are paying for a link, always try for a dofollow link but do not obsess over whether a link is dofollow or not as the reality is both have value.
Note: this article will be updated once empirical evidence is produced to prove the above point.
Quality Over Quantity
Like with everything, acquiring quality backlinks will always boost your website’s credibility and rankings. If you can obtain one quality link from a highly relevant website, it will outweigh a high amount of links obtained from less relevant websites.
So for example, if you are an online retailer selling fitness equipment, it would be highly valuable to get a backlink from https://www.strongfitnessmag.com/ rather than getting 20 backlinks from generic websites. Of course, factors such as domain authority (Moz), Trustflow and Citation Flow (Majestic) must be considered, as a generic website can have exceptional metrics, but a relevant industry website is always worth getting. The only issue is, these high-quality websites know this so you must either pay higher prices for advertorials or produce great content that is worth sharing – please note, both can come at a high price. So, the price of the backlink is worth it in the long term as your ROMI (return on marketing investment) will improve overtime through the rewards reaped from the increased SERP results.
Understandably, as a business owner, you may be sceptical about this, especially given that Google is always updating its algorithms. But the reality is, any media is built around content so as long as you are producing quality onsite and offsite content, the investment put into your backlink profile will always be worth the cost.
Therefore, you need a variety of good high-quality backlinks and low level backlinks to keep the SEO engine running.
How To Find Relevant Backlinks
When you start thinking about backlink acquisition, you may wonder where to even begin. Below are a few ideas based on work conducted by Pod.
Competitor Backlink Analysis
The best place to start with anything is by looking at who is on top to start with. If you start to investigate the best ranking competitor (this doesn’t mean who you consider your biggest competitor, but rather the website that sits in position one for the keyword you want) on SEO tools you can start to understand where it is you are lacking from a backlink profile perspective.
If you look at your main keyword and look at your competitors backlink profile you’ll soon appreciate why backlinks are important
Any backlink profile must be built up of a variety that includes directories, unique backlinks you have acquired and a list of those that your competitor has.
If you search hard and strong enough, you will come across relevant websites that can be used as backlinks for your campaign. This is a less targeted approach but is worth doing from time to time as it can provide inspiration. Plus, you can take any websites you found from your sporadic Google searching, put them into SEO tools and gain a more targeted approach when looking for backlinks.
Social media continues to grow but social media is dependent on content! Many websites will publish articles on their social media profiles. Look for industry-relevant profiles on the social channels and see if there are any decent website articles being shared!
Thoughts and Considerations
It is understandable that business owners are sceptical when it comes to investing in marketing because it can be quite difficult to see if your spend results in return. You want to know that your money is being spent wisely.
This scepticism goes hand in hand with the general mistrust of SEO – yet it is the desired marketing channel that any business owner wants because the ROI exceeds any other channel. It is those business owners that trust the process, take sight of the data and invest with an eye on the future that will prosper in the organic rankings.
You really need to invest in backlinks alongside the onsite strategic elements that include technical audits and regular content. Whether you have an inhouse SEO or pay an agency by the hour, it makes sense to add a little extra budget to acquire more and more backlinks over time. You may not get an initial boom of leads from the first backlink, but as you gain more, things will start to happen. If you think your competitors got to position one without a set backlink budget you are mistaken… that is unless your priority keyword is so obscure that no one else is competing for it!
Fingers crossed this has provided insights and answered why backlinks are important. Without a clear backlink plan and profile your SEO efforts are wasted. Even in less competitive market places, backlinks are vital to your organic online marketing success.