Backlinks are links on other websites that point to your website. They’re one of the most important factors for search engines when they judge how valuable your website is, and how high up the results to put you.
They got a bad name a few years ago because people were trying to cheat the system, stuffing links everywhere, even hiding them, without much care for how useful they would be to the humans reading the page. This was a terrible SEO practice and Google quickly changed their algorithms to fight it. So if your SEO agency is still recommending keyword-stuffing or, even worse, buying backlinks, then it’s time to say goodbye.
Google is renowned for changing its ranking system continuously, but the general rule of thumb these days is to design and write for humans. Trickery or deception of any kind is likely to lead to you plummeting down the rankings or even being blacklisted. So, well, don’t.
First, choose to work with websites that use do-follow links. That means that Google and other search engines will give your website brownie points for being linked to. The alternative, no-follow links, stop this from happening and are often used in places where it’s quick and easy for internet users to add content, like comment boxes. So before you waste your time adding thoughtful content and links, make sure that you’re adding them to a page that will give you Google juice for it.
Second, be descriptive in your links. Companies used to fill their text with exact matches of keywords they wanted to rank for, then use those keywords as links to pages on their own site filled with countless more uses of those keywords. As you can imagine, this quickly led to painful, almost unreadable gibberish as pages were over-written for keywords and not for humans.
Since Google cracked down on this, the best practice is to be honest about what you’re linking to: use the name of your company or the title of the piece of content you’re linking to. Web users should know exactly what they’re clicking through to, and in return Google will rank you higher.
This provides the user with more information about what they’ll be clicking through to, and so the backlink will be viewed by Google as more valuable.
Step one of any backlink-building strategy is choosing where to put your content to get maximum exposure and reward. For a start, you’ll need to choose websites in a relevant niche that are popular and update their content frequently.
The importance of popularity is fairly obviously, but it’s vital to get your content in front of an audience that will be interested in what you’re saying. If your company builds lorries then there’s no point writing guest content for an adventure holiday site. Think of your perfect customer and go to the places on the web that they visit.
Search engines value fresh content, so also look for sites that add new stuff multiple times per week. The more valuable Google thinks the site is, the more valuable the backlinks will be to your site.
It used to be the case that you could just venture out onto the internet and add a comment to any blog you find, stuffing a link to your website at the end. Do not do this now. At best, the comments boxes will all be no-follow links and you’ll have wasted your time, at worst you’ll get a spammy backlink profile which will cripple your website’s ranking.
If you’re going to try commenting on blogs, make sure that you’re actually adding something useful to the conversation and that links you provide point to specific, relevant information, not just to your home page.
There are two far better ways to build backlinks. They take more thinking about, but can give much, much better rewards.
We’re not talking about memes involving cats who for some reason have terrible grammar. We’re talking about tools and information that are really useful for your target audience, something that’s free and easy to share in a blog or on social media. The key is to give people something they’ll actually want to use.
You could think about:
If you’re already writing your own website content (and you should be), then this is a great way to use the same skills to build your site’s reputation.
Both of these approaches take more thought and work than comment-spamming, but they’ll actually give you results and you’ll build reputation with humans and search engines alike.
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