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Search Engine Optimization: Backlinks & How to Create Them
Search engine optimization (SEO) is an ever-changing discipline, and the art and science of getting a website onto the first page of search results is something that every SEO expert wants to achieve.
Although the details of how Google and other search engines rank a website are closely guarded secrets, everyone involved in SEO agrees that backlinks are a very important factor in ranking.
Backlinks are one of the most powerful ways that search engines find out about quality content. Having good backlinks to your website will increase your rank in search results and ultimately attract more visitors.
This article explores what backlinks are and provides practical advice on how to create backlinks and increase your website's visibility. We'll explore:
- What is a backlink?
- What is it that makes backlinks important and valuable for SEO?
- Are backlinks good for human visitors too?
- What is the best way to get backlinks?
- What are some other methods that can be used to get backlinks?
- Posting links to your articles on link submissions sites
- Sharing on social networks like Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus and more
- Commenting on blogs and forum posts
- Guest blogging and posting
- Sharing your expertise
- Other areas
What is a backlink?
A backlink is simply a link to your website or other online content that comes from another website. An example of how a backlink is created would be:
- You write an article about, for example, simple website navigation and publish it on your website.
- Someone else puts together a guide to creating the perfect website and whilst researching they come across your article, read it and enjoy it and believe it would be a good resource for their readers.
- In their guide, they include a sentence like: 'If you want to find out more about simple website navigation, check out this article' <includes link to your website>.
That link, from their website to yours, is a backlink.
What is it that makes backlinks important and valuable for SEO?
Among other things, search engines use backlinks as a measure of a website's popularity and quality. Google and their competitors use the number and quality of backlinks to help them judge and rank the relevance and value of the content of a website and specific pages on that site.
More backlinks from reputable sources means that the search engines will regard your content as important and worthwhile, meaning that they are more likely to show it in their search results.
Are backlinks good for human visitors too?
Yes, backlinks are a great way for readers to find relevant, related information without having to look too far. Anything that improves a reader's experience on a website is worth considering.
When you write content, it's always a good idea to include backlinks to other content on your own site and around the web. This will enhance the information that you provide to your audience.
What is the best way to get backlinks?
The very best way to get backlinks is to write excellent content. Articles that are worthwhile to readers are more likely to be shared and referenced by them, both on social media and from other websites.
This means that great content will naturally gather backlinks over time, increasing its value in the search engine rankings. Although this is the best way to get backlinks, it isn't the easiest or the quickest and there are other methods.
What are some other methods that can be used to get backlinks?
Other methods of gaining backlinks vary in ease of use and how effective they are. You should use these methods sparingly and not become overly reliant on just one or two techniques.
Posting links to your articles on link submissions sites
Sites such as StumbleUpon, Reddit, SheToldMe, Red Gage, Delicious, BizSugar and more allow users to submit links to articles that other site users can discover.
Because anyone can post links to these services, the backlinks from them are not considered especially valuable. You should also review the terms of each of these sites to find out about their link submission guidelines.
Sharing on social networks like Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus and more
If you have a following on social media that's interested in your content, it's worth sharing your links and articles there.
If the information is relevant to your audience, they may share your posts onwards, further increasing the reach and visibility of your website.
Commenting on blogs and forum posts
If you find content related to your website on a blog or forum, and you believe that readers would be interested, you can leave a comment together with a link back to your site.
Be careful when using this technique and make sure that any links you post are relevant and valuable to other readers.
Guest blogging and posting
Although guest blogging is being devalued by Google, there can be some advantages to writing guest posts.
You should find a guest blog that covers a niche closely related to your own and write very relevant, focused posts that can include a link back to your content.
Fact about blogging
- Three quarters of us read a blog every day
- 70% of us say that blogs influence the things that we buy
- There are four times as many search pages for businesses that have a blog and a blogging strategy, as those without
Places to find guest blogging opportunities
There are many sites out there that can put good writers and reputable blog sites in contact with each other, to create a high-quality guest blogging experience, for writer, publisher and the reader of the blog; some of the most popular ones are:
Guidelines for guest bloggers
- Search Google for high quality blogs (i.e. those that are well ranked, with authority and engaged readers)
- Read the guest posting and quality guidelines for the blog
- Contact the blog owner or other nominated contact
- Explain something about yourself, your skills, expertise and experience for writing content
- Suggest some topics for guest posts that they might want to see
- When writing your post, ensure that you create useful, worthwhile, valuable content that servers a purpose
- Don't stuff your content with keywords or over-optimize it; write for people, not Google
- Include a link to your author bio, Google Plus page or other website in your byline / footer
Things to avoid
If you want to avoid a Google slap for spammy posts, make sure you avoid the following:
- Getting only 'dofollow' links from the blog
- Accept money for guest posting (Google doesn't like paid sites)
- Use 'spun' guest articles
- Provide low quality content
Things to remember about guest blogging
You, the blog and the reader will get the most value out of your guest posts if:
- Your content aligns with the overall subject of the blog
- You provide high-quality, well written, unique content
- The content is of use to the readers of the blog and engages them
- The content is not spammy and doers not contain overly optimized keywords or links
Sharing your expertise
Question and answer and content sites such as Quora, WebAnswers, HubPages and more can be a good place to demonstrate your expertise and experience.
If you answer questions or write articles there, you can often link back to your own content, providing relevant backlinks.
Are there any areas or techniques that should be avoided when creating backlinks?
Google and other search engines are getting smarter about devaluing backlinks from certain areas. You should generally avoid getting backlinks by the following means:
- Article directories - These have been hit hard by Google updates and links from article directories are generally of very low value.
- Blanket posting / 'spamming' your links - Seeing lots of links to content appearing over a short period of time is a red flag to the search engines. Artificially posting and sharing your link extensively over a few days will devalue all of the links.
- Posting to irrelevant sites - You should only share links to your content where the links will be appreciated. This means only posting links into highly relevant communities, blogs, forums or other online destinations. If it's not relevant to the audience, don't post it.
You can use Google Webmaster Tools to understand who is linking to your website and content and if you find undesirable links, you can use the webmaster 'disavow' tool to get Google to ignore them.
Increasing trust in your backlinks
There is an increasing importance and authority that Google is giving to 'Trusted Sites' - These are sites that Google considers to have high-quality, relevant, easy to understand, valuable content. Points to consider include:
- Whether a website that links to you will provide additional, quality traffic to your site
- How would you feel if a person went to the site linking to you and found your business listed there?
- Is it easy to add your site? If it's too easy to add your site, the chances are that it won't help your SERPs ranking
- Does the site linking to you relate to the business you are doing? Context is very important
How to build backlinks by Matt Cutts (Google Expert)
What's your favorite techniques for building backlinks?
Naturally occurring backlinks that point to great content are the most effective way to increase your visibility in search results.
Using these techniques can increase your ranking on the search engines and ultimately get more visitors to your website.