Backlinking – best practices
Author: Natalie Banks - Digital Marketing Specialist
When it comes to search engine optimisation, the term ‘backlinking’ gets thrown around a lot. Most of us know that we need to build backlinks, but what’s the best way to go about it without causing any issues for your website?
The importance of backlinks
Backlinks serve an important purpose as they act as a ‘digital word of mouth’ for Google, which can affect how your website ranks.
There are different types of backlinks, including do-follow, no-follow and sponsored. Do-follow backlinks are the most credible as they allow ‘link juice’ to flow down from the website that provides the backlink. Link juice refers to the passing of value from one domain to another.
If their website has a higher domain authority, this can work in your favour – less so if their domain authority is lower.
No-follow backlinks don’t pass down any link juice, but can still serve a purpose by referring traffic to another domain.
Sponsored backlinks will be tagged as so if the link has been bought in any which way, in the means of a sponsored post of if the link has been paid for.
In 2012, Google released their Penguin update which aimed to penalise websites who had previously partaken in ‘black hat’ SEO tactics including manipulative link building activities such as paying for backlinks that weren’t categorised as sponsored.
This means that webmasters were trying to manipulate the search rankings so Google cracked down on this and tried to better understand the links that a website was building. By understanding this, Google can ascertain whether links were built naturally or manipulated.
In order to fix a black hat backlink strategy, webmasters were required to submit a disavow file to Google Search Console if they could not get the backlinks removed from spam websites.
What is Black Hat SEO?
Black Hat SEO is categorised as adopting tactics that manipulate search engine results rather than providing a positive user experience. This can include paying for backlinks or backlink exchanges.
Black Hat SEO may not be automatically noticed by Google, but when the next algorithm update is released, webmasters may find that rankings drop dramatically. It can be difficult to return when a website is hit by an algorithm update, but certainly not impossible. It’s important that the webmaster understands where the Black Hat tactics have been implemented and work on reversing them.
What are the best backlinking tactics?
Backlinks should always be built credibly, by creating quality content that other websites want to link back to.
Organically generated backlinks
Backlinks can be organically built by creating meaningful and authoritative content on a particular topic. If you write content that meets the needs of the user, Google is more likely to place you at the top of the rankings, which means when it comes to other websites looking for a source, your article has a much better chance of been cited and thus linked to.
There is no requirement for the webmaster to tag the backlink as sponsored, so this is usually the best method of building do-follow backlinks that pass down link juice.
HARO (Help a Reporter Out) is a way of putting journalists who are looking for sources for their articles in touch with content creators and experts in certain fields. It takes away a lot of the manual back and forth for both journalists and bloggers.
How does HARO work
Signing up to HARO is quick and simple – head to HARO and sign up using the online form. Once you’ve signed up, you’ll then be put on the distribution list for journalists’ queries which arrive in your inbox 3 times a day (Monday to Friday).
When the mail arrives, you will be shown a list of queries with a brief of what content is required and more often than not, what publication it is for.
We recommend you check the Domain Authority of the domain in question so you can establish whether it is worth gaining a backlink from the publication or not.
Once you find a relevant query you want to respond to, you will be able to send an email to a masked email address (this just means it is delivered via HARO, so they can field responses).
How to pitch
Your pitch should be short but to the point and include a bio that the publication will include to source your content.
Try not to be too promotional, as the likelihood is, you won’t get published. The content should be informative and helpful for the reader, so place a link to your website strategically, so it looks natural.
You will only have a certain amount of time to submit your pitch, so it’s best to check your emails at a certain time each day so you don’t miss anything.
Benefits of HARO
HARO puts you in touch with journalists from large publications and media outlets so it’s the best chance to build backlinks from high domain authority websites that would otherwise be considered unattainable.
It also puts you in contact with journalists at a time when they are looking for your knowledge, rather than pitching to them when they don’t require your input.
Outreach is historically one of the most preferred methods of backlinking, as it allows you to pitch your content to journalists in relevant industries.
More often than not, this will be done when you create a new blog post or you come across a high domain authority website that you would like to build a link on.
This process does require a lot of manual work so it can become tedious very quickly.
Skyscraper content refers to the method of writing a blog post that goes into much more depth than the top-ranking article, aiming to get your article ranking above.
Once your article is written, you will need to continue with the standard outreach method but the skyscraper content will provide a much better talking point from the outset.
The first port of call should be to analyse the backlinks of the article you were trying to outrank and gather the contact details of the publication.
You can then go about pitching your piece of content as a more up to date article that covers topics in more detail.
What else to consider
There are certain things you should avoid when it comes to backlinking, including building links on spam websites (link farms etc) and reciprocal linking where it doesn’t make sense to do so.