In this blog, we’ll establish what a backlink is, how it can benefit your website and how to best utilise backlinks to improve your website traffic.
Whether you have an in-house marketing team or utilising a third party for your marketing efforts, building a portfolio of backlinks should be high on your list of priorities.
In this day and age, simply having a website is not enough to bring potential customers flocking. Once your website is released into the digital high street, you need to ensure people know you exist. One of the best ways to do this is to optimise your website for search engines (Google etc) – Known by the commonly used term SEO (Search Engine Optimisation).
There are a number of SEO activities you should undertake as standard, such as producing high quality content, working on your internal linking structure and producing relevant page titles, but when you are ready to take the next step, backlinks are where you step up a level.
What are backlinks in SEO
You may be concerned about your lack of website traffic even though you are regularly producing great content. The issue may be the lack of external sites linking to your website (known as backlinks).
A backlink is created when an external website links to yours. This is why you may have heard them referred to as ‘external backlinks’ or ‘inbound links’.
A good portfolio of backlinks from reputable high authority websites have the ability to benefit your website greatly as Google views each link in the same way we would take advantage a personal recommendation. The more links a website has pointing to it, the more credibility it would hold, and the higher it would rank in search results – providing they are relevant and done correctly – which is the difference between creating a portfolio of high quality backlinks and creating a detrimental affect on your organic presence.
When should I consider building my backlink portfolio
Realistically, you should only be working backlinks into your SEO strategy when you have built up enough content on your website and your website navigation is slick. If not, you are bringing people to your website who are likely to bounce straight back off (a bounce is when someone enters a webpage but completes no action, including navigating to another webpage, before leaving your website).
There are certain things that you need to ensure are up to standard before bringing in more website visitors. Firstly, technical and UX issues need to be addressed to avoid bringing visitors to a website that is hard to navigate. Some technical issues you need to be aware of are:
Site Speed – if your site takes a long time to load the content, the odds are people will bounce almost straight away
Mobile Friendliness – in an age where everything is accessible at your fingertips, your website needs to be reflective of that. If your website isn’t mobile friendly and people arrive at your website on their mobile device, they will struggle to navigate the desktop version and, again, likely bounce.
Duplication Issues – this can relate to duplicate on-page content or duplicate page titles (meta). It is best practice to keep everything unique and this means when producing your website content, it should be unique to you, not plagiarised from another source.
Status Errors – errors such as 404’s won’t directly affect your SEO efforts, but the fact that Google cannot crawl your website correctly, or easily, will.
Redirect chains – these need to be fixed if there are any as this is a simple resolution that can improve your site’s authority once fixed. The problem you can see below is that “Page B” is acting as a buffer between “Page A” and the final destination “Page C”. When a URL is redirected, it should have a single 301 redirect in place.
What to consider when building your backlinks
You need to run a ‘neighbourhood check’ on the websites you want to target for your backlink strategy. You can use a tool such as AHRefs which will provide you with the following details:
- Number of referring domains
- Total number of backlinks
- Domain rating (DR)
- URL rating (UR)
- AHRefs rank
You can also export the list of current backlinks from a website and filter these down by the following components before you undertake any new backlink projects.
- Link type (dofollow/nofollow)
- Referring domain
With this information, you can make informed decisions about how you conduct your backlink research and whether the domains you select will be beneficial.
Where to start building backlinks
Building your backlink portfolio can be a tedious task, but the benefits outweigh the work put in initially. It is time consuming and a backlink request can get lost among a mountain of emails in an inbox. If you do get a response, you could be flat out denied, so it’s a good idea to look at other methods before reaching out to potential hosts. You need to build a request that is almost impossible for the host to turn down, or offer a monetary figure in order to get the backlink published. You need to understand what the site owners are looking for and offer them a proposition that fills this gap. For example, a host could already be linking to a piece of content, but your observations have found that this content is outdated and you have fresher, more up to date content that would be better for the host to link to. Go for it, let them know the content they are linking to is outdated and request they link to your content instead.
Promoting bad content is a waste of time, as is promoting good content to the wrong people. There’s a few reasons authority websites link to good content:
- It’s relevant to the messages they want to convey to their website visitors
- It reinforces their own claims and opinions or sheds a positive light on them
- It adds value to their site visitors
- It does not compete with or undermine their service offering and is not self-promotional
There’s also a couple of elements your content should contain to make it more worthy of earning backlinks:
- It is useful and immediately actionable for the end user
- It is reinforced through thoughtful, quality design and custom graphics
- It is comprehensive, answering all the questions a user may have on a particular topic without sending them elsewhere
- It is memorable and tells a story
When building your backlinks it is important to diversify your traffic sources. If you are a small website it may not necessarily be as important, but if you have a large portfolio of backlinks that point from one domain or IP, then Google may have reason to investigate.
Backlinking best practices
The key is to get backlinks in a sustainable way without getting involved in any shady backlink tactics as this is known as ‘black hat’ SEO, which is both unethical and ineffective in the long run. Black hat SEO often involves tries to ‘play’ the Google Algorithm, but don’t take into account that when the Algorithm changes, your efforts can set you even further back than when you started.
It is important to create great content that people want to link to and share with their website visitors, known as ‘white hat’ SEO.
A lot of hosting plans will place you on the same server as many other websites. If these other websites are ‘spammy’ and not liked by Google, then these can have an impact on your own SEO as you are classed as being in a ‘bad SEO Neighbourhood’.
A bad neighbourhood would be sharing a server with websites that feature gambling or adult content for example. You would also receive a black mark against you for having backlinks from these kinds of websites.
Part of building backlinks is that you need to sell your value – the resource you offer needs to have a benefit to the host website or you are likely to be dismissed before you barely start.
If you are a independent or franchise car dealer and would like to discuss your SEO in more detail, please get in touch.