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Building Backlinks for SEO is essential, even in 2020. In fact, according to Moz, it’s one of the leading factors that determine your organic local ranking along with On-page signals and Clicks on site. But there’s a time and a place for backlinks and I’ll explain why.
Because of the importance of building backlinks, it’s easy to go down a rabbit hole of trying to get more backlinks for your website, but I’ll be honest with you, if you’re a small business it can be hard and in some cases not worth the effort to spend all your time building backlinks.
So what should you do?
When it comes to building backlinks, there are some essential steps you should take, which I’ll cover below:
But first, What exactly is a backlink?
A Backlink is exactly what it sounds like – a link back to your site from another site.
There are a few ways to get backlinks:
- Guest Appearances
- Promote your own website & content
- Get Featured
The Value of Building Backlinks
It’s important to note that not all backlinks are created equal – each website has what is known as a Domain Authority Score assigned by Google based on how trustworthy, established and authoritative it believes it to be in a specific area.
The higher the Domain Authority and the more relevant to what you do, the higher the perceived value Google sees in the link. I.e. If you’re a Yoga Teacher and a high authority site like Yoga Journal links to your website then there will be a higher perceived value in that link than if a high authority website in the insurance industry links to it or if a low authority discount site links to it.
So with that in mind, what backlinks should you be building:
Build Free Backlinks
Free and organic is where it’s at when it comes to Backlinks. Be very wary against paying for any type of backlink service. The last thing you want is a load of spammy backlinks that drag your site down. You’re better off building free backlinks.
That’s if you build any, more on this to come later….
Building Backlinks Essentials – Google My Business
The most important thing you can do if you’re a local business is to set yourself up a Google My Business listing, it’s completely free and it was designed to help local businesses show up in local search.
A Google My Business account allows you to provide useful information online and most importantly collect google reviews – an essential trust factor for Google.
Google has introduced a number of new features in 2020 including online bookings, online appointments, online classes (for yoga teachers, gyms and fitness instructors) and online care (for practitioners, therapists, nutritionists etc), there’s also the option for online quotations for trades.
I recommend you post to your GMB page at least once a week, as old posts disappear. It’s important that Google sees you are an active business. Post updates, links to blogs, details of events, industry news etc.
Essential Backlinks to build – Citations
When it comes to how your business is listed online, Google places a lot of weight on NAP (Name, Address & Phone number). Not only should your Name, Address and Phone Number be listed in the footer of your website, it should also be listed across the web in business directories to help people find you. These are called Citations.
It’s important that wherever your business is listed you use the same format everywhere. E.g. Don’t write Southampton in one place and So’ton in another. Having a local telephone number is also recommended.
Make sure that your business is included in all the main relevant directories and listings. As a minimum, you want to have a listing on Yell (especially since they announced their collaboration with Amazon Alexa voice Search, Yelp, Bing Business pages and Apple Maps.
You’ll also want to make sure you’re listed in the Top 50 citation sites for your location.
Since backlink relevancy is important, It’s also a good idea to get yourself listed in niche directories as well.
Essential Backlinks to build – Social Media
Make sure that wherever you have a social media account you link back to your website.
|Social Platform||Where to add backlinks for your site|
|YouTube||header, description and individual video descriptions|
|personal account, business page, group, posts|
|link in bio – use tailwind smart.bio to add links to specific pages & posts. IGTV descriptions|
|Personal bio, business page, articles, posts, Slideshare|
|Bio & posts|
|Bio and pins|
|Google My Business||Profile, Description, posts|
Posting regularly on social media can provide an ongoing series of backlinks to your website. The best platforms for backlinks tend to be YouTube and Pinterest, both are search engines in their own right and provide more options for longer lasting exposure for evergreen content.
YouTube is owned by Google and so it’s weighted heavily in terms of domain authority.
Become a Guest to Build Backlinks
Another way to get backlinks to your site is to write guest articles or appear as a guest on a podcast. This not only exposes you to new audiences, but it also provides opportunities to link back to your website – especially if you create bonus materials for the readers/listeners that are housed on your website.
Target Backlinks – News Sites
Many of the large news sites have a high domain authority, which is why you’ll hear about the value of PR and ‘getting featured’. PR can be incredible for your business and if done right can drive a huge amount of traffic to your website via backlinks.
Whilst you can’t buy this kind of publicity, don’t be tricked into thinking that PR is free. You’ll need to invest a lot of time and effort into targeting the right publications or sites and creating the right content.
If you’re interested in going down this path I highly recommend reading Your Press Release is Breaking my Heart by Janet Murray.
Publishing Original Research is a great way to get links to your website. News sites are always interested in quality research that provides an insightful view into an industry or situation.
If you have a large following you can poll your audience, send out questionnaires or build your research into quizzes and use the answers to compile the information into a newsworthy story. Big insurance companies and beauty companies like Loreal use this sort of data all the time.
In the past YouGov was the leader in survey data, we used to use them all the time when I worked for Barratt Homes – all those surveys you see about the kitchen being the favourite room in the house, or a yoga room being top on people’s home wish list, they all came from YouGov data.
Google Surveys is another way to reach large audiences if you don’t have your own and it’s a more affordable option for smaller businesses. You can poll Google’s vast audience to provide relevant insights and research, they allow specific demographic targeting.
The Best way to Build Backlinks in 2020
You’ll hear a lot written about having a backlink strategy, doing backlink outreach and using software to mass email people. But to be honest, none of this is a smart way to build backlinks.
Targeting blogs with broken links and trying to get your content linked instead is a laborious and often fruitless task. One that I and many others in the SEO world don’t recommend.
The best way to build backlinks is… wait for it…
To create SHAREABLE and COMPELLING CONTENT.
Put simply, create the best, most comprehensive content available on your topic and people will link to it. The types of content that get frequently linked to include
- Original Research
- Comprehensive guides
- Viral/Entertaining content
Build Credibility not just backlinks
It’s important to build backlinks but it’s also important to build credibility, especially since Google introduced EAT (Expertise, Authority and Trust) to their algorithm.
In fact, John Meuller, Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google reiterated this point stating that “Links are definitely not the most important SEO factor”. It’s important to think beyond the link!
- Start with your About me page – update it to include your qualifications and credentials plus any industry accreditations. It’s also a good place to have some testimonials and and ‘social proof’ such as an ‘as featured in’ section.
- Include links to any articles, podcasts, blogs, events you’ve featured in.
- Quality reviews are also a key indicator of trust so make sure you’re asking all of your clients for Google reviews. Facebook, Yell and Yelp reviews count but aren’t given as much weight when it comes to Google’s own in deciding where you rank.
Build Internal Links
If you only write one article around a particular topic Google won’t consider you much of an expert.
If you write 100 useful articles about that topic, referencing and linking to other useful articles that you’ve written, Google will see that you have some level of expertise in the area and be more inclined to rank your site more highly.
Not to mention that building internal links to related topics is seriously helpful for someone reading your articles.
For instance, linking you to my free online guide: SEO essentials: 9 ways to get more traffic is relevant if you’re trying to boost traffic to your website and provides Google with valuable context for the type of content I provide.
SEO expert Neil Patel did some research that showed if you build at least 3 internal links to each page, you are more likely to reach a higher rank with new blogs.
You should also make it a habit to periodically update your internal links from time to time and make sure when you add new blog posts you have a plan for how that post will sit within a wider blog strategy.
So what’s better than Backlinks?
Content over Backlinks
The SEO gurus that are ‘Income School’ recommend spending 95% of your time creating quality new content. Specifically original research, Statistics, tables and definitive guides.
This theory is something that is echoed by numerous SEO experts I know and one I would agree with from my own experience.
When I built my site from 300 to 17,000 hits a month, we didn’t reach out to a single site to try and get them to feature us. We simply created lots of high quality content including blog posts, articles and guides.
I’m also a big fan of content repurposing, which is a great way of sharing your content across multiple platforms to gain extra traffic for your content and create organic backlinks of your own.
Whilst you’re spending all that time reaching out to people to try and get your content noticed, you could be creating more incredible content, sharing that and establishing yourself as an expert in your own right.
Which brings me onto my final point.
Build a Brand before Backlinks
It’s no surprise that as a Brand designer & strategist I’m going to shout about the benefits of branding. When it comes to your content and driving traffic to your website it’s so important to
- Establish yourself as an authority
- Create an identity for your content
- Show your value
- Gain people’s trust
- Build a community
All of this can be done by building a brand. When you have your own community of loyal brand advocates and followers you won’t need to spend time begging people to link to your content, you’ll have a whole community ready to share your content for you.
Start your own podcast, build your own blog, build an audience online, get involved on Pinterest – all of these are a far better use of your time than simply trying to build backlinks.
And if you want to learn how to generate more traffic and leads for your website download my Secrets to creating a lead generating website free guide.
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