What is a backlink? Backlinks are incoming links from one website to another. They are an important part of SEO (search engine optimization) because search engines use them to determine the relevance and authority of a website. A backlink is essentially a vote of confidence from one website to another. For example, if a website links to yours, search engines view this as a sign that your website is relevant and authoritative.
Backlinks can be created in a variety of ways. The most common way is to link to another website from your own website. This could be done through a blog post, an article, or even a link in the website navigation. You can also create backlinks by submitting your website to online directories and websites that list resources, such as Yelp.
Additionally, you can use social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, to promote your website and create backlinks. Backlinks are an important part of SEO because they help search engines understand the relevance of your website. The more high-quality backlinks you have, the higher your website will rank in search engine results (in theory).
How Can I Get More Backlinks?
Now that we've covered the importance of backlinks let's discuss some of the ways to obtain new backlinks:
- Publish high-quality content
- Guest-post on other websites
- Create content that targets long-tail keywords
- Reach out to influencers in your industry
- Include links to your website in your social media posts
- Leverage the power of social media influencers
- Participate in online forums and Q&A sites
- Comment on other blogs (appropriately)
- Use internal linking to link from one page of your website to another
- Leverage email outreach to build relationships with other websites
White Hat Backlinking Tactics
The term "white hat" refers to the ethical way of performing a task. When we talk about SEO, we often refer to methods as white hat, gray hat, and black hat, white hat methods being the industry standard and non-spammy methods and black hat methods being hacky, unethical, and often violating Google, Bing, and other search engine rules. Alternatively, gray hat refers to methods that aren't necessarily unethical or don't directly violate any rules but are a bit unorthodox and could lead to shadowbanning or unwanted consequences in the future.
When it comes to garnering a backlink—oftentimes referred to as link building or backlinking—there are several important distinctions to make between a white hat backlink and a black hat backlink:
This is the most important aspect of link building! Other websites will not want to direct their traffic to your website unless you constantly publish high-quality content that demonstrates Expertise, Experience, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness, or E-E-A-T.
Expecting other websites to link to your 400-word press release pertaining to your local HVAC company is unrealistic unless you are a mega-corporation that interests many people. Make sure to target popular topics, study your competition, and publish content that is in-depth and does a better job of explaining said topics than your competition.
People love infographics and for good reason. In our experience, nearly 50% of our backlinking efforts are only achievable by adding a high-quality infographic or a visually appealing post summary. Infographics come in many shapes and sizes, so make sure to do your research and see what posts you will be up against in the ranks.
Building a vast network of contacts is a great way to get your posts in front of many eyes. Email outreach is the most effective way to garner backlinks (assuming you haven't been skimping on quality content). But before you spam a random list of contacts, do some research; most marketing folks don't have time to help you figure out which post of theirs should link to which post of yours.
Create a gameplan; in your email, provide them with no more than three posts of yours and no more than three posts of theirs that would be a strong backlink fit. By doing the work and saying, "I think this post of mine would be a great backlink fit on this post of yours in paragraph four," your chances of locking down that high-quality backlink will increase tenfold.
Black Hat Backlinking Tactics to Avoid
Now that we've covered some of the proper ways to get a backlink let's talk about some black hat methods to be aware of and avoid.
Paying for Backlinks
Although it might seem like a no-brainer, paying another website to link to yours, or vice versa, is strictly forbidden by most search engines. This tactic is considered black hat and should be avoided at all costs. One important distinction to make, however, is that paying for backlinking services is not considered black hat since the agency/contractor is being paid for their time and effort to garner a backlink, not paying for the backlink itself.
The reason this is considered black hat is that paying for a backlink immediately removes the organic value of a post. Rather than spending hours and hours focusing on publishing factual and informative content, paying for backlinks removes the assurance that a post demonstrates E-E-A-T.
Private Blog Networks
Another black hat method for backlinking is the act of creating a bunch of websites—whether manually or using bots—and using that network of websites for the sole intention of backlinking to your website or other people's websites as a paid service.
This is an extremely spammy method that search engines can easily detect and should be avoided. Many search engines punish websites that use spammy methods like this one, which can destroy your domain's reputation for years, making it impossible to rank.
Spamming Blog Comments
Just because other websites have a comments section on their blog posts does not mean it is a good idea to leave a comment with a link to your website. Not only is this a futile effort—since most websites automatically mark all commented links a nofollow OR spam, but it is highly unethical to waste other people's server bandwidth with spam comments aimed to benefit you and your website.
Of course, there are certain situations where it's appropriate to link to your website, but spam comments are not the right approach to link building.
Low-Quality Guest Posts
Guest posting tends to fall more in the gray hat area of SEO but should be avoided altogether in some instances. Guest posting is a form of content marketing in which a writer creates an article and publishes it on another website or blog, usually in exchange for a backlink to their own website or blog. It's a way to tap into the readership of another website or blog and gain exposure for one's own website or blog.
Many websites will offer payment in exchange for a guest post, which ultimately means they want to pay you so they can write a blog (usually of poor quality) and link back to their website. This is often a poor idea and can hurt your domain's reputation for years to come since that is a violation of search engines' guidelines.
On the other hand, guest posting on other people's websites can seem like a great idea. But, unless that website has a high domain authority, a high organic traffic stream, and allows guest posting for free, it can be a colossal waste of time. Do your research and ensure that if you are going to be a guest poster that it will bring value to your website rather than harm its chances of ranking in the future.
Dofollow Backlinks vs. Nofollow Backlinks
Dofollow backlinks are links from one website to another website with a command to search engine spiders to follow the link, giving it equity. These links help to improve the search engine rankings of the linked page by boosting a website's domain authority. Dofollow links also help generate organic traffic to a website.
Nofollow backlinks are links from one website to another website with a command to search engine spiders not to follow the link, giving it no equity whatsoever. These links do not help to improve the search engine rankings of the linked page since they do not boost a website's domain authority. Despite having no link equity, nofollow backlinks can still generate organic traffic to your website.
A website with a higher domain authority that wants to link to a page on a website with a lower domain authority would most likely use a nofollow link since linking to lower authority websites can actually harm a website's domain authority score. Make sure before linking to an external source you understand their domain authority and the implications it might have on your website.
How do Backlinks Influence Domain Authority?
When other websites link to your website using a dofollow link, it indicates to search engines that your website is trustworthy and relevant, which can help increase domain authority. The more high-quality dofollow backlinks from relevant websites your website has, the higher its domain authority will be.
What is Domain Authority?
Domain Authority is a metric developed by Moz to give website owners and marketers an indication of how well their website is likely to perform in search engine rankings. It is based on a scale from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating a higher likelihood of ranking well in search engine results. Domain Authority is influenced by various factors such as website content, inbound links, the number of referring domains, and Page Authority.
While domain authority is an important factor when ranking on SERPs, it is not the only factor of importance and should be attended to in conjunction with other SEO practices.
For more information on backlinks and how they can influence your SEO campaign, contact us today.