The Basics of Backlinks: How to Get Started
Some marketers focus the majority of their efforts on keyword research and content creation. And while those are certainly important pieces to the content marketing puzzle, they’re not the entire puzzle.
You can write post after post of perfectly optimized content, but unless other sources are leading people to that content, your site won’t succeed the way you want it to. That’s why a backlink strategy is so important. Backlinks get eyes on your content and improve your website’s performance in Google search results.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re not alone! That’s why I’ve put together a simple explanation of what backlinks are, why they’re important, and how you can start to build yours.
What is a backlink?
A backlink is any external link back to your website. It can come from a blog, news outlet, social media profile, or anywhere else online. But it has to come from an outside website. If you link your homepage to your blog page, that’s an internal link, not a backlink.
Backlinks to your site from reputable websites are a key indicator of something called Domain Authority. Domain Authority is a number on a scale of 1 to 100, with 100 being the best. Google and Facebook’s Domain Authority is 100.
Domain Authority (DA) is important because it’s one of Google’s ranking factors. Let’s say you and a competitor each write a blog post about the same topic. The blog posts are of equal length, on the same topic, and both provide the same information. But your website’s DA is 14, and your competitor’s DA is 72. Which blog post do you think has a better chance of hitting the front page?
So that’s why DA is important — which is why backlinks are important.
Good vs. bad backlinks
Not all backlinks provide the same DA “juice.” The more reputable a website that links back to yours, the better for you. That’s why you want to try to get backlinks from websites with better DA than yours.
Back in the early days of search engine optimization, unethical SEOs would get dozens of backlinks from any site they could, in an attempt to cheat the system. So Google made an update that penalizes an abundance of “low authority” backlinks, and rewards “high authority” backlinks.
To find out any website’s DA, use a free tool like Neil Patel’s UberSuggest. Just type in the URL to get a basic DA report.
So now that you understand the basics of backlinks…
How should you get them?
Write valuable content
To start, you have to provide something worth linking to. Your blog posts should be in-depth and authoritative. Length isn’t required, but the most detailed and useful pieces of content usually come with higher word counts.
Reach out to bloggers or other businesses in your niche. Offer to write a guest post for them in exchange for a link back to your website. Content marketers always need more content! This has the added advantage of exposing your name and work to a new audience.
If you’re having trouble getting responses from people who may see you as a competitor, reach out to industries that are adjacent to yours. For example, a SaaS marketing firm may not want to publish a guest post from another SaaS marketer. But a restaurant marketing firm may be interested in what a SaaS marketer has to offer.
Become a reporter’s source
Ever wonder where reporters and journalists find all the experts that they quote in their articles? These days, many of them use Help a Reporter Out (HARO).
To become a source for writers, create a “source” account on HARO’s website. Then, you can choose the industries where you have expertise, like High Tech or Business and Finance. You’ll get emails from HARO a few times a day with queries from reporters all over the world who need experts to weigh in for their articles.
If a journalist or blogger uses your quote, you’ll get a juicy backlink. Plus, you’ll be cited as an expert and that’s pretty neat.
Find unlinked mentions
You might have backlink potential you don’t even know about yet in the form of unlinked mentions. An unlinked mention is any citation of you or your company that doesn’t include a backlink to your website.
To find sites that have listed your name, search for your brand, but subtract out your own URL, plus any social media sites. To subtract a URL, just type in the address with a minus sign in front of it, like this: -pinterest.com
A search for your brand could look like this: “My company” -mycompany.com -facebook.com -pinterest.com -twitter.com – instagram.com
If the search returns thousands of results, click Tools under the search bar. Then click “Any Time” to the left, and filter by date. Start with the past month. Check the results for unlinked mentions.
If you find any, send a quick email to the webmaster or any contact you can find. Be very clear about where the mention is, and ask them to insert a link! (Make sure the page has good Domain Authority before you request the link!)
To stay on top of future mentions, set up a Google Alert for your brand going forward. Any time someone mentions your brand name, you’ll get a notification, and you can double check for those backlinks.
The basics of backlinks
There are dozens of strategies you can use to increase your backlink volume. These are just a few to get you started. Once you’ve started along this process, you can start using more advanced backlink strategies. Some can be done for free, but others become cumbersome unless you invest in some helpful technology to make the job easier.
But as always with SEO, the best way to get quality links is to put out quality content!