Backlinks remain a key part of any website’s long-term SEO strategy, even though good backlinking is both unreliable, and difficult to achieve.
While search engines have come a long way since the days of Netscape, the basic principle behind any good search engine remains the same: all data ultimately serves to help the algorithm better sort new and existing information and provide users with relevant, experienced, and authoritative content.
Note that authoritative does not necessarily mean good. Google and other search engines are not the arbiters of truth and quality – popularity and authority weigh much more heavily into how Google ranks a page than the veracity of its content, or even its quality.
News organizations, established companies, large foundations, global organizations, research institutes and online magazines are all much more likely to rank fresh content than a company’s new domain with little to no web presence, because these organizations are more likely to share backlinks throughout the web, and because they have a real-world authority that carries over into the Internet.
Establishing the same level of authority from scratch is almost impossible. But through clever and careful SEO, you can leverage backlinks and other factors to rank for less competitive, yet still relevant long-tail keywords, and carve out your own niche for potential customers and search engine users doing research in your industry.
What is a Backlink?
A backlink, or an inbound link, is a hyperlink on any other website pointing to one of your pages. It is not the same as an internal link, which would be a link within one of your pages pointing to another one of your pages. Backlinks can be both valuable and harmful – if your website has a lot of backlinks from major news organizations, the value of these backlinks will heavily propel your website in the eyes of most search engines, as that positive reputation “rubs off” on your own.
But if your website has a lot of inbound links from well-known spam sites, click farming websites, or black-hat SEO sources, this becomes a red flag that search engines like Google might take to mean that you likely tried to use dubious methods to inflate your ranking, such as buying links from cheap sources. This is why many websites utilize the no-follow attribute to eliminate any association between their content and poor-quality websites linking to it.
It’s not all doom-and-gloom, though. You can get good quality backlinks without receiving a major reference for an article in the Los Angeles Times or featuring in a university’s report on new research. However, this is a long-term process. Just like there are no true get-rich-quick schemes, there are no true get-good-backlinks-quick schemes.
Natural vs. “Artificial” Backlinking
When it comes down to it, the best way to earn backlinks is to produce content that other qualitative websites link to.
The Internet is a huge community, and only a fraction of it consists of elite, established brands. There may be dozens of smaller content producers, blogs, industry insiders, review channels, and other sources of content that may have an interest in hosting a link to your stuff.
Posting good content isn’t enough. You need to make sure that content is seen. Your chances of being linked to increase exponentially if other content creators see your pages. That, in turn, leads to better ranking, which increases your backlink potential, which increases your ranking – a true snowball effect.
In contrast, artificial backlinks are backlinks you paid for without going through the trouble of making them relevant. The problem with these is that Google and other search engines are getting better and better at recognizing and flagging paid backlinks
Examples of artificial backlinks include posting a smaller, tangentially related blog a nominal fee to link back to your product or website or creating a completely irrelevant guest post on an influencer’s page to improve your domain authority.
Backlinks can be paid for and incorporated effectively into your SEO if their inclusion makes sense, is relevant to all parties, and feels “natural”.
For example, it makes sense for a review channel to link to your product. It makes sense for a commentator in your industry to link to a press release on your website. It makes sense for a business insider to use data you provided in a blog post as a source for their report.
Let’s go over some key pointers to making backlinks work for you.
Produce Original Content
The greatest indicator of whether a piece of content will be worth linking to outside of the context of a mutual agreement is its value to the community. Does your content provide new information? Is it helping visitors in ways other similar websites wouldn’t?
Even if you are simply recontextualizing existing information in a way that is more digestible and cohesive than other pages, you’re succeeding in creating original content.
Create content that others can use and link to as a resource for their audience.
- Eric Sachs, CEO
It’s essential to create a plan before you start producing content. For the best results, you should spend time researching what’s already out there, what’s popular, and what to avoid. Once you have a good idea of who your target audience is, what they want, and what type of content tends to do well, you can create a digital content strategy that has the best chance of attracting high-quality backlinks.
Improve On Existing Posts
A great way to try and produce quality content without going out of your way to creating something completely new is to look for popular posts in your industry and think of ways you could improve them.
What are they missing? Could you do better with the visual data representation? Do you think the post is outdated? Do you have better sources? Can you combine the information presented in two or three posts in a single, informative guide?
Utilize Influencer Collaboration
Paid backlinks are one thing, but it’s another to consider a mutual collaboration with an influencer in your sphere, such as a product reviewer or guest interviewee.
These collaborations can be mutually beneficial, while going beyond simply exchanging links – in these instances, both parties benefit from the creation of new content on both channels. This might not be applicable to certain industries, but many companies can benefit from identifying the loudest and largest voices in their industry and working with them.
Quality Over Quantity
You don’t need to be producing content on a daily basis to reap the benefits of fresh content in an SEO context. Consider taking some time every now and again to analyze and improve on your existing posts instead. Google likes content that has stuck around for a while, especially if it is “evergreen” (i.e., relevant across time).
If you have a particular blog post or article that is more popular or successful, revisit it and expand upon it. You’d be surprised to see how your metrics can improve on older content – which can help you net more backlinks and jump up in relevant search term rankings.
Outside of producing better content, collaborating with other voices in the industry, and being careful about the way you’re incorporating paid backlinks, there are other important factors to consider when updating your SEO tactics for backlinking in 2022.
A professional SEO firm can help you identify your weaknesses and improve your website’s search performance across the board.