Google and other search engines use complex algorithms to decide what content appears when users enter a search. If your content ranks well for multiple search queries, users are more likely to click on it, which means more visitors converting into leads and customers. Backlinks play an important part in this ranking system. Backlink building strategies can help you improve your Google rank, and get your high-quality content in front of your audience. Consider these 8 backlink building strategies as you develop your content.
What are backlinks?
Backlinks are hyperlinks from one website to another. Backlinks can occur anywhere on a website, and their location impacts their value (we’ll discuss this later in the post). The most valuable backlinks are in-text links, like this one about internal links from Moz. Internal links point visitors towards another page on your site. External links point visitors towards a page on a different website. For this post, when referring to backlinks, we will be talking about external backlinks.
Why do backlinks matter?
Backlinks are like a vote of confidence from one website to another. When a website gives you a backlink, it means the webmaster or content author considers your page and your website reliable and informative. This sends the same indication to Google. A page with a large backlink profile is more likely to be reliable, informative, and helpful to Google users, so Google (and other search engines) will rank this content higher. This is often called Domain Authority; the measure of a website’s perceived reliability, authority, and usefulness.
Keep in mind that, though backlink building strategies are important, they’re only one piece of a complex search engine optimization (SEO) puzzle. If backlinks were the only factor deciding how content ranks, it would be easy to “trick” the algorithm. Businesses with many websites would also have a very unfair advantage, which we will discuss later in the post. To improve your content rank, it’s helpful to have a good understanding of SEO strategies as a whole.
8 Backlink Building Strategies to Improve Your Google Rank
1. Create Exceptional Content
The first and most important backlink building strategy is to create exceptional content. If your content is not informative, reliable, thorough and original, the rest of these strategies are unlikely to work.
Though it can be helpful to look towards similar websites for topic ideas and inspiration, never plagiarize another person’s work. Duplicate content may removed from a search engine results page (SERP) entirely. If you find a particular section helpful, include it in your content in quotes, and link to the original page. If you find an image, chart, video, or similar content helpful, ask for permission to use this content, or look for the website’s accreditation policy. Some websites will allow you to republish their infographics and other content, when you provide the appropriate attribution. Others strictly forbid this. Remember that republishing another’s work without permission is intellectual property theft.
Some types of content are especially helpful and effective. Though these can be more difficult to create, they can help you win backlinks. Consider the following as you’re creating content.
- Original research: Original research, such as polls, interviews, and surveys, can help to answer complicated questions with more than hypotheses. These will also be more interesting to readers and other content creators.
- Good formatting: Proper formatting, spelling and grammar are essential for a good reading experience. While a few errors are unavoidable, lots of errors will start to detract from your authority.
- Sources: Use reliable sources and backlinks in your own content to show where your information is coming from.
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2. Share Your Content
Once you’ve created stellar content, that doesn’t mean it will automatically rise to a top SERP spot, or win lots of backlinks. This is especially true for relatively new websites. You’ll have to actively share your content with others to gain exposure. Generally, more exposure means more visitors, which can help to increase your rank and win even more visitors. More visitors also increases the likelihood that another content creator will see your content, find it helpful, and link to it.
Consider all of the following places to share your content:
- Your social media pages
- Micro-blogs like Tumblr or forums like Reddit
- Blogging platforms, like Medium
- Q&A sites, like StackExchange or Quora
- Your newsletter
- Your homepage
- In the comments section on related posts
3. Ask for Backlinks From Related Sites
Another good backlink building strategy is to ask for backlinks. This may sound simple, but doing it effectively is a bit more complex.
First, you’ll need to find content that could be improved by a backlink to your site. However, the page can’t cover the same topic or directly compete with yours—the content creator will be pretty unlikely to link to a competing page. You’ll need to find adjacent content from authoritative sites.
Consider what questions or topics your content might help to explain, and create a rough content map. For example, say you own a landscaping company, and you created a blog post about the causes of dead patches in lawns. A garden center might write a post or page about which fertilizers to fix dead patches. These pages are related, but not competing. This would be a great place to ask for a backlink to your post. Content mapping tools like Answer The Public can help you find adjacent topics.
4. Research Competing Posts
This backlink building strategy also involves asking for links, but with a slightly different starting point.
First, do a search on your target keywords, and see what competing posts come up. Then, use a backlink checker tool to see where these pages have backlinks. A number of SEO tools, like Ahrefs, Moz, BuzzSumo, Raven and others provide backlink checkers on a paid or trial basis. If you’ve created better content than your competitors, politely point this out to the websites that link to them, and ask for a backlink. This backlink building strategy was coined by SEO expert Brian Dean as the Skyscraper Technique.
When contacting websites, remember to maintain a helpful, positive tone, pointing out your content’s strengths, not running down your competitors. Don’t expect every inquiry to yield a backlink—the very best inquiries have about an 11% success rate. However, persistence and patience can make this a powerful backlink building strategy.
5. Build Partnerships
Partnerships are powerful both online and offline. Consider the clients, colleagues, suppliers, or other businesses or organizations you have close relationships with; how many have websites? Are they also working on boosting their search rank and backlink building strategies? There may be opportunities for you both to share each other’s content and build backlinks.
Consider the following business relationships, and which you might approach about backlinks.
- Professional organizations
- Local organizations
- Clients or customers
- Industry publications
- Industry bloggers
6. Leverage Your Web Properties
If you own other websites, consider where you can include links to between your sites. Keep in mind that links in the body text will be most valuable, but links in the header or footer will appear on multiple pages, creating multiple links. This is a good way to build backlinks right from the start.
By this logic, it would seem that businesses with a number of websites with high Domain Authority would have an unfair advantage in launching a new site. Unfortunately, that’s true. Large media companies can launch a new site and reach a high SERP position in a few months, in part, by using tens of thousands of backlinks from other web properties. In fact, the first page of results generated are usually not as diverse as they seem; on the most valuable English keywords, the results are generally owned by the same 16 media conglomerates.
This might seem discouraging, but remember, you don’t have to compete with Verizon’s or CBS’s media empire for the most popular keywords. Choose keywords that fit your niche, create excellent content, and you can improve your Google rank on keywords that are valuable to you.
7. Monitor Your Mentions
Other websites might be mentioning your site already, but not providing backlinks. The author might not think about it at the time, they might want to avoid the appearance of using promotional links, or there might be another reason. You can use Google Alerts and a number of other tools to monitor mentions of your domain, business name, brand name, or other keywords. When you see a promising mention, contact the web author or web manager about including a link.
8. Disavow Toxic Links
Not all links are good for your site. When websites with very low domain authority link to your site, it creates a negative connection. These links are considered spam, and Google will penalize websites with these links. Though you can’t control links other websites create, you do not have to accept these toxic backlinks. You can disavow toxic links to tell Google to ignore the connection. This link will still go to your site, but you won’t suffer any SEO penalty because of it. Though this is not technically a backlink building strategy, it is a good practice to keep in mind.
Before disavowing links, make sure you know which sites are toxic. Just because a website is new or small doesn’t mean it gives you an SEO penalty. SEO tools that measure Domain Authority can help you make this distinction.
If you’re creating great content, but you’re frustrated by a lack of exposure, backlink building strategies can help. A good understanding of backlinks and SEO can help you build up Domain Authority, and improve the Google rank of all the content you write in the future. Take time to give your content exposure as well as thoughtful research and writing, and you’re likely to see better results.