Why are backlinks important and how to build them
Linkbuilding is an essential part of performing well within organic search and should be a key activity in any SEO strategy. Link building can increase organic visibility and drive visitors to your website. Search engines see high-quality links as a vote of trust, whilst spam links have the ability to damage your site’s reputation. Within this post we explore the methods of securing backlinks - including guest posts, directory listings, and competitor research.
Why Are Backlinks Important?
Search engines aim to show users the most relevant results for their search queries, and backlinks are an important part of how search engines determine a relevant result. Backlinks are notoriously harder to manipulate than internal links, which means they are likely to be more genuine.
Furthermore, backlinks pass on PageRank which determine where they will rank on search engine result pages for specific queries.
Websites with a strong backlink profile are likely to have a greater impact than a site with a smaller backlink profile. A successful backlink profile features natural links which come from a range of link building strategies, whether they be content, research or community focused.
How to find backlink opportunities
SEO needs to work holistically with PR and content marketing in order to secure good links in a natural way, but there are other technical link building activities we can use to complement this.
PR & Outreach
PR campaigns can help you to build long-term relationships with relevant websites/publications in your industry and increase brand awareness. In some cases, you may build relationships with writers and influencers who end up contacting you and asking for your help rather than the other way around.
Guest posting means writing and publishing an article on another site, which has a link back to your own site. Guest posting allows you to build relevant links from credible websites within your niche. Many bloggers will be interested in an opportunity to add great content to their website that their readers will enjoy.
The easiest way to source guest post opportunities is to use advanced search operators. This involves typing in "your chosen keyword + guest post”. Adding verbs like “contribute” and “writes” to your searches can offer a starting point in finding relevant websites that accept guest posts.
It is important to note that you can sometimes be rejected, or websites will charge extraordinary fees for you to publish a guest post. Similarly, there are a lot of spammy websites which will charge for guest posts and accept anything. It is also important to tread carefully with guest posting, and focus on websites which are well-trusted and credible.
Google has strict guidelines on guest posting. Spammy links can affect the perceived quality of a site and thus affect search rankings, so only high-quality and relevant opportunities should be pursued.
Even if a website doesn’t mention guest posts, it doesn’t necessarily rule the website out. If you find such a relevant website, it is still worth reaching out to the editors with a topic that appeals both to the website and the user. Being opportunistic can be effective, and can lead to content collaborations. Sharing knowledge on a larger and more established platform brings more awareness to your website, and potential conversions back to your own site.
Image Link Building
Image types - such as infographics, graphs, logos, and product photos - tend to attract backlinks. This is especially true when an image looks interesting, well-designed and appeals to a user. There are two main ways to build links with images:
Claim links from improper attributions: If you’ve already created some of the image types mentioned, people might have already embedded them. You can find this by pasting your website into Ahrefs’ Site Explorer, viewing the Backlinks report, and searching for .png or .jpg in the URLs of backlinks. You can then find the contact details of a person associated with each website, and request a link change.
Claim links from unauthorised use: People will occasionally embed your image types on their site without permission or a link back to your original website. You can find this out with a simple Google reverse image search which will show all the sites that have taken your content. Again, you can reach out to the person associated with each website and ask to be attributed through a link.
Another way of successfully gaining backlinks is through thorough research, and scoping out competitors and how they’ve obtained their links. Majestic is a great tool to review a competitor’s link profile and identify opportunities where we can get a relevant link that appeals to a similar audience - this can be in the form of a guest post, lost link, or a charity membership.
As well as this, you should look at a competitor’s top performing pages to gain deeper insight into how they use links and if there are any techniques you can replicate on your own website.
However, just because a competitor has used a certain website to get a link, doesn’t necessarily mean you should do the same. There will undoubtedly be spam content and irrelevant links you should avoid.
Another way of obtaining backlinks is by identifying resource pages online, which provide reliable and relevant content, and asking the site owner to work collaboratively by linking to each other. Using Advanced Search Operators can help you to source link-worthy resource pages on related websites, as well as helping you find keywords which you can create new content with. So, for example if you’re a law firm and have a guide for employees returning to the workplace, you might want to source resource hubs and search related terms around businesses and Covid-19 guidance.
Directory listings have a dual purpose; as well as providing a link, directories are essential for improving local visibility. This is useful when a website wants to be shown in search results for location based terms. There are a wide range of directories from basic listings which only reference a client’s website and brand name, to extended listings which can incorporate a whole biography of a business.
You can find directory listing opportunities by using Advanced Search Operators on search engines - typing a business’ keyword and ‘inurl’ or ‘intitle’ is one of our methods. However, you should be careful not to publish your website in any old directory. Directories sometimes have a bad reputation because they’re easy to spam. As a precaution, you should:
- Prioritise niche directories which relate to your business and target your consumer.
- Look at which businesses are already linked. Avoid those with spammy links, and focus on adding your site to pages where your competitors may already have a listing.
- Look at the website design and whether it’s engaging. Avoid sites which show long lists of links - users are unlikely to interact with these pages.
Directory listings can be a time-consuming process, and it can sometimes take months for a listing to go live. They need to be checked for consistency whenever a business changes details, as this can discourage potential customers.
This is a method whereby you identify where you have been mentioned or cited, but a link has not been included. Anything that is newsworthy or mentions a client by name could lead to an unlinked mentions opportunity. Converting unlinked mentions to links is an ongoing process, as new opportunities pop up all the time. Finding where your brand is being talked about can be an effective way to learn more about your consumer.
Broken, or lost links, occur when a link has been removed from a site but the content remains the same. To identify lost links, the fastest way is to use a tool such as Majestic. This tool will identify lost links and then you can request site owners to put the link back. Occasionally, we may also find a broken link on a similar website and ask to be swapped in as we have relevant content. This is typically a really easy link building method, as the link was once already there so you can be confident that the site owner would like to reinstate it.
Domain Name Misspellings
Misspellings are often an easy way to obtain a backlink. We might spot a website has incorrectly spelled a client’s name wrong, and simply reaching out to them and asking them to correct it is a quick win opportunity.