Getting Started: Search Engine Optimization and Backlinks
If you have a business, we assume you have a website and want it to be found on Google. Having your business listed on the top of search engine results is critical. There are many factors that search engines take in consideration when serving up web pages upon keyword searches.
Google does not publish their algorithm to discourage people from “gaming” the SERP (search engine ranking position) results. However, one of the known factors is the number of quality backlinks (also known as incoming links or inbound links) going to a website. In fact, most website professionals would agree it is very difficult to get a website to rank well without backlinks. So, that’s why you should care about backlinks: cultivating links from other quality websites that point back to your own site is a great opportunity to your site turn up in searches, and increase leads to your business.
Please note the word quality. Sometime ago it was true it was a good strategy to get as many links as possible to your site. This led to, however, things such as link farms and paid links. Because of this Google changed their algorithm and only rewards links from high authority sites; that is, those that have high visit rates and are reputable. You can check a website’s authority on Moz.
What are backlinks?
A link is a connection between any two web pages. A backlink, or inbound link or incoming link, is one that links TO your website, so called because it points back to your website.
Why should you care about backlinks to your website?
From a search engine optimization perspective, links demonstrate a website’s popularity because it indicates someone has deemed your site worthy of sharing from theirs. The more links found by search engines going to a website, especially from authoritative sites, the higher the backlinked site is valued from a search engine ranking perspective.
Google and other search engine’s goal is to serve up websites that have quality content for the searched term. So the assumption is, if many other sites reference yours, then your site much have quality information that readers care about.
How can you start acquiring backlinks to your website?
Although technically not considered backlinking by some SEO gurus, this is the easiest and most obvious way to get started, and are a key component of the ranking algorithms in Google and Bing.
Citations are any mention of a local business out on the web, typically in an online directory listing. Commonly included are the company name, phone number, address, and may or may not include a website link. For those citations that DO offer the opportunity to include a link to your website, you can claim your listing, or add your business listing, and update it to be sure it includes a backlink and pertinent keywords.
Examples of business citation listings are YellowPages.com, Manta.com and a chamber of commerce website. Types of business citation sites include industry-specific, geo-targeted, or general business listings.
“Other factors being equal, businesses with a greater number of citations will probably rank higher than businesses with fewer citations,” stated Moz.1
Some important tips about claiming business citations:
- Be sure you enter your company name, address and phone (NAP) consistently across citations. Search engines will penalize you for inconsistencies.
- Most citation sites will require you to create an account to login (typically free) and will need you to verify your relationship to the business. Be sure to keep your logins documented in order to update your citation in the future.
- You can hire firms to claim or add your business listings on your behalf. This can be a huge time saver for you. But just as stated in the bullet above, be sure you’ll have access to edit the listing yourself in the future, should you need to.
Produce Awesome Content
When you produce great content that educate or entertain, and make the reader glad they found it, the probability of someone sharing it increases. How could they share it? My including a link in their own website or blog: a backlink!
An ideal link will be an inline anchor text link containing keywords, not just your company name, “click here”, or a naked anchor (http://domain.com). An example of an anchor text link to a reptile pet store is “Everything you need to create a perfect home for your new pet iguana.”
How can you help develop these links?
- Submit article or Be a Guest Writer. Identify heavy-hitter bloggers, news, and emagazines in your niche. Offer to write content specifically for their site.
- Where are your Competitors? You can also target sites that are linking to your competitor’s sites. Search for your competitor’s URLs, or use tools to help you do that like Majestic, Ahrefs, and Moz’s Open Site Explorer. Consider whether it is feasible to provide content to these site owner’s that they would publish.For example, let’s say you are in the children’s birthday party entertainment business. You find a popular Mommy Blog that included a mention of a local magician. You could write an article about how your games are a fun, more engaging and active alternative for kids’ parties.
- Press releases. If you have something newsworthy to share, an online press release can boost your backlink count.
- Social networking. When you actively participate on social networking sites, you not only brand yourself as an expert, but you also can pick up a number of backlinks.2You can add teasers to your blog posts with backlinks, but keep in mind, if the pages are Private or you must be logged in to view the page, search engines can’t crawl these pages.
- Product/Service Review. If you provide a quality product or service that you could offer a free sample to a respected evaluator or “best of” writer in your niche, and ask them to do a review. Of course, this can be a double-edged sword, so be sure you have a GREAT product or service.
- “Unclaimed” Opportunities. Search your company/brand name in a search engine. If you find any mentions on a website where there is no attribution link, contact author and ask them to add a backlink to your site. And provide the link to the web page that most closely matches what the mention is references.
- Comment on other’s Blog. Use this one judiciously, as robotic comment spamming is very common and annoying tool used by Black Hatters and phishers. Find a respected blog in your niche, and write and intelligent and value-added comment. Many blogs will require you include your name and website.
- Provide Testimonials for Others. If you sincerely like another firm’s product or service, leave a testimonial. The owner may include a link to your site so their readers will know you are a real person.
- Don’t add backlinks from sites whose only purpose it to provide links, or other “thin” (no value) content.
- Don’t pay for links. This is considered a “black hat” strategy that Google does not condone.
- Don’t attempt to acquire all backlinks at one time; trickle them over time. If not, search engine may assume you are trying to manipulate the rankings and penalize your site. 2
- Of course, you cannot control what somewhat else writes, but pay attention to this when you are guest writing and submitting articles:
- Be sure backlinks are not over-saturated on a single page or post. Google perceive this as an attempt to over-optimize and to game ranking results.
- Do not over use exact word anchor links, meaning link from the same words repeatedly. Example “best pet store in Torrance”.
Keep in Mind…
Providing great content is important NOT just to encourage backlinks, but at least as important, if not more important, is that no matter how good your SEO is, if you get visitors to your website, but they are disappointed when they land there, all this is for naught.
Not sure what you can do to improve your website? Get a free website evaluation.
- Is your site mobile-ready?
- On-page keyword usage
- Citation claiming and consistency
- Backlink SERP
- CTA usage
- and more…