This guest blog is written by Ben Sharp from Blogtrommel.com.
If you’re an aspiring blogger, then you’re probably also working on search engine optimization. In that case, it won’t be long before you’re working on gaining backlinks to your website, as well. After all, backlinks can boost your rankings in Google’s search results. And higher rankings will lead to more blog traffic!
Simply put, backlinks are links from other websites and blogs to yours. These links bring your blog extra visitors and clicks, and they help to spread awareness of the existence of your blog around the web. Backlinks (of good quality) contribute to your reputation as a blogger and to the name recognition of your blog.
On top of that, (back)links are used by Google bots to crawl and index new web pages.
But there’s more. Google – like other internet search engines, by the way – sees such backlinks for your site as a vote, a vote of trust, a quality label for your blog. In the past, Google’s algorithm worked primarily according to this astonishingly simple logic: the web page with the most backlinks ranked highest in the search results.
Thus, a “national sport” emerged among webmasters and bloggers: link building. Collecting as many backlinks to a site as possible in order to obtain good positions in Google with your content.
This created a kind of trade-in backlinks. Links were exchanged between befriended sites, and backlinks were bought and sold. Whether those links were relevant for the average reader and contributed to a better Internet was of less importance.
In response to this, Google doesn’t give all backlinks equal importance any longer. For example:
- Backlinks from large, prominent sites outweigh those from a 3-week-old hobby blog
- Links from submission sites do not have that much value
- Backlinks from inactive sites don’t add much value
- Backlinks that you can easily add/get yourself (for example by linking to your blog from several of your own sites) are not worth much
According to Amra Beganovich, CEO and founder of Amra & Elma, a leading pharma marketing agency, one important category of backlinks to stay away from are PBNs. PBNs, or private blog networks, are considered a black-hat tactic by Google and are often penalized. You can usually recognize them by their poor design, low quality content, general topics, and lack of social media presence (i.e. their social channels are not updated regularly). Receiving a link from them can often do more harm than good; the general practice is that if the website looks strange, it is best to skip it.”
So over the years, Google’s algorithms got smarter and smarter. The number of backlinks, for example, became less important. Today, the quality of the articles behind the link is much more important. Does the link really help the average internet user (who visits this page)? Is the link in a relevant place?
Google is constantly looking for signs of quality in an effort to value each web page. The fact that quality, relevant sites are (repeatedly) referring to your blog is, therefore, an important signal.
Suppose you have a niche blog around vegetarian cooking, then it’s not so logical or credible when you constantly link to sites that present meat dishes. It’s much more obvious if you link to other vegetarian food blogs. It also makes sense for an organic gardener to refer to your blog for inspiration for tasty recipes.
Let’s face it, in real life it works just the same. If you are looking for a competent construction worker, you ask an architect or a construction expert for advice. Not your 7-year-old son who is trying to build a toy house with Lego blocks.
Gaining backlinks to your website – or external link building – is one of the most challenging things to do as a blogger, because you don’t have so much control over the process yourself. After all, it’s other bloggers and web builders who will determine if and how they will link to your blog. But fortunately, there are still some things you can do to increase the chances of getting backlinks for your blog.
a) Create a solid and high-quality blog
People should want to link to your blog. Therefore, make sure you have a good blog with lots of unique and quality content. Your blog (posts) should stand out in some way. That way, people will remember your blog better and may link to your blog someday.
b) Improve your blog’s SEO
The other main thing is to get your blog known by as many people as possible. The more people know about your blog, the more likely it is that people will link to your site at some point.
For most blogs, search engines are by far the most important source of visitors. It is no coincidence that quite a few bloggers are working so hard on SEO.
Granted, the days when a few well-aimed shares on social media automatically brought large groups of visitors to your blog are long gone. But make no mistake: many people indicate that they discover and follow (new) blogs through social media.
By the way, I keep noticing how many bloggers are quite active on social media but don’t put a link to their blog in the bio. That is just a missed opportunity! After all, followers with whom you get to chat are above average interested in your blogs and blogging adventure.
And yes, it’s true that most backlinks coming from socials are no follow (and thus pass little value to Google). But the main point is to get your blog in front of people who only vaguely know your blog or would otherwise never discover your blog.
d) Consider guest blogging
This is perhaps the quickest way to obtain valuable backlinks. With a guest blog, you write an article for another blog or website. Make sure your guest blog for this website also relates to your own niche. As a guest blogger, you’ll be allowed to link to your own website in the article, which is a valuable backlink for your blog!
I’m thrilled because I had the opportunity to write this guest blog for She Can Blog. A blog with a lot of great tips for bloggers and a pretty big fan base. This relates to my own blog, which is all about tips on how to improve your blog, as well. So the match is definitely there. And when it became clear to me that this blog was open to guest articles, I pitched the idea for a guest blog to Angie…
Bloggers often think that guest blogging is a lot of hassle and yields relatively little return. When measured purely in terms of extra traffic to your blog, it can indeed be a setback (only a limited number of readers click through from this post to my own site). But that relevant and therefore very valuable backlink is a boost for your reputation on Google. In the long run, it might lead to (much) better positions in the search results. And that’s where the profit lies.
e) Addressing other bloggers directly
I suspect that especially professional marketers use this tactic. Write and publish a value-added article on your blog – a comprehensive guide or how-to or something similar – and then check your network to see if you know of anyone who would like to link to your article. Maybe that other person will change their mind. But again: the key is to get people to link from places that are indeed relevant and logical.
Not much of a writer, but a whiz at creating infographics? Create a beautiful and useful infographic and try to get it embedded in other people’s content. Rather typical of this kind of graphic content is that it can’t just be copied (and thus the chances are much higher that it will be linked to correctly).
No matter how you slice it, this tactic basically equates to “peddling your content.” I guess that just has to be your thing, of course.
Oh, and should you know of blog posts and pages that are very popular on your blog, think twice before moving, modifying or deleting those pages. There is a chance that you could inadvertently disable valuable backlinks to your blog. This would be a real pity!
f) Sign up for HARO
The last option to generate quality backlinks to your website is by signing up for HARO. You will then receive emails within your area of interest with requests from reporters looking for input for an article. You can then pitch your input and, if your input is used for the final article you will often receive a do-follow backlink in return.
Also read: how to make your website accessible for visitors with visual impairments
Yet I would ask you not to get too absorbed in the hunt for backlinks. Rather, put all that energy into the things you do have control over.
There is one more domain, which also has to do with link building, on which many bloggers can still make some gains when it comes to link building: internal link building. In other words: linking between blog articles and pages within your own blog. These internal links are not nearly as powerful as quality backlinks (you are, after all, the one who is completely in control here), but they certainly do count.
Make it a habit, when creating a new post or page, to think about a few useful and relevant links to your existing content. This is smart because:
- You will make it a lot easier for Google to navigate your site
- Google learns which pages are important on your blog (and which ones are less so)
- Your blog gets more page views (readers click on more pages)
- Visitors stay longer on your blog (important positive signal to Google)
Simple actions that have a grossly underestimated impact on the search engine optimization of a blog.
It should be clear by now that actively collecting backlinks is not an easy job. It is very time-consuming and even then it is not certain that your efforts will be rewarded. After all, you are totally dependent on the goodwill of your colleagues. As a blogger, it is better to concentrate on your own blog. Create good content and then the links will come naturally.