How to Improve SEO with Backlinks

What are backlinks?“On-page” SEO is essential to making waves online. Search engines take numerous factors into account when deciding where to rank your website, such as your content marketing efforts, site speed, and keyword optimisation.

However, on-page factors only form part of the search optimisation picture.

There are also a number of “off-page” factors to consider too, which tend to be more elusive and outside of your direct control. One particular off-page signal that’s crucial to get to grips with is using “backlinks”.

But what are backlinks? And how do they affect your website’s search rankings? Let’s find out!

What Are Backlinks?

Backlinks (also known as “inbound” or “incoming links”) are links pointing to your website from another place on the internet. Search engines look at a site’s backlinks to gauge its popularity and quality. If another website considers your site useful enough to link back to, that counts as a vote of confidence of sorts in your website. And the more votes of confidence you get from high-quality websites, the more favourably your website will be ranked by the likes of Google.

As we’ll explore in-depth a little later, who is linking to your website is also an important factor for search optimisation. A link from a long-standing, high-traffic, high-profile website, such as the BBC’s for example, is likely to have a much more positive effect on your SEO than a link from a new and/or unheard of website.

How Can I Get More Backlinks?

Actually getting backlinks can be a bit of a conundrum. I mean, how do you get other people to link to you? Well, you can start by doing a bit of the groundwork yourself.

Backlinks from social media are a great place to start. Firstly, be sure to include a link to your website in any “bio” or “about” sections on any of your brand’s social media pages/accounts. Regular social posts that link to your website (especially when they achieve plenty of engagement) can also help with search visibility.

Next, you need to embark on a campaign of backlink outreach. Backlink outreach is the practice of reaching out to other websites and blogs in a similar niche and asking them nicely if they’ll link back to you. SEO experts Moz have an excellent, in-depth guide on how to carry out a practical backlink outreach campaign. However it’s important to avoid spammy tactics that don’t contravene Google’s Quality Guidelines – more on that shortly.

How to Use Backlinks for SEO

The nuts and bolts of your backlinking strategy may look very different depending on who you are and what you’re trying to achieve. So let’s look at 5 factors to bear in mind whilst sourcing backlinks. They’ll also help you create high quality outbound links that truly benefit others!

  • Good backlinks come from popular, reputable sites. As mentioned earlier, a backlink from a long-standing, popular website will provide much more search ranking value than a link from a relatively new site or one with a limited amount of traffic.
  • Good backlinks consider contextual relevance. Though any backlink can be a positive gain for your website’s search visibility, the highest quality, most useful backlinks come from sources that are strictly relevant to the topics discussed on your website. Some people try to cheat the system by requesting backlinks from anywhere and everywhere, but if a site gets a sudden influx of backlinks from contextually irrelevant sources, Google can pick up on this and penalise you for spammy tactics.
  • Good backlinks are placed naturally within a page. You may think that for best effect, backlinks need to be placed prominently in headers or sidebars, but search engines value links that are placed organically within blocks of text. However, that said, some sources (such as SEMRush) advise that backlinks are best placed above the fold where reader attention is still high, instead of being buried further down.
  • Link text needs to consist of a relevant keyphrase. Link text, or “anchor text”, is the text that forms the visible, clickable part of the link. Ideally, this text should be a strong keyword or relevant phrase that clearly shows both visitors and search algorithms what the link is all about. Most notably, exercise caution when using phrases like “click here”. For example, “Click here to check out an excellent post about social PR campaigns” would be vastly improved by omitting the “click here” and placing the link over the relevant term: “Check out this excellent post about social PR campaigns”. Typing out the full URL within your link copy (such as www.google.co.uk) isn’t great either – it’s not overly helpful to users or search crawlers because it provides no inherent context for the link.
  • Backlinks should be all natural – not spammy, reciprocal, or paid for. Never try to cheat Google. Paid backlinks and other such spammy “link schemes” are very much frowned upon and can result in being penalised in search rankings. One of the more common link schemes are “link exchanges” – basically a reciprocal “I’ll link to you if you link to me” type of agreement. Google can easily spot where people have tried to cheat their way up the rankings using practices like these, favouring backlinks distributed in a natural, organic manner. Check out Google’s Quality Guidelines for more information.
  • Your website needs to be top quality. In order to attract meaningful, non-solicited backlinks, your site needs to a) be found in search, and b) impress others. If your other SEO practices aren’t helping your visibility in search, how are people going to find you in the first place to link back to you? And even if they do find you, what first impressions does your site present? If your site is hard to navigate and full of low-quality content, visitors won’t feel confident enough to send traffic your way. Ensure that your website provides a simple, easy to understand user experience, full of well-crafted text and images.
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