Backlinks not only bring traffic and revenue to your site, but increase your overall page authority and trustworthiness so you can appear at the top of search engine result pages. However, not all backlinks are created equal and many sites struggle with increasing their number of links on other sites.
Backlinks earned from helpful content and those that appear on authoritative sites are more likely to bring in sustainable traffic that grows along with your business. When building backlinks, you should also know what not to do to prevent being penalized by Google and other search engines that could send you plummeting in the page rankings.
Review Google Webmaster Guidelines
Before building backlinks, go over the Google Webmaster Guidelines that talk about what constitutes as high quality links and which practices to avoid. Google cracks down on spammy and low-quality links with changes to its search engine algorithm, such as its famous Penguin updates that downgraded sites that participated in link buying or questionable link networks.
These are both techniques Google specifically states to avoid along with the following:
Pages lacking in original content or very little content
Text or links hidden within a page, such as text in font size 0
Cloaking or deliberately deceiving search engines and users
Stay away from these deceptive practices and any sites that also perform them to avoid links being labelled as spam. Techniques mentioned above are considered noncompliant in the Google Webmaster Guidelines, which can result in Google taking action against your site and affecting your page rankings.
If Google finds you in violation of its guidelines, you will have to submit a reconsideration request that indicates you have fixed issues regarding noncompliance and wait for Google to respond to your request. In the event your initial reconsideration request is rejected, you’ll have to file another request. But your goal in building backlinks should be creating high-quality and natural links to steer clear of penalties altogether.
The Importance of Disavowing Backlinks
What if your website is doing everything right with creating great content, but other sites are filled with low-quality pieces and links that cause you to be punished? Disavowing backlinks allows you to avoid being associated with spammy third-party sites that only serve to bring down your rankings rather than providing high-quality backlinks.
Google explains how to disavow backlinks so they do not impact your rankings. You’ll want to identify which sites to disavow backlinks, make a file with this list and upload it to Google Webmaster Tools.
Now that you know what to avoid when building backlinks, you can learn the right techniques for growing your number of links on external sites.
Here is how to build backlinks to your website:
Research Gaps in Site Content
While you think you may have exhausted all your ideas for content, there are always new content opportunities that you haven’t explored that could generate hundreds more in backlinks. However, being aware of and finding content gaps in your site is the challenge. You have options for researching gaps in site content that can be as extensive as performing an entire site audit where you use search engine optimization (SEO) tools to list all of your URLs or as simple as browsing major content categories to see what you haven’t written about yet.
Use Keyword Research Tools to Find Content Opportunities
When pinpointing your content opportunities, utilize keyword research tools for your current keywords first, measuring rankings for pages that have target keywords and the monthly search volume for these words and phrases.
After finding out where you stand with your current target keywords, search for related keywords-- these will unlock content opportunities you may have not thought of. These new keywords should have a high search volume (such as 1,000 per month), but not have too much competition in search engine result page rankings so you can generate content surrounding these keywords and boost your site traffic.
Look for Similar Websites That Have High Domain Authority
While they shouldn’t be direct competitors to your site, earning backlinks on similar websites can help you increase in page rankings, especially if they are authoritative sites. You can use free tools like Alexa to find out the popularity and rank of a number of sites on country and global levels to start a list of websites to target for backlinks.
External Site Metrics to Pay Attention to
Pay attention to key metrics that suggest whether sites will actually be useful for increasing backlinks and page rankings. For example, newspapers like The Washington Post have high authority with this particular news outlet currently ranking No. 48 in the United States for popularity on Alexa. Included in the free features for Alexa:
Demographics by country (percent of visitors)
Engagement metrics (bounce rate, daily pageviews per visitor, daily time on site)
Percent of visitors from search traffic
Top keywords from search engines
Using tools like Alexa that provide insight on demographics, engagement and traffic will narrow down the sites that have the most impact in generating and keeping backlinks for your site.
Pitch Content Ideas to Relevant Websites
Now that you know which sites will be effective for backlinks because of their authority and traffic rankings, begin the process of earning backlinks through providing interesting or educational content. An inbound marketer’s goal of having your content appear on other sites is to expose your brand to a new audience and build on the authority of your site.
How to Pitch Content
Before sending any content to other sites, review guidelines for contributor or guest posts to make sure they will allow you to post links to your site. You should also read examples of published content on the site to make sure it fits your audience and brand style or personality as well as avoids content or topics that you also want to steer away from. Once you find websites that are similar or relevant to your own, pitch ideas for content or submit completed guest posts.
Ideally, your published post will increase referral traffic to your site and grow your reputation as a trustworthy site among a new audience, who could eventually become your next leads or new customers.
Develop Media Partnerships
Media partnerships are a great way to syndicate or provide content to other sites without going through the entire process of pitching content. However, these partnerships can take months or even years to build. High authority sites like MSN that syndicate content want to know that the content they receive is trustworthy, authoritative and traffic-driving -- the same qualities as the sites you want to be published on.
Email or call the head of or main contact person for the media partnership. Explain what your company does and how they can benefit from developing a syndication partnership and publishing your content. Be prepared to provide examples of your content and any metrics surrounding it, such as high traffic volumes, backlinks or mentions from authoritative sites, etc.
If you get rejected or don’t hear back, don’t be discouraged. Media partnerships are tough to establish. But once you do, it presents more opportunities for exposure to a greater number of sites and readers that will make your work worth it.
Create More Visual Content and Media
Text-based content is sufficient for generating backlinks, but if you really want to up your external links, make visual content like infographics and videos. infographics are 30 times more likely to be viewed than a text article, according to HubSpot. Not only is dynamic media more popular and can communicate your info and brand message more effectively than plain text, it can increase traffic significantly.
The same HubSpot graphic noted traffic increases 12 percent faster for publishers that have infographics compared to ones that don’t and they are great for growing referral traffic. Utilize your existing resources for making graphics like Photoshop and Illustrator or use free tools like Canva that are intuitive to use and include infographic templates to get started.
Submit Content to Press Release Sites
In the case for companies that want to take an old-fashioned approach to media outreach, they can send their content to free or paid press release sites. These include PR.com that have free features and paid press release distribution packages. Although press release sites may restrict distribution for free packages, they can still be a useful tool to provide backlinks on search engines and news websites to bring in referral traffic.
If you have the budget for it, paid press release distribution packages will be more powerful in generating backlinks because they generally grant access to industry distribution channels and websites and even high authority or premium websites like Yahoo News and newspapers.
Press release sites to consider include:
Send Out Press Releases and Content Directly to Media
To bypass the costs of using a press release site, you can also build your own list of newspaper reporters, media heads and more and their contact info. Once you have your press release written, send out an email blast to your list with the content text and contact info for your own PR or media person.
In addition to reporters and media writing about your content, you can increase your chances for more backlinks by offering up interviews with your brand’s executives or subject matter experts for even more press exposure.
Track Mentions of Your Site
One reason to regularly track mentions of your brand is to ensure that they link back to your site. Not all websites will provide backlinks when referring to you, making you miss out on crucial links.
Use RSS feed services like Google News to monitor which sites mention your blogs, studies or other content. You can also set up an email alert for keywords, such as the name of your site, your products or services or other phrases that describe your company, to track news and releases. If you find other sites that do not link back to you, contact the writer of the article, the head of PR/media or even the webmaster of the referring site.
Use a Backlink Checker
If you follow the steps above, you want to be certain your backlinks are producing the outcomes you want, especially increasing traffic and page ranking authority. This is where analytics comes into play and why you want an SEO tool with a backlink checker.
Various SEO analytic tools feature backlink checkers that provide information about:
The total backlinks for your domain
Where your referral traffic is coming from
The number of visitors generated from each backlink
Which of your content pieces are the most popular
After you know how much traffic your piece is bring in, you can analyze the cost-effectiveness of this content so you can improve your inbound marketing strategy in the future. If the piece did not generate revenue that exceeded its cost, you should rethink your topics, keywords or your distribution channels.
Monitoring your backlinks on a frequent basis will help you stay on top of your site’s traffic growth. In the event you notice declines in traffic, SEO tools with backlink checkers can alert you when and where you are losing backlinks so you can attempt to retain these links or explore content new opportunities to replace the traffic losses.
Backlink checkers include:
Many of these backlink checkers like Moz offer free features like Open Site Explorer and Google Analytics is completely free to monitor referral traffic and external links.