Ranking on Google
We started a series of posts about understanding SEO. To read the first post, which is all about SEO-friendly content, take a look at it here. In that post, Wanna Pixel team member Mindy Schoeneman talked about the importance of creating content while keeping the most important SEO metric in mind—human connection.
Mindy also mentioned backlinks in the article. Why? Because according to Google, quality content and backlinks are the two most important ranking factors. What is ranking? It’s the position in which you’re listed in a search results page. And the higher your rank, the higher your number of visitors.
Mindy’s going to share what backlinks are, how you obtain backlinks, and what the best practices are around backlink building.
While content provides the context by which search engines measure relevancy of your site against certain search terms and keywords, good SEO doesn’t begin and end there. Backlinks are equally important because they add credibility and authority to your words. This means that you should be just as diligent about developing backlinks as you are about curating a stellar content library.
So What Is a Backlink?
A backlink is created anytime someone links back to your website online. In this article, for example, up above where it says Mindy Schoeneman, if you were to click on those words, you’d be taken to my website. That hyperlink within the text is a backlink.
Why Do Backlinks Matter?
Aside from the credibility afforded by being linked to from high-quality websites, those links also influence the way Google crawls websites.
Google’s ranking system only works because it employs an artificial intelligence called RankBrain. RankBrain analyzes the information received from Google’s bots, or crawlers.
Google’s crawlers get their information by combing through websites and indexing pages. While they’re crawling, they take note of any hyperlinks within the content. They will then crawl the link that’s within the content.
Understanding the Connection
Imagine a giant spiderweb. The spiderweb is interconnected, each strand made stronger and more effective through its connection to another strand that is connected to another, and another, and so on. These strands meet at intersections all throughout the web. Think of each intersection as a website, and the internet as a giant spiderweb of interconnecting web pages and topics. A backlink creates a strand from one intersection to another.
Backlinks serve to connect the common threads and lend credibility to the information covered at both ends of that link. It provides additional information for RankBrain to analyze and use as it returns the most relevant information to searchers.
White Hat Backlinks
Now that you understand the backlinks, your next step is to start developing opportunities, right? Before you start Googling “backlink opportunities,” there’s more you need to know.
Google has never revealed every ranking factor they use in their algorithms. While I can’t say with certainty why Google doesn’t release that information, I can guess one reason they don’t is because there are always people who try to find a short cut. There’s always at least one person (and usually hundreds of thousands following suit) who strives to find a way to game the system.
Remember the giant spiderweb? The integrity of each strand in that spiderweb adds to the overall integrity of the web. The same goes for the giant web that is the internet.
The quality of the website linking back to yours is important. It will help determine the integrity of that strand. Having your URL by way of a hyperlink attached to several websites known for spammy practices will do you more harm than good because it will create several strands from your little intersection that lack integrity—you won’t be able to build anything from those strands. The first gust of wind will blow them away.
Likewise, having your URL linked with credible, authoritative websites is a point in your favor. It’s a solid foundation upon which you can build.
So how do you build backlinks with integrity? The best way to build a collection of credible backlinks is to start by putting out great content of your own. Before you can do that, you have to get your house in order.
Your website has to be in order first for backlinks to have any effect. Because just as you are looking for great websites who might want to host your backlink, those websites are looking for great websites to link to.
What does a great website entail? The folks at Wanna Pixel would be happy to show you their portfolio as an example. A great website is one that has been designed with the user in mind with a focus on providing valuable information in the way of content that’s relevant and well-written. It’s also important to choose a reliable platform that produces the best SEO-friendly results for users (more to come on that in subsequent articles, so stay tuned).
Once you have your online home in order, it’s time to find a home for your backlink. How do you do that? This is the part where you develop a repertoire of topics that you can draw from to produce stellar content. Add some of that content to your website. Then share it. Invite others to read it. And if you’re working to improve your content for the future, ask a few people for feedback on your content.
Finding Interested Website Owners
Once you’ve worked on your content and topics, the next step is to find someone who is interested in having you as a guest on their blog, podcast, vlog, etc. The best way to do this is to start by making friends online. Find professionals and entrepreneurs who are in an industry related to yours.
Not sure where to begin? Check out some Facebook groups. There are many niche-topic groups on Facebook as well as groups dedicated to entrepreneurial life and goal-setting.
If your content-writing skills aren’t up to being featured, you can always hire a ghostwriter to pick your brain and then put your words down for you.
Another way to attain a high-quality backlink or two is to join a reputable professional organization that will list you on their website and point back to your website.
For example, anyone who joins this networking group is listed on the members page with a link that leads back to their website. The same goes for my local Chamber of Commerce.
The Most Important Thing to Remember
It takes time to build backlinks. Set a goal for yourself, such as one a month or six per year, and then work on it little by little. You have to find those website owners who have content relevant to what you have to offer. You have to start first with building a relationship with them and getting to know who their target audience is before you can create content that will really speak to the audience they’ve already built.
So take your time, make friends, and focus on providing the very best information you can possibly provide.