Here are some questions that haunt many a marketer…
Does backlinking really matter that much? If so, how do we “get” backlinks?
The resounding answer to the first question is yes, absolutely.
The second part is a little bit trickier.
Backlinks do help your visibility in Google search.
But you don’t need to work on “getting” them.
There’s a better, more organic way that leads to stronger results.
Let’s discuss. ➡
Should You Focus on Backlinking as a Content Marketing Strategy? No.
Do you need to spend hours per week on a link building strategy to earn them? Absolutely not.
Even further, you don’t need to have a backlinking strategy to build a brand with real authority that lasts over time.
Instead, building your backlinks should be a byproduct of building a great brand. If you put the latter first, you’re skipping over an important step.
What should you do, instead? Earn your links, don’t build them.
Now, this is the longer road, and it takes more commitment, but it’s more sustainable, too. Ultimately, building your authority over time will also build stronger backlinks to your site, naturally. In contrast, focusing on building backlinks to the detriment of your content strategy as a whole is akin to building a house of cards versus a house of solid stone.
Backlinks you weasel out of thin air can vanish in a second. Backlinks you earn as part of a strong content strategy and a strong brand presence will stay with you and grow over time.
So, how do you accomplish it all?
1. Focus on Consistency
Be consistent in how often you publish content, and only publish the best quality you can produce. Invest in a consistent brand presence across your website, web pages, content, and even your social media channels. Keep it up over time.
2. Focus on Growing Your Expertise
Add value to your industry by growing your expertise and sharing your original ideas over time.
As you grow as an expert (whether you read tons of books, take online courses, or just continually reflect on your experience as an entrepreneur and common industry pain points), you’ll also have some amazing wisdom that blooms alongside your knowledge. Share it!
Your original thoughts and ideas will separate you from the pack of “experts” sharing regurgitated information. When you have something fresh to add to the conversation, that’s valuable to your audience, who are looking to learn from you.
3. Focus on Guest Blogging
Once you’re in a rhythm of creating great content, lend some of your energy to creating content for publication on guest blogging platforms. This how you reach a bigger audience that overlaps with yours, not to mention grow your brand and build your authority on a bigger scale.
To find guest blogging opportunities, just google “your industry” + “publications to guest blog for.” Remember to only publish stellar content, and always include your site link in your bio/author byline!Building backlinks should be a byproduct of building a great brand. If you put the latter first, you're skipping over an important step. What should you do, instead? Earn your links, don't build them. 💞 More on @ExpWriters: Click To Tweet
Now that we’ve cleared up why you shouldn’t laser-focus on your backlink strategy at the expense of your brand (i.e., don’t put the cart before the horse! 🐎), let’s take a deeper look at the inner workings of backlinking.
How Backlinks Have Changed Over the Years
Link building, or backlinking, has changed a lot since it started. Years ago, the standard was to focus on what was known as low-influence linking to build up your credibility.
Low-influence links were links that pushed domain diversity even if they were not necessarily links that were perceived authorities in a given sector. The idea was to amass hundreds of links that pointed to domains all over the place that would lead back to your site and raise your ranking.
Domain diversity would theoretically lend itself to credibility and therefore boost your overall visibility. It worked once upon a time, but in the end, domain diversity proved to be fruitless as opposed to lucrative.
Links like that are not the way to go today. Instead, you want to focus on quality over quantity, but what exactly does that mean? I’m glad you asked.
The Differences Between Quality Links and Quantity of Links
As was stated, it was common practice to link to hundreds and hundreds of low-ranking sites to raise your rank, but over time, it made more sense to work smarter and not harder.
That means working for quality links compared to the quantity of links.
In other words, you wouldn’t want to include a link to a power tool company when you are reading an article about nutritional well-being, right?
On the other hand, if you wrote an article about post-workout foods that help you recover faster, then you want to link to studies from credible and well-established sites that support your claims.
Quality links point back to relevant content and trustworthy websites. You want to focus on the best links that are relevant to your content and go to top-ranked sites.
Cultivating quality links takes an extended amount of time to build credibility, but once it is established, it lasts compared to the low-influence links of the past.
Know Where to Place Your Links
Did you know? There’s a strategic way to place links in your content. In every quality content piece you come across, the link placement is not random – there’s a rhyme and a reason for every single link you see in the material you read every day.
On web pages, have you ever noticed there are links both in the content itself as well as at the bottom of the page, in the footer or navigational area?
The first example is a screenshot of an article from political site ThinkProgress. You can see that ThinkProgress has a relevant link to Business Insider within their content.
The second example is from an iOS app production company, Tapbots. With Tapbots, the only place you’ll see links to click on is if you scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page.
Looking at the two examples above, which one do you think is more effective?
Links that are in the content work better because they’re editorial — your audience will see them right away.
If you only put links in the footers or headers, they have less weight since they aren’t relevant to the content and they are not immediately visible to your audience.
Beware Bad Link Building Practices
You know that quality links are a good idea, and you may be tempted to try expediting the process to increase your ranking and visibility.
There are so many suggestions out there to increase link building, but be wary of the “quick” strategies and seemingly “easy” ways to do it so many “experts” tout. Most importantly, steer clear of anything that sounds too good to be true. Building backlinks is NEVER quick, and if it’s both quick AND easy, it’s probably a scam.
For example, while doing your research, you may come across the prospect of buying links.
Horrible idea. Don’t do it. Here’s why:
Buying backlinks has been a bad idea from the beginning, but people continue to do it because they think it will increase their rankings in the long-term.
The truth is that it will actually hurt your site’s ranking because if you happen to get caught using unethical link building tactics, Google will penalize you and your rankings will drop quickly. It will be hard to come back from that.
There are many examples of this happening after buying backlinks.
In one instance, a blogger thought buying backlinks was a good thing and his traffic report seemed to prove him right.
While his visitors apparently went up in a short time, his visibility and rankings earned before purchasing backlinks were utterly lost when the effect wore off.
His site had been penalized because Google knew that his backlinks were not genuine as well as being irrelevant to his content.
Something else to remember is that press releases don’t do much to improve your rankings, either.
The occasional press release is okay, but you should never use press releases as a central pathway to link building because they don’t have a direct effect on your credibility.
Google’s Penguin and Hummingbird algorithms devalue press releases, so you don’t want to use them for much more than spreading brand awareness and generating referral traffic.
Recovering from Bad Backlinks
Google understands that shady companies encouraged terrible ideas at one point, so it is possible to improve after bad backlinks.
All is not lost, even if you have already made poor choices, so long as you work to fix them.
You will want to remove all links that are not beneficial to you and your content. That means contacting site owners and requesting removal. If that doesn’t work, disavow the links.
Disavowing is a relatively straightforward concept – you’re basically asking Google not to associate those links with your site.
You will also want to check for bad backlinks that lead to error pages, as error pages do nothing to raise your ranking at all.
The downside is that with fewer links, your traffic will likely drop, but if you follow the right way to incorporate backlinking into your content, you will rebound – eventually.
Your last option would be to start over from scratch with a clean slate and a fresh site, but only consider doing this if you have been penalized and you can’t do anything to change the perception of your site.
Also, most agencies include link building as part of a packaged deal, so if you see extraordinary amounts for link building alone, you should probably steer clear of that offer.
When in Doubt, Google It Out
Google webmasters have created precise guidelines as to what is suggested and what needs to be avoided when backlinking.
While you shouldn’t necessarily aim for Google’s idea of perfection, as long as you avoid all of the things Google does not like while also focusing on business-building strategies like high-quality link building as part of your content marketing, you’re golden.
If you aren’t sure quite how to make that happen, request a consultation to help you get your content planning underway.