Backlinks for Better SEO: The Ultimate Guide (How to increase backlinks)
Learn how you can use backlinks to improve site authority, rank higher in search results, gain more website traffic and improve SEO. Everything you need to know and more. Read on to learn more.
Backlink optimization is one of the most commonly talked about and oldest methods for optimizing search engine rankings and organic performance. In fact, they are so old of a technique that in the fast-paced world of SEO they can almost be deemed “ancient”.
However, this doesn’t mean that they are obsolete or bygone; rather backlinks have stood the test of time to remain one of the most effective ways to improve website search engine rankings and organic traffic.
While digital advertising, PPC and other channels are great ways to get the best ROI on your digital budgets, good SEO is a great long-term strategy to build free organic traffic. Backlinks are a key aspect of this.
Let us cover some basics to begin with.
What is a backlink?
As the name suggests a “Backlink” is a link from another website to a particular web resource you own. This could be a website, a webpage, a documented hosted online or any other digital resource. For purpose of this article we shall primarily address backlinks from other websites that link back to your website.
Let us also clarify some other commonly used terms.
What is the difference between outbound, inbound, and internal links?
These are some very commonly used terms in the word of SEO and backlink optimization and therefore it is imperative that you have a thorough understanding of it:
An outbound link refers to links originating from your website that points to another website or web resource. Outbound links are often used for references, citations, referrals and the like.
An inbound link refers to links originating from another website that points to your website or web resource. Inbound links are used by other websites to cite, refer to, or recommend your website. These links are alternatively referred to as “backlinks”. This shall be the primary focus of this article.
An internal link is a link originating on your website pointing to another webpage or web-resource on the same website. Internal links are used to make in-site recommendations, increase the amount of time being spent on your website improve the user experience by providing relevant suggestions and recommendations. Internal links also help improve the crawlability of your website- by ensuring that your webpages are well linked to each other you are ensuring that Googlebot discovers, crawls and indexes all areas of your website that you want it to.
What is “link juice” and link equity in SEO?
“Link juice” is SEO slang for link equity. Link equity refers to the SERP authority and value that is passed on from the linking page to the linked page. Link authority is predicated on various factors that Google’s considers signs of authority and authenticity, such as page authority, topic relevance, site usability and more.
In plain English the implication of this is that not all backlinks carry the same value. Different backlinks transfer different amounts of link equity.
For instance, a backlink from Bloomberg News or Wikipedia would carry a lot more benefit or “link juice” than say a link from a small local blog. This is because the formerly mentioned sites are a lot more authoritative and authentic. And being able to receive a backlink from them makes your site appear authoritative too.
Do all backlinks carry “link juice”? Enter do-follow and no-follow attributes
In short, no.
A high domain authority site such as Wikipedia has millions of outbound links that link back to smaller websites for citations and references. In fact, as an open collaboration project anyone can suggest their site to be linked back from Wikipedia as a reference or citation. Does this mean that all these sites get link juice from Wikipedia? No, none of them do.
Major sites such as knowledge sharing, or news websites use what is known as the rel=nofollow attribute for most of their links. What this means is that although the links persists on their website and allows users to click through, they do not carry any link juice. Big websites do this to prevent publishers from taking advantage of their site authority to generate backlinks to a website that may not fit their ideals or standards.
The links that do carry weightage, however, are ones with a rel=dofollow attribute. These are the vast majority of links out there.
How to find out how many backlinks a site has?
There are numerous tools that one can use to find out how many backlinks a site has, where they are coming from and what type they are of.
If it is your own website, you can find additional details on how many backlinks you have via Google Search Console. Register your domain with Google Search Console and select “links” in the left-hand side menu and then click on “top linking sites”.
This will show you which websites you are receiving backlinks from and what the specific linking and linked pages are.
If it is someone else’s website: If you are intending to analyze a competitor’s website and see what they are up to, you can use several different tools. Some of them are as follows;
Ahrefs Backlink Checker (Free Trial, Paid)
Neil Patel’s Backlink Checker (Free Trial, Paid)
How to check if a backlink is No Follow?
While Google Search Console and other webmaster tools give you great insight about your overall performance in terms of backlinks, one piece of data that you may not commonly find in most tools is the type of backlink that you have. Is it dofollow or nofollow?
Lucky for you here’s a quick way to find out.
Download and install the NoFollow Simple browser extension. Then head over to the page where you’d like to check the status of your backlinks. If the link appears as it, it is a do follow backlink. If the link appears with a dotted red rectangle around it, it is a nofollow link.
What you can then do is request the publisher that your nofollow backlinks be changed to a dofollow backlink. Again, this depends on the policies of that website- they may or may not comply.
Should I buy backlinks?
In short, no. Don’t even think about it.
A lot of SEO newbies are taken for a ride by supposed backlink sellers that promise to link back from high quality websites. But really in most cases these sellers own spam sites that similarly list millions of other websites that fell prey to their rhetoric.
Google can detect such low quality, link-only websites, many of whom have already been flagged for thin content and blacklists them. Believe me you don’t want backlinks to your website from blacklisted sites.
Just like how backlinks from authoritative sites make your site appear authoritative, backlinks from low quality or blacklisted sites make your own site look bad.
As a rule, stay away from buying links or any other black hat SEO tactics. Google will see right through your charade and you could end up having your IP address and servers blacklisted for long periods preventing you from ever setting up a trustworthy website again.
Having cleared these basic concepts let us now look at a few ways in which you can increase the number of backlinks your site has.
How to increase backlinks?
(1) Understand why people link back to your website: The job gets a lot easier when you understand why other websites would want to link back to you. It is usually for one of 3 reasons- they want to recommend something you have to offer, they want to share your content, or they want to cite content from your website.
One of the first things you can do is to ensure that you have the right type of content (shareable content- very simply, content that others would want to share) on there. As long as you have products, services and content that others would want to share and recommend on your website, you will be able to generate backlinks with relative ease.
(2) Build the right relationships and frequently promote your content: Once you have the right type of content up on your website, the next thing you want to do is to identify key groups of people that would be interested in linking back to your website.
Generally speaking, these would be the following groups of people: journalists, local bloggers, aggregation websites, review websites, etc. You can find out exactly who is interested to link to your specific type of website by looking at your existing backlinks.
Find out who these people are, and approach more just like them. Do more of what works. What you want to do is to prepare an email list of regular backlinkers and update them every time you have a major content update or announcement to make on your website. You can use a tool such as Mailshake and NinjaOutreach to do that.
(3) Guest blogs and press releases: These are by far some of the most common and effective methods of building backlinks for your website. Contribute to guest blog posts on other websites and leave links back to your website. Have press releases sent out to media outlets in your industry and include a link back to your website- request that these be added for all digital publications of the press release.
(4) Other sources: Ensure that other websites that feature you in any way (a partnership, testimonials, review, referral, etc.) always link back to you. A simple google search of your company or website in quotation marks (such as “example.com” or “Example Inc”) could bring up websites that have mentioned you and may not have linked back. Getting in touch with these publishers and requesting a change could be resourceful.