I am stepping completely out of my comfort zone for this one, but the more I work on websites, the more I feel I need to learn about ‘how they work’. I talk about search engine optimisation (SEO) with my clients and I can explain the basics, but there is so much more to it. They often ask how they can “ensure” their website appears on the first page of a search engine’s results. I have explained before about the importance of keywords and good content and how this helps SEO. However, one of the big deciding factors appears to be ‘back links’ or to put it in simpler terms – how many other websites are linking to your website; in slightly more complex terms – how many other high quality, authoritative and trusted websites are linking to your website and particular pages or certain content.
When you think about it that makes sense, how many websites have you read which reference and link to a Wikipedia page or a BBC news article. Subsequently, it is no surprise that when you search a certain topic, these pages appear high up in the search engine results.
For this post, after some research (see below), I am going to try to explain back linking to you and how it works and, then, how you can attempt to increase the number of links to your site. Firstly though, let me just say this: I am not an expert and from all I have read and researched it is pretty overwhelming and takes work and time to happen – so start small, start concentrated and be realistic – you have an actual day job to do after all. The companies who constantly appear at the top of search engine results have dedicated teams (and plenty of money!) to help make back links happen!
What is a back link?
As mentioned above, a back link is simply a link from another website to your own. This can be a link to any page, not just the homepage. They are important in SEO terms because the complex algorithms which sorts the search engine results and ranks them, uses back links as an indicator to how authoritative and trusted your website is. If lots of people are linking to the same site (or same page) it is seen to reflect popularity and hence gets ranked higher when you search the relevant keywords (related to said website or page).
How do I get back links?
The answer to this seems to be the holy grail of SEO people everywhere! From my research, it appears there are 4 ways. These are not all ‘equal’, however, in terms of success, time taken, cost or moral grounding! I’ll explain more as we go along…
Becoming an authority
Becoming an authority in your area of business is possibly the most impossible way to get back links, but it is the least time consuming! Basically, with this approach, just forget about gaining back links and get on with your day job. If you have a unique product or service and are amazing at what you do, then essentially backlinks will take care of themselves! For example, if you come up with a new form of cheap, renewable energy tomorrow (and happen to create a website about it!), then you will not have to worry about asking for back links…the BBC, the government and the rest of the world’s press will no doubt be in touch and linking to your website very quickly! Hence backlinks will look after themselves.
I appreciate you may feel this option therefore does not apply to you…however, it is an important reminder of why quality content is very important. Remember you want your website to rank high in the results when people are searching for keywords relevant to your business. For example, if you are an art studio in Overton, and you have a good quality website and an informative, exciting blog, then it only takes the local paper to write an online article about you (and link to your website) and a few local bloggers to mention you and perhaps the local business directory to list you….then you will see your ranking become higher, should someone search ‘art studio Overton’.
So, don’t get depressed about the expanse of the internet! Think about your area and your ‘goals’ and how you can become an authority within that space…and back links may well look after themselves to a certain extent.
If you don’t ask….you don’t get! Be realistic – if you make clothes, I wouldn’t recommend emailing Vogue, Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan asking them to link to your website (although, you never know!!!) but it might be worth offering to guest blog for your local business association or artisan network’s website – obviously, including in said blog a link to your own website.
Do a bit of research and think carefully about who may want to mention and link to your business on their website. You don’t want to be seen to be stepping on people’s toes, but look for natural ‘alliances’. For example, if I worked with a website designer (who has no interest in copyediting or copywriting) because I offer a non-competitive service to them they may well be happy to offer a link to my website and I would offer to link to theirs in return. Similarly, consider your loyal customers – would any of them consider including a link your site from theirs?
Do you read a blog or news related to your area of business? Next time you do, consider commenting (something relevant…and positive ideally!). You should have an opportunity to put your website in the ‘signature’. If not, consider if you can include a link to a relevant page from your website related to the post or article. It is where a buoyant blog full of articles can come in very handy.
These back links don’t hold as much authority as a link from another website as the search engine bots are clever enough to know they are in a ‘comments box’. However, they can be a quick way to get a few extra back links. And you never know who may read the comment and take a look at your website…a potential new client, perhaps?!
So, this is where your morals come in to play! As ever, there is always a money-based answer to everything. There are number of options to pay for back links through directories, link farms and forums. If it seems too good to be true it probably is. The search engine developers are also a lot cleverer than a ‘link builder’, so whilst it may be effective in the short term, long term it is probably not worth it, as once the search engine realises what has happened your ranking will fall again…and your money is wasted.
There is much to learn about back linking and this really is just a basic introduction – but the main lessons to learned are:
- create quality content on your website
- don’t be afraid to ask for clients/customers/friendly local companies to link to your site – when relevant
- don’t get bogged down with generating back links…focus on your day job and back links may well look after themselves!
I hope my explanations are clear and if you have any questions, please do ask.
Here are some sites I used for research should you want to read more:
(I found these by searching ‘SEO back links’ in Google …. So let’s hope the popularity=authoritative=trustworthy connection works!)