How Backlinking Accelerates SEO
You may have heard about the importance of backlinks, but it can seem like a dark art to the uninitiated (spoiler: it isn’t). In this article, we’ll explain what backlinks are, why they’re important, and how backlinking accelerates SEO.
What are backlinks?
When a website includes a link to another website, either as anchor text (a link embedded into a keyword that’s related directly to your content – like we’ve done on the words “anchor text”) or as a displayed URL (where you see the web address written out), it is called a backlink, also known as an external link.
A backlink is a link to one domain by another domain. An image on a website that is linked to another website is also considered a backlink, but it is typically lower in value because it cannot be easily indexed by search engines.
How backlinking has evolved
In the early days of online marketing, backlinking was like the magic potion, a panacea for all types of online marketing problems. It was merely a numbers game. The more backlinks your website had, the better it ranked in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
Then came the Penguin update by Google. Otherwise known as the “webspam algorithm update”, it was intended to combat spam links and manipulative link-building practices that were harming the general quality of content.
Consequently, marketers needed to re-adjust their strategies and focus on getting high-quality backlinks instead of using black hat SEO tactics like link farms to boost their website rankings.
Today, backlinks still matter but the sources of those backlinks must be credible and well-established websites in order to provide any value. SERP ranks are now difficult to manipulate using outdated backlinking practices and the quality of users’ experience has been significantly improved.
Organic traffic (and leads) that come from keyword search results and backlink referrals are generally more valuable compared to leads from display ads and social media promotions. The average conversion rates by traffic source are:
- Paid search – 2.9%
- Organic search – 2.8%
- Referral – 2.6%
- Email – 2.3%
- Direct – 2.0%
- Social – 1.0%
- Display – 0.7%
Why are backlinks important?
A search engine like Google counts a backlink like a vote for a website or a webpage, thereby increasing its value. If a lot of relevant websites are linking back to one particular website or webpage, the level of authority of that site or page increases. However, as previously mentioned, the quality of backlinks and the relevancy of the website that’s linking to yours matter. Algorithm updates have ended the more manipulative backlinking practices.
High-quality backlinks are those from authoritative and well-established websites. For instance, getting a backlink from CNN is more valuable than getting a backlink from a blog post by an unknown author. Unlike before the Penguin updates, online marketers cannot now simply create dummy websites and churn low-quality content to link back to their main website – this used to be fairly common practice.
There are several factors that affect the ranking of a website:
- User interaction
- Brand signals
For most of these factors, you can do something to improve your website’s standing in the SERPs. For example, you can guest blog on an authoritative website for a particular topic and include a backlink in your blog or website.
How backlinks work
If you have a new website, it may take several months for it to competitively rank in the search results pages. You may need at least six months focusing on categories of keywords and keyword phrases before you can expect significant results. Google can also take some time to index a new website properly.
Backlinking can accelerate the SEO ranking of your website by providing a vote of confidence. The more backlinks, the more authoritative and credible your website becomes. But these backlinks must come from credible and independent sources.
Imagine asking ten random and unrelated people in the street for the best steakhouse in town. If they say the same name, you probably will have more confidence that the restaurant must have delicious steak.
On the other hand, the confidence level will not be the same if you ask the employees of that restaurant about the best steakhouse in town. You would expect them to be biased because they are working there.
Similarly, backlinks to your website must come from credible sources that are unrelated to each other. These sources must not be directly created by your company just for the purpose of backlinking.
Here are some types of backlinks that can help you improve your SEO ranking:
- Editorial backlinks
- Guest blogging backlinks
- Backlinks in business profiles
- Backlinks from webinars
- Free-tool backlinks
How backlinks can accelerate SEO
Building an audience and strong online presence takes time, and there are many aspects of a site that need to be optimized. From loading time to mobile device compatibility, from being user-friendly to having relevant content, it requires a team effort and regular updates.
Strategic backlinks can accelerate the SEO process in several ways:
- Aid webcrawlers in finding and indexing your website
- Attract new visitors and generate leads
- Create buzz and possible viral appeal
- Increase the authority and credibility of your website
- Improve the rate of conversions among visitors
- Signal to search engines that your website is relevant
5 tips for creating quality backlinks
Creating high-quality backlinks can be difficult and time-consuming, mainly because to do it well involves convincing or influencing other credible and authoritative websites to link back to your site. High-quality backlinks can no longer be bought or built in an automated manner. There is the option of buying space on directories, for example, but this won’t give you as much value as an authentic, unpaid backlink.
However, there are ways you can create quality backlinks:
1. Create high-quality, linkable content – Highly informative and useful articles, videos, guides, and infographics that are well-researched and hard to find elsewhere are more likely to be linked to and mentioned by other websites as a source of information.
Related content: LimeLight’s Content Marketing Guide
2. Correct all technical and user experience issues – To help you establish a good reputation and attract a loyal base of followers, your website must be free from any technical problems that can disappoint visitors. These include slow load times, poor layout and navigation, mobile incompatibility, broken links, and duplicate content.
3. Build good website architecture – This is related to technical details and user experience. If you have good website architecture, the search engine bots can more easily index your pages and assign relative values to each of them. This can be achieved by having a well-defined hierarchy and internal links among pages.
4. Leverage public relations – Get to know the media – journalists and influencers, for example – in your space. Build relationships, be active on social channels, share and comment on their content, and create a buzz. If your content is good, they will probably start to link back to your website.
5. Do an original piece of research about something affecting your industry – If you have unique and new research that is not available elsewhere, it’s more likely to generate links and be seen as an authoritative source. It’s best to be very specific and narrow in your research to be unique.
Link building is primarily about driving good quality traffic to your website. If you need help driving more organic traffic to your site, let’s chat.