How to Get Backlinks in 2016—What’s Changed?
How to Get Backlinks
Getting backlinks is one of the best ways to build your authority and ranking power with search engines, but it’s not always easy to know how to get backlinks. To make it even more complicated, ranking is part of an incredibly dynamic and always-changing industry. Therefore, what’s sound (or even best) practice one year might be woefully out of date the next. Because links are the most important SEO ranking factor, and because things do change so often, the following is a discussion about how to get backlinks in 2016.
What’s a Backlink Anyway?
A backlink is any hyperlink on another site’s web page that links back to your site. It’s sometimes referred to as an “inbound link.”
Why Do Backlinks Matter?
Although there are exceptions to this, generally the more backlinks your site has, the more authoritative search engines will consider your site. This can help directly in your effort for higher rankings.
Guest Blogging Outreach—What It Is, and Why You Should Be Doing It in 2016
One of the more common approaches to gaining backlinks is through a technique called guest blogger outreach. This is essentially what it sounds like—reaching out (and subsequently developing relationships) with bloggers. That relationship can work several ways. You can guest blog for another site (and earn the backlink), or that blogger can promote your product/service/business on his or her website (and you earn the backlink).
But Didn’t I Hear Matt Cutts Say…?
Yes. Matt Cutts of Google stated that guest blogging was dead. However, if you look at what he said carefully, you’ll see that the idea of guess blogging is not what’s over. It’s the use of guest blogging to create low-quality content that then goes on low-quality blogs.
In this way, Cutts was merely making the point that has increasingly pervaded all aspects of inbound marketing with each passing year: content is no longer king. Quality content is.
Guest Blogging Outreach in 2016
Photo courtesy of E2M Solutions.
Here’s the odd thing about getting backlinks in 2016. The best way to get them is to try to get something else. Let me explain.
Several years back in the SEO game, people used to create a slew of poorly constructed, poorly written, and poorly researched articles to throw up on industry blogs for the sole purpose of gaining those precious backlinks in the bylines. This made the process increasingly spammy, which led Cutts to publicly decry it.
However, if the goal of this outreach is to provide valuable information to consumers relevant to your business and to build authority in your niche, this practice can still work well for you. Don’t set out to do this just to get a few backlinks. That’s inevitably going to backfire—in perception and ranking.
Only go down this road if you’re going to put in the appropriate time and effort. Go after increased authority in your industry, relevant audience, and visibility. The backlinks will come.
I Want to Put in the Work. How Do I Guest Blog?
- Figure out what blogs you want to go after.
Lots of factors go into this decision. You want blogs that have:
- Authority in your market. Go to your favorite search engines and type in search phrases such as “best [industry] blogs.” This lets you know firsthand what search engines consider influential, authoritative sites.
- Great reputations.
- Quality audiences. Remember, as this article states, you don’t always have to go for the largest numbers. Niche markets that are highly relevant to your business can be just as effective. Sometimes more.
Once you’ve identified these blogs, keep the list organized. Update it periodically to ensure you don’t want to add anything new or take anything off. Things are always changing!
- Pitch your ideas to the blog editor.
Don’t do this haphazardly. Put in the time to get to know the blog, its readership, and its tone and style. This can save you a lot of wasted time pitching ideas that they won’t be interested in.
This is also where outreach can help. If you’ve developed a strong relationship with that blog editor based on mutual respect and industry knowledge, you’re more likely to have success getting your idea pushed through. Remember, this shouldn’t be about getting a bad idea approved. It’s about helping a good idea (that might not otherwise see the light of day) gain exposure through that positive professional relationship you’ve fostered.
- Write—in the right way.
Quality. Quality. Quality. It can’t be overstated. Your guest post needs to be about educating that audience and providing genuinely insightful, valuable information. If you’re thinking about your backlink at this point, something has gone wrong.
- OK…now you can get the backlink.
After you’ve put in the effort to create a truly engaging and valuable piece of content, you’ve earned the right to add a link back to your site.
I’m No Writer. Can Blogger Outreach Still Work for Me?
Yes! Outreach works in two important ways, and you providing guest blog posts is only one. Through your contact, interaction, and relationship development with those bloggers, you can increase the likelihood of one of those blogs promoting your business. This gets you backlinks, but it also means you benefit from that blogger’s established audience and traffic.
This promotion can either be paid or earned. Earned means you don’t provide any compensation or promotional material to the blogger to review, talk about, or otherwise cover your service. Paid means you do compensate that blogger in some way shape or form. The nature of that compensation varies, but it can be anything from the first look at a product for review to straight cash.
Whether you’re guest blogging or being featured on a blog, many of the same principles are at play.
- Only go after blogs that are relevant to your market. Don’t waste time and effort networking and building relationships with bloggers whose audiences won’t ultimately be interested in you.
- Don’t be spammy in your approach. Research the blog, blogger, and content to ensure you’re creating and delivering a pitch that will be received well.
For even more information about the ins and outs of blogger outreach, check out this breakdown.
Even in an industry as fluid as inbound marketing, some techniques never get old. So, don’t forget to try some of these tried and true techniques to help bolster your backlinks.
It’s so simple that a lot of people forget this one. If you have friends, relatives, or business associates that run websites as well, simply ask if they’ll throw backlinks your way.
Some points to keep in mind:
- Reciprocal backlinks (Website A links to Website B, and B then links to A) are generally viewed far less favorably. This process used to be quite common but has fallen out of favor as Google in particular has taken a negative view of this technique. That being said, if the reciprocal links are actually relevant, and it’s not done excessively, it shouldn’t do your rankings harm.
- If possible, ask for the backlink to appear in content. Search engines generally view this more favorably than sidebar, footer, or header links.
- Ensure the website linking to you is relevant to your site. A link for the sake of a link won’t do much to bolster your authority.
If you have a chance to write a testimonial for a relevant website, this is one of the easier ways to get a backlink. The site will be more likely to accept placing a backlink because that site is getting value from the deal—a legitimate testimonial.
Help a Reporter Out
In many cases, getting backlinks is about building and/or maintaining relationships and then capitalizing on those connections. With that in mind, one group is particularly great to reach out to—journalists. They are always looking for credible, valuable sources, and if you have the information a journalist needs, you might just get some publicity (and backlinks) from an authoritative news publication. Check out HARO for more information, a site that connects journalists with sources.
“Sources” page of HARO.
In an industry that’s always changing, there is one constant—be wary of marketing practices that seem too good to be true. Google is constantly becoming more savvy (and more punitive) to practices that promote sites in spammy ways. So, just when you think one method of gaining backlinks is the best way to go, it will switch on you. To combat this (in 2016 and beyond), always make quality and authority paramount. Be the kind of site that Google wants to put on page one. The backlinks and rankings will follow.