What are backlinks and why do they matter?
After you have created and posted your content, the next thing to think about is how to get more backlinks for it.
What are backlinks? Backlinks are when other website’s put a link to your post (or page) in their content. They usually do this when they are mentioning something which they think you have already covered well.
Let’s say you have written a high-quality blog post for a dairy company about different kinds of milk.
Now, once it has been noticed, other websites that discuss issues about or related to milk will likely include links to your post for their readers to read.
For example, a coffee website might link to your article with a sentence like this:
“So, you’ve brought the most expensive beans, mugs and coffee machine that you can afford, but your coffee still doesn’t taste as nice as you’d hoped. The obvious choice is to try out different types of milk.”
What do they get out of including a link to your article in theirs (aka, giving you a backlink)?
- As with references in academic or other technical works, they are able to show their reader that they understand their subject and related areas.
- Their SEO score will go up because Google will notice that their article about coffee also links to good quality information about milk, which is a related term.
What do you gain out of this?
- You gain a backlink, which tells Google that someone out there rates your article highly.
The more backlinks you get the better your SEO becomes, because each backlink sends a signal to Google that tells it your expertise is rated well.
Generally speaking, the article with the most good quality backlinks will rank the highest because Google will consider that article the most authoritative and trustworthy.
With backlinks, quality and quantity are important.
How do I get backlinks?
Ideally, you should accumulate backlinks organically. This means that people will find your content (either via a Google, social media, etc.) and then chose to link to it in their own content afterwards.
However, if you don’t have a good SEO or social media presence to begin with, it isn’t always so simple to accumulate backlinks.
Of course, if you have targeted enough of the right keyworks and have optimised your content, Google could eventually rank you higher. However, this would take a long time.
The good news is that there are quicker ways to get backlinks.
The main way to do this is to contact people who have backlinked similar material.
Let’s image a scenario to make this clearer.
You have written a blog post about the Great Wall of China. You feel it is an excellent post and deserves to be highly ranked on Google. How are you going to get backlinks for this?
You could email everyone and anyone you know to tell them about your article and ask them to link to it in their future content.
However, this method would obviously be a waste of time – if not insane!
You need to know who might feasibly want to link to an article like yours. To do that, you should take the following steps:
Step 1: Google ‘Great Wall of China’ and look at the top results.
Ok, the top result is Wikipedia. This is going to be difficult if not impossible to beat!
Most people searching this term will probably will be looking for something like its Wikipedia page, that’s just the nature of this search.
However, if we scroll down a bit, we can see the next top 3 pages (which come after a selection of questions and images are shown):
Now we have three web addresses to work with.
Step 2: Find out who is backlinking to rival posts
Next, we need to go to an SEO platform like Ahrefs, Moz, SEMRush, etc. They each have their own tool to help trace who is linking to content.
Let’s look at Ahrefs’ tool. First, go to your dashboard then click on ‘Site explorer’ on the top bar and then paste the page you want to analysis into the search bar:
Once you have pressed search and gone through to the dashboard area (above), click on the number below ‘Backlinks’, and you will be taken through to the following list:
You now have a list of all of the sites that link to the page you are competing with. You can export these and then do a search for the other top-ranking sites.
Once the search results from the top pages have been exported, put all of the results into a single excel file and eliminate duplicate results (i.e., pages that link to more than one of the results you have analysed).
Step 3: Create an email template
Now that we have a list of websites that have linked to the above articles (above), we need to email them asking that they replace their links with ours.
No easy task, right?
Not only is this process time-consuming, but it also gives a low return: most of the people you email will ignore your message.
In a sense, this task is a bit like sales work, and a bit like online marketing itself. You need to contact manypeople (or have many people visit your website) in order to gain a few customers.
In this case, you need to ask many people for backlinks in order to gain a few backlinks.
There is no way around this, so all we can do is craft the best possible email template and then try our luck!
It obviously depends according to what industry you are in and the strength of your content and website (this effects how willing people are to link to you), but as a rough guess let’s assume out of 100 people we email, we’ll be lucky to gain 2 or 3 responses and subsequent backlinks.
There are several different tactics you can try in order to write the best possible email for capturing backlinks. For now, let’s look at a basic method:
I hope my message finds you well.
I recently put a lot of research and hard work into a comprehensive article on the Great Wall of China, which I think you might find interesting!
I noticed that you recently linked your article [article name] to [name of top-ranking article they linked to].
My article includes the latest research and expert opinions on the Walls history.
If you like my article, would you consider linking to it in your posts on the subject?
Now, the above message obviously contains some very specific points. I have included them so that you can see examples of the kinds of points you should make.
An important aspect of link-building is building up trust and credibility. So never make claims in your email that aren’t backed up in the content you are trying to promote!
Remember, if you can build up a good rapport and relationship with some of the people you are contacting, you can ask them for more backlinks in the future.
Getting backlinks can be time-consuming work, especially early on.
Later on, as your website’s SEO strength increases, you will begin to accumulate more backlinks organically, i.e without having to ask anyone for them! (Another reason to always keep the phrase ‘Content is King’ at the front of your mind!)
However, until that point, you the quickest and most effective way to build your SEO strength, apart from targeting keywords, writing great content, and promoting yourself online (via social media or PPC), is to build up your backlinks with the above approach.
If you are doing this on behalf of a client, it is always important to check with them first. They might be very cautious about their reputation and not want you contacting other companies on their behalf.
However, if they want results soon, then you can probably get their approval once you explain the rationale of what you will do.
From one point of view, backlink work can be repetitive and monotonous.
But the upside of this type of work is it allows you to take a mental break after expending energy on creating and optimising the content.
Once you have your template and email addresses, it is just a matter of copying and pasting the relevant information and pressing send a couple of hundred times!
I recommend switching on a good podcast, or some music, and getting started!
In the next Part, we’ll look at the skyscraper technique and other ways to ensure your content surpasses its already ranking competitors.
Don’t forget to check out part 1 and part two of this series:
SEO Content Creation – Part 1: Keyword research