Why? Well, because backlinks are Google's reputation tool. Their search engine spiders sieve through the internet by crawling backlinks, and having your site virtually connected to a trustworthy website is how you'll pass that reputation to your own blog.
Think about it: Google's (or any search engine's, for that matter) main aim is to show the best, most relevant and highest quality result for a user's query. If they fail—and show fishy results on the first page—they won't be trusted, and their audience will head elsewhere.
Simply put: It's in everyone's best interests to have a great reputation for your blog. You want to be the best source of content in your niche, and your users want to visit a trustworthy site. Google wants to connect the two.
But, don't just take my word for it. Let's put it into practice.
Take a quick look at the top results when you type a phrase into Google. As an example, I'll use "best times to post on social media."
But why is this page ranking so highly? Yes, the content is great—but that's not the only reason why. I'll bet it's their backlinks.
1. Think About Your Content's Format
I know what you're thinking: "Elise, you just told me that content isn't king. Why are you listing this as the first step?"
Hear me out.
While backlinks are the best way to boost organic search traffic, you'll need something to rank in Google and send that search traffic to. Yes, that's your blog content.
But the days of publishing a 500-word article with keywords stuffed in left, right and centre are no more. These days, Google wants to show comprehensive blog content in pride of place—which is why you should be creating blog content that's at least 2,000 words in length.
(Trust me—that sounds tricker than it actually is. If you're really knowledgeable about a topic and you can type fast, you'll be able to knock a 2,000+ word post out in a couple of hours!)
Why is 2,000+ words the sweet spot for blogging, though?
Well, according to this data by HubSpot, pages with 2,000 - 2,249 words see the second-highest volume of linking domains (AKA backlinks). That shoots even higher for blog posts that exceed 2,500 words:
A similar correlation happens for word count and organic traffic, too, with blog content that' s 2,250 - 2,500 words in length seeing the highest amount of organic search traffic:
So, since Google obviously rewards sites that aren't afraid to go in-depth with their content, don't be afraid to go all out with your blog posts.
But hold up—are you letting out a sigh of relief after your 2,000 words have been cranked out? It's not time to relax, yet!
Listicles, tutorials and how-to guides tend to dominate the SERPs, but it's also worth spending some time on the headline of your blog content—often used as the meta title shown in the SERPs.
These links are no-follow, but there's still a debate as to how much Google references these no-follow links in their ranking algorithm. Regardless of how much they're used in the SERPs, you'll still get one huge benefit when building these backlinks to your blog: brand awareness.
Remember what I said about other bloggers always being on the hunt for pages to link to?
The same happens for Facebook shares and incoming links, too:
But what does that mean?
Well, although Google doesn't technically class social shares as part of their algorithm, it's clear to see that there's some impact between the volume of social shares on your blog content and its chances of ranking highly.
You can improve your chances of gaining backlinks by using these tips when sharing your blog content on social media:
Include an image to accompany your link
Add relevant hashtags to boost the number of impressions on your post
What I'm trying to get at is this: There's bound to be an online community of people who'd love to read the blog content you're sharing.
Even if you're writing about birds with Photoshopped arms.
But how can you find these online communities without dedicating an entire afternoon to digging through the internet? There are two ways:
1. Send a survey to your blog readers, asking where they like to hang out online. (Bonus: People might be more inclined to answer if you offer an incentive to take part—such as free access to one of your products, or a gift card.)
80+ backlinks from 34 referring domains on major industry sites.
10+ keywords ranked on the first page of the SERPs—including competitive terms like "mobile SEO" and "mobile search engine optimization."
1,500+ social shares across Google+, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
Not a bad result for a simple bit of copy and pasting, right?
However, content syndication comes with a warning: The syndicated version of your content might outrank the original piece on your own blog.
That's because these websites have strong ranking power already, meaning they could take up the top spots and push your original blog post further down in the SERPs.
5. Submit Guest Posts
Back in 2014, the guest blogging debate was rife.
"Is guest blogging actually a great way to build backlinks to your blog?" was the question on everyone's lips—but Matt Cutts, former Head of Web Spam at Google, added fuel to the fire when he said this:
"Okay, I’m calling it: If you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop. Why? Because over time it’s become a more and more spammy practice, and if you’re doing a lot of guest blogging then you’re hanging out with really bad company."
He even did a full-blown video on Google's view of guest blogging:
Here's why: Google doesn't like spammy guest blogging that's only done for the purpose of gaining links. You know the ones—500-words of spun content that's barely relevant to the site it's being pitched to.
I run six blogs, and I get emails for this type of guest blog contribution all the time.
Guess where they go? That's right: straight into my virtual trashcan.
These days, bloggers don't want to publish low-quality, spun content on their website. Not only does it worsen user experience, but it doesn't help to build the high-authority reputation that Google rewards with higher rankings.
However, guest blogs that are long-form and value-packed aren't dead. In fact, they're thriving.
Just take a look at this post I'm writing for Monitor Backlinks, with a do-follow link in the author bio section:
I'm building a backlink to my blog from a website with a DA score of 54.
The best part? I'm building brand awareness for my blog, and writing for a group of SEOs that might link to it from their own blog. That'll give me another backlink, and an even better chance of ranking in Google!
Huge websites accept guest post submissions—many of which have fantastic SEO metrics. Here are a handful, with links to their submission pages:
No-follow links make it easy for other bloggers—who are looking to hand out backlinks—to find your content. If you've followed the first step (of creating awesome content), why wouldn't they treat yours as a backlink source goldmine?
When you're using this strategy, though, there's one thing to be wary of: Avoid pointless commenting.
You don't want to be that person who leaves "great post!" as every comment. It's obvious you haven't taken time to read the post, and it gives you a spammy reputation. That's not going to do anyone any favors.
So, take the time to read the post you're going to comment on. You could:
After commenting on hundreds of high PR blog posts, his keywords jumped up at least 10 positions—and that's before Google had time to catch up with them all.
Here's what he ended his experiment with:
"Clearly high PR blog comments do carry some weight and still provide traction with Google although I wouldn’t like to completely rely on them to get me to the number 1 position. You should definitely be using them to support and diversify your existing link building campaigns."
(Psst... If you're using blog commenting as a way to build backlinks to your blog, it could help you with your chances of guest blogging on the same site, too. Building a relationship through these comments—and proving you're a loyal reader—is a fantastic way to kick off your pitching process!)
7. Send Press Releases About Your Blog
If you're still wondering how to build backlinks to your blog, here's a tip you mightn't have heard of: using press releases.
Acting as mini news stories telling people things about your website, you might be fooled into thinking that press releases are only relevant for blogs attached to e-commerce websites.
After all, new product launches and events make up 90% of press releases, right?
You could create a press release if there's something exciting happening on your blog. That could be:
If you're hiring someone (like a virtual assistant)
If you've recently re-designed your blog
If you're reviewing a new product from a brand
And the best part about press release backlinks? You could get contextual backlinks from huge news websites—including Forbes, Huffington Post and Entrepreneur.
1. Think of your story. Try to make it as interesting as possible.
2. Write the press release—including the who, what, where, when, why and how's.
3. Write a landing page and publish it on your blog—including more information than the press releases, which will give journalists a reason to dish out a backlink to your blog.
4. Link to the landing page in your press release.
5. Make a list of news websites to target. Remember, always aim for the most relevant person (i.e. if you're a personal finance blog, add the personal finance editor to your target list).
6. Send your pitch.
7. Follow-up, if necessary, after a couple of days.
If you're thinking of trying this tip, remember that it may only work for more established blogs. News websites need to cater to demand, and if you don't have an already-established audience who have heard of your blog, it's unlikely to get coverage.
So, add it to your long-term to-do list!
8. Respond to HARO Queries
Here's a not-so-secret tip that I've used to build backlinks to my blog: responding to HARO queries.
A platform that connects journalists looking for sources to ordinary people (like you and I), using HARO is a fantastic—and scalable—way to give your blog's backlink profile a boost.
HARO allows bloggers to sign up as a source, and receive daily emails from journalists who are looking for someone to contribute to the piece they're writing.
There's over 50,000+ news queries from journalists every year, but you're able to sign up to the channel that best suits your blog—including business and finance, tech and general lifestyle.
...But while that's all well and good, you want to know how it actually helps to build backlinks. Am I right?
One of the SEO experts who took part, Jordan Kasteller, added a link to the round-up (and his feature) on his blog's Press and Media page:
If you're wanting to use this technique to build backlinks to your blog, here's what you can do:
1. Find a list of other bloggers to take part in your round-up. (You can even use HARO for this, by taking on the part of a journalist.)
2. Publish the round-up piece.
3. Email all of your contributors, thanking them for taking part—and asking for it to be shared on their website.
Do you believe me now when I say round-ups on your own blog can get you backlinks?
10. Review Products, and Tell the Company
If you're regularly reviewing products on your blog, you might be sitting on a huge backlink opportunity goldmine. Whether you're reviewing gaming products or mascaras, you're able to turn this blog content into tons of backlinks.
1. Write the review, as normal—linking to the brand's website in your piece.
2. Send an email to the PR team of the brand's product that you've reviewed, including a link to your coverage. Ask them to consider sharing this on their social media, or adding to their product page.
Simple, right? But extremely effective.
This link building strategy works because it's similar to giving testimonials. If you're able to write a piece of content that praises a brand's product, why wouldn't they want to share it?
Plus, this tactic takes a job off their hands. Instead of taking time from their business to send products and ask for reviews, you're helping them out. The least they can do is reward you with a backlink to your blog.
Some good product insight and a breakdown on what might be the best generator to fit your needs! Great article from our friends Pro Tool Reviews. https://t.co/rcpj61j7UY
— GenTent (@GenTentUSA) May 29, 2018
Fancy another benefit of using this tactic? Because your blog will be endorsed by a reputable brand, it instantly boosts the trust a person has in your blog! (That's partly why influencer marketing is all the rage, right now.)
As you can see, getting backlinks to your blog isn't a quick process. You'll need to invest time into each of these link building strategies if you want to see results.