How to Improve Search Engine Optimization — Backlink Building

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When businesses are looking to grow their online presence, implementing a link building strategy is an important SEO step. Backlinks serve multiple purposes that are crucial for any business. It has potential to drastically improve search engine result page (SERP) rankings, build credibility, and establish you as an expert. Read on for actionable tips, link building activities, and strategies to improve your search engine optimization and link building.

What are Backlinks?

Backlinks are mentions or phrases on other websites that hyperlink back to your website. While the Google algorithm is extremely complex, there are some fool-proof tactics to secure more backlinks and boost SEO. 

How do Backlinks Help?

Backlinks are an important ranking factor because it tells Google that your site is a valuable resource. This will improve its chances of being ranked more highly. As a result, businesses should formulate a link-building strategy. This means scheduling in regular link-building activities to ensure that you are not being buried in the search engine.

What Backlinks Should Not Be

In an attempt to boost SEO rankings, some businesses may run into what has become known as ‘black hat SEO’. This refers to SEO tactics that actually violate Google’s terms of service. Referring to these types of practices, the terms state: “Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.”

Examples of link building activities that violate Google’s terms of service include: exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing it and including a link; excessive link exchanges or partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking; large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links; using automated programs or services to create links to your site; and requiring a link as part of a Terms of Service, contract, or similar arrangement without allowing a third-party content owner the choice of qualifying the outbound link, should they wish.

When conducting your research into link-building strategies and activities, you will likely come across services offering this. Be wary and stay away from anything that looks like it might violate Google’s terms of service, as it could hurt your business more in the long term.

What Backlinks Should Be

One of the most valuable things about backlinks is that they often come from organic wins. It proves to readers that you are a reputable source, and helps push your website up the Google rankings without violating terms of service. Backlinks should be organic and editorial, and ideally from websites with authority. While there are certain link-building strategies you can implement, ultimately a journalist will have the final say in whether they go live.

Expert Quotes

When journalists write articles about particular topics, they will often be looking for an expert quote or two. Sometimes the expert may be presented as a key interview throughout the article, or they might just be mentioned once. Either way, they will often result in a backlink. One of the best ways to boost your link building is by providing these expert quotes in editorial articles. It is valuable because it not only earns an organic backlink but establishes the business owner as an expert. When quoted on websites with strong domain authorities, like national newspapers, for example, it is considered a higher value backlink.

Help a Reporter Out HARO

There are various tactics to find journalist requests — in fact, we dedicated a whole blog post to the topic here. But one of the most reliable resources for business owners and thought leaders is Help a Reporter Out (HARO). It is one of the most popular media request services that provide opportunities for people to contribute quotes. All sources need to do is sign up online to receive three daily emails which are full of journalist requests. It can vary widely, ranging from requests for doctors and dermatologists to cat owners and viral stars. It is used by various platforms of different sizes — from online national newspapers and TV reporters, to trade publications and smaller blogs.

Many will not be relevant to you, but you will likely find some opportunities that you are a good fit for every few days. Similarly, not every response will be successful. You can expect a success rate of around two placements for every 10-15 responses. It may not sound like a lot, but organic editorial opportunities are often tough wins and you have to effectively pitch yourself. Lots of factors can contribute to ultimately earning press, but what matters is that you are consistent with your efforts. Once you secure an opportunity, always ask the reporter to include a backlink.

#JournoRequest

#JournoRequest is a popular hashtag used by journalists to get their requests out to a wide audience. They might be looking for something or someone extremely niche, and by asking on social media, usually Twitter,  someone might just have a friend of a friend or a former colleague who fits the profile. By searching hashtags like #JournoRequest and #PRRequest, you might find a story in the works that you would be a good fit for.

Again, if you secure the opportunity, ask for a backlink to be included for the mention of your company. Additionally, it will flag the journalists who write about your industry and allow you to follow them to keep on top of news and other opportunities. 

How to Land a Successful Media Request Opportunity

Things like HARO and #JournoRequest are such valuable resources for journalists because it allows them to reach a large audience and hopefully get responses back in time for their deadline.

The best way to ensure your response is included or followed up is to precisely follow the request. Some requests will ask for finished question responses, others will simply request a source response before going into more details. Whatever the details, you can make journalists’ lives far easier by doing exactly what they ask. 

Additionally, you need to show why you are the right person to be the “expert” for that story. You should provide a short paragraph outlining who you are, your experience, and any other details that might be relevant to the piece. If you are answering questions or providing a quote, keep it concise and to the point, so little editing is required. Most importantly, make sure you meet their deadline in plenty of time.

Create a Press Kit

There are many other factors that come into play when it comes to landing a press opportunity. One of those things might just be convenience. If a journalist has to go out of their way to source photos, details, or research more about you, the less likely they are to pick you as their expert. Creating a press kit is a great solution to streamline the process and make journalists’ lives easier. It should include key information about you/ your business, and downloadable press assets like headshots.

It helps to show you are a legitimate business, makes everyone’s lives easier, and will also give the journalist easy access to your website so they can add a backlink. When dedicating time to various link-building activities, you can make the process quicker by having all your material in one place.

Writing a Response That Succeeds

Just because you believe you are the perfect fit for a request, doesn’t necessarily mean it will result in a link-building opportunity. Your response to a journalist’s request should be written as a short pitch. It should include a short paragraph about who you are and your experience, followed by the quote or answers requested by the journalist. Write concisely and keep in mind that any points you make should be able to stand alone as a single quote.

Is the Opportunity Worth a Backlink?

You should always ask yourself if the opportunity to secure a backlink is worth it. Will it help your brand image? Is it the right target audience? Will you be presented in a favorable light? The job of a journalist is to tell a story, and you ultimately don’t have control over that portrayal. You should be conscious about the opportunity and how it might help or hinder you.

Listacles

Listacles, if you can secure a spot, can be a great potential link-building strategy. You may have seen roundup style articles that list the top X companies, or X companies that do x-y-z. It is a great SEO opportunity because if someone Googles your industry, these types of articles are likely to show in the results. Not only this, but they are often full of backlinks. If you have read a listicle that you could imagine your company being a great fit for, bookmark it, and put together a pitch asking for their consideration next time they do a similar piece.

Broken Link-Building

This is a link-building activity that businesses use to secure backlinks on high-domain authority sites. The process means finding a broken link on a relevant site (there are various free websites that do this), creating your own link or resource to something similar, and asking the source to link your page instead. If you operate within a niche, there are fantastic opportunities to gain some great backlinks. It is a link-building strategy that does not require new content or too much effort from the author. It’s also a link-building activity that can be done regularly so you can be the first to spot these opportunities.

Find Your Unlinked Mentions 

Not everyone who mentions your site will link to it. Again, doing a simple Google search of your name, or by using a free tool, you might be surprised to see numerous unlinked mentions. Because these websites have already cited you as a trusted source, the next step is to simply reach out and ask for a courteous gesture for them to add a backlink. It’s another link-building strategy that requires minimal changes or edits for the author, so is another great regular activity to implement.

Engage and Leave Comments

Networking within your niche is beneficial for various business reasons. But when it comes to building backlinks, sometimes it helps to get on people’s radar. Whether it is on LinkedIn, social media, or blog comments, writers always appreciate people who take interest in their work. Even an organic mention of where your business fits in the wider conversation could lead to a backlink opportunity later down the line. Regularly commenting on relevant posts is a longer-term link-building activity that can reap rewards after consistent networking and engagement.

Guest Blogging

Guest blogging, while a link-building strategy, is also a great way to boost your credibility. It is the process of contributing an article to another site related to your industry. It might be a comment piece, how-to, or op-ed about something in the news. Again, it helps build your credibility, but also provides an opportunity for more backlinks on websites with high domain authority. 

Leadership Networks

Several large publications are now offering leadership network opportunities to businesses that qualify. This allows business owners and thought leaders to write as contributors for reputable outlets like Entrepreneur, Rolling Stone, and Forbes. While they often do not accept promotional content, it will set up a profile that includes a backlink to the writer’s site. Other publications, like TechCrunch for example, accept high-quality guest articles without a fee. Again, this comes with a backlink to a very high domain authority site.

How PR Helps

Implementing regular link-building activities into your schedule will prove beneficial, but ultimately you want to aim for those higher reaches. PR’s purpose is not solely to build backlinks, but it’s an important component of any strategy. In most cases when a journalist covers something, they will include a backlink to the site — this is a wholly organic strategy to build credibility. One successful campaign, even short-term, can result in dozens of new backlinks directing to your site. There is also the obvious value of being positioned as a trusted expert in front of your target audience.

Closing Thoughts

Backlinks are critical to growing your SEO and domain authority. And you need to do it through credible sites. There are link-building activities that you can implement, but ultimately you are aiming for value. A backlink from Forbes is far more powerful than an unreliable black-market backlink-building service. Anything that gets flagged as spam or for suspicious activity will only hurt your site if your backlinks are on there. If you work with a PR firm, they are creating real links for your company. This means feature articles, guest articles, contributorship opportunities, podcasts, and more. Anything in the media that is linking to your site will help increase that ranking. This translates to trust and credibility, which ideally leads to more sales. 

Hollie Geraghty

Hollie Geraghty

Hollie Geraghty is a versatile media professional with four years’ experience across journalism, content writing, social media and public relations. Specializing in entertainment, culture and the arts, she has written for national and regional publications in both print and online. In her spare time, she can be found ticking films off her watch list, and planning new travel destinations.
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