Build Backlinks and Build Your Traffic: A Beginner’s Guide
By Kathy Widenhouse, award-winning nonprofit content writer, website publisher, and author of 9 books.
you have an online home, you want to build backlinks. Doing so increases the
number of visitors to your blog or website. Do a search on getting traffic to your blog or
website and you’ll see “ways to get backlinks” or “how to create backlinks” or
variations on that theme.
backlinks are a key to online success. But how do they work? More on that in a
minute. But first …
What are backlinks?
A backlink is a link from one website to another. They’re also called inbound links, incoming links, one way links, or external links. You can use anchor text, images, videos, and buttons to create backlinks from one site to another.
But the “back” in “backlink” confused me for a long time. Didn’t it mean that the link reached “back” to another site from mine? And if so, why the vaunted reputation for these types of links? By inserting links to other sites, I was directing visitors away from my own.
Finally, I came to understand that a backlink can be both an inbound link and an outbound link. If it reaches back to another owner’s site, it’s outbound – which makes it a backlink from your site to another one. When other webmasters insert links from their site to yours, they’re inbound to your online home – backlinks from them to you.
In either case, a backlink is one-way.
But where’s the benefit? Ah, there’s a good question.
Why backlinks are a site builder’s gold
Backlinks act like "votes of confidence" from one website to another, indicating to search engines that the linked-to website is reputable, valuable, and relevant. Pages with a high number of relevant backlinks tend to have high organic search engine rankings.
That’s one reason backlinks are so valuable.
Think about it: when you cite and link to an authoritative source, your content increases in credibility. So if I’m writing about best wood floor cleaners, then a link to the opinion of a leader in the National Wood Floor Association carries weight. My content’s value intensifies because I quote a wood floor expert. And the National Wood Floor Association? Well, all kinds of construction industry and homeowner websites and blogs point to them. Their reputation builds.
Now, think in reverse. Other sites link to yours, demonstrating that they respect your content. They quote you. They refer to you as a reliable expert. All that inbound goodness makes search engines sit up and notice. Your site becomes saturated with authority. No wonder backlinks are known as “a site builder’s gold.”
Here’s what swirls in the background as you build backlinks.
What happens when you build backlinks to your site
- Your site’s search engine results improve. As more reputable and relevant websites point to your content, search engines take notice. They interpret backlinks as a signal that your content is valuable and trustworthy. Backlinks contribute to search engine algorithms, boosting individual pages and posts for relevant keywords.
- Your organic traffic increases. When your site or one of its pages appears high on search results, then more users see it and link to it. That means more readers click and read your content.
- Your credibility rises. Backlinks to your site from trustworthy, well-established websites increase your reputation as an authority.
- Your pages are indexed sooner. Search engine crawlers use links to discover and index new content on the web. Backlinks to your site mean new content appears faster in search engine data bases.
- You build a network. As you reach out to other website owners or bloggers in your niche to request backlinks, you build new relationships, collaborations, and partnerships with your online colleagues.
- You create referral traffic. When a reader clicks a link from another site to yours, you grow the number of visitors who are interested in your content, products, and services.
- Your traffic diversifies. As you build your online home, it’s risky to rely on one traffic source. What happens if Facebook shuts down your page or you skip posting ads for a month? But backlinks create passive traffic. Links are seeded across the internet and live there, driving new readers to your site without any extra effort from you.
Best ways to build backlinks
BuzzSumo teamed up with SEO giant Moz and learned that 75% online content has zero backlinks. None. What are the best ways to build backlinks so your content can avoid that fate?
Without question, the top response is always this: write quality content. It’s a long-term strategy – but the one with the most long-lasting results. Quality content offers valuable information. And it earns natural, organic backlinks, especially when you …
1. Write your own content.
ChatGPT and a host of other AI tools can provide information. But content infused with your personality is set apart. Yes, use AI to create an outline for a blog post … but then you rewrite most of it in your own voice. Add additional bits of information, stories, and statistics. Quote authorities. Include at least one original image or infographic – one that you create on PicMonkey or Canva that’s branded to your site. Do that, and your content becomes unique and demonstrates your authority.
2. Write optimized content.
Focus each page or post on one or two keywords (terms or phrases associated with a particular topic). Choose keywords for your piece of content carefully – terms that have high search, low supply data. Place those keywords in your page title, the first paragraph, meta tags, and at least once every 300 words per page.
3. Write long content.
Backlinko and BuzzSumo studied 912 million blog posts and found that content longer than 3,000 words earned 77.2% more backlinks than shorter content. You can create long form content in comprehensive resource pages or guides on your website.
These pillar pages can act as link magnets. Other sites point to them as references or sources of valuable information in your niche. Plus all that content gives you plenty of opportunity to create gobs of internal, contextual links to other pages on your site. When you add those links, be sure to …
4. Write relevant anchor
Descriptive – and accurate – anchor text helps search engines understand why your backlink is relevant and valuable. My link about writing contextual links, for instance, directs you to a page about contextual links … rather than a page about how to write a functional resume.
5. Write shareable content.
Short form content has its uses. Share short posts, infographics, and videos on social media platforms, relevant online communities, and in forums associated with your niche. Short content attracts comments, attention, and traffic, ultimately leading to natural backlinks from those who discover your content.
to ceate a content strategy you can stick with:
use this helpful worksheet ...
More ways to build backlinks
- Guest post. As you become familiar with the key players in your niche, create a list of those that have an established audience and a good reputation. Offer to provide content, write a guest post, or create an article. Pro tip: check a site’s guest posting policy before you reach out. And once you determine that a site accepts guest writers, study its writer’s guidelines. Search through the site to see the owner’s preferred writing style and to find a topic that’s not been covered. Doing so increases your chances of publication. Plus, you’ll show yourself as a helpful writing partner.
- Replace broken links. Find websites in your niche that have broken or outdated links. Offer to replace those links with relevant content from your site. Use tools like Ahrefs and Check My Links to identify broken links on other websites.
- Reclaim links. Where websites mention your brand or content without linking back to your site, reach out and request that they make that connection. Use Google Alerts or Mention to find unlinked references.
- Collaborate to create content. Partner with other website owners, bloggers, or experts in your field to create co-authored content, interviews, or round-up posts. Offer backlinks to their sites and ask those colleagues to link to yours.
- Position yourself as an expert. Register as a source on HARO (Help a Reporter Out), where you’ll receive queries from journalists and bloggers seeking expert opinions or quotes for their articles. When your response gets included in their content, you can request a backlink. Likewise, track Quora and Reddit content in your niche and respond helpfully to earn backlinks from readers.
Words you need to know about backlinks
Yes, there are ways to create all that traffic yumminess that links back to your site. But before you dig into how to build backlinks, make sure you understand the lingo. Use this backlink glossary.
Link source: The website that provides the hyperlink is known as the "source" or "referrer."
Target: The site that the link points to is the "target" or "linked-to" website.
Anchor text: These words are highlighted or underlined and clickable in the referrer, leading the user to the target.
Link diversity: Backlinks from various domains indicates that your content is valuable to different audiences.
NoFollow links: A NoFollow link is a spam preventer. A bit of “NoFollow” code on your site tells search engines not to link back an unscrupulous user who inserts a link on your blog or site, say in your blog’s Comments section.
DoFollow links: This bit of code gives search engines the go-ahead to link to commenters.
Build different types
As you go about the process of building backlinks, understand this: all backlinks are not the same. When you understand different types of backlinks, you can target your efforts specifically to build links to your site that help your readers have a better experience and introduce your content to readers who don’t yet know you.
- Internal links point readers to other pages within your website. They help users navigate your site, discover related content, and improve the overall user experience. Internal links offer an added benefit: they show that your site isn’t just a “one-page wonder,” but that many pages offer solid, useful content. In techie terms, internal pages help build your page authority.
- External links point to other websites or web pages outside of your own site. They offer readers
- extra information, resources, or references to support your content. Choose your external links wisely. In other words, link to reliable sources.
- Natural backlinks. A blogger or website owner links to your site from theirs. That’s a natural backlink. You can understand why it’s super-valuable. A website owner has found your content high value and shareable enough that they voluntarily promote it with a link.
- Guest post backlinks offer a brief bio and link back to your site when you write an article or share content on a site other than your own. Why post on another blog or site? Because you can piggyback on another publisher’s audience in your niche and extend your reach.
- Social media backlinks don’t improve SEO, but drive readers to your site … meaning they boost your traffic, at least in the short term. Capture those readers with an opt in and you’ll keep them coming to your site again and again.
- Directory backlinks are a fast way to achieve online acknowledgement for your new site or blog. Submit your site address to web directories that are relevant to your niche. Avoid low-quality directories, which can harm your online traction more than help it.
- Forum and community backlinks, like social media links, allow you to answer a member’s question and offer a backlink to a relevant page on your blog or website. Boost your impact by actively participating in the community and by only posting backlinks that add value to the discussion. Don’t be the member who spams the boards.
- Resource page backlinks offer you a chance to provide information to other readers in your niche. Reach out to bloggers and website owners in your niche and offer a helpful resource, tool, or piece of content they can link to from your site to their resource pages.
Avoid these backlink boo-boos
All is not always rosy in backlink land. Low-quality or spammy backlinks can have a negative impact. Here are the biggest mistakes to avoid when you build backlinks to your blog or website.
- Buy backlinks? Don’t bother. You’re trying to manipulate the search engines. And guess what? They get it.
- Link spam. Ever see a link from an ice hockey coaching site that points to an emerging market stockbroker? They’re spam, placed on pages and websites regardless of content or user experience, in a blatant attempt to boost search rankings. Doesn’t work. Plus, you’ll be flagged as a renegade.
- Low quality links. In your hunger to get traffic to your site, you may resort to a link from a bad neighborhood: an explicit site, an illegal site, a low-rent site with artificially-spun content. Don’t go there.
- Anchor text overload. A page that’s got more highlighted text than plain is a blogger’s attempt to link to too much internal content and get the reader to stay on the stie f-o-r-e-v-e-r. Yes, do give plenty of internal links to your reader … but only as a way to help her get valid information from other pages on your site.
Build backlinks and build your site
Don’t try to just “get” backlinks. “Build” them.
You “get” a gift. Quality backlinks are not given out freely. If they are, then they’re not worth a great deal because search engines value solid content.
But when you “build,” you take time to help your readers. Doing so gives them a better experience. They notice. And so do search engines.
In the end, you get traffic because you give.
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