Backlinks : here is a word that you see coming back constantly in your searches to get more visibility on the web.
You hear that this is one of the most important tasks to show to search engines that you are an authority site, and to gain ranking. That a good netlinking strategy will pay you big in Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
However: between all these SEO-related terms, you start to get a little dizzy…
Don't panic! I propose here an initiation to explain how to get these famous backlinks in a simple and efficient way.
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What is a backlink?
A backlink is a hyperlink that comes from one website and points to another: yours, for example.
There's nothing different from a conventional link, it's just the destination that's important.
Please understand that this is not an intrasite link, but an intersite link. A site mentions another site as a “reference”, “source” or “useful resource”.
A backlink can be made:
- By a person in a natural way, because they liked your site or your content and want to share it to their audience;
- Intentionally / artificially for you, within the framework of a service, an exchange of good processes or by a simple request.
It can be included in a text, on an image or even be at the bottom of the page in the “Source” section (like our journalist friends).
On WordPress, you can create these links through your editor, as if you were linking to one of your posts. It's just that you will need to indicate the URL coming from another site than yours.
In equivalent of daily life, a backlink could correspond to the quotes you see at the bottom of the page in books. They allow you to highlight, or position in the center of attention, an author, a book, a study or any other useful resource.
Why is it important to have them?
As part of an SEO strategy, backlinks are essential. This is indeed what allows search engines to know who is in the center of attention for a given topic.
However, when you want to develop your traffic through SEO, you must work on three important aspects: technique, content and popularity.
Once your site is technically optimized and you have started to produce useful and qualitative content, you need to promote it to improve its popularity.
We can of course:
- Use social networks: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat… if you have an audience;
- Share this content in the specialized press: newspapers, specialized blogs… if you have good connections;
- Or play with word-of-mouth… if your content is viral.
But what is really important to be able to take places and be at the top of a Google results page is to have consistent and powerful backlinks to your site and its contents.
The more a site receives backlinks from different complementary websites in the same topic, the more a search engine can see that the site is in the center of attention, that it is the “reference” in its field.
In short, if everyone talks about you, it's for a reason: you are THE reference.
How does a search engine work?
I promise we won't go into too much detail so we don't lose you. But globally, everything started at the end of the 90's from an algorithm (a computer program) called Pagerank.
Created by the founders of the Google search engine, the Pagerank algorithm is based on a fairly simple operation: the more you are mentioned, the more popular you are. It is a kind of voting system that allows to highlight important nodes or pages.
Today, the Pagerank has evolved and takes into account certain other complementary data, such as the theme of the page in question.
It allows search engines to be more precise, to know if a link is really useful, and if it can have weight in the calculation.
It also takes into account:
- The anchor of the link (the text on which it is positioned);
- The context of the link;
- The position in the page (for example, a context link of a post will always be more powerful than a link in a footer);
- The number of links on the page;
- The content of the page itself…
These improvements have been necessary to avoid ranking manipulations, and to penalize / slow down the smart guys who would like to see their site better ranked in search results.
Thus, in terms of operation, when a search engine explores the web, it will encounter “connections” (links, backlinks) between sites, determine their consistency (if it is spam or not) and then deduce who is most mentioned in X or Y topic and / or for X or Y subject.
It is an iterative process that calculates over time the “power” of web pages. It takes several tens of passages on a page before obtaining a statistic of stabilized popularity.
To help you understand the system on the aspects of consistency, let's say you have a small blog about motorcycling. Three sites make you a backlink:
- A popular magazine specialized in motorcycles;
- A little cooking blog;
- A Facebook page.
Who do you think will benefit you the most? Simple answer, my dear Watson: the motorcycle magazine, because it's popular and in tune with your subject.
A search engine does this job all day long. It scans the web and tries to see what is consistent or not and where the link comes from and then calculates the power of your site. Depending on the iterations, it determines which one is much more prominent on the web than others.
Note that all pages start out with the same popularity. It's simply the links that accentuate or not the popularity of certain pages, and that make Facebook and Amazon popular.
Therefore, if you have tons of links from specialized sites like the motorcycle magazine above, your little motorcycle blog will in turn become a reference and a popular site.
That's why a very young site doesn't always position itself very well in the search engine results pages (among other things).
Indeed, its backlinks history is young too, it does not contain many mentions.
Now let's see what is a good backlink nowadays, taking the little exercise from above.
What is a good backlink?
Above, we haven't really talked about the two links coming from the little cooking blog and the Facebook page. Why wouldn't a search engine really take them into account?
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This is precisely where we need to introduce a few small rules and important information to determine whether a backlink is worth it.
A backlink is considered “good”, “useful” and “powerful” when it meets several conditions (non-exhaustive list):
- A link must come from a complementary page, because generally, if it is not the case, it is a poor quality link. This is not always true, but why would a cooking blog link to a motorcycle site? It doesn't make sense;
- A link must come from a site with a strong authority in its field, because when you are mentioned by references, you eventually become a reference too. It's a strong signal, and quality must always come before quantity;
- A link must come from a powerful page (i.e. a page that receives backlinks, that is positioned correctly and gets traffic if possible), because being mentioned on a page buried deep inside a site, with few connections with the Internet, is burying a link rather than making it live;
- A link must come from a site that does not use malicious techniques (spam, mass link buying, over-affiliation, dubious backlink acquisition techniques…), because in the long run, you can risk at best a loss of power, at worst a penalty;
- A link should not have a
sponsoredattribute, as these are indications to search engines that the link is potentially “not to be followed / not to be taken into account” for
nofollow, user generated content for
ugcor a sponsored link for
These last three attributes generally block the power (what is often called the “juice” in SEO, i.e. their popularity) to the destination site.
Facebook and the big sites generally use these subterfuges to avoid giving their juice to just anyone. This rule tends not to be true anymore, but it's in any case an indication of what kind of link to promote or not through the web.
With the Yoast SEO plugin, you can create links with
ugc is not suggested but your theme can include it automatically in the links coming from the comments, for example.
Of course, these are the main rules. There are others, but it is not because you have not respected these rules punctually that you will risk something… Especially since search engines tend to simply ignore these backlinks rather than penalize you today.
If I can give you an advice: make relevant links and keep the web clean.
Now let's see how to get backlinks in order to develop the natural traffic of your site.
How to get backlinks?
As mentioned earlier in this article, there are natural backlinks and artificial backlinks.
Both are used to gain popularity and to show the search engines that you need to be placed higher… but this can sometimes be risky and/or complicated to do.
So let's see how to get backlinks in these two ways with some basic strategies of netlinking / linkbuilding (i.e. creating links to a site).
How to get natural backlinks?
Let's start with natural backlinks. As a reminder, these are not of your intention.
Editors, bloggers, journalists and other writers thank you for your content and (naturally) mention you for your relevance. For example, for giving useful information.
These are often the most effective backlinks, because they are often very consistent, but they are difficult to obtain. It is indeed the link obtained thanks to your work, your content, your brand image. One could almost say “on merit” in a way.
To get backlinks naturally, your content and what you offer on your site must be remarkable and shareable by X or Y people. This takes time!
Here are some types of contents making it possible to obtain natural backlinks on the long term.
Make complete tutorials
On the web, people love comprehensive guides and tutorials where you can learn and set things up on your own. It's even better with videos, photos, schemes, etc.
Indeed, by addressing important needs for your users, they may find that you've done a great job and that it could be very useful to others. So sometimes they will mention you to bring your content to their audience.
Of course, you have to be careful that people don't copy and paste your content: this could mislead Google and penalize you as a result. But, if they quote you (with a link), I can assure you that it will bring you popularity.
So look for tutorials to do for your users, it brings a lot of value!
And don't think that a blog is indispensable. You could very well create guides on your topics with pages. The important thing is to publish relevant resources.
The good thing about infographics is that they can be easily shared on social networks and websites that relay easy-to-remember information.
A picture is often said to be worth 1000 words, and this is very useful here, because to integrate your infographics, people will have to mention you as a source if they want to use it.
Moreover, if you see a website that includes your contents, and more precisely your infographics, do not hesitate to ask for a “source” link if it is not there.
Design tools and games
When you begin to understand the needs of your users, you quickly realize that you can offer quizzes, applications, small tools, even games to help or amuse them.
This is the case, for example, of real estate publishers who make available to their users a whole bunch of calculators and other online simulators to calculate funding, get the idea of an interest rate, or anything else.
If your tool is well designed, fast, efficient, it may be shared many times; and it is even more efficient when it is unique and meets a recurring need!
Create lead magnets
Basically, we talk about lead magnet when we do emailing. It consists of producing a guide or a work in the form of an ebook, videos or whatever, in exchange for an email.
However, PDFs, Excel files, matrices and other checklists are completely shareable, and you should not hesitate to propose useful resources to your users, they could really share them.
All you have to do is create a page dedicated to downloading these items, and then make it known through social networks for example, so that the link can turn and then be mentioned.
Write news posts
Whether you are a main relay of your topic, a journalist or someone who gives his/her opinion on a subject, the news is the best way to be up to date and get yourself noticed.
People are much less sensitive to content they have already seen than to “trendy” content. So, if you are speaking on topics that really matter or are topical, you should quickly get quoted by those in the open debate.
Don't hesitate to do media monitoring and develop your network by quoting important actors and influencers who are talking about a strong and trendy topic, which may allow them to notice you and encourage them to make backlinks.
For example, in 2018, even before GDPR was implemented, WPMarmite jumped at the opportunity to produce an extensive article on GDPR and WordPress* with the help of a law firm specializing in the subject.
* This post about GDPR is under a major update but we'll share it in due course.
To this day, it is still the most relayed blog post (more than 2000 times at the moment!). So, bouncing on the news is a good thing.
Make great content!
To create natural backlinks, you have to be remarkable. By your content, by your opinions, by your activity on the web, by the people you meet and the decisions you make, you will end up not being alone and connect to the web.
Getting natural backlinks means not staying in your corner. It's no use letting time go by without showing the world anything.
Provoke the web by showing people that you are there. Help the web! (and it will help you in return)
Even if you speak in public, on social networks, on Instagram stories or other, your site will sooner or later be the central communication tool of your strategy that will be mentioned by other sites.
How to get backlinks artificially?
We have just seen how to get natural backlinks, that is backlinks that have been created without asking anyone.
The opposite of the natural backlinks are the artificial backlinks. That is to say links that you have created artificially / intentionally in order to develop and manipulate your visibility on search engines.
If they are not really tolerated by search engines, creating backlinks yourself or with the help of someone can be quite useful to take shortcuts, and grow faster without having to invest in tons of content and marketing levers (advertising, social networks…).
Warning! Don't forget that in SEO, you have to be patient and not skip any steps! You won't get any lasting benefit from buying several dozen artificial links at once.
It is necessary to be organized and subtle, so as not to inflate your link acquisition over a short period of time, unless you have a good reason (multiple TV appearances, significant increase in traffic, etc).
So here are a few ideas that can help you get backlinks quickly on your own impulse. However, beware, as these ideas and techniques are not normally tolerated by search engines: be careful.
The simplest and fastest way today is to buy links. By going through a platform, or by discussing directly with the site editor, you can obtain one or more links on his/her site, in a post or one of his/her publications.
The problem with buying links is that it becomes more and more expensive. From about ten to several thousand dollars for a backlink, you can get popularity “as you wish”… as long as you pay.
It works like crazy, but you have to give yourself the means when you have hundreds of backlinks to buy to compete with other sites.
The question is mainly whether you want to invest in backlinks or in remarkable content that may attract backlinks. A matter of guarantee and risk.
Here are some platforms to buy backlinks:
Practice less and less easy, because people were afraid of it after the penalties in the early 2010's, but which is really effective when you do it right: exchanging links is an agreement you make between a site editor and yourself.
The first one writes, for example, a post for the second one, and vice versa.
Be careful however not to make reciprocal links between your pages. The simple ways of exchanges were very much used in the past to get more Pagerank. It is a practice that Google wanted to spot and penalize when it was used excessively.
To negotiate and find people open to this kind of practice, you can type the query of your choice on Google, go to the first 5 pages, and try to find sites and blogs that talk about the same subject as you, and that are not close competitors.
Then contact the person and talk to them to see what can be done. For example, you can explain that you have a particular product / service for sale and that you would be very happy to make them try in exchange for a link or a review on their site. That way, you in turn mention them.
You can also tell your story by explaining that you are starting out and that you are looking to make yourself known… That you can join forces.
Don't be pompous though: no one likes people who show off, even when their product is worth it!
One last piece of advice on this point, contact people who are slightly more influential than you. The more popular sites will ignore you.
After all, why would a big site showcase a small one? It hasn't proven anything yet.
Guest blogging is a common practice nowadays, and much better tolerated by search engines today.
It consists of inviting a person to come and talk on your blog. Usually, for the guest, it's the opportunity to access an audience and have a backlink on your site.
This post is an example of this: I am invited as a professional to share my experiences and knowledge.
This guest will usually thank you later on for giving him this opportunity, by giving you a backlink in return.
You also have the possibility to find lists of sites accepting guest blogging according to your sector, or to contact sites in search of editors, to be able to give your opinion on something, and take advantage of it to put a backlink to your site.
Contact your suppliers and partners
We don't think about it often, but we use products, hardware, software for our sites / companies on a very regular basis. We all also have an extensive contact book.
These suppliers / providers / manufacturers / customers / friends (cross out the useless mention) may very well be an extension of your activity, and you could very well contact them to ask them to intervene on their site or to have a link in a strategic part of it.
Even without talking about a powerful backlink, it's still very useful to say you're working with one or the other.
Open your inbox
Once you start talking here and there on the web, in a predefined area, you always have a whole bunch of people who also need visibility. Personally, I get canvassed every week.
We don't give much importance to those emails that we throw in the trash directly. Do the opposite! Give the person some time, give them a discussion and negotiate a mini-strategy of communication, it often pays off… as long as you observe the site beforehand.
Observing a site is a set of procedures that allow you to identify if it is reliable and popular:
- You can use tools like SEMrush to estimate the traffic of a domain, and which pages get the most traffic.
- You can also use Majestic which gives us all the data concerning the backlinks of a domain.
In short, before investing, you need to know where to invest, and profiling a domain is important.
Make the exchange, then boost the operation by adding social networks, by showing each other your names.
Try, via a marketing operation with an actor, to trigger other operations with other actors. If people know that you are open to intervening on their sites, you could have quite a few opportunities as you go along.
Learn more about netlinking / linkbuilding techniques
It is difficult to list all the techniques that allow you to obtain artificial backlinks. I've mentioned a few that can help you develop your traffic, but find out what exists in SEO by getting closer to specialized blogs and SEOs.
Many are now making networks of sites, recover expired domain names, do automation or more…
But for an article dedicated to beginners, it's hard for me to tell you to start there if you don't have a lot of skills and experience in SEO, because these are sometimes risky techniques.
Which tools to find backlinks?
When you want to find where your competitors are mentioned, but also when you want to see the SEO profile of a site, it can be useful to use a number of specialized tools.
As such, I recommend a few that I have had the opportunity to test and approve:
- SEMrush is a versatile tool that I use to analyze a domain (estimated traffic, positioned keywords, site health, etc.);
- Majestic is a tool that essentially enables you to retrieve backlinks from any site and analyze them;
- Babbar is a competitor to Majestic, but which tends to propose us soon very interesting new metrics on the topic in particular.
These are paying tools, and most of the free tools don't do the job properly, so I won't present them here.
Before I finish: Watch out for the penalties!
As we have seen, getting backlinks has a strong impact on your visibility in search engines.
Creating pages with qualitative content allows you to start working on keywords still untreated on your site, where making backlinks to these same pages allows you to get them higher and higher by showing your popularity to search engines.
However, be careful not to take too many risks. If you are incoherent, that you create too many links quickly, that you are not organized, that you try to push too hard and too fast your backlinks, you may be the victim of a penalty.
Take it easy, take your time, it's very important. And if you don't know how to do it, get in touch with a professional, even for an hour of Q&A in coaching. It's better than losing your visibility because of a penalty, believe me.
There is so much to say on the subject of backlinks and more generally on netlinking / linkbuilding. We could write a whole book on techniques, theory, pagerank and more.
In summary, backlinks are quotes in the form of links that other sites make to you. They help search engines, especially Google, to understand that you are at the heart of the attention and one of the references for a given subject.
Having backlinks allows you to position yourself higher and higher on a given request and to develop your visibility on search engines and thus your traffic.
There are natural links created by people to thank you for your work, and artificial links that you generate intentionally from other sites.
You have to be careful not to be too abrupt in creating links to avoid penalties, and it's best to start by being outstanding with top-notch content before taking shortcuts with artificial links, especially when you're just starting out.
This introduction to netlinking is now over! I hope you enjoyed it and that you will have clearer ideas about backlinks.
Feel free to share in the comments, what you have put on your sites to get links.
See you soon on WPMarmite!
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