Part II: How to Effectively Use Backlinks
Linking building can do amazing things for your website. However, building links requires careful planning and takes time. When implemented poorly, links can do more harm than good. To complicate matters, there are a lot of misconceptions and myths surrounding link building. I already covered some link building myths to avoid. This previous post specifically addressed linking from your site out to other sites. This time around, I’m going to focus on link building myths surrounding backlinks. Or rather, links from other sites that direct to your site.
SEO is always evolving. As people figure out hacks or unethical ways to rank their sites, search engines respond. This is possibly how many of these myths began. Practices that used to work, may not work anymore. Furthermore, some practices that used to work can now end up getting your site removed from the index or worse. Staying current with trends and effective strategies is important. Or, another effective strategy is to work with an SEO specialist who knows all about these things.
Myths to Avoid
1. Backlinks Will Instantly Increase Your Ranking
Backlinks are part of an effective SEO strategy. However, the key here is that it is part of a strategy. SEO is a long game, and backlinks are no exception. Even if you feature some great backlinks, those links need time to deliver results.
While it is often true that the top search results feature numerous backlinks, including backlinks is not a guarantee that your site will rank well or at all. It’s more complicated than that and the search engine’s algorithms are more dynamic. Backlinks can have a positive influence on your ranking when implemented as part of a well-structured content marketing strategy.
2. You Shouldn’t Ask for a Link
There is a fear that asking for a link is self-serving and manipulative and even sort of spammy. This practice is suspect if you are asking a site that has nothing to do with your business to backlink to your site. It’s wrong if you attempt to get a link back for a page that is not a good fit for the linking site. This practice is also wrong if you are providing something in return for the backlink, such as payment, goods or services, or even a link out from your site. However, when working with a relevant site, it is not suspect or inappropriate to ask for a link. This practice can provide value to readers and benefit both sites.
Be Our Guest
Reach out to any connections in your industry and ask about guest blogging on their site. Media publications are usually down with this practice. This will help position your business in front of relevant members of the industry, establishes you and your brand as an industry leader and provides a great opportunity to build links. Please note that you typically need to have some clout in order for a reputable news or media source to take you on as a guest blogger.
Slow Your Roll
You may be asked to tone down the self-promotion when guest blogging. Even if you aren’t asked to do so, you should consider it anyway. Guest blogging is not necessarily the right time for a sales pitch. Also, when guest blogging you need to play by the rules of the site posting your article. If they have a policy about not offering backlinks, while disappointing, you need to abide. Guest blogging can still be worthwhile even if you don’t score any backlinks. You may be able to link to your business homepage or social media accounts, so it will still be possible for people to find your business site. This is useless in terms of the present conversation, but it can still work out in your favor.
Guest blog in moderation. Going all-in with guest blogging in an effort to land a bunch of backlinks can have a negative impact. This is particularly true if all of your guest blogging backlinks come from the same site. You’ll likely make friends in the industry and friends like to help friends, but being too helpful by way of providing a bunch of backlinks can turn out to be a problem.
3. Backlinks From Free Posting Sites Are a Good Idea
You’ve maybe heard that you can score backlinks for your site by writing for a free posting site. In theory, this sounds like a great idea. You submit an article to sites like Medium and Quora on a topic relevant to your business and industry and include links back to your site. However, this is a really bad plan.
Google Webmaster Trends Analyst, John Mueller has gone on the record calling this practice, “really terrible ways of promoting your website.” If that quote isn’t enough of a deterrent, Mueller goes on to explain that, “this kind of activity has zero value for SEO.”
What’s So Bad About Free Posting Backlinks?
This strategy is useless because a ton of people out there are doing it. While it’s possible some people are writing good content to share just for the sake of informing and educating others, not everyone is so altruistic. Lots of people write dummy articles just for the purpose of scoring backlinks. The end result is a whole lot of garbage content that is written with the intent of getting backlinks, not informing readers. Search engines are wise to this scheme.
Some people claim backlinks on free posting sites work. Maybe this practice did work at one point. I think it’s safe to say the days of this practice still being effective (if it is at all) are definitely numbered. Google considers it this type of content to be spam, so aligning your brand with that content will not do you any favors.
Stay True to Your Brand
This tactic is also a bad call in terms of your overall brand. Every piece of content you put out into the world that represents your brand and you as an extension of your brand, should be thoughtful and a testament to your knowledge and skill as an industry leader.
4. Nofollow Links Are a Waste of Time
Websites can apply what is known as a nofollow attribute to links. This is simply code included on the site which prevents the linked site from receiving the benefits of a backlink. The nofollow attribute started out as common practice on message boards and sites where users can freely post. For instance, sites like Wikipedia use nofollow links. Businesses cannot gain any ranking benefit from receiving a backlink on Wikipedia. This prevents businesses from editing articles in order to load them up with backlinks. Advertisers may also use nofollow links as well, so any traffic sent to your site via an ad you purchased will not impact your ranking. Even links in press releases and article directories may be nofollow.
Nofollow links will not help your ranking, so they’re not super useful in terms of a content marketing strategy. However, nofollow links can still deliver users to your site, so there is some degree of value. You need people to visit your site to learn about your business, and nofollow links deliver users to your site. They just will not help your site’s ranking.
5. Link Reclamation Isn’t Worth the Effort
Link reclamation is the process of finding and fixing backlinks. Sometimes backlinks to your site are broken when you make changes, people managing the site that links to yours make changes or any other number of things happen. When this happens you lose this flow of traffic to your site. Taking the time to identify these broken links and fix them takes time. However, it’s easier than you may think and the results can be worthwhile.
How to Reclaim Broken Backlinks
The easiest way to reclaim broken backlinks is to run a scan to identify any broken links. There are a couple of tools you can use to do so. Once you have found your broken backlinks, depending on the cause, you can reach out to the site and simply ask to have your backlink reinstated. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t. You only know if you ask. When it works, you’ll get your link back and the traffic that comes with it. It’s a bummer if it doesn’t work, but you did what you could.
6. All Backlinks are Valuable
In theory, backlinks are amazing, but sometimes in practice, they aren’t so great. Tools like Google Analytics make it easy to see if anyone has linked back to your site. If a questionable site links back to your site, and you fear you may be part of a poorly executed link building campaign, you can always disavow the link. Consider disavowing any links that come from sites for businesses or people who have nothing to do with your industry or if they just look sketchy. This practice helps distance your site from any consequences.
Build Up Your Ranking
Learning the ins and outs of effective link building can be time-consuming and stressful. But you don’t have to handle it on your own. I can help! Reach out if you want to learn more about how to include link building in your content marketing strategy.