If you own a small business or are a marketer for a small business, then you know how important it is to show up for relevant searches. For years, backlinks have been a staple of SEO strategies for large scale websites. Does your small business have a strategy for building quality backlinks?
Do backlinks still matter?
When Google first got started, they had a revolutionary idea. They viewed the internet as a giant popularity contest. When websites linked to other websites, they were casting a vote that the website they were linking to was a good one.
This strategy for incorporating inbound, or backlinks into their website ranking algorithm is what separated Google from the other search engines of the time, like Yahoo and Ask Jeeves. This system of “voting” helped Google return better results for users, and so their user base grew.
Over time web developers started manipulating the system but trading and buying links from other websites. “Link farms” sprung up on the internet and backlink strategies got a bad wrap.
Over time, Google has fine-tuned their algorithm to consider other factors like how “popular” the site that is linking to your site is. They went on to punish links from sites that were “unpopular” or untrustworthy like “link farms”.
Because so many backlinking practices had become “black hat” or considered against best practices, many people abandoned their backlinking strategies for other strategies that they saw as less risky.
So, the question we have to ask is, with so many people abandoning them, do backlinks still matter? The answer is an unequivocal yes. They still matter in a big way.
In a study analyzing 1 million Google rankings, a group of SEO experts determined that “Backlinks remain an extremely important Google ranking factor. We found the number of domains linking to a page correlated with rankings more than any other factor.”
How to Implement a Small Business Link Building Strategy
There is a lot of advice on the internet for businesses like yours who are beginning to consider the state of their website’s SEO seriously. Most of it is good, but not all of it.
Let’s begin with the don’ts of link building.
- Don’t buy links. Seriously, don’t buy links. If a company is offering you a large number of inbound or backlinks for a small price, run. There are reputable ways to pay to play, but generally buying links is a bad idea.
- Don’t trade links. If you want another site to link to your website, give them a reason to and not by offering to link back to them.
- Don’t bother with shady or paid directories. There are legitimate directories that exist, like DMOZ, from which you can gain some link juice, but most are not worth your time. If anything, focus your directory efforts on local business directories.
Ok, so we’ve covered the basics of what not to do. But wait, we’re not quite ready to dive into the things that you should do yet. There is one topic that we absolutely must cover before we can dive into how you can build backlinks successfully. We need to go over your SEO foundation first.
Submit Your Site
If you’re just starting out with your website, or have never done anything to optimize your site, this is where you need to start. We’ve covered this in our article on how to get your business online in five steps, but we’ll do a quick review here.
At this point in the process, you have a website, but you’re going to have to let everyone know where to find you. To do this, you will want to submit your website to local business directories and mapping sites like Google My Business.
Doing this will ensure that you show up in local search results, and more importantly Google map results.
On-page optimization is the HTML foundation for your search rankings. Google is specific about how to format your site so that they can correctly understand for which topics and keywords you should show up.
On-page optimization will include things like ensuring that you have proper title tags, page descriptions, header tags containing keywords, and that you are using properly structured URLs.
If this is all brand new to you, you may want to start by reading Google’s beginner’s guide to SEO.
Building backlinks for your business
We’ve covered the things to avoid, we’ve discussed the first steps you should take to get your site online, we’ve gone over your site’s structure, now it’s time to build backlinks.
It’s important that we make quick note of the language that we use around your link building strategy. It is truly about “building” something. Successful websites are not stagnant pieces of marketing collateral. They are living breathing things that are constantly growing and evolving.
If you want to be successful with your SEO, then you have to start thinking of your website as an outlet to grow an audience. Quality backlinks, and therefore your website’s search engine rankings are built using a two-step process.
Step 1: Create quality, relevant, keyword rich content designed for your target customer
Your content may come in the form of blog posts, ebooks, videos, podcasts, or any number of creative vehicles. Regardless of the form, however, it needs to be valuable to your target customers.
Think about the sites that you visit. Why do you visit them? Most likely it’s not because all they do is try and sell you something. Well, ok, maybe Amazon, but they’re an anomaly.
You need to create valuable content to engage your visitors, but also to create something that other sites want to link to.
Step 2: Promote your content tirelessly
Once you’ve created your content, it’s time to get it out into the world. Remember, SEO is essentially a giant popularity contest. You need to get out there and convince people that your content is worth their vote, or link.
Use every tool at your disposal, post it on social media, submit it to relevant sites that curate content, whatever it takes. Don’t be bashful about your content, believe in it and that will shine through.
As you build a library of quality cvontent and relationships with various channels in which to distribute your content, you will find that the links will begin to build and with it your rankings for relevant searches.
If you think that you can create a website and pay to have it show up well in search results, you can, but that’s called Pay Per Click and it’s a whole different beast. If you want to show up well in search results naturally, or “organically” as they say in the biz, you’re going to have to put in the work.
If you are limited in your time, experience, or expertise, you can work with a reputable SEO company to help you create, distribute, and promote the content that it will take to get your website to number 1. We recently posted a video from Google offering advice on how to choose the right SEO company. If you are considering this route, it is a must watch.