Links to your small business website from other sources drives traffic from direct clicks—but there's also a less obvious way that backlinks lead to increased website traffic. The more links to a website have on other reputable sites, the higher it will be listed in the search results. These links have a major impact on the number of visitors to a website—so it's important to understand why backlinks are essential for SEO (and how to build them).
Why Backlinks Are Essential For SEO
The way Google sees it, if a lot of reputable websites are linking to your content, then your content must be good. And they're usually right. Site editors don't want to link to bad or inaccurate content, so lots of backlinks typically mean good content. Of course, there are spam-like links, but Google's algorithms are actually pretty good at detecting those and actually penalizing websites that use them. There are two ways to measure backlinks. The number of links in a root domain is backlinks to the entire site, while page links just show how many links are coming into a single page. Open Site Explorer is a free tool that tells you just how many page and root domain links a website has—it's an essential tool to measure the effectiveness of link building campaigns. So how do you increase your website's number of backlinks? It starts with having good content that people will want to share, but there are a few ways to go even further:
Use keywords in the link
If you have control over the backlink, integrate an SEO keyword. Don't link to phrases like “click here”. Instead, use a relevant phrase that's also a good SEO keyword. Google connects the resource with the words it's linked to in the text, so “click here” links are pretty much useless. Whenever possible, use the keyword you are trying to rank for.
Gain backlinks on a variety of relevant websites
Variety is the key to successful link building. The more (non-spam) websites that link to your website, the better. If the website is relevant, for example, an outdoors blog linking to a camping gear store, that link is even more valuable. But besides starting with good content and linking on your own website and blog, how do you build backlinks? There are a lot of possibilities, but here are a few ideas:
- Invite people to share directly. Reach out to other websites by email or through social media. This method is more time consuming and may not always get results, but many websites are successful this way. Start with others in the same industry you already have a relationship with and go from there.
- Social media links count too, so be sure to share on your own personal and business profiles. Encourage others to share by using an engaging tagline instead of posting only a link by itself.
- Write guest posts. Many blogs are happy to have guest writers and will link back to your website in exchange for providing the article.
- Use a press release service. Integrate links into your press releases as well, then distribute them online. Paid services like PR Web will give you the most exposure, but there are a few free ones out there that it doesn't hurt to try too.
Avoid negative backlinks
Not all backlinks are created equal. Google's algorithm is designed to look for people who are simply buying their links or using spam-like websites. Don't buy your backlinks, and when reaching out, choose websites that are relevant. On the flip side, a link from a website that is highly ranked is more valuable in SEO terms than a link from a website with lower traffic. There are hundreds of factors that go into where a website ranks on search engines, so much that there are professionals that dedicate their entire careers to SEO—but small business owners can still work to enhance their own search engine viability by focusing on the major factors, like backlinks. Try using keywords within the backlink, obtaining links from a variety of reputable websites, and avoiding links from negative sources.