Why are backlinks so important?
Let’s face it, Google isn’t getting any smaller, and neither is the eCommerce marketplace. With literally thousands of online businesses fighting to be top dog on their tiny patch of the internet, it almost feels as though Google is a popularity test: Who has the best copy, who has the highest ranking, who has the most backlinks? And while all three are infinitely as important when it comes to achieving that top spot and increasing your sales and leads, the latter is almost seen as a vote of confidence from one site to another, and search engines take that very seriously.
So, whether you’re a new small business owner or you’ve been looking for ways to increase your backlink bank account for years, read on. Here, we’ll explain why they’re so important, how they are earned, and why every online business should recognise and be conscious of the power of link building:
What are Backlinks?
First things first, what are backlinks? It’s important to understand what this little but important slice of SEO actually is before diving into why they’re so valuable to the growth of your site and business.
Otherwise known as incoming, one way or inbound, they are links that are created when one website links an article, product, blog post, etc. from another website. Google, along with other major search engines take a specific interest in backlinks, as it tells them that the site is both popular, informative, reputable, and legitimate. When pages or sites have a high number of backlinks, they typically have top-level organic search engine rankings, too.
For example, if a furniture shop were to link to a blog post about the living room interior trends for 2022, the website that created and posted the interior trends content would receive a backlink from the furniture shop, i.e a vote of confidence. Does that make sense?
Backlinks and SEO
Backlinks are specifically important to SEO and your SERP (search engine results page) because they affect how high or low you rank. Search engines like Google will use algorithms to assemble information and then rank the pages, using only the best spiders and bots to crawl your site for quality copy, content, and backlinks.
And the better the backlinks (i.e the higher quality the copy and the sites you are linked to) and the more you have, the better your search engine results.
Advantages of Backlinks
Now for the good bit – why are they so important?
They Improve Organic Ranking
Once Google begins to view your website as trustworthy and authoritative, it will start to rank your site higher on the search engine results page. And know that search engines prioritise websites that are frequently visited by users on topics that they regularly search for. So, if your site has a variety of quality backlinks, Google will credit your website as credible, and therefore organically rank it higher as a page that provides valuable information on that specific subject matter.
However, be aware that quality backlinks are acquired over time, so it’s important to avoid using deceptive, spammy methods to try and speed up the number of backlinks you get, i.e self-created, black-hat SEO techniques. (This will be discussed in more detail later.)
If Google notices you are building up backlinks in a non-organic fashion, they will eventually realise, and your rankings will suffer the consequences.
They Boost Referral Traffic
Backlinks can really help your website to boost its referral traffic. For example, if a web user finds your website via a backlink, Google Analytics will automatically track the click and document it as a referral visit to your site.
Overall, referral traffic is more relevant and targeted, as the bounce rates are lower than other types of traffic.
They Raise Brand Awareness
When you get linked on another website, that is confirmation that the particular site thinks their audience will enjoy your content and gain something from your offerings. These are quality backlinks, which means that they typically come from reputable and reliable websites that have an audience of the same calibre. This means that this trustworthy source is recommending your site and your brand to its readers, which can only be a good thing, right?
In order to build on this brand awareness and increase your visibility even further, once readers land on your site, you can add a ‘Related Content’ button at the end of a blog post to link them to other articles you have written that you think they may be interested in. This then increases the time they spend on your website as well as increasing the content they read. Google takes this into very serious consideration when ranking your site, too.
Your Website Becomes Authoritative
As more and more sites link back to you and your content, your business will begin to be positioned as an authoritative source for the particular topic, service or products you offer. Google and other search engines use this reputation as a key factor when researching what your site is about. So, the more backlinks you achieve, the easier Google will be able to learn about your business, meaning the higher you climb on the authority scale.
You Can Establish Relationships With Other Websites
When you link to other websites, whether that be a promotion or a recommendation, Google and internet users view this as a connection with the other source. This then develops more trust amongst consumers, as they know that you have confidence in the other website and vice versa.
They Attract More Backlinks Naturally
As your quality backlinks on reputable websites increase, your site will become common knowledge to other sites without you even knowing. This increases your chances of a number of websites writing and linking back to you, all without you even having to ask for or make a swap.
This does take time, however, so do not expect a back catalogue of quality, organic backlinks straight away.
How Are They Earned?
Now you’ve learned about the benefits of gaining backlinks, you should be familiar with why they’re such a vital feature in any SEO strategy. But, how do you earn them? While there are three primary ways to see your site being linked to other reputable websites, not all of them can provide you with the best organic results – so be careful, and don’t try to cheat Google. It will notice!
This is the backlink you should be aiming for, as they are provided without any communication from either side. However, this makes them the hardest to earn and take the longest to achieve. But, once caught, they are so worth it.
For example, a natural link would look like this: The furniture shop (website A) would link to the 2022 interior trends blog (website B) without A or B asking for the link or communicating in any way. One of the best ways to earn a natural link is consistently creating and posting high-quality copy.
This type of backlinking involves some communication from both websites. Let’s use the website A and website B example again: If B contacted A and asked to be linked, this would be seen as a manual link.
You can seek legitimate manual links by guest posting for websites that are relevant to your site, too. This means writing content for another company’s website (and including the link to your content within the copy) to attract traffic back to your own.
Self-created or Bought Backlinks
Pretty self-explanatory, these links are considered unethical by Google because they are made with the purpose of deceiving search engines into thinking your copy is valuable. Bought links are also a no-no if you want to keep your rankings, as it breaches Google’s guidelines.
If Google does find you guilty of self-creating or buying backlinks, you’re more than likely to be penalised and you do not want that to happen. (They make up a pretty big portion of the search engine market.) Punishments include losing site rankings for all of your keywords for up to 6 months or more or losing your rankings altogether.
Boost Your Website Rankings With Backlinks
Hopefully, you’ve got more of an idea about the importance of building backlinks in an organic and honourable way. If you’re really serious about building your business and boosting rankings to increase your leads and sales, it’s an SEO tactic that you’ll need permanently on your radar.
And while earning backlinks organically can take time, the age-old proverb of “slow and steady wins the race” rings so very true in this instance. By avoiding spammy SEO techniques such as creating and buying links, you’ll be able to work your way up as a reputable, authoritative, and legitimate website on Google, which will only ever work in your favour.