Since the earliest days of Google PageRank, backlinks have been an essential component of effective SEO strategies. It’s still true that inbound links from outside sites indicate to search engines that your content is considered valuable, thus increasing your site authority. But like just about every other aspect of SEO, the best ways to acquire those backlinks have changed over the years. What should your backlink strategy be in 2019?
The Backlinks Game Has ChangedYears ago, backlink building strategies were all about quantity: the more, the better. And as is often the case in a market with high demand and a scarce supply, less-than-ethical options arrived to help meet that demand. This led to lots of black-hat and gray-hat tactics such as purchasing backlinks or listing sites in low-quality directories, which trigger a penalty in search engines now. In recent years, search engines have evolved to mirror human cognitive functions more closely. They could always tell which inbound links came from high-authority sites; now, they can tell which inbound links are relevant to a site’s content, and which links to your website should come from sites that are relevant and authoritative. With link-building now all about quality, backlinking strategies must focus on individual links. Thus, backlinks aren’t scalable anymore. In fairness, they were never truly scalable in the long term with black- or gray-hat methods. While these backlink strategy recommendations take time to implement, they will work long-term.
Link-Building in 2019: An Outcome of Normal Business PracticesLink-building has to be strategic now, meaning it must be an integral part of your business activities. Every link acquired should have a purpose and a goal that ties into growing customers and revenue, rather than just ranking higher on a search engine results page. More and more, backlinks are part of promotion and PR. Many authoritative websites must be “courted” the way media outlets are for traditional PR, meaning that links must essentially be “pitched.” It might be worthwhile to consider working with a PR firm to improve your site’s chances of acquiring high-quality backlinks. Today, strong link-building exists at the intersection of smart promotion and added value. Backlinks to your website should be a natural reflection of the contributions your business makes to your industry’s customer community.
Building Strategic Backlinks: Where to StartLeverage these internal opportunities to build your site’s foundation of good backlinks links by creating a “positive” digital footprint based on pre-existing business functions and operations:
- Philanthropy: Community involvement is a cornerstone of business PR. Whether your target audience is local or national, you have your choice of charities or causes to support. Look for ways to have that goodwill reflected with a link back to your site from the receiving organization(s). In fact, when selecting with organization to support, make website backlink opportunities part of your criteria.
- Business partnerships: Testimonials are a natural way to earn SEO backlinks from suppliers, vendors, and other current business partners. Continue to seek out ways to cultivate mutually beneficial relationships and earn links through them. These partnerships could be business-based, such as development deals, or they could be SEO-based, such as syndicating your content to other websites.
- Industry research/resources: Original research that identifies and/or explains consumer behavior in your industry is an extremely valuable asset. If your research budget is small, you could leverage and analyze internal data collected by your products or conduct an analysis of aggregate industry data from other places to see if any unique insights emerge.
- Event sponsorships: Sponsor events such as conferences, local meetups, or online hangouts and seek out ways to get backlinks from these events naturally. Be sure the event you sponsor aligns well with your existing marketing plans and strategies, and as with philanthropy, SEO backlinks opportunities should be part of your sponsorship consideration.
Building Better Backlink StrategiesFirst, we’ve got some bad news: Your SEO firm probably shouldn’t do the actual link-building activities for you. There are three main reasons for this:
- Backlinks are part of your business’s marketing and PR activities, so they should come from the people in your company who know these activities best
- Authenticity is a major factor in acquiring backlinks, and if we do these activities, it will inherently be less authentic
- Backlink requests from agencies are much less likely to be granted that those that come from the site’s owners or managers
- Your site: What links are you already acquiring without trying because they’re a natural result of your business activities?
- Your competitors’ sites: What links are they already acquiring without trying because those links are a natural result of their business activities?