By Rupert Rowe
Let’s imagine that Diffusion Digital has just built and launched your new website and SEO/UX best practices, from structured data to meta tags to optimised conversion paths, have been set up with one goal in mind – to attract traffic that is likely to convert.
However, this shiny new website is just the foundation – the work is really about to begin.
Let’s assume this is a new company with no prior history or authority online. Getting your chosen keywords up to the top 3 in Google, which is where you’ll get the clicks (close to 60% of clicks go to the top 3 organic results), in most cases is no mean feat and requires a significant amount of effort.
You’ll hear SEOs rave on about how content is King, and it is, but there is a Joker in the pack and generally speaking, it is the Joker that wields the cards.
The Joker, in this case, refers to backlinks.
What Are Backlinks?
Backlinks are hyperlinks coming from an external website to your own. The number and quality of these links are a determining factor on whether or not search engines trust your website and subsequently send traffic to it.
The majority of Google’s core algorithm updates since 2011 including Panda, Penguin, Possum, Hummingbird and most recently Bert – are in some way focused on improving search results by delivering the most relevant and useful page to any search query i.e. what people type into Google.
These updates all look at quality in some way. Yes, the quality of the on-page content and the setup of the site from a technical perspective is important. But increasingly the quality and quantity of the domains linking to your website will see your site either rise to the top of the pack, or slip into insignificance.
However, since Google’s Penguin update in 2012, not every website provides positive backlinks and the quality of links that you’re website receives, as well as the regularity of how often it gains new links, will dramatically affect it’s overall ranking in the results.
What Are The Different Type Of backlinks?
Whilst Google and other search engines do not officially rank websites, or apply a score to them – so to speak, there is a definite correlation between getting links from high/low quality websites and your website’s position in the search rankings.
There are tools out there such as Majestic that assign trust scores to websites based on the number of quality links pointing to their domain.
To be honest, anything with a score over 20/100 is worth getting a link from as long as the website/article is relevant to your offering.
So, what are the best websites to get links from, and which are the ones to avoid?
Tier One Websites
News Sites, Digital Magazines, Top Listing Sites (i.e. Trip Advisor)
The holy grail of websites are, perhaps ironically in somecases, News sites and Digital Magazines. These are generally sites with very high readership and generate 1000s of links from external website. Needless to say these are the hardest ones to secure and either you have to be doing something relatively groundbreaking in your sector, or you’ll have to dig deep into the piggy bank.
Example: The Guardian
Generally, most digital magazines and news publications have huge authorities so getting links from these sites is like gold dust, no, not dust, a gold bar. However, unsurprisingly, these are the hardest links to win.
Tier Two Websites
Review sites, Industry/sector-leading websites, Influencers
In every sector there are people who have built up an enormous authority and expertise specific to their industry that sees them as go tos for their knowledge around a specific subject matter. This can range from fashion influencers to awards websites to people who are simply experts in their fields. Receiving a link from their website is generally a good thing.
This said, there are cases where influencers are strong on social media, yet their website has an extremely low trust flow and subsequently, it is not worth it. For example, if you’re in eCommerce or fashion, Lucy Williams might drive a lot of quality traffic to your website through her social media, however her website only has a score of 10/100 – so a link from her website might means very little.
Diffusion encourage brands who are reaching out to influencers, to include a blog on the influencer’s website with a link to the client site as part of the influencer deal
For Diffusion’s sector, The Good Web Guides is a good example. Simply by entering one of our websites for a reward we can easily win a backlink.
Tier Three Websites
Natural blog articles, commercial partners, press release sites
You’ll hear a lot of talk about guest blogging and blogger outreach and this generally applies to websites in this tier three category. These are people generally with less authority in their sector than the tier two sites, however, they still pack a punch and are generally fairly amenable when being approached for links. This is the creme of the crop for SEOs and generally speaking the easiest links to achieve, although it still requires quite a bit of effort in terms of the manner in which you reach out to them.
Exmaple: The Bump
Through competitor backlink research, you can identify relevant blogs who are talking about your service or offering and subsequently reach out to them. As an example The Bump is a website about pregnancy however they wrote a blog on “The Best Vacations For Families With Young Children” and in it included a link to the luxury resort Tranquilo Bay. All Tranquilo Bay did was sent out a press release which was picked up and written about by The Bump. +1 backlink with a strong authority : )
Tier Four Websites
Web Directories, Forums
We’re starting to get into dangerous territory and entering the realms of web-directories and forums.
Don’t get me wrong there are good directories out there specific to each industry that are well worth reaching out to. However little weight is generally given to these in the eyes of search engines – but something is better than nothing.
Equally, an old trick played by SEOs was to comment with a link on other people’s blogs/websites that were relevant to their own. It’s a quick but moraless win however can pay a dividend if you’re being selective in your approach to who.
It is definitely worth identifying and signing up to as many relevant directories as possible. These are super easy links and whilst sometimes you have to pay a subscription (always check the websites authority before paying!), there are many that are free.
Tier Five Websites (Don’t even consider it!!)
Link farms, paid links, gambling sites, pornographic sites, unnatural blog posts (spam)
These are the sites that Google’s trusty Panda update was sent out to penalise. Simply put, having links from spam sites or link farms can get you penalised by search engines and see youe pages dropped from the listings if not dealt with quickly.
Now you might think, ‘why on earth would I ever try and get a link from a gambling or porn site?’
Well, there are several reasons your websites could end up listed on one of these, it could have been an old strategy, pre Panda, to try and get easy backlinks.
Alternatively, and worryingly it’s becoming more evident, someone else could be adding your links to these shadowy domains. ‘Someone else’ being a competitor or the like.
Example: The Globe
It isn’t the end of the world if you find your website listed on a site like this, however it is definitlely in your interest to disavow these links, i.e. ask search engines not to consider them.
How to form a backlink outreach strategy?
There are thousands and thousands of websites out there all bleating about the same thing. The trick is in identifying those who are bleating about the kind of thing that is relevant to your specific service, and also those who are willing to link to your website.
Enter the research phase!
- Firstly you need to see who is ranking for the keywords that you are targeting simply by typing into Google the keyword and listing who is in the top five positions (although you’re only interested in the actual competitors’ websites – ignore news/reference sites as you will not compete for these places)
- Using Majestic tool, identify all of the website linking to the domains you’ve identified in the top positions of Google http://majestic.com/
- Export all the backlinks pointing to your competitor’s website
- Categorise each backlink using the different tiers as seen above
This is all incredibly timeconsuming and people find it hard to justify categorising 1000s of links into tiers.
I can hear 100s of interns out there now quaking in their boots at the thought of their next ‘research’ task.
But, done well and when their target keywords start climbing the rankings and enquiries are through the roof – they will be the heroes! (Although I’m sure someone else will take the credit – I know they did to me, you know who you are!!!)
This is where a bit of finesse comes in as we all have very little time to read emails, especially those from people not in our contacts. But it must be done.
Now that we have a strong list of tier 2-4 websites, it is time to reach out and try to convince them your website is worth linking to. You have this list because all of these websites have in some way linked to a competitor so you know that they are interested in your services.
As to how you should reach out to them? Well, that really depends on your industry/service/offering. Perhaps you can get the conversation started with a friendly email saying that a blog they have written is highly relevant to your service, or simply send over a press release. Try and see what they come back with – but don’t send a characterless, un-personalised email, these are sure to be ignored.
Depending on how strong authority a website has, they might ask for something in return – a product, a stay at your hotel, a free sample. What you given in return is up to you.
In our next post we’ll be talking about how to rescue your website from a Black Hat SEO attack. Until then, let London’s leading eCommerce agency know if you have any issues.