As discussed in our previous article, Need for Speed, Google is obsessed in making sure it provides its users with the most relevant possible results for a given search term.
Most internet users use fairly open ended search terms when they are looking for something, which invokes millions of possible search results. So how does Google determine which results to put towards the top, especially when there are so many websites out there competing to get the top spot?
There are a number of factors which Google takes into account, and a key factor among them is Backlinks.
What is a backlink?
In short, it's where a link to your website is included on another website.
Why are backlinks important?
Google has always taken backlinks into account and uses an algorithm called PageRank (created by Google co-founder Larry Page) to measure a site's authority. The algorithm's underlying theory is that the more websites that link back to a given site, the more trusted it is.
Using the example back from our 'Content Content Content' article, if you type the word "News" into Google, the first organic result back is BBC News (at the time of writing). A factor towards the BBC being first will be the number of backlinks, and I think its fair to say that whenever I see a website reference a news article, the majority of the time, the link takes you to the BBC news site.
Another way to think about it is that Google sees it as an endorsement for every website that links back to your website, especially if the site that is linking back to you is itself considered popular and authoritative by Google.
How can I build my Backlinks?
Building backlinks is the same as building trust, which takes time. There are a strategies and steps you can take right now to start building that trust, and here are six to get you started:
1) Register your site with reputable business directories.
Make sure your business and website are registered with all the major reputable business directories, as nearly all of them will give you a free listing that will include a link back to your website.
Some to start with: Yell.com, Scoot, Yelp, Thomson Local, Google My Business, Bing Places, 192.com.
It's also worth checking your local newspapers and radio station websites, as many will have their own business directory coving their area.
Its worth pointing out here that there are thousands of directory websites out there, and while its tempting to seek out as many as you can to get a listing, its often not worth while as most smaller directories are not particularly well rated by Google and will do little towards your websites ranking.
2) Write articles for business and trade publications.
If you are a member of any trade association, write an article for them. Most will publish your article on their website and include a link to your website. Most publications are nearly always hungry for new, good-quality content and are normally very happy to take any offers for new articles.
3) Guest Blog
If you work closely with another business and they have a decent website with a blog, then offer to write a guest blog entry for them and include a link to your website. In turn, you can let them guest blog on your website with a link back to their website, making it a win-win provided the quality remains high.
It doesn't have to be a blog entry, it could be a testimonial or case study
4) Social Media
Make sure all your social media accounts include a link to your website. Social media sites are still websites that Google checks. Make sure that whenever you publish any new content to your website, you promote it on your social media accounts and link to the new page.
5) Press Releases
Do you have something big to shout about and is potentially newsworthy? Then have a PR company issue a press release for you. Hopefully, the local (or even national if you're lucky) press will pick up the story and write an article on their website, which would normally include a link back to your website. (Legitimate news websites usually are considered trustworthy by Google, so this can be very effective!)
Make sure you publish and promote great quality and valuable content to your website that people want to read and engage with. In doing so, people will be prepared to link to your website, which will build trust and you will see Google rewarding you in search engine ranking.
If the content is poor, or if its left months on end without being updated, then there is unlikely to be any reason anyone would want to link to your site and you probably won't ever see your website on the first page of Google.
Not all backlinks are equal!
When its comes to backlinks is not about quantity, its quality. Google takes into account the trust and authority it has for the site that contains the link back to your site. If the only sites that link to your site are all weak on quality content and very little traffic, then it isn't likely to effect your ranking. The goal is to build your backlinks on other high-quality and trusted websites.
Finally, there are services out there that promise 'x' number of backlinks to your site. These are often delivered by putting your site in inferior sites. If Google sees your site linked on too many sites it determines to be of poor quality (i.e. set up principally for the purpose of containing as many backlinks as possible with no meaningful content), it will assume you are trying to manipulate its process and penalise you.
Building backlinks takes time and effort, and any service that promises a quick return on investment when it comes to backlinks should, in our opinion, be avoided.