How Small Businesses Can Build Quality Backlinks in 2019 and Beyond

January 10th, 2019 by Sarah Spencer

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Backlinks have traditionally been one of the most important ranking factors in Google’s mysterious SEO algorithm. So what exactly is a backlink, and why is it important? A backlink is simply a link on someone else’s site that leads to your site. Google values them because your site must be reputable and authoritative if lots of other sites value your content enough to share it. The classic ways to acquire backlinks can still be useful, but the landscape of link building is changing.

What Makes a Good Backlink?

The main thing about link building is that quality and quantity both matter. Google values links from sites with strong domain authority (think national sites that everyone in your niche has heard of) and relevance to your industry. For example, if a small business gets a backlink on The Wall Street Journal, they’re getting a top-notch link. That being said, a handful of great links won’t necessarily outweigh hundreds of decent links. For SEO purposes, a “follow” link is better than a “nofollow” link, as nofollow links are not technically backlinks. However, while they shouldn’t be a large focus of a link-building campaign, nofollow links help with branding and shouldn’t be discounted.

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Beware of Spammy Link-building Tactics

Before Google’s Penguin algorithm update, the quantity of backlinks was most important, so businesses invested tons of money in “black hat” link-building tactics that placed backlinks on random sites with software. Though some sketchy SEO companies still employ software to build links, Google is not only aware of this tactic, they will actively punish a business’s rankings if they find that most of their backlinks are bought.

The Penguin update came out in 2012, so the “quality over quantity” issue is well known throughout the SEO world, but many small businesses or recent start-ups aren’t aware of it. If you are paying a company to build backlinks for your site with software or other black hat methods, you are paying to penalize your search engine rankings.

What Are the Tried-and-true Ways to Build Links?

Building quality backlinks isn’t an easy task—that’s why links are still highly valuable in Google’s algorithm. These link-building strategies have been covered ad nauseam, so we won’t go into too much detail here. Most of the ways to get links back to your site start with an outreach campaign to other website owners and businesses.

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One of the simplest ways to find a potential backlink is searching for business mentions of your site that are unlinked and asking the site owner to add a link. Another straightforward tactic is to use competitive research, wherein you find who links to your competitors’ sites and target those businesses with your outreach campaign. A similar strategy, which we’ve already delved into, is to search for broken links on relevant sites and either ask them to replace the broken link with one to your own content or point out the error and ask for a different backlink on the page.

How Do I Build Backlinks in 2019 and Beyond?

The digital marketing industry received confirmation that SEO trends are changing when Moz published their survey of 2018’s local ranking factors, which found that interacting with Google My Business is one of the most important factors in Google’s local ranking system. So while this may mean that backlinks hold less value than they have in the past, link building is still crucial to a well-rounded SEO plan, as we explained in our analysis of Moz’s survey. The traditional methods of link building still apply, but, in today’s world, businesses need to remember that…

Content Quality Is King 

Link building nowadays relies heavily on getting people to share your content, and the main way to get people to share your content is—wait for it—to have great content that people want to share.

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So, then, what qualifies as great content?

One of the biggest factors for Google, and your audience, is that your content meets Google’s E-A-T guidelines. This means that your content demonstrates expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. It should thoroughly cover the topic and answer your audience’s questions, especially because most people find sites through indirect queries. In addition, useful content that draws people in is one of the main principles of inbound marketing. There are some more specific tactics to create fantastic content, but the main goal is that it helps your audience with their pain points.

Once you’ve got high-quality content, how do you get people to share it?

Include images or video. Articles with an image receive up to 94 percent more views than plain text articles, and social media posts that include an image or video get up to 10 times more engagement than content without one. Of course, you need to find a good image to include. You should also focus the content on channels targeted to your audience (so making your content easily shareable on Instagram is going to be different from posting it on YouTube).

It should go without saying that you should share your awesome content on all of your social media channels (and get your friends to do so, too). However, sitting back and hoping it goes viral and is featured on Ellen isn’t exactly practical. You need to build networks with influencers in your niche, reach out to them, and ask them to include a link to your content.

Optimize Your Outreach Strategy

The businesses that you target for your link building campaign should find your content useful—as in, their audience will find it useful. You need to demonstrate to them why it’s worth their while to share your content or link to your site. And, while it’s best to have backlinks on websites with strong domain authority, don’t ignore smaller businesses that are relevant to your industry. Smaller businesses may be more likely to include your link in their content, and any backlink will help build brand awareness, which is a growing part of modern SEO strategies.

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Don’t Be Impersonal

No one wants to read spam emails, and if your outreach emails have obviously been carbon-copied and sent to 200 people, it’s likely that the recipients won’t want to take their time to help you. Sending emails to tons of people does take a lot of time, so it’s fine to use the help of a template, such as these from Hubspot. But you should still make sure that the contents of your email are specific to the person you’re sending it to. Better yet…

Find Content on Their Site That Could Use a Link to Your Content

You’re going to be more successful building links if you find a specific article that would benefit from including your link in it, rather than just sending an email saying “Hey, I wrote this. Can you stick it on your site somewhere? Thanks!”

Let’s say you’re a smoothie company, and you’ve written an amazing, super-detailed article about the nutrients in common smoothie ingredients. After scoping out businesses that would benefit from this information, such as a nutritionist’s website or a lifestyle blog, see if they have any pages that relate to your article. Maybe you find a parenting website that has a blog about making sure kids are getting enough vitamins from their food, and you know that your article would provide helpful additional information. The writer will likely be more receptive to including your link because you’ve shown them exactly where it should be on their site.

Reciprocate the Link Love

Website owners love seeing their name and work out there as much as you love seeing yours, so including relevant links to another business’s content on your own site is a great way to open the door. At the very least, they are more likely to share the article and could help create a partnership. You can offer to guest blog and invite them to guest blog on your site. You can even syndicate your content to get the most out of your work while maintaining a good relationship with influencers in your field.

Link-building Tips for Local Businesses

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To bolster their local SEO strategy, small businesses need to ensure that they create brand awareness, both on- and offline. You should build relationships with other related businesses. For example, a restaurateur could reach out to a local farmer’s market. Try to go even further and create strategic local partnerships, where you and another business leave reviews on each other’s sites and share each other’s content. You should also network and reach out to influencers in your industry.

Link building can be one of the most challenging aspects of boosting your search rankings, but it doesn’t have to be. At Search Influence, we can help you find the right link-building strategy through both tried-and-true methods and by creating quality content to build brand awareness. If you’re ready to take your link building to the next level, start a conversation with one of our SEO experts today.


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