Build Authority Through Backlinks | Demystifying SEO

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Published Date:  26 Jul, 2022 | Updated Date:  06 Oct, 2023

There’s another way you can get higher rankings on search engines: backlinks! But what is a backlink, and how can you use backlinks as a part of your content marketing strategy?

This post is part 3 of 3 in our 3 Step Guide to Demystifying SEO.

Step 1

Build a Technical Foundation | Demystifying SEO

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Step 2

Improve Content Quality | Demystifying SEO

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Step 3

Build Authority Through Backlinks | Demystifying SEO

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When you check all the boxes for quality content and a great technical foundation for your articles or webpages, search engines are bound to rank you well. That’s great–but there’s still one more way that you can improve your results on search engine pages: backlinks!

Different from internal links – which are the links you create that lead to other pages on your website – backlinks are links that exist on external web pages that you don’t own which link back to your web content.

Say for instance, a major magazine does a story on your website and creates a link to your website in the article they publish. From your own website’s perspective, this counts as a backlink.

This type of link works in much the same way as a reference or referral. If a network of professionals are saying oh, you need to talk to this person for help, the more authority you will have, and the more people will come to see you.

Build Authority Through Backlinks | Demystifying SEO

Do backlinks work? The answer is YES. Search engines love backlinks!

Each time another website links back to your content, relevant search engines see this as a ‘vote of confidence’ in favor of your page. Basically, another website is confirming that they found your content useful enough to share with others.

This is the connection between SEO and backlinks!

Backlinks therefore signal that you have authority over your subject matter–enough so that others are ‘vouching’ for your content. Search engines will therefore prioritize your content over other articles with fewer or no backlinks.

Since about 66% of content-based web pages don’t have backlinks, getting backlinks for your content can put you leagues ahead of your competitors, and all but confirms your spot in top search engine results.

Prefer not to read? Watch along at the video below as our top expert at The Digital Navigator walks you through the three steps to SEO!

Now that you know what is a backlink, and why backlinks are important, the question becomes: how do you get other websites to build your authority with backlinks?

This may seem complicated at first, but in reality, getting the right amount of backlinks to help you rank higher on search engine results pages has a lot to do with the content you’ve already created, or are in the process of creating.

That means ensuring that your content has the right target keywords, is valuable, and is technically sound so that others want to link back to your content organically.

Still, if you do a cursory search on how to get permanent backlinks, some articles will recommend black-hat practices that involve buying backlinks for your website. To be clear: this is something we do not support you do.

Why? Because search engines may penalize you for bad backlinks that do not support your credibility, leading to lower rankings, or even flags that mean you don’t show up in search results at all.

To top it off, buying backlinks or using a spammy service to generate thousands of backlinks is against Google terms. The penalty goes up to being delisted from Google! This actually happened to in their early days believe it or not.

That’s why in this short guide we want to explore how to avoid being penalized for bad backlinks, and then discuss a few tactics you can use to get good backlinks that get you the rankings your website deserves through guest-posting, networking, and research!

The quickest way to avoid penalties for bad backlinks is…to not buy backlinks! Organically-sourced backlinks are the way to go since they also help you increase your network of B2B connections and even build brand awareness.

While you might have been able to buy backlinks ten years ago and build 10,000 backlinks in a week, that is just no longer feasible, and search engines will rank you lower (or not at all) because of it.

Seriously: there are a ton of ‘backlink brokers’ out there who still sell these links, who have private link networks they have sourced themselves. The thing is, unless you know who those vendors are, and what those links lead from, it will probably be very difficult for you to vet where your so-called ‘authority’ is coming from.

What often happens too is that these sellers are incentivized to sell more backlinks, and end up selling links to as many people as possible–regardless of their credibility.

When Google sees repeat backlinks, or a lot of suspicious backlinks leading to your content, it is likely that your content will be penalized.

Worse yet, if someone else on the backlink network you’ve enlisted with (through purchasing backlinks) is penalized by Google or another search engine, the whole network will be penalized as well, putting your content at risk of being flagged.

In other words, buying backlinks without creating an organic or at least reciprocal connection with the company who is backlinking to you can result in penalties on your website.

You might get excited because buying backlinks gives you a boost in the beginning, but you’ll eventually see a huge dip in traffic.

Instead of focusing on getting a ton of backlinks right away, think of backlinks as part of your overall content strategy. Once you create quality content that adds a lot of value, then you can start exploring quality backlink opportunities in your niche.

Once you’ve published your content, the first step is to make a list of target websites where you believe the article (or future content you create) can contribute value to that website.

Hopefully you know your industry well enough to see which publications are already popular, otherwise you can rely on those SEO tools we mentioned in Part Two: Improve Content Quality of this guide, such as Ahrefs and SEMrush.

These programs will show you all the different pages that have content on those topics.

When you have your list ready, take some time to network with the webmasters of the selected website–who often act as gatekeepers who will put you in touch with content authors. 

We suggest crafting a series of emails based on contact forms and author pages, or even social media pages. Make sure to personalize these emails–do not give cookie cutter emails to everyone because it is more likely that email will end up in the trash.

Remember as well you have a lot of power to provide backlinks for their website, which is how you can leverage potential backlink creation. You’re essentially paying it forward by providing content and other backlinks opportunities in return for backlink placements on their website.

For example, say you find that a related website has a podcast. You could suggest you provide some expertise by coming onto the podcast to talk about that specific article. Then the host will include the link to that article in the show notes, which will give you the backlink you’re looking for.

In return, you can link the podcast in an article or social media post and provide a backlink in return for mutual SEO benefits.

Note: Reciprocal backlink ‘deals’ between websites can be great, but be wary of creating too many of these exchanges. If you only have reciprocal backlinks for example, you will probably get flagged by Google and other search engines.

3. Build Authority with Guest Posting

While you are reaching out to make connections with potential industry partners, you can also approach these websites with guest posting opportunities.

What is guest posting?

Guest posting involves writing content, or curating existing content to meet the guidelines of other publications.

The main goal is to provide valuable content that is accessible outside of your own blog or website, and which inevitably includes links that refer back to your own content (backlinks).

Once these posts are published on other platforms, the backlinks from these websites will slowly get you ranked higher on search engines.

As your network grows as well, people will organically start referring to your articles without you having to put in more effort towards creating guest post content.

How to guest post to get backlinks

How to guest post to get backlinks

To get these all-important guest posting opportunities, you can either seek out websites who already accept guest posting material, or you can use your email introductions to propose a guest post publication.

We suggest offering up three topics for potential guest posts. That way, you are casting a wider net for potential opportunities to write new posts or curate the material from an existing post to meet that specific topic. Just remember to keep it short.

Hint: Add some incentive by including any notes on your SEO research or the popularity of certain topics. If you have a high-ranking article already in your arsenal for example, discuss how the popularity of this article inspired your desire to write more on that subject.

Once a prospective website tells you that they are interested in having you write a guest post, you follow up and ask about writing guidelines–they’ll often tell you what they’re looking for, and then you will work to craft the article to meet those guidelines.

The key here when creating the guest post is to include at least one or two links to resources on your website. Make sure you’re following the backlink guidelines they’ve set out, and to avoid sending links to sales pages.

Be careful though: sometimes websites will remove backlinks if they don’t seem valuable, or if they are too salesy.

To avoid the removal of those backlinks to your website, make sure you’re also including at least three (or the specified number they state in their guidelines) external links to other valuable sources for your information.

Adding these external links will also give you credibility, since readers and hosts won’t feel like the article is ‘all about you’.

In other words, readers won’t feel as if they are being sold, and hosts won’t see your content as explicitly advertising–which can result in your guest post not being accepted entirely.

How often should I guest post?

When asked, our content experts at The Digital Navigator recommend reaching out to about ten targets a week for a month for one article proposition.

Depending on your success ratio, you can expect to get somewhere between one and four confirmed guest posts, podcast appearances, or interview opportunities per week so that by the end of the month you have four to ten backlinks leading to your website content.

Do I have to pay for guest posting?

So you’re not caught unaware, it’s important to expect that you may be charged a small fee for guest posting. It’s normal, for instance, to pay something like $45 for a webmaster fee because they have to pay a developer to publish your content.

This is different from paying for backlinks directly, since you are not working with a broker, but simply paying a one-time hosting fee to have your content accessible outside of your own website.

This is the million dollar question we hear a lot from our clients–and although this may seem controversial, our answer is zero!

There are whole businesses built on backlink creation, so this is definitely not a popular opinion; but at The Digital Navigator we have been able to create engagement for clients without resorting to backlinks–simply through great content creation and strong technical foundations for accessing that content.

In fact, when starting off with a new client engagement, we do minimal backlink outreach unless these clients insist. Going back to the Texas pest control client we talked about in Part Two: Improve Content Quality of this guide, we didn’t do any guest posting outreach in the first year or so, but were able to double his business and bring in countless leads.

That’s why here we want to underscore the importance of the first two steps in this guide. When you build a high-quality resource, it will naturally rank well on search engines, and others may provide backlinks without connecting with you at all.

Including backlinks will simply strengthen your ability to rank high on search engines–which is why backlinks are the last step in this guide. In the end, we believe you do not actually need any backlinks to be successful if you pick the right search terms…

…but doing so will absolutely lift the authority of the site once all your technical foundations and content are in place.

SEO Questions: Answered

Congratulations! You’ve made it to the end of our 3 Step Guide to Demystifying SEO, and should be in a great position to begin creating content for your website that ranks well on search engine results pages.

You’ve learned about how to build a positive technical foundation for your website, and therefore your content, and know more about how to create content that provides legitimate value for prospective visitors and customers.

You also know how backlinks can affect your search engine rankings, and how to fit backlink development into your regular content strategy.

Our hope is that the secrets of how to complete your SEO journey are clearer and more accessible. You should with this guide be able to start working on your website’s SEO on your own, or at least be better prepared to support your SEO manager as they help you rank.

Whatever the case may be, we want you to know that we are always here to help you understand more about SEO, and how you can build up the SEO outcomes for your content and business to get more leads and sales.

Whether you’re looking for a partner to help you complete SEO on your behalf, or if you want to simply ask a few more questions about how to start with SEO, The Digital Navigator has a solution for you.

Just schedule a free consultation with our experts, or check out how we provide SEO management services to businesses like yours at the link below.

Good luck!

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This post is part 3 of 3 in our 3 Step Guide to Demystifying SEO. Click to read the other steps in this guide if you missed out on Part One: Create a Technical Foundation, or Part Two: Improve Content Quality



What is a backlink?

Backlinks are links that exist on external web pages that you don’t own which link back to your web content.

Why backlinks are important for SEO
Backlinks signal that you have authority over your subject matter–enough so that others are ‘vouching’ for your content. Search engines will therefore prioritize your content over other articles with fewer or no backlinks.
How do I avoid penalties for backlinks?

Avoid penalties for backlinks by not buying backlinks and creating organic backlinks through networking and guest posting instead.

What is guest posting?
Guest posting involves writing content, or curating existing content to meet the guidelines of other publications. The main goal is to provide valuable content that is accessible outside of your own blog or website, and which inevitably includes links that refer back to your own content (backlinks).


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