What are Backlinks?
There are two types of backlinks. Firstly, a backlink could be from an external website that links to a page on your site. Secondly, you can have internal links from one page on your site to another page on your website.
Both of these types of links are backlinks, but for this article, we’ll be looking at external backlinks.
Backlinks can also come in different forms; do-follow and no-follow. A do-follow link is a vote of confidence. The website which links to your site is telling the search engines that your site is of high quality and the link passes PageRank to your site.On the other hand, a no-follow link isn’t a vote of confidence. That’s not to say that it has any negative impact, it might be a link to a product or it could be a banner ad. These links don’t pass PageRank to the receiving page and don’t represent an ‘editorial vote given by choice.’
On the other hand, a no-follow link isn’t a vote of confidence. That’s not to say that it has any negative impact, it might be a link to a product or it could be a banner ad. These links don’t pass PageRank to the receiving page and don’t represent an ‘editorial vote given by choice.’
Why are Backlinks Important?
Search engines are operated with complicated algorithms that decide where any page on the internet deserves to rank for a search phrase.
Google uses over 200 ranking factors, and some of the most powerful ranking factors involve backlinks.
PageRank (PR) is an old Google ranking system that was publicly visible. You could see what the PR of a page or domain was and you’d know how powerful it was.
Many SEO’s still believe that PR exists in some form. Essentially, PR is a score of the strength of a website’s backlink profile.
The idea behind PR is that a website with more links pointing to it must be of high quality and something that people want to read.
However, Google also recognized that a vote of confidence from NASA or the US Government is worth more than a vote of confidence from a random website that nobody has ever visited.
This means that some backlinks are more powerful than others. This is all calculated through complex algorithms, but the basic idea is that more reputable websites with more backlinks have a ‘bigger’ vote and backlinks from them to your website are very powerful.
With Google factoring in the strength of your backlink profile heavily into their search results if you have a bigger backlink profile and more top quality backlinks you will rank higher. That means that your website will get more traffic from people using search engines.
How Many Risks can you Tolerate?
Before we look at how to build backlinks and the types of backlinks that you want, you need to figure out how much risk you can tolerate.
As with any form of marketing, there are risky tactics that could potentially be lucrative, and then there are safer approaches.
We would recommend that you always try your best to avoid risk. Google is getting better every year at detecting spammer and low-quality links. Being proactive about taking a safe approach is the only way to avoid a penalty.
One of the most common higher risk strategies is Private Blog Networks (PBN’s).
PBN’s are networks of websites that you create, usually with expired domains, for the sole purpose of creating backlinks to your site.
They offer little value to anybody else and often receive little to no traffic. In the eyes of Google using these PBN’s is cheating their system because you’re faking editorial votes. Nobody decided that your content was fantastic and they wanted to link to you, you only created a fake site yourself and linked to your own business.
Back in the day, you could easily get away with using PBN’s.
These days plenty of sites still use them and see results. The question is, how much longer is that going to last?
Google has introduced different systems and algorithms to deter these types of cheaters.
One that we know exists is a Google sandbox. This holds back new websites, preventing spammers from creating a website and ranking it within a couple of months.
Of course, this does mean that legitimate businesses will also be throttled for a period.
However, the idea is that real businesses are in this game for the long haul and a few months with training wheels on won’t harm them.
Although the risk is high and the reward can be lucrative, we still advise against them only because they don’t offer a good financial ROI.
Running a PBN is time-consuming, it costs money and building clean, legitimate backlinks from real websites doesn’t have to be difficult.
Figuring out your risk tolerance is the first step, but the best approach is to focus on relevant backlinks from real websites.
This approach will help to prevent you from getting penalized and will allow you to form a foundation for running a long-term sustainable business.
Creating Quality Backlinks
There are three different varieties of backlinks to think about; high-quality, low-quality and harmful backlinks.
High-quality backlinks are those that provide a significant impact on your rankings. Low-quality backlinks will provide little to no effect, and negative backlinks are so bad that they can be harmful.
Keep it Relevant
One of the most important factors to consider when looking at a potential link is its relevancy.
For example; If you run a gardening website you want to score backlinks from other gardening or nature sites. It would be a red flag if a large portion of your backlinks came from computer gaming or astronomy websites.
Google is likely to base relevancy on three factors:
- The general theme of the domain which is linking to you
- The content on the page which links to you
- The content on the page receiving the link
Majestic’s Trust Flow is representative of link relevancy and ‘trust’.
Of course, this is how any link should be. Why would you link to something completely irrelevant?
A link should only be considered quality if it’s relevant to your website and the particular page that the link is pointing to.
Earn Links from Authoritative Sites
The stronger the backlink profile of a site, the more PageRank their links will pass.
Getting a backlink from an authoritative website will benefit you much more than a link from a lower-quality site.
Unfortunately, Google doesn’t update their public facing PR anymore. Instead, you have to use tools like Ahrefs and Majestic to assess the strength of a domain.
The best metric you can use is Domain Rating (DR) from Ahrefs. DR is based upon PR and gives you an idea of the strength of a link from that website.
Focus on Real Websites
One easy way to ensure that the links you’re acquiring are quality is to only get links from real sites that have traffic.
A website that is actively managed by a person will require some effort. In general, the hardest backlinks to get are often the most powerful.
Distribute your Anchor Text Intelligently
In the past, Google was reliant upon reading a page and the anchor text of backlinks to figure out what the content was about.
This lead to SEO’s abusing anchor text ratios and creating all of their links with the anchor text as the phrase they wanted to rank for.
However, in recent years Google has penalized websites that have ‘unnatural’ link profiles i.e. sites with spammy anchor text ratios.
To stay safe it’s best to keep your exact match anchor text below 1%, in fact, you don’t even need to use your keyword in your anchor text at all.
Googles algorithm is advanced enough to be able to figure out the content on your page and decide what keywords it should rank for, even if they aren’t ever on the page.
Instead of using exact match keywords in your anchor text, stick to branded or naked link anchors. This means using your business name or URL as the anchor text.
Build Backlinks in Clean Neighborhoods
Another thing to consider when building backlinks are the other outbound links on the page.
Google can tar you with the same brush. So, if you’re about to comment on a post but you notice that all the other links are to casinos, viagra and payday loan sites, it’s best to stay clear.
Ideally, you want to get backlinks from squeaky clean neighborhoods. In reality, it’s best to avoid getting links that will associate your website with spammers, but you shouldn’t worry about being on less authoritative blogs, as long as they are legitimate.
Types of Backlinks to Avoid
Before we cover the types of backlinks that you want to be acquired, let’s look at the ones that you should avoid.
You might have heard SEO’s talk about tiers. Tier 1 would be links that point to your website; tier 2 are links pointing to the page that links to your website and so on.
The reason that SEO’s talk about tiers is because if a page that is linking to your website has more links pointing to it, it will be more powerful.
On your tier 1 links, those pointing to your website, you want to avoid anything that could be considered spammy or low-quality.
You shouldn’t associate your business with rubbish.
Avoid Irrelevant Links
We’ve spoken already about the importance of relevancy. Google is excellent at spotting trends in your backlink profile and noticing links that seem out of place.
If the website isn’t relevant to your website, then there is no reason that the backlink would naturally occur and you shouldn’t pursue it.
PBN’s are supposed to be private, but you can log into any SEO forum and easily buy links from a ‘PBN’ owned by somebody else.
Of course, it can’t be a Private Blog Network if it’s for sale, it’s obviously not private.
Although PBN’s are risky, a public network is far riskier. Google has gone out of their way to destroy PBN’s and some owners even believe that Google has purchased links to find out which websites are involved in these networks.
Even if that’s not true, their algorithm is incredibly advanced and spotting PBN’s is relatively simple because:
The pieces of content on the website are almost always irrelevant to each other. If you’re buying links on a PBN, then the owner will be linking to all sorts of different websites, making it impossible to retain relevancy.
Public networks are operating for profit, and this means that they’re often posting extremely short articles, perhaps only 250-words, these thin content sites are penalized by Panda. Not only that, but it’s very easy for Google to spot websites that only publish these short posts.
PBN’s often publish entire posts on their homepage in a blog style. The reason for this is because the homepage of a website is almost always the strong page. However, legitimate websites don’t have tens of different outbound links to irrelevant websites on their homepage.
If you think that one of the most complex algorithms in the world can’t track PBN’s, then you’re burying your head in the sand. Google is known to allow spammers to continue for short periods so that they can improve their algorithm. PBN’s aren’t sustainable.
Spam Blog Comments
Blog comments have gained a bad reputation in the past because they’ve been abused by spammers. However, legitimate blog comments that are moderated by the website owner are a perfectly acceptable backlink.
The problem is with spam blog comments. These are almost always on websites that are unmoderated. This means that spammers can use programs to automate comments, often to viagra or payday loan sites.
Posting a backlink among these other comments breaks the bad neighborhood rule.
Sidebar and Footer Links
As with blog comments, sidebar and footer links can be acceptable, but a general rule of thumb would be to avoid them.
The problem with these links is that a single footer link could mean thousands of links from the entire website. This will ruin your anchor text ratio, it can appear unnatural, and it can have a negative effect on newer sites.
Often, once your website has more authority it can handle the impact of these footer or sidebar links, but new sites often can’t.
We mentioned earlier that the best links are often the hardest for you get.
Although it’s not always the case, backlinks that can be acquired with automated link building tools are ones that you should avoid.
Software like GSA, Ultimate Demon, and SENuke are used by black hat SEO’s to create thousands of backlinks on forums, blog comments, and submission websites.
These kinds of automated links are eventually going to lead to Google penalizing your website.
Now that we’ve looked at the types of links to avoid let’s talk about website authority and how you can build it.
If you read any SEO blog, you’ll inevitably find mention of website authority. All that authority is referring to is the strength of your backlink profile and how that ‘juice’ flows around your website, allowing your pages to rank.
The most authoritative websites have a huge number of backlinks from powerful domains and proper internal link structures to pass PR to the proper locations.
Remove Useless External Links
All outbound links, whether do-follow or no-follow, will leak link ‘juice’ from your website. Of course, outbound links play an important role in SEO and making your content useful.
However, if you have any links that point to broken pages or dead websites, then you should remove them.
This also applies to links in your comments (if you have them on your website).
Removing these links will plug the hole, preventing you losing any authority unnecessarily.
Fix Any 404 Errors
If you’ve ever moved content around or even just changed URL slugs, you might have some 404 errors.
To find these errors, you can go into your Google Search Console and take a look at the crawl errors.
The problem with 404 errors is that any links pointing to those pages aren’t being maximized. Of course, they still affect the overall strength of your website, but you can 301 them to another page or your homepage.
This will direct all of that authority to that page instead, helping it to rank for its targeted keywords.
301 Redirect Chains
Similarly, you might have 301’d pages in the past and accidentally created redirect chains.
If you look at the image below you’ll notice that Page A redirects to Page B, but Page B redirects to Page C.
PR or ‘link juice’ is degraded at each tier, so it’s more efficient to redirect Page A directly to Page C and leave Page B redirecting to Page C.
This change will send link equity directly to Page C instead of using Page B as a buffer, which would have reduced the power of the redirect.
If you’ve redirected pages in the past, then you should check to see if they are 301 redirects or 302.
A 302 redirect will block the flow of any link equity, preventing you from maintaining the site authority.
To find out if you have any 302’s you can use a software called Screaming Frog.
Screaming Frog will scan your website and note the different redirects. You can then filter to see the 302 redirects that should be changed to a 301 redirect.
Understanding “Foundational” Backlinks
Foundational backlinks are called that because they are what every website should start with.
They are the types of links that will improve your TrustRank because they are generally from the highest authority sites, even if they aren’t particularly powerful links.
Even if your website isn’t new, if you haven’t acquired these links yet you should pursue them ASAP.
These foundational backlinks are useful for creating trust and increasing your authority. They won’t be from powerful pages, but they’ll be from powerful domains.
With foundational backlinks you shouldn’t use exact match anchor text, instead, use branded or URL anchors.
Just like other methods that have been automated and abused, forum backlinks can be powerful, but only when used correctly.
You should be joining all the industry related forums that you can find.
Not just to build links, but to be a valuable member of the community, to learn what they want and to drive traffic to your website.
A lot of a good off-page SEO campaign can be accomplished by being a legitimate member of the industry.
The first mistake that many SEO’s makes is to join a community and instantly put their link in their signature.
It’s an error because you’re a brand new member. The moderators on the forum are keeping an eye out for spammers like you. Wait until you’ve contributed to the forum before trying to build any backlinks.
Find the relevant forums
If you’ve not been involved in this industry before then, you’ll need to search Google to find the most popular industry forums. Try these search strings:
- “forum” + niche
- niche + “community.”
- forum + industry
- industry community
- niche forum
Obviously, replace ‘niche’ and ‘industry’ with the relevant term for your website.
Build a profile
The easiest way to spot a spammer is to look at their profile. The large majority of spammers don’t bother to complete their profiles, they just add on their website URL and hope that it never gets noticed.
Instead, fill in every form. Even if it’s asking you about your favorite music or something irrelevant, you want to build a legit profile.
Taking the time to fill in these extra details is going to reduce the chance of your account being blocked or deleted, which would make this whole exercise a waste of time.
Research the forum
Once you’ve joined the forum, you’ll want to take a look at the rules. Not doing this is the quickest way to get banned.
Don’t treat forum profiles as a ‘snatch and grab’ link. You’ll want to continue using these forums over the years so you should be treating them with respect.
Take a look at some of the most popular posts and see what the etiquette is and how other users react to self-promotion.
Each post that you make will create another internal link to your forum profile. All of these links will start to add up, and a simple forum profile link can become quite powerful.
Not only that but eventually you’ll include a link in your signature (if it’s allowed) and that will mean more links to your website.
Create useful threads
Posting on existing threads is fine, but nothing will add to your reputation, link profile and authority like a powerful thread.
The ultimate goal of marketing on a thread is to be involved in the creation of threads that are ‘pinned’ or ‘stickied.’ These are the most popular threads and will lead to the most traffic and also the most internal link juice to your profile.
All of this means a more powerful profile link.
Add a signature link
In general, you should wait until you have at least 50 or 100 posts before adding a signature link.
Doing this will massively decrease the chance of your account being banned.
Once you add a signature link, you’ll suddenly have a boost in referring pages. However, make sure to use a brand or URL anchor text to avoid penalization.
A lot of SEO’s ignore blog comments because they are usually no-follow and spammers have used this tactic in the past.
However, blog comments play an important role in building relevancy and trust. They can also help to diversify your do-follow ratio and your anchor text ratios. You might even get some traffic!
Blog comments are the jab to your right hook. They aren’t going to deliver a lot of power, but they can set you up for future success.
You can use blog comments to form a relationship with a blogger. This might give you the opportunity to guest post on the website in the future, or make them more likely to share your latest post.
The key to writing blog comments is to contribute to the discussion.
Take a few minutes to read the post and think of a meaningful response that the author is likely to respond to. Commenting “great post” doesn’t inspire anything other than to make the author believe that you didn’t read the article.
Asking a question is an easy way to start a dialogue with the author, which you can continue over email and form a relationship.
First and foremost, registering social media profiles is a good way to protect your brand.
The last thing that you want is somebody else holding the social media usernames of your brand, which they could use to hurt your brand.
Other than that, social media is a valuable marketing tool and an excellent way to generate interest in your content.
Regardless of your business, you should register accounts on:
- Google +
Just because you have all of the accounts, it doesn’t mean you have to actively use them, although it would be beneficial.
You can easily install a plugin that will post your latest articles to all of your social media accounts.
This way, you’re at least keeping them updated with fresh content.
Each of these social media accounts will send ‘social signals’ to your website, letting Google know that your site is using social media and receiving shares and likes.
The goal of foundational links is to make your business look real.
You shouldn’t appear as a temporary, fly by night internet company that won’t matter a week from now.
Any respectable company is registered in business listings or citations, and you should be too.
Most of these citations will allow you to include a link back to your website, a lot of them are do-follow, and all you need to provide is some information about your business.
Although these types of links aren’t directly relevant to your business, these are general citations that every real company will have.
Your goal is to follow the pack and not stick out. If a big brand does it, so should you.
Directories are often spammed to oblivion. The first thing that you should do when you find a new niche directory is to take a look at some of the other listings.
Some lists are actively moderated while others are a free-for-all.
Your goal should be to join lists that will offer you value and put you among good company.
To find niche directories, you can use Google strings such as:
- “directory” + niche
- niche directories
- “submit website” + niche
- “submit site” + niche
- “submit” + directory + niche
Niche directories are industry specific, but another kind of directory you could consider would be a local business directory.
Even if your business doesn’t explicitly sell to locals, there’s no reason why your business shouldn’t appear in the list.
These directories are normally much cleaner than general or niche directories, leaving your links in a better neighborhood.
Here are some Google search string to consider:
- directory + location
- location + “submit website”
- location + “submit site”
- submit website + directory + location
- location + directories
Submissions and Galleries
There are thousands of different submissions websites and galleries out there that you can submit your website to.
However, you only want to pick the highest quality ones.
Make sure that you look at some of the other submissions and see if they appear to be moderated. Similarly, find out if it costs to submit, you don’t want to pay for any submission links.
There are three types of submission sites to consider: website galleries, CSS galleries, and logo submission websites.
All of these websites specialize in a particular niche, and the moderated high-quality submission sites will only feature the best websites.
That means that these links can be relatively powerful.
So, if you’ve got a gorgeous website or a pretty logo, take a few minutes to submit it to some of the top galleries.
The Most Powerful Backlinks
The most beneficial links are going to be those that are:
- Relevant to your website
- From strong pages on strong domains
- Have few other outbound links
As cliche, as it sounds, producing high-quality content, is crucial to acquiring the most powerful backlinks.
Without amazing content, those authority sites will take a look at your site and delete your email. They have standards to uphold, and they won’t link to just anyone. You need to prove your worth.
Content is the foundation of any link building campaign. Regardless of how good your promotion is if your content sucks you’re not going to attract the links that you want.
As a company with a presence on the internet, content is your asset.
Take the time and resources to invest in creating the best content that you can afford. It’s going to make acquiring the best backlinks a lot easier and will allow you to earn links that you would never have been able to with average content.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that content means articles.
Content could also mean videos, infographics, sound clips, podcasts or photos.
Almost everything on your website is part of your content. With most of your competitors likely focussing on blog posts, other forms of content might allow you to differentiate yourself and acquire backlinks that they couldn’t.
There’s a difference between editorial and contextual links, although a link could be both at the same link.
Contextual means that a link is within the content itself, rather than in the sidebar, footer or comments section.
However, an editorial link is in content that has passed an editor.
Although they serve the same purpose, websites that have editors are going to be some of the highest quality sites on the whole internet. They are likely to be some of the most powerful links available.
Unfortunately, getting these links is particularly hard. Not only do you need to have connections to the website, but you also need to be able to create content that your backlink fits into naturally so that it will get past the editor.
The first step to earning editorial links is to form a relationship with a member of staff at the publication. Ideally, you’re looking for an editor, writer or a member of the content team.
You can often find these people by searching for their company on LinkedIn and connecting with them there.
Once you’ve formed a relationship, you need to have something to offer.
If you’re a talented writer and have in-depth knowledge of the industry, you could submit a guest post. Otherwise, you’ll have to go above and beyond. Try collecting first-hand data to create a graph or make a video exclusively for them.
In the past, Matt Cutts has publicly denounced guest posts. However, a lot of SEO’s misunderstood what he was referring to.
Matt doesn’t have a problem with niche relevant guest posts that offer real value to genuine readers; he hates spam guest posts created for the purpose of a link.
For example; if you run a gardening company it’s okay to guest post on another gardening related website. However, guest posting on a site about astronomy would be spammy because it’s not relevant and the other sites readers don’t care about gardening.
As with any white hat link building tactic, your aim should be first and foremost to provide value. In return for providing value, you will be compensated with a link.
To get the most out of your guest posting campaigns, you should look for niche relevant, authority sites.
To find some blog or websites that accept guest posts, you can search for:
- “guest post” + niche
- “write for us” + niche
- “guest” + niche
- “contribute” + niche
- “contributors” + niche
- “guest article” + niche
Once you’ve prospected a list of potential opportunities, you can contact them and let them know that you’re interested in guest posting. Here’s a script for you to use:
Hey [First Name],
My name is [Your Name], and I’m the [Position] at [Your Company]. I’ve been involved in [Your Industry] for [number] years.
I’m a big fan of your website and was wondering if you were still accepting guest posts?
I’d love to write an article about [Idea 1] or [Idea 2]. As I said, I’ve got years of experience in this industry and would love to give some advice to other readers
Let me know what you think!
In the early years of the internet resource pages were all the rage. Unfortunately, like many other tactics, spammers ruined it for everyone.
Fortunately, over the past decade, there have been millions of new resource pages created that are actively moderated and aren’t excessively long.
Some of these resource pages have thousands of links pointing to them and therefore are great links.
Of course, you can only ask to be included on the resource page, and you’ll probably have a surprisingly high conversion rate.
However, broken link building is a tactic that can drastically boost your conversion rate.
The idea is to find resource pages that have broken links i.e. links that point to pages that don’t exist or have changed the topic.
Then, you can contact the website owner and let them know about the broken link and your piece of content. By helping them with their website they are more likely to be receptive to including your link, they owe you after all!
Grey Hat Backlinks
Gray hat backlinks can an inherent risk; they aren’t the kind of backlinks that Google wants you to create.
They might work well. However, websites have been penalized for using them, and they likely will continue to be penalized in greater numbers.
Then, why are we looking at them?
There are people who have a high-risk tolerance, who don’t care if their website is penalized by Google.
If you’re going to create a PBN, then start it the right way. Learn from the mistakes of those before you and stick to relevant domains.
One of the simplest things for Google to track is a change in domain usage. If you’re a gardening company, you want links from gardening websites so you might buy an expired domain and create a gardening blog.
However, if that expired domain was about cats before, Google knows that the theme of the content has changed. They’re likely to remove any of the PR for that domain because it has essentially been reset.
So, if you’re using expired domains to build out a PBN then make sure that they are related to your industry.
Another thing to consider is the letter ‘P,’ as in ‘private.’ Don’t make the mistake of opening your PBN up to the public, a lot of the PBN’s that have been de-indexed in the past were punished because they were super easy to spot.
Web 2.0’s are primarily just blogs. They are websites that are interactive and allow user generated content.
Here is a list of some of the most popular Web 2.0’s:
Web 2.0’s act in a similar way to PBN’s, they allow you to build contextual, relevant backlinks to the exact pages that you want to rank.
There’s a substantial difference between earning backlinks and building them.
Building backlinks suggest that you’re going out and manually putting the link in place yourself. There is a limit to the quality of most links that you can build.
Whereas a link that is earned suggests that you did something so valuable and extraordinary that you deserved to be given the link.
Take a look at your website. Does it deserve backlinks? Has it provided such value that it has earned the best links available?
The only way to earn backlinks is to provide value and please your readers.
Any business that is successful gives the customer what they want. There is no use beating around the bush, the best SEO campaigns provide real value to people and EARN you the most desirable links.
Your job is to make your users happy. Your content should answer real questions that they have and provide so much value, above and beyond what any other website does.
Put the user first
One of the greatest mistakes that the majority of SEO’s still make is to prioritize Googles crawler bots over the user.
What they don’t understand is that Google is user focused and so you should be too.
Google wants to serve the results that humans enjoy the most, so if your website isn’t designed for humans how could it be what Google wants to rank?
No matter how much effort you’ve put into your site, there are always improvements to be made.
Have a group of people use your site and give feedback on the most minute user experience features.
If you can improve the experience that any user has on your site, you increase the chance of that person linking back to you.
We’ve covered in this guide why the biggest sites have the most linking power and are the backlinks that you want the most.
Does your website deserve these huge endorsements?
If the answer is no, then you will forever be doomed to mediocre rankings. You might be able to accumulate enough small links to get by, but you’ll struggle to gain true authority.
The only way to gain real authority is the be endorsed and linked to by the biggest players in this game, and they have high standards.
Create content for humans
There’s a good chance that your competitors are also trying their hand at content marketing.
Blogging is all the rage these days and companies are pumping out thousands of words each week.
Don’t get distracted by what other companies are doing.
Just because some guru told you that 500-word posts convert the best or that you need at least 1000-words to rank, you should prioritize the users.
Write your articles to provide the most value.
If that can be done in 150-words, great. If it takes you 20,000-words, great.
Truly valuable content comes in different lengths and forms. Create content for humans and not for robots.
While it’s smart to optimize your articles for a keyword you want to rank for, don’t let that overwhelm you.
There might be a micro group within your niche that has a burning problem that they want to be solved.
It could only have 10-searches per month, but because it’s so small, nobody has covered it properly before.
These are the kind of opportunities for you to provide value.
If you can produce something that solves those ten people’s problems each month, you’re adding value to your user’s lives.
You will be rewarded for that because you have earned it.
You can see it over and over again with the most successful local businesses in micro niches. They solve problems that the biggest companies overlook because they are too small on paper.
Create incredible content
Creating content for humans isn’t enough. You need to create incredible content for humans.
All of the most successful businesses in the world did something above and beyond what their competitors did.
With so much content available in every industry, you have to create content that is substantially better to stand out.
Content that is just a little better or marginally better isn’t good enough. It needs to blow your competitors out of the water.
Take a look at some of the most popular articles in your industry and ask yourself how they can be improved. If you can’t think of anything, then you aren’t trying hard enough. There is always more to be done.
Here are a few quality issues to look for:
There is very little content that is truly evergreen. Gurus always talk about creating evergreen content, but as your industry changes the way that things are done will change, and the recommended products will change.
If you can find content in your industry that is outdated, then you have an opportunity.
Your plan should be to create an updated article that makes the current article look like garbage.
Then, when you’ve posted your incredible article, you can contact all the websites that linked to the outdated article and let them know that there’s a much better, up-to-date version available.
Another easy improvement that you can make is to create more in-depth and detailed versions of thin articles.
It’s always shocking to do a search and realize that the top few results have tens of backlinks to a page that is only a few hundred words long and offers little value to readers.
The mistake would be to try and match and exceed them. You don’t want to be marginally better; you want to destroy them.
Create the ultimate article, something that covers every detail of the problem to great depth.
Not only will this increase the chance of you earning backlinks and ranking, but it also deters competitors from trying to compete with you on that keyword.
One thing that attracts links like no other is detailed data and research. If you find that your competitors aren’t conducting their research and collecting data, this could be a great opportunity for you.
Not only can you create a great data source, but you can also use that data to create graphs, charts, and detailed articles that are far better than your competitors.
These case studies will stand out against your competitors and can attract tens of links. There is also an excellent piece of content for promoting.
We’ve all read content at some point that makes our eyes close. A lot of companies make the mistake of thinking that because they registered an LLC, they have to wear gray suits and become boring.
There’s nothing wrong with having some personality and connecting with your readers.
Some of the top brands including The Dollar Shave Club have benefited hugely from having personality.
It allowed them to stand out against a wall of suits and encouraged customers to try their products.
If you don’t know how to write in a more personal way, then you should do some research into copywriting.
Your aim as a company shouldn’t be to stand on a soapbox and shout to the masses.
It should be to make every piece of content feel like it’s directed at the individual reading it. They should be so connected to the content that they can’t help but share it with their friends and then whip out their credit cards.
Horrible to Read
You’re not at college anymore; there’s no need to write huge blocks of text, with no images and no headings.
Read a few random blogs in your industry. It’s almost guaranteed that most of them are just plain chunks of text with a few stock images if you’re lucky.
An easy way to stand out from this dreary content is to make it more visually appealing.
Create something that isn’t an eyesore and that people want to read.
To start with, don’t be afraid to use text modifiers for example; italics, bolding and bullet points. This helps to break the text up and prevent it becoming boring.
Similarly, look at how this article is written.
We don’t have huge blocks of text, most paragraphs are 2-3 sentences long, and it makes it far more visually appealing and easier to read.
If you’re looking to stand out, then you need to either learn to design yourself or hire a freelance graphic designer.
Custom graphics are the best way to make your blog posts more interest, but they can also be used by other websites who will link back to you for credit.
Go Above and Beyond
Almost by definition, to beat your competition, you must be willing to do what they can’t or won’t do.
The pages that rank the highest in Google have a huge amount of effort behind them.
The owner has likely been working for years to build up the authority of his or her website. Not only that, they spent tens of hours crafting the perfect piece of content with custom graphics and useful data.
Then, they went out and marketed for hundreds of hours to build backlinks to their killer article. But you’re only seeing the number one ranking for a 20,000 searches per month keyword.
You don’t see the hard work behind that ranking.
It’s tough to sit down every single day and type at a keyboard. You probably have other things you’d rather be doing. You might have a family that needs your attention.
Unfortunately, the way the world works means that you need to work harder and faster than your competition.
You need to put in the hours and work your brain as hard as you can to be creative and find solutions to your problems.
You’ll make mistakes, and that’s fine. Pick yourself up and move onwards.
It’s one thing to put in the hours, but it’s another to be creative.
There’s only so far you can get if you’re copying somebody else and following in their footsteps. Eventually, you’ll need to take your path and be creative.
Creativity isn’t just a natural talent; it’s something that you can work on and improve yourself.
The more hours you dedicate to being creative, the better you’ll get at doing it.
On the flip side, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that creativity means thinking up completely new ideas. A lot of the most successful companies didn’t reinvent the wheel, they just perfected it and saw opportunities where others didn’t.
For example; Facebook wasn’t the first social media platform. But it was the first platform that felt close to a real-life social scene and let you only connect with those people you knew.
Take a look at what others in your industry and other industries are doing and see what you can learn from them.
Don’t be afraid of finding creative ideas in other people’s work; all creative arts are a constant cycle of innovation.
Don’t Follow Others
If you want to be successful, then you have to be creative, and to an extent, you have to be unique.
If you want your content to earn the highest-quality backlinks, then it needs to have some unique angle or spin that makes it different from all the rehashed content out there.
It’s smarter for you to spend all of your time working on one magnificent unique piece than it is for you to replicate posts than your competitors have already created.
Step out of your comfort zone. Look for areas where you can make massive improvements and be creative.
Influencers want to link to content that reflects well on them. That means something that is; new, interesting, unique and valuable to their readers.
Provide More Value
As we’ve already talked about, all of your content should be created first and foremost for the humans that will read it.
Take a look at some of the most popular blogs and articles in your industry. Examine them and understand what makes them attractive.
This is your benchmark for quality. Everything that you produce should exceed that level of quality and value.
If your goal is to outperform those competitors and outrank them, you need to provide more value.
Content marketing is a simple value exchange. You supply the readers with value, and in exchange, a portion of those readers will share your content, link to it from their blogs and tell their friends how incredible it was.
- What is it that readers in your industry want?
- How well do your competitors provide that value to them?
- In what ways could you provide more value?
Once you’ve answered those questions, you’ll be on your way to success. Content marketing is all about providing excessive value until the reader can’t help but share your content.
Be Patient and Consistent
Perfection is often overrated. Consistency and patience are what all successful entrepreneurs have in common.
Content marketing is a slow process and SEO is even slower.
If you’re going to win in this business, then you need to look at the landscape in a 1, 2 and 5-year scale.
There is no use in looking at today or tomorrow or this week; the changes will be so small that you might not even notice them. You need to believe in the process. Don’t give up on your goals.
You need to keep moving, keep producing content and be constantly promoting what you have. Over the course of a year, you’ll be able to notice an upwards trend of growth, even if it’s hard to see at the time.
Google understands that spammers are spamming because they are shortsighted. They don’t have the patience for longer-term tactics otherwise they would have built a real business like you.
So, to counter them Google has made SEO slower. They’ve purposefully integrated misdirection and time delays into their algorithm to deter spammer and fly-by-night SEOs.
You need to believe in what you’re doing and commit to working on your SEO and content marketing every day for the next year.
Work with Others
No man or woman is an island.
Business is about relationships and managing expectations. For you to earn and score backlinks, you’ll need to talk to people, get to know them and provide them value.
Sure, you can get a few links by just asking nicely and then disappearing, but if you’re in this for the long haul, you need to create relationships.
On that note, don’t disregard somebody because of their current position. The writer at that big magazine who doesn’t have any leverage right now might be the editor next year.
Forming relationships with anyone and everyone in your industry will maximize your opportunity to promote your content and earn the links that you deserve.
When you’re forming relationships with people, you need to put them first. Don’t worry about what they can do for you, think about what you can do for them.
Then, when you’ve provided value to them over and over, you’ll be able to ask for their help, and they’ll give it to you without hesitation.
Put yourself in their shoes. Why would they bother going out of their way to link to your just because you asked them to?
Instead, focus on building relationships first before you ask for anything from them.
Create Email and Social Media Lists
People often think of email lists as a way to promote to consumers, but businesses forget that in the age of the internet, consumers are also producers.
The same people who buy your products are the people who will mention it on social media to their friends, or write about it on their industry related website.
Top bloggers understand that their readers are also their sharing army. The people on your email list are your most loyal fans, so loyal that they gave you access to their inbox.
Every time that you create a new post you should push it to your email list and ask them to share it with their followers and on their websites. You might be surprised who you have on your email list.
Promote Your Content
Content isn’t king; promoted content is king.
The adage of ‘built it and they will come’ is complete garbage. If people don’t know that your content exists there is no way for them to come check it out.
You need to go out of your way to promote your content excessively and put it in every relevant corner of the internet.
A basic rule to follow would be for every hour you spend creating the content you should spend two-hours promoting it.
Content promotion is so important that you need to spend more hours promoting than you do creating the content. After all, un-promoted content is virtually worthless.
Backlinks come in many different shapes and sizes. Depending on where your business is at you might need to spend the next week creating foundational links or you might be ready to create that killer article you’ve been thinking about.
Eventually, you’ll get to the point where you’re ready to earn links.
There is no magic button to press, and there is no secret.
The best backlinks are earned rather than bought or built. You need to create something that provides tremendous value to others and then promote it.
Put humans first, and the robots will reward you.