Backlinks are NOT dead!
After reading this post by head of Google’s webspam team Matt Cutts, I (along with most of the internet) believed that guest blogging was a worthless endeavor.
But after Cutts’ post was widely misinterpreted, he amended it, adding:
I’m not trying to throw the baby out with the bath water. There are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community, etc.). Those reasons existed way before Google and they’ll continue into the future. And there are absolutely some fantastic, high-quality guest bloggers out there. ..I just want to highlight that a bunch of low-quality or spam sites have latched on to ‘guest blogging’ as their link-building strategy, and we see a lot more spammy attempts to do guest blogging. Because of that, I’d recommend skepticism (or at least caution) when someone reaches out and offers you a guest blog article.
I got it wrong. That hurt because I stopped focusing on backlinks for a while.
The truth is that buying backlinks from low-authority sites is dead: if you want to see your SEO traffic drop to zero, buy backlinks. At the same time, backlinks from high authority and relevant websites couldn’t be more important.
More than 100 blog posts will be published by the time you reach the end of this sentence. Indeed, millions of blog posts are written each day, and the competition is mounting. But most of that content is irrelevant because it attracts few visitors, subscribers or commenters. Some of these posts won’t even attract a single visitor.
Other posts, however, go viral, and these are the ones we talk about. Most of these posts are published on high authority blogs and receive coveted backlinks from thousands of other blogs; they enjoy numerous advantages from the moment they are published.
Every so often a blog post from an emerging blog goes viral. How does that happen? And, more importantly, how can that emerging blog be your blog?
Backlinks affect a post’s virality. The more places you get mentioned, the more people hear about you. If you write an epic blog post that gets seen and shared by the masses, it likely began with backlinks.
Let’s looks at how you can build your backlinking strategy:
#1: Write Guest Posts
Although writing guest posts can take up a lot of your time, the benefits include high-value backlinks and more traffic.
I’ve written guest posts for high-authority sites like Business2Community, Jeff Bullas’ Blog and ProBlogger, which have sent thousands of people to my blog and increased my search engine traffic.
To find guest posting opportunities like these, type “[your niche] guest blogs” into Google. You can also Google your competitors to discover which blogs feature their guest posts, and pitch similar content to the same blogs.
#2: Write Valuable Content
Everyone says this, so I’ll say it the cool way: write for Bill Gates.
People are looking for valuable content, and you must try to provide it. But there are two things you don’t know:
- Who’s reading your blog?
- Which of those readers will link to your content within their blog posts?
While writing this post, I went back to my stats to verify the visitors I’m getting from my guest blog posts, and I noticed that some of them came from QuickSprout. At first I assumed that someone simply linked to my blog in a comment, but soon I discovered that Neil Patel had linked to one of my blog posts.
You can read the QuickSprout post here.
Another one of my blog posts was mentioned on Susan Solovic’s blog. Solovic was a speaker at one of the first business events I had ever attended, so her mention was particularly meaningful.
I wouldn’t have known that Susan and Neil read my blog if I hadn’t noticed their links to my blog posts. While it’s easy to see how many people are visiting your blog, it’s more difficult to pinpoint individual readers.
While backlinks and social media metrics can point you to specific individuals, it’s harder to identify every single visitor. This realization forever impacted my approach to content creation.
Enter the Bill Gates Rule.
The idea behind this rule is to assume that Bill Gates will read your blog post. If he likes it, he will give you a shout out and a backlink to your post. Ideally, Gates becomes a guest on your podcast and invites you to help him create a piece of his own content.
But if Gates doesn’t like your post, you’ve lost him forever.
Of course, Gates isn’t obligated to do anything, even if he likes your post. However, you should write each post assuming that he will.
If you admire someone more than Bill Gates, write your post for him or her. The point is to write your blog post with that person in mind.
By following this rule, you’ll naturally write better content.
#3: Connect With Influencers
Connecting with influencers offers a host of benefits, particularly if one or more decide to share your content or provide you with a backlink.
Every connection with an influencer starts off with a relationship imbalance: you admire the influencer but the influencer knows little about you. So you have to do a bunch of things in order to capture their attention and influence them to share your content or link to it in one of their posts.
So how do you get the relationship started? Here are some ideas:
- Share their social media and blog posts.
- Invite the influencer to be a guest on your podcast.
- Ask to write a guest post for the influencer.
- Ask questions (but not too many in the same email).
Remember that influencers get a lot of emails; some of them receive hundreds of emails in a given day. Imagine having to read through hundreds of emails in a single day! The lengthy ones are likely to be skipped.
That’s why your emails need to be super short. My advice is to write an email that contains five sentences or less. Each time you write an email to an influencer, ask yourself how you can make it shorter and still get your message across.
#4: Write On Big Media Outlets
If you are lucky enough to write a guest post for a big media outlet like Inc. or Forbes, you will enjoy valuable backlinks.
Each backlink will be accompanied by numerous visitors and additional backlinks from bloggers who found you on those sites.
#5: Hire An Agency
Some reputable agencies specialize in providing you with quality backlinks.
Agencies like AudienceBloom work with writers who have already established relationships with big online publishers. These agencies make it easier to get mentioned on sites like Inc. Magazine, Forbes and more.
Some of these agencies can cost thousands of dollars. Most of them are better for more established bloggers looking to extend their reach even more.
#6: Get Interviewed On Podcasts
When you are interviewed on podcasts, you get more exposure and an easy quality backlink.
In any podcast episode with a guest, the guest always gets built up before the show. This way, people who previously didn’t know anything about the guest now have a reason to listen to the episode.
These introductions include a link to the guest’s website. And you will be no exception! Reaching out to podcasts in your niche and asking to be interviewed will ensure you receive high-quality backlinks.
#7: Interview People On Your Podcast
The role reversal here is that you interview people for your own podcast. While this doesn’t guarantee quality backlinks, the hope is that some of your guests will link to the episode in which they were interviewed.
While all of these backlinks add up, starting your own podcast means much more than trying to acquire backlinks. The knowledge you obtain, and the connections you make, will be far greater than the actual backlinks, regardless of how useful.
#8: Create Multiple Blogs
If you can manage multiple blogs in your niche, go for it! Each of your blogs can link to the others, and as one gains more authority, it will be easier to rank up your next fledgling blog.
Creating multiple blogs, however, requires a lot of work to do well, so if you decide to take it on, be sure to feature guest contributors and/or ghostwriters help you out with the content.
#9: Use HARO
The HARO website lets you see what content big media outlets are looking for right now.
If you see a pitch for something you can write about, respond to it. I have used HARO to get featured on sites like US News & World Report.
#10: Interact With Your Audience
This is another method that creates more value from relationship building than backlinks (but you’ll still get backlinks).
Interacting with your audience builds trust. And trust will lead to more subscribers to your blog, more sales of your products and, yes, more backlinks.
Interacting with your audience isn’t the best way to increase your backlinks, but you’ll know your audience better. Knowing your audience better will help you write better blog posts and products.
Backlinks are not dead. But if you’re buying backlinks from irrelevant websites, your Google ranking will suffer.
Relevant backlinks, on the other hand, will help your search engine rankings, even if you’re paying a credible agency to help you get there.
What are your thoughts on backlinks for SEO? How do you build backlinks? Have any stories for us? Sound off in the comments section below.