Having helped many businesses in the Dallas and Fort Worth area over the past 3 years, I have noticed that most of local businesses do not know what a “back link” is; and they have no idea why it is important. With the recent Google updates (Feb/March 2011), the search engines are doing what they can to make sure that they give their users the results which they believe are the most:
Why do they do this? Because the major search engines are all significant properties of publicly-traded companies… and they don’t want their users going anywhere else!! They want you to trust each implicitly, so that at some point you will click on one of the ads somewhere in their network of web tools & properties. This is how they can justify spending millions of dollars to develop algorithms and tools which they can give away for free.
With that understanding, and assuming that you know that “X” number of people use a tool like Google to search for a particular phrase (i.e. “keyword”) each month, then the next step is to play by their rules in order to be considered the most Trustworthy, Authoritative, and Relevant result which is given “free exposure” on the search engine results page (SERP). This is how you get free, qualified traffic without having to buy it on their respective paid advertising networks (e.g. Google AdWords, etc.).
Since Google, at the time of this post, has the largest percentage of search engine users then focus on what it takes to “play nice” by their terms so that you increase the odds of getting first-page exposure for a keyword phrase which:
- has quantifiable monthly number of searches (i.e. “demand”)
- has relatively low competition for the phrase, on a number of levels (i.e. “supply”)
- is indicative of someone who is ready to engage with your business or the business you are promoting (e.g. “Emergency City Plumber” is a phrase indicating that people need plumbing help and are probably willing to pay to solve the problem quickly!)
In traditional business terms, think of such a keyword phrase as an “under-served market.” There is demand, and the supply meeting that demand is low and probably under-delivering. The art of “keyword research” and “keyword competition analysis” comes into play here; and whenever you pay for those services you should be able to gain insights into your market which you never knew previously.
Assuming that you have found several keyword phrases which meet those parameters, then you need to optimize the content you control for those phrases. The “content you control” could be:
- all of the pages on your website
- your YouTube channel
- your Facebook business page
- a profile on a local forum on which you participate
- your LinkedIn profile
- “web 2.0” pages you create
- online press releases
- business directory listings (e.g. Superpages.com free listings or a Dallas-specific online business directory)
These properties can be optimized for local keyword phrases (e.g. “Emergency City Plumber”) or for national (non-geographic-specific) keyword phrases if you sell nationally (e.g. “online plumbing supplies”). Now that the online web property content you control is optimized “on page”, the next step is to optimize the “off page” content.
In the ideal scenario, every business and prospective customer would link to your web properties – with the keyword phrases you desire in the text of the link – from all sorts of places online. You would love to have the Chamber of Commerce link to your main website with the keyword phrase of your choice in the text. Then you would love to have 2000 people on a popular local (or national) forum posting your link on that forum plus dozens of related ones. Finally, you would love to have thousands of people share links to your YouTube videos from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and dozens of blogs.
If this were to happen then you, likely, would dominate the search engines for that keyword. This is because you would have optimized content on the page to which thousands of people would be “endorsing” with their links to it. Even better, instead of just “http://www. whatever…”, these people would be using your desired keywords in the actual text of the link (called “anchor text”). This would be phenomenal!
Sadly, this isn’t going to happen for most businesses on either a local or national level.
This is the reason WHY you need back links. Backlinking is a process of building links to your web content (the properties you control) which builds trust, authority, and relevance in the eyes of the search engine “robots” AS WELL AS the end user who may see the link. The more “back links” which the search engines see pointing to your web properties, especially more than just the home page of your website, then the more “votes” you get.
But there is a catch.
It is not simply a matter of overall “votes”. Like high school popularity, the algorithms also factor in the “quality” of those votes. Like in high school, if you want to be deemed “popular” then it is better to get the “endorsement” of the 5 most popular kids than 50 endorsements from the lesser-popular kids. What the search engines want to see, in addition to relevant content which is trustworthy, is:
- Links to your web properties from a variety of types of content, not just social media
- Links to your web properties from sources which the search engines ALREADY DEEM TRUSTWORTHY. For example, a link from the Chamber of Commerce is good because the Chamber’s website (usually) is deemed a trustworthy site; and the search engines know that it is tough for someone to get a link on that site due to the need for human approval (endorsement) to put the link on the site
- Content which has your link IN the main content, rather than just the sidebar or footer. Even though sidebar & footer links are helpful, having a link in the main content is indicative of an outside side endorsing (voting for) you
- Links from different I.P. addresses. This reduces the likelihood that you set up a “link farm” to be self-serving. It is deemed “untrustworthy” by the search engines when you have the majority of the links from one or two I.P. addresses… and they all point to a site on the same I.P. address!
- A mixture of “do follow” and “no follow” tags
- Links to promote your content on a staggered schedule. This looks natural to the search engines, instead of 50 links appearing to your site every Monday morning!
- Content, with your links in it, which appears to be shared freely by others because the content is good. This is why “how to” and “tips” articles, videos, and podcasts get good rankings. Free content that has your link in it, which is not riddled with “hard sell” messages (at least 90% good, useful content), and which gets passed around and posted on various blogs, social media pages, and forums is considered more “trustworthy and authoritative” then other types of content
- Content, ideally, that is unique. The search engines do what they can to reward the original creator of unique content, even if it later gets passed around
- Content which has a mixture of straight URL’s (http://www.whatever.com) and those with the keyword phrases as the text for the link. Again, that is called “anchor text”
- Coming in the second half of 2011, content which appears to be shared, re-tweeted, or otherwise passed around on social media sites. The sharing component makes the content with your links embedded in it deemed more “trustworthy”
As an example, let’s say that you are a pizza shop in North Dallas. You have enough time to set up your website once, make one small blog post a week, and offer daily specials on Facebook and Twitter. You also have a few links from the organizations for which you pay each month/year, such as the chamber of commerce and some sort of Texas pizza association (assuming there is such a thing!).
How on earth would you get links to help you beat out the competition for terms like “North Dallas pizza” and “North Dallas pizza restaurant”?!?
Assuming that your website, Google Places/Maps, Facebook business page, and YouTube channel are optimized properly then you will need backlinks to promote these pages. These would come from a variety of places on the internet to help you take good content in your head, factual information about your business (e.g. address, phone number, and website), and currently-produced photos and videos which can be re-packaged to give value to the end user who sees your information for the first time.
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of places to put the following content somewhere online for your business, in this case the pizza restaurant:
- Helpful information (e.g. learning the types of specialty pizzas)
- Your current pizza coupons
- Your business address and phone number on GPS, mobile, and 411 directories to help people find your restaurant
- Photos from the restaurant’s most recent event
- Videos derived from those photos
- Reviews from happy customers to appear on your Google Places/Maps listing
- Local business directories
- Press releases
Virtually all of these third-party places online can contain a back link to a page your website.
Hopefully you can understand the value that a firm or service that offers intelligent backlinking for your business. No matter whether you do it yourself or hire someone, be sure to develop links based on the factors I mentioned earlier. Hopefully the links are made intelligently and any helpful content (e.g. tips and helpful videos) are quality enough to offer the viewers a reason to share the content.
Thank you for reading this far! Good luck with your business and future links.