In competitive industries, it can be very difficult to gain visibility on Google without both great content and backlinks. Backlinks are simply links from other websites to yours. Sites that have lots of good backlinks tend to rank well in Google due to the way the algorithms work. Google has always used backlinks as a ranking factor, indeed it was Google who gave us the concept of pagerank – a sort of authority or boost your site got when other sites linked to it.
A site that has those incoming links from several other industry relevant websites is seen as more rank-worthy. Think of those links as a vote from within your own industry demonstrating to Google that your website is legit.
Google also places some weight on backlinks from sites that are not so relevant but which are seen as trusted or authority sites for other reasons. A link from a big important website, say a national newspaper website, can indicate a degree of trust placed in your site (i.e. on the grounds that good trusted websites tend not to link to poor quality or unworthy websites).
We can think of those two link factors as a) topical relevance and b) trustworthiness – and both types can help rank a website in search engines.
Sometimes Links Ain’t Real Links!
In recent years many webmasters tried to improve backlink profiles by arranging for mass backlinking from blog comment areas and general article directories and other low value sources. This eventually led search engines to introduce the noFollow link, which has since become standard in many blogs and other websites.
A noFollow link is one which looks like and functions like a normal link to the user but which flags to search engines that it is not to be counted as a genuine ‘editorial’ quality link. The ‘flag’ is invisible to the casual user without the tools to highlight them. The idea behind this form of link is to discourage webmasters and marketers from using blog comments and other low value backlink sources as those links no longer carry SEO value.
When we speak of gaining backlinks from other websites for SEO purposes we are naturally speaking about the traditional ‘followed’ type links, though they can be hard to tell apart without the right tools!
Potential BackLink Sources
In a rough order of importance we would put your industry relevant links first and foremost before moving to other ideas for backlink sources. This list is not exhaustive but some common strategies are as follows;
- Your SEO consultant should be able to analyze where your competitors are gaining their backlinks from to see if there are sources or strategies that might also be available to you.
- You or your consultant can also investigate whether there are specialist directories for your particular industry that might be worth an entry for your site.
- Check whether your suppliers or other upstream relationships might be a potential source of backlinks. For example, suppliers will often mention and link to their customers websites from their ‘Where to Buy our Products’ or their ‘Approved Dealers’ type pages.
- If you have other industry relevant relationships including industry associations then these too might be a potential source of backlinks. Industry associations often have member directories where you can list your website.
- Many companies will also try creating something of value to the industry and promoting it with the intention of attracting relevant links. This can take several forms but commonly includes something of good educational value to students of the industry (which might attract links from colleges or other training bodies).
- Content ideas like industry glossaries and printable guides (PDFs) are sometimes used for this strategy. Sometimes this may be combined with speaking as a guest at college or other educational bodies and getting the college to link to your notes or relevant page on your website or just to your home page as acknowledgement.
- Some colleges will also link to career opportunities for its students so keeping a careers page and letting colleges know of its existence can be useful.
- Sometimes companies attract attention from bloggers and media writers by producing whitepapers, research papers or product reviews of new products and/or commentary on new developments in an industry or the impact of new regulations on an industry.
- It should be noted however that just producing and publishing great content on your website is not quite enough, it has to be seen and heard about by others before it can gain backlinks – this is where good social media management and PR, including online press releases can be invaluable.
- Consider opportunities for speaking appearances at industry events and exhibitions, most of which will link to their sponsors and speakers company websites. That one is gold!
- Outside of the industry itself, you may have contacts within media or government/local government circles that may be a potential source. These are not necessarily industry relevant but of good trust value.
- Services like HelpaReporter.com or Sourcebottle.com can be monitored for suitable ‘industry source’ opportunities, where reporters writing on a topic call for industry knowledge, they will usually cite and link to their sources in their articles.
- Similarly with other business groups, chambers of commerce and even clients – can they be tapped as opportunities to gain a mention and a link to your site?
- Many unrelated but otherwise good trusted websites such as charities and sporting associations will happily link to their sponsors.
Note, in all cases we are talking about attracting links from other websites to your site and not the other way around! It is the incoming link (backlink) that carries the ranking advantage though there is some room for you to link out to other relevant websites as part of an overall SEO strategy.