Why you should never underestimate the importance of backlinks in SEO

With competition in cyberspace growing fiercer by the day, businesses need to be on top of their search engine optimisation (SEO) game if they want to make a mark.

Corporate chatter about the importance of backlinks in SEO is on the rise, and for good reason.

While backlink acquisition, also known as link building, is not the easiest visibility tactic to achieve, it can make a big difference to your Google ranking if done well. In fact, HubSpot has dubbed it one of the core components of a strong SEO strategy in 2022.

How link building works

Link building is where a brand or its marketing agency seeks hyperlinks from external websites that point toward the brand website.

“It’s one activity that brands can do to improve their visibility in search engines,” says Sarah Spence, Founder and Strategic Director of Content Copywriting. This is because every backlink acts as a vote of confidence for your content, signalling its value and credibility.

Is link building necessary for my website?

Generally, link building is a must for any business that wants to increase website traffic.

“It comes down to the fact that Google is effectively one big popularity contest,” Sarah explains. “And the way to become more popular is by association.”

In this respect, digital marketing is kind of like prom. (Indulge us.) You want to be prom king or queen — top of the search results — when your ideal customers or clients search for a problem that you fix. And Google is the selector panel.

“When deciding who should be at the top, Google considers popularity as one of the main factors,” says Sarah.

How do I know if my website is popular?

You can gauge your site’s popularity by looking at its Domain Authority (DA).

“There are a bunch of third-party tools such as Semrush and Ahrefs that can evaluate your DA,” Sarah says.

“Many factors influence your SEO success, but on a simplistic level, you need to have the highest DA out of all of your competitors if you want to be in the top spot.”

Beyond DA, these third-party data tools can provide a range of insights for your strategy research. For example, you can find the backlinks of a site and see how many backlinks you have versus your competitors.

3 key benefits of quality backlinking

Quality backlinking (more on the ‘quality’ part shortly) has three noteworthy advantages for businesses today:

  1. Increased Domain Authority — The magic of good link building is that it raises the DA of your entire website, not just the webpages the backlinks directly point to.
  2. Higher page rankingsGoogle has confirmed that backlinks are one of their top three factors in determining search engine ranking.
  3. Revenue growth — Once you’ve used link building to help improve your DA and page rank, your content should be more easily found by qualified leads. And the more site visits you achieve from users within your ideal audience, the more conversions you can expect.

The best types of backlinks for SEO

While there are many different types of backlinks out there, not all are created equal.

“Every millisecond, Google is crawling the internet and constantly judging what is quality,” Sarah says. This goes for all kinds of content, including backlinks.

When you consider that one quality backlink can be more effective than a thousand low-quality backlinks, you want to know your link building efforts are cutting the mustard.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common link building approaches and considerations.

‘Dofollow’ versus ‘nofollow’ links

For your link building to work, it’s important to understand the difference between ‘dofollow’ and ‘nofollow’ backlinks:

  • Dofollow links pass on authority to the receiving domain, helping to increase its DA (and therefore its search rank). In other words, both humans and Google can follow these links. 
  • Nofollow links contain a piece of code that stops the receiving domain from receiving any authority (so they won’t help improve search rank). In other words, only humans can follow these links (Google bots are banned from following the link). 

“So the aim of the game is to get dofollow links from sites that are more popular than yours — those that have a higher DA,” says Sarah. “That way, your site receives a sprinkling of their popularity.”

Directory listings, blog comments and social media

Backlinks tossed into directory listings and social comments are arguably the low-hanging fruit of the SEO world: they’re quick and easy to nab, but they tend to be a bit unsavoury.

“Directory links are effectively links from online yellow pages,” Sarah says. “There are trillions of these directory websites, and they just list heaps of different businesses and link to their sites.

“Normally, directory sites don’t necessarily have a very high domain authority.”

Plus, the brevity of directory listings means Google probably won’t deem the information valuable for searchers (especially after Google’s latest ‘helpful content’ update). So these links tend to be low quality.

And the case is the same for comments on blogs, socials and webinars that contain your website address.

Guest posting

So how do you create a high-quality link? You might’ve already guessed it: you can publish valuable content on trusted, well-visited sites through guest posting.

In contrast to a directory listing, a long-form SEO article will be considered valuable by both humans and Google and therefore high in quality. And if that article links to your website using a specific keyword phrase that aligns with what your audience is searching for, rank-boosting popularity sprinkles will come your way.

“The best link building is the kind where you are consistently making high-quality guest posts,” says Sarah.

Let’s use Content Copywriting as an example. We might approach a reputable external site requesting they publish a guest post that links to our homepage using the keyword phrase ‘content marketing agency’. 

“This post may not be of the same quality we’d put on our own site; but it will still offer valuable information for the reader and, importantly, a contextual link to our site,” explains Sarah. “Humans can click on that link if they want; but mostly it’s there for Google to follow and for our site to benefit from the popularity sprinkle of the other site’s higher DA.”

The dos and don’ts of link building

We hope we’ve sold you on the power of link building when it comes to fostering an impactful online presence. It’s a neat string to add to your marketing bow.

But link building is also a complex endeavour, so it helps to understand common pitfalls and best-practice approaches for the best results.

Here are some key dos and don’ts to consider as part of your strategy.

Don’t rely on link building alone

Before you go spending your entire digital marketing budget on backlinks, remember that content marketing can help with SEO. In fact, link building without content that’s well written and strategic is a recipe for disappointment.

“While link building does help influence that popularity score, you’re not going to get to the top spot for a particular keyword phrase through link building on its own,” says Sarah. “You also have to have great content on the site. Your site also needs to be fast and accessible.”

When it comes to SEO, there are three core elements that need attention:

  • Content — The more you publish content, the higher your chances will be of appearing in search results. But the content needs to provide value to your audience, not just try to sell them something. Google checks for value, authority and engagement when determining quality too.
  • Technical health — Your site needs to be technically healthy. Check that your navigation and links are working, loading times are reasonably fast and no copy is duplicated. This ensures Google can easily scan and index your site.
  • Authority building — When aiming for good visibility, it helps to have a DA higher than or equal to your competitors. Here’s where link building can help, especially when you focus on high-quality guest posts backed by keyword research.

“To be successful and visible in Google when your ideal client or customer is searching for the services or products you provide, you need all three,” says Sarah.

Say your Domain Authority is strong and your website is technically healthy, but your content is weak. You might rank well for a short time, and people will visit your site, but they’ll quickly leave when they see the content provides no value to them.

And don’t forget, Google is constantly watching everyone’s behaviour on the internet, including how quickly someone leaves your website after arriving.

“So if you can get people to come to your site, go further into it and then convert, Google’s going to think you’re better than your competitors.

“That’s why it’s really important to have that three-prong approach.”

Don’t settle for low-quality links

We won’t lie — the process of acquiring quality, high-authority backlinks through guest posting (aka manual outreach) takes a fair amount of time and effort. This is likely why 41% of business and marketing professionals say link building is the hardest part of SEO.

As a result, it’s not uncommon for brands to partner with SEO agencies that promise to get you to the number-one spot fast.

“And while that is possible, generally they’re doing fairly thin content updates to your site,” says Sarah. “And they’re also building a lot of backlinks with low value or low domain authority, such as directory listings.

“While this can boost your website ranking for a few months, it’s a temporary fix. It’s not going to be sustainable if the content you publish isn’t really good quality.”

The other issue with low-quality backlinks is that they will often be removed, causing problems like link breaks on your site that bring the value of your content down.

Another reason to favour long-term link building over quick fixes is that your competitors are more than likely investing in it.

“And even if you’re ahead of your competitors, you need to maintain that lead,” says Sarah.

 You might be thinking, But my team’s at capacity. How will we pull this off?

We hear you. It’s a common challenge for in-house teams, which is one of the reasons why 36% of businesses outsource their link building efforts to external professionals.

When it comes to engaging link building services in Australia, we recommend opting for an experienced team that helps brands generate leads through content marketing.

Do engage an expert content marketing agency

Not only does quality link building demand time, but it also requires specialist skills and knowledge to be done effectively. This is another reason many companies outsource their link building to a skilled third party, preferably one that takes a strategic content-led approach.

“Link building really needs to be a part of your overall content marketing strategy,” says Sarah.

Some brands delegate their link building to a single SEO staff member, but it’s rarely a worthwhile approach.

“What you’re at risk of there is not actually aligning to your ideal audience,” Sarah says. “What are the phrases they’re searching for that you can bring together in a content marketing strategy? You can use these keyword phrases to produce some really great content. And this content can then add value to your ideal customer about the specific problem that they have or the service you want them to buy.”

At Content Copywriting, our keyword research involves detailed competitor analysis. This helps us determine the gap between our client and their competitors and ensure that the keyword phrases we’re using for link building will make a difference in search rankings.

We also take a strategic approach to guest posting, ensuring backlinks are added to a range of high-DA sites.

“There’s a whole world of digital PR that comes with guest posting,” says Sarah. “Next-level backlinking is where you’re approaching websites that have very significant DAs — think about the big digital publishers like HuffPost or the Sydney Morning Herald. These websites get a lot of traffic, and they want juicy content that’s going to help them reach their quota for creating engaging content for their audience.

“We might pitch them an industry report with some great stats and research that we’ve put together, or an article with a really interesting angle that we haven’t posted elsewhere. And we ask for a dofollow backlink in exchange.”

When it comes to climbing the Google ranks, authority building and quality content really go hand in hand. So, get yourself a marketing team that can do both.

Start building backlinks today

With so much competition online, the challenge of being seen and heard by your audience can be overwhelming. But link building is just one example of SEO strategies that, if done well, can help you not only get ahead of your competitors but stay there.

The AMI-recognised team at Content Copywriting is here to help connect your business with your ideal audience. We will make sure your link building is supported by a robust, tailored content marketing strategy that supports long-term online visibility, lead generation and revenue growth.

Starting sooner rather than later will help you gain a competitive advantage.

Want to know more?