How to get backlinks for my website
January 4, 2022
We’ve written a few articles over the past year with tips on how to boost your SEO, but one area that we haven’t addressed until now is how to get backlinks for your website.
It’s well known that having good quality backlinks pointing to your website will help boost your SEO and potentially your domain authority, but how do you get them and what should you consider when searching for backlink opportunities?
At LWDA, we’ve recently been looking into this task for ourselves. We’ve spent a great deal of time optimising our site and adding blog posts such as this to target keywords and bring traffic to the site, but now it’s time to brave the murky world of backlinks.
What are backlinks?
Quite simply, a backlink is any link from another website that points to your website.
The link might appear within a blog post, in the footer or on a Trusted Partners / Service Providers page and point to any page on your website.
There are many more instances of how backlinks are used and gained, several of which we will explore later in this article.
Why backlinks are important?
Backlinks are a very important part of any SEO strategy because they can be used to drive large numbers of visitors to your site. Any of which may choose to purchase an item or enquire about a service.
The more links you obtain, the more traffic you will receive, with the endgame being to increase revenue as a result.
As well as a substantial increase in site visitors, Google and other search engines will see that your website is being linked to by other sites, and as a result, improve your ranking. At least that is the theory.
The fly in the backlink ointment
The problem is that you shouldn’t just run out and start trying to get backlinks from any and every website that you can find. The trick is to obtain GOOD QUALITY backlinks. Not those which might actually damage your website’s reputation.
Google started using backlinks as a ranking factor way back in 1996 and very quickly became a part of the ranking algorithm that was heavily abused.
Website owners would just call up their mates and get links added to each other’s sites. This was quickly followed by ‘sponsored’ (paid-for) links, which is now a market worth millions if not billions of dollars.
Google eventually got wise to this and started to change the algorithm. The aim was to reward websites that had obtained backlinks via trusted means and penalise those who had not.
So how do you know if a source is trusted and what types of links should you be seeking?
How to create a good backlink strategy
Exactly how you create a good backlink strategy will depend largely on the sector you are working in and the goals you are trying to achieve. But let’s take it for granted that the goals are as follows:
- Drive more traffic to your website
- Increase your ranking in the SERPs
- Increase sales
It may seem a bit strange, but the way to achieve your goal is to reverse engineer the task.
To achieve this you will need to know who your customers are and consider their online habits, such as:
- Which competitors do they use?
- What other websites do they visit? Magazines, blogs, news aggregators?
- What keywords would they use to find similar services? You can use these to find examples of the above two items.
You’ll want to avoid a scattergun approach to your backlink strategy because it will drain time and money. Identifying your audience will help focus your efforts.
You wouldn’t dream of running an Adwords campaign that targeted everyone online and just hoped for the best, so don’t take the same strategy to gain backlinks for your website.
Increase your ranking in the SERPs
Gaining backlinks to your website from other popular websites that your customers are likely to visit is a great way to increase your ranking in the SERPs.
For instance, if you run a plumbing business and managed to get a few backlinks from popular blogs or trade magazines that were known as great resources for plumbing tips & tricks, Google would see this and give you a nice little boost in the ranking.
Good sources of relevant backlinks include the following:
- National newspapers – Getting a mention and link in one of the daily newspapers is like striking gold.
- Industry publications – Especially those that still produce a printed version, where you may get mentioned both in print and online.
- Sector-related blogs – These often feature articles in formats such as Tips & Tricks, How To’s, Top 10 lists, etc.
- Local Newspapers and Blogs – If you work within a particular catchment area, it’s wise to target local information sources. This is great for boosting your local SEO.
- Review / Service Provider Websites – There seem to be hundreds of these. Some work better than others and we’ll mention a little more about these further down.
- Directory Websites – There are hundreds of directory websites out there, but it’s best to stick to the big layers such as Yell.com. More about this further down.
Getting some good mentions on websites that fall into the above categories will go a long way to increasing your ranking in the SERPs.
Gaining links from non-related websites or articles that talk about other subjects may look like backlink spamming and so have an adverse effect on your ranking. So be very careful when choosing which websites you wish to gain links from.
Drive More traffic to your website with good backlinks
So, you’ve identified your target audience and created a list of possible websites to target. Now comes the hard part.
How do you actually obtain the backlinks and drive more traffic to your website? The answer is by investing time, and sometimes money, in each of your leads.
Sorry, there’s no quick-fix answer to this. At this stage of the game, it‘s a case of manually going through all of the websites to find out if you can obtain a backlink. Either free, with a reciprocal link, or paid.
Let’s look at the types of websites we mentioned above…
The quickest wins are often the bigger directories such as Yell.com, Yelp and Bing Places. These are free to use and will likely only take an hour or so to set up each one.
There are lesser-known directories that may prove to be useful, but there are many smaller directories that have been set up purely to make money off of site owners who are desperate to obtain backlinks.
There are a few directory websites that are free but require a reciprocal link to be placed on your website. In this instance, you need to decide if it’s on-brand to link to such a site.
Will sites such as these reflect poorly on your company? Perhaps because of the way they look (often very cheap with little design consideration) or because they are happy to link to any site, which could include questionable content.
For the purpose of this article, one such website is dir.topmillion.net, which has a very high domain authority (usually a good sign) and is used by many of our competitors. The design doesn’t look terrible (compared to some others – see below) but the site does contain adult links. Not ideal to say the least.
Other websites in this area just raise too many red flags, such as:
- Very poor design – A cheap and quick-to-build website set up purely to make money from backlinks. Probably by someone in their bedroom.
- Often using the same template for multiple websites – Set up at multiple domains for the same purpose.
- Require payments made to a non-branded PayPal account – How do you know if you will actually get the link and how is that money used once you have paid?
Here are a couple of screenshots from two such websites.
Bad directory websites
When doing our backlink research, we found dozens of domains that pointed to websites that looked exactly the same as those above screenshots.
They require monthly or yearly payments and offer to list on all of their domains at a discounted rate. But that will cost you hundreds of dollars every year and you have no idea what those fees are funding.
What is concerning is that these sites also often have good domain authority, which you think Google would rectify.
Are you starting to get an idea of the minefield that you are faced with when looking for quality backlinks? Don’t just submit your site to any directory. Even if it’s cheap. You just don’t know what you are financing.
Reviews & Service Provider Websites
Another relatively easy win for gaining backlinks is review and service provider websites such as Clutch.co.
These websites are a variation of the directory sites mentioned above, except they only really provide good levels of traffic and enquiries if you manage to get existing clients to post positive reviews for your company on that site.
Review websites will often let you create a profile for your company for free which will include the following details:
- Company address and contact details
- Link to website
- Portfolio / Projects – You’ll be able to upload some images and a short description for each project
- Links to social platforms
It’s the Portfolio / Project section that is the important element of these sites. For each project, you will likely be asked to provide details of the client so they can be contacted for a review.
The problem here is two-fold:
- The client will likely need to sign-up to the site in order to leave the review.
- Your client may have already given your company a review on Google and so requesting another may be considered a bit of an annoyance.
If you have many clients, you could sign up to multiple review sites and split your client list between them all. Each site could feature different projects and reviews. But do take care not to annoy your clients by having them bombarded with review requests.
Review site membership conditions
You can often create profiles on review websites for free, but this is not always the case. Here are some membership conditions that will get you that valuable backlink:
- You can sign up for free to get your backlink, but the site will only promote your company if you obtain lots of reviews.
- Nominal membership fee – Either monthly, annually or if you are lucky, a one-off sign-up fee.
- Free to sign up and create a basic profile, but the backlink is only offered to those who upgrade to a paid tier.
- Free to sign up, but the website requires a range of additional criteria to be met before they approve your listing.
One example is UpCity, which will give your profile a score out of 10 depending upon how many of their criteria you meet.
Many features will not be available unless your profile score reaches a certain level, so it’s in your best interest to complete as many of their requests as possible. Including such tasks as adding their badge to your website.
Here is an example from UpCity:
And one from A-ZBuusinessFinder.com which links back to our page on their site:
We’ve seen this tactic being used a lot by review and directory sites. Not only do they want a backlink of their own, but that link comes from displaying their logo somewhere on your site. The natural place for this is within the footer, which as you can imagine, could get very cluttered depending upon the number of sites you need to link to.
Text links as backlinks
However, some sites are happy with just a text link such as Alive Directory or a written credit such as:
- ‘Our website has been reviewed and approved by b2blistings.org – Web Design and Development Listings.
- ‘Our website is listed in webdesignlistings.org – WordPress Directory.
- ‘We are listed in seolist.org – Greater London Search Engine Optimization Listings.
- ‘Our website is listed in uklistings.org – Greater London Business Listings.
- We are listed in tradequotes.org – Greater London Directory.
- We are listed on designerlistings.org – Logo and Branding Listings.
You’ll need to ask yourself if you’re happy to display another company’s logo or text link on your website. How does this reflect on your brand and does it really add value?
Top 10 Listings
You know the pages I’m talking about… Top 10 Website Design Companies, Top 10 WordPress Development Companies, etc.
Of course, the top 10 listings that are applicable to your industry will be different, but the purpose is the same. These pages exist to serve as a guide for those looking for particular services or products by providing a 3rd-party view of who is the best at what they do.
The backlink may be arranged as a link swap (you exchange links to different pages), and/or you may be asked to feature a logo on your website somewhere, such as this Wunderlust London logo which links to such a list.
Our advice is to check the Domain Authority of any website that is asking you to link to them. You should be aiming to receive links from websites of a higher DA than your own website where possible.
Accreditations and Awards
Alongside websites that centre around reviews, there are also those that provide accreditations and awards.
These websites require that you add an awards badge or accreditation logo to your website in a similar way that is required by the review websites outlined above.
Some of these organisations may be well-known within the industry and others may carry less influence.
Again, we suggest that you use your judgement on this. Do a little research and take a good look around the organisations’ website. Ask yourself some of these questions:
- Does this organisation look reliable and official?
- Are the design of the website and the quality of the copywriting good enough to instil confidence?
- Are any of my competitors listed?
- Have I seen this award or accreditation before?
Once you have had time to review the organisation and you feel comfortable doing so, you can go ahead and add their badge to your website.
Here is an example of an awards logo from Sur.ly:
Again, this would likely go into the footer. If like us you do not have the room without a bit of a redesign which would take time, look to add the logo on another page and then make your website changes soon after.
NoFollow vs Follow links
At this stage, I feel that I need to raise a very important detail. That of Follow and NoFollow links.
Those of you who are familiar with backlinks will likely already know that not all links contribute equally to your site’s SEO and domain authority.
Some sites offer DoFollow links and some offer NoFollow links. So what’s the difference?
What is a Follow link?
Often referred to as a DoFollow link, this is any link that search engines will index and follow to your website.
These links are the most valuable and directly contribute to your website’s SEO.
DoFollow links will also boost your domain authority score if the website that is passing the traffic has a high domain authority score itself.
What is a NoFollow link?
You’ve probably already guessed it, but a NoFollow link is basically the opposite of a DoFollow link.
Essentially the idea is that a search engine sees a NoFollow command within the code and so does not index the link or pass any domain authority to the recipient website.
However, tests have been run to see if this is really the case. In several instances, NoFollow links were found to increase the SEO of the recipient’s website and boost traffic accordingly.
So, even NoFollow links are probably worth gaining if the origin site is trustworthy and has a decent domain score.
Blogs, newspapers and other publications
The final categories that we should highlight as good sources for gaining backlinks are news websites and other industry-specific blogs.
These websites are generally considered to be the best sources of information on any subject. So being listed in some way on these sites will help position your company as trustworthy and authoritative.
There are two main ways in which you can gain a backlink from a blog or new site:
- Write an article yourself and provide this to the site
- Get mentioned within an article that someone else has written
Submit an article for publication
This route will require a substantial amount of time on your part, to write a quality article that the website will deem good enough for publication.
The websites in question only want to deliver excellent content to their readers, so any article that you provide will need to be well-researched, have excellent spelling and grammar and be truly informative.
The act of supplying articles to third-party websites for publication is often referred to as Guest Blogging. There are people that offer these services, but you should be careful to check that the sites they offer to post on will be relevant to your business.
Get mentioned within an article
This route to gaining a backlink is arguable trickier. You may not be spending a great deal of time writing an article yourself, but you will need to spend time writing to publication owners to find one that will be happy to insert a link for you in an existing article.
The important thing to remember is that this route to gaining a backlink will likely cost you. There may be a one-off fee, monthly or yearly charge. So consider this option as a last resort if your budget is tight.
Types of publications for backlinks
When researching this area of backlink building, we identified 4 main publication categories that you should consider. These categories are:
- National newspapers – Any daily or weekend newspaper such as The Guardian will have an excellent domain authority score and quality readership.
- Industry publications – Consider trade magazines to help target your specific market.
- Sector-related blogs – As above, but are online-only publications.
- Local Newspapers and Blogs – Great for local SEO and should still have decent domain authority scores. Helps target local businesses which can be a good source of regular ‘bread & butter’ income.
Obtaining a backlink from any of these sources will require a certain amount of investment from you, either in terms of time and /or money, but the rewards will be worth it.
If money and time are tight, dig into your network to see if you know anyone who works for a publication. They might be able to work some magic for you and get a backlink organised for free. It‘s always worth asking!
How to build backlinks to your website
We hope that you found this article useful for building a strategy for gaining backlinks to your website.
There’s a lot to consider, so remember to do your research first and identify the best opportunities for you and your company.
Be prepared to invest some time and possibly money in building your backlinks. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, or in this case, a backlink.
We wish you the best of luck in gaining backlinks to your website, but if you need some help identifying good sources of backlinks, we do offer this as part of our SEO services.
Backlinks & SEO: Additional Reading
We hope you have found this article useful. If you’d like more SEO tips, feel free to review these posts:
- How to create an SEO Strategy plan for a new website
- What is Local SEO and why is it important for your company?
- How to get more website traffic by refreshing old content
Feel free to get in touch if you would like to discuss what we can do to help you on your way to gaining backlinks for your website and giving your brand a much-needed SEO boost.