With over 10 years of experience in digital marketing, I've watched as the Google search algorithm has made thousands of changes.
To someone like me, tracking all these changes are fun. However, for most small business owners or startup founders search engine optimization (SEO) can be a minefield of outdated or irrelevant information.
There are only two basic things you need to understand about SEO as a small business owner or new startup founder.
1. How to choose keywords.
2. Labeling your site and content for those keywords.
3. Earning backlinks around those keywords.
This post is going to focus entirely on #3.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
What Does Backlinks Mean?
If you're completely new to SEO, you're probably wondering... what does "backlinks" even mean?
A backlink is simply a link from a different website back to your website.
If you really want to dive into the definition, there is a very in-depth blog post about it from Backlink.io that is excellent.
However, you just need to understand that it is good for your SEO to have high-quality backlinks for many other sites. More is good, but high-quality is best. It helps "Google" understand how relevant and trustworthy your website is.
Are Backlinks Still Relevant?
A fair question to ask is, "Are backlinks still relevant in 2021?"
The answer is yes... but some things have changed.
This is where outdated information can cause issues. If you follow advice from a few years ago, you might go out and buy thousands of backlinks. This worked for a short period of time, but now it is a very bad idea.
Why? Google caught on. The number one thing Google is trying to do is provide relevant, trustworthy results to users who are using them to search.
When you try to "game" Google, they eventually catch on and will penalize (more like ignore) sites that have tried to trick the search engine.
In 2021 and the near future, the quality of your backlinks matters. Having a few backlinks from very reputable sites is better than having thousands of backlinks from sketchy sites.
Even better if you can, over time, earn hundreds of backlinks from quality sites.
Where to Check Backlinks
If you want to find out where to check for backlinks, there are a few places you can do so for free.
One is setting up Google Search Console. This is different Google Analytics... which can be pretty confusing.
You can also use a tool like the Free Backlink Checker by Ahrefs or Ubersuggest.
How to Create Backlinks
There are many ways to earn backlinks. We use the term "earn" instead of "create" because you rarely get to create the backlink yourself. Normally another site gives you a backlink, which you need to earn.
Sometimes you earn that backlink just by being awesome. Those are the best ;)
Other times you earn backlink by writing a guest post for a reputable site. Sometimes it is from sponsoring something important. And other times it can be from submitting your information to a site.
We'll talk about each of those strategies below.
Guest Posting for Backlinks
A guest post is when some other website allows you to write a blog or create a video for them that they post onto their site.
To truly be considered a guest post, the site should give you credit for the post. Usually this will be accompanied by a link back to your site.
The big secret here is that most sites are hungry for high-quality content. If you can write something that is moderately high-quality, they will be happy to share it.
If you're nervous about asking to write guest posts, I would recommend starting with companies you already have a relationship established. Asking a friend to let you write something for their blog is a good start.
Another good option is signing up to be a contributor to a site that is relevant to your field. For example, Thrive Global allows you to sign up as a contributor and share posts. If you're in the wellness space, this is a phenomenal option.
The challenge with guest posting is just how much time it takes. It is well worth investing the time when you're just getting started and for majorly reputable sites like Thrive Global.
First Backlinks For Your Website
There is an easy, free way to get backlinks for your website quickly. Directories.
Once upon a time, listing a site in many directories was key to quick SEO success. These days, it takes a bit more conscious selection.
A directory is any site that lists many other sites and companies. Think Yellow Pages but on the internet... including Yellow Pages website.
There are a ton of these out there, but some are better than others. A good way to gauge how valuable a directory link will be is to simply search the directory's Domain Authority.
You don't need to totally understand what that means, but the higher the number the better. The ranking goes from 0-100. Ahrefs has a Free Website Authority Checker you can use.
Here are some easy backlink directories to get you started:
Industry Specific Backlinks
Some really great backlinks come from industry specific directories.
To find these, let's use Digital Marketing Agency Omaha as an example:
Just within the first few pages of results, there are five directories that I could submit my marketing agency to.
(I already have listed Inzana Media or Beeso Studio).
Not only does these serve as reputable backlinks, some people actually do browse these sites when looking for someone to work with.
Every industry will have these and they will be different. A lot of these sites are free, but they will try to upsell you on premium offers. Simply say no to those offers and they will list you for free.
Go get your first backlinks!