If you’re someone doing a lot of writing or blogging about tech online, chances are you’ve gotten a few—or a few dozen—messages asking for back links. Every day, we get dozens of emails saying something like "Hey cool website, I just read your post on XYZ. I've got a similar post, would you like to link to it?"
If you get these emails too, you’re probably just as annoyed. These are requests for you to go out of your way to do something while the sender offers nothing in return.
These sorts of emails are sent so frequently because linking to different websites is actually very important from the perspective of maximizing your site for SEO. People send these annoying requests because there’s incentive to do so.
However, while backlinks are important, there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about them. An out-of-the-blue request for someone to link to your site is the wrong way—here’s how to generate backlinks the polite way.
Why are backlinks so important?
First, the basics. SEO experts debate exactly how important backlinks are, but they are undoubtedly important because they contribute to how search giants like Google rank a site in their results. At the end of the day, sites like Google want to get their users the most relevant and authoritative content. Their algorithms do this partially by metrics like how long users are spending on a page, a measure that indicates high-quality content.
One of the most important criteria is how many people are linking to a page, since the logic is that an authoritative and substantive source will get treated as such by users. An algorithm is only an algorithm, so it’s relying on the collective judgment of others to indicate what’s good content. When another person says “here is a great guide to the different marketing automation platforms” and embeds a link to your site’s URL, that’s a backlink. Search engines also take into consideration the authority of the site linking to you, so a link from Moz is worth more than a link from a blog, and so on.
What are the polite ways to earn backlinks?
Backlinks are good because they show a search algorithm that your site is relevant and trustworthy. Ultimately, the best way to look relevant and trustworthy is to be relevant and trustworthy. If you are providing substantive answers to questions being asked about your field, people will naturally link to your site.
However, allowing your reach to expand organically without reaching out to the wider community will usually take months if not years. If you want to generate backlinks in a sensible way, here are a few approaches:
Reach out to bigger sites
Sending someone an email asking for a backlink is the wrong way to do it, but there are more polite ways to reach out. A lot of websites will offer something like a weekly or monthly roundup of good writing on their field. If you’re familiar with one of these influencers, you can send them an email introducing yourself, explaining what you do, and informing them of why a particular post of yours would be of interest to their readers. This way, you’re not just asking for a favor, you’re explaining what’s in it for their readers.
Present your expertise on a forum
When someone is on a search engine looking for a basic answer to an enquiry, some of the highest search results will be to sites like Quora, which crowdsource answers to any number of questions posted by users.
The answers which the community votes-up are usually ones offered by experts in their field, and this could and should be you. If you spend the time to offer substantive answers on a highly ranked site like Quora or LinkedIn, you’ll be rewarded with exposure. Although users on question-and-answer forums tend to dislike anything too promotional, it’s customary to introduce yourself and explain your professional background. It’s also acceptable to explain the nature of your company and to link to pages on your site which go into greater detail. This is a great way to get your face out there as well as generate backlinks on highly ranked sites.
Interview and be interviewed
One of the more interesting developments in content marketing has been the move towards more innovative kinds of content. Some large firms are offering podcasts and videos for the same reason, usually featuring interviews with industry experts and influencers.
You may not have the same resources, but the same principles apply: people like hearing from new expert voices. Interviewing experts is an easy way to generate backlinks, and so is offering your expertise to other sites.
Finding and fixing broken links
One savvy way of generating backlinks is finding broken links on high-value websites like Wikipedia and then offering your own relevant pages as a working link. You can use tools like Wikigrabber, or the Check My Link extension for Google Chrome, to find broken links on different sites and then offer yours accordingly.
Offer something in return
If you genuinely do find someone else's content interesting and worthy of a link, offer them something in return. Create a link on your site to some of their content, or share it with your audience before reaching out to them. Backlinks and audience reach are important for everyone and if your site also delivers good quality content, they will most often thank you and be happy to provide the link.
Generating backlinks can lead to a lot of headaches, as anyone with an inbox full of request will know. But these are a few sensible ways to do it, and you will see the results when your readership climbs. Have you found one of these ways to be the most effective? Share them with us in Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn!