Looking for ways to boost your blog traffic and move further up search engine rankings?
Pinterest not shaping up to be the promised fountain of followers or your social media channels returning lacklustre levels of engagement?
If you’ve tried every traffic generating trick in the book and still seeing disappointing results, it might be time to get back to SEO basics and focus on your website rank and backlink profile.
This post explains why backlinks are so critical to your blog’s success along with 8 ways to gain backlinks and traffic to boost your website’s authority and organic ranking.
This post contains affiliate links. I may make a commission if you buy a product or service through such a link. Please see my Affiliate Disclosure for further information.
Why backlinks matter
As someone who’s been blogging for over a decade, I’ve witnessed a number of significant Google algorithm changes.
In the bad old days before Google’s infamous ‘Panda’ and ‘Penguin’ updates, the web was awash with thin, spammy, affiliate-driven content that made plenty of site owners rich, but sucked for end-users searching for quality content.
Those sites still exist, but they’re few and far between and certainly rarely on the first page of search results. Why is that?
Because Google has implemented some pretty sophisticated AI-based technology to weedle out the dross and only bring you the very best, most relevant content for your individual search query.
There’s a number of mysterious factors at play when it comes to determining what Google determines to be ‘quality’ content, however.
Quality backlinks – established websites linking back to yours – are a key signal to Google that you’re doing something right.
Think about it and it makes perfect sense. A link – particularly a ‘follow’ link (i’ll cover the difference between ‘follow’ and ‘no follow’ in a mo) is a direct endorsement from a website owner to go read your content.
If that website happens to have a higher Domain Authority than yours (DA) then it passes valuable equity or ‘link juice’ directly to yours. Result!
Quite simply, the more quality links – aka endorsements – you get, the more credible and trusted your site appears to Google, and the better your potential search ranking.
Of course there’s way more to the selection process than this. Domain age, click-throughs from search, time on site, bounce rates and social proof all impact search rankings, but good backlinks are the holy grail if you want to send the right signals to Google.
Domain Authority versus Page Authority
Most marketers and SEO geeks use Domain Authority (DA) as a way to gauge a site’s rank and authority.
Developed by everyone’s fave SEO boffins over at Moz, DA is a ranking score from 1 to 100 (100 being the best) based on a number of factors, including the number of root domains and and total number of links to your domain.
To put this in context, Google.com has a score of 94 and Blogyoucademy – just a couple of months old – has a score of just 10 (ouch, I’m working on it). Twenty and above is a more comfortable place to be.
Pro tip: Don’t try to compete with established sites with high DA scores for highly competitive keywords. If your chosen keyword’s search result is dominated by established sites like Wikipedia or Huffington Post, instead aim to rank for long-tail keywords against sites with lower competition, closer to your DA.
Page Authority score is simply the strength of an individual web page. Your root domain may rank higher than individual pages and visa versa.
How to measure your Domain Authority and check for backlinks
The first thing to do is establish your website’s DA ranking and see which sites are linking to yours.
You can hop onto Google Search Console to find the most recent backlinks. Bear in mind there can be some lag while Google crawls your pages.
Happily, the saintly SEO folks at Moz have also created a super helpful tool to help you easily determine your DA and backlink profile. It’s called Link Explorer (free account required) and all you need to do is drop your website url in the box and you’ll get a list of linking domains along with your DA score.
If your blog is new (like mine) don’t panic if your score is low. It takes months to build credibility and authority. Do get into the habit of checking in every so often to see how your score is progressing and which new sites are linking.
They can be hard to avoid, but keep an eye out for spammy links from link directories that can harm your profile. If a link has an individual spam score above 5%, it’s a good idea to consider disavowing it in Google search console.
Follow versus No follow
When you link to another url, it’s automatically a ‘Follow’ link. This simply means Google’s Spiders (web crawlers which trawl through and index all the billions of pages on the internet) will be instructed to continue crawling to the linked URL.
This helps them build up a sitemap of your content and these external links help to provide context to your article.
‘Follow’ links pass what’s known as link equity, or ‘link juice’ between websites.
If a site with a higher DA links to your content, your site gains a little positive link juice. It goes without saying the higher, the better, and the more, the merrier.
‘No follow’ links (contain rel=”nofollow” in the url) are a signal to web bots not to crawl to the linked content. All affiliate and promotional links should be ‘No follow’. If you’re name-checking a poor quality website, for whatever reason, you’ll probably want to make this link no-follow as well.
Tip: The Pretty Links WordPress plugin (free) helps you easily add a rel=”nofollow” attribute to all your affiliate and promo links).
It’s important to maintain a healthy mix of helpful, relevant external ‘follow’ links in your blog posts (along with plenty of contextual internal links). This is a signal to search engines that your blog contains rich, informational content of benefit to the end user and helps them establish context.
Don’t be stingy with your ‘follow’ links for fear of leaking link juice. If you’re citing useful content for your readers, share the love and make those links ‘follow’.
Pro Tip: make sure your ‘anchor text’ contains a keyword or text pertinent to the context of the article you’re linking to. Don’t use meaningless phrases like ‘Click here’.
The more quality backlinks you acquire, the more link juice comes your way. Over time, you’ll see an improvement in your DA and your organic search results should start to improve.
HERE ARE 8 EASY WAYS YOU CAN SCORE SOME SWEET BACKLINKS AND BOOST YOUR BLOG’S RANKING
Note: Not all sites mentioned provide ‘follow’ backlinks. However, many SEO specialists agree there is evidence to suggest Google sees some no-follow links as a ‘soft’ ranking signal and therefore worth pursuing. Think of the exposure, traffic boosting merits and conversion potential instead!
1. Link to influential bloggers’ content in your blog posts and let them know.
Most influencers are busy and may not respond, but you might be lucky enough to score a backlink and even a social mention. Win-win if this kind of outreach works for you!
2. Comment on other blogs
I see a lot of people dismissing this option and I have no idea why! The debate seems to focus around whether you should only comment on blogs which allow ‘follow’ links.
Instead of focusing time and energy on this, just make a regular habit of commenting thoughtfully on high quality blogs in your niche which allow a link back to your blog. Blogs with Commentluv system enabled, for instance, pull in a link from your latest blog post.
I’ve found this method to be really useful for bringing in traffic and conversions! What’s not to love about that?!
3. Guest Post on established blogs
Make the most of someone else’s traffic and reputation – guest post! If you have the time, it’s really worth targeting high quality, high DA blogs (40 and over) in your niche which allow guest posts. Not only is it great for backlinks but it’s an awesome way to build your brand, reputation and gain lots of juicy traffic.
Write For Us is a fantastic resource listing blogs across a ton of different niches accepting guest posts. Simply filter by collection > category.
Tip: try googling “write for us” followed by your niche keyword e.g: “write for us” yoga
Another variation on this is to be a guest on a Podcast! Look out for Podcasts in your niche and consider pitching a helpful idea that benefits their audience.
4. Comment on Blog forums in your niche
Just as with blog comments, this can be a brilliant way of bagging a backlink and some free traffic. Simply Google “forum” followed by your niche keyword to find suitable forums. As always, use your discretion and don’t spam! Post genuinely helpful and relevant comments only.
5. Comment on Question sites like Reddit and Quora
There’s a good chance someone on Reddit or Quora needs your help answering a question related to your niche and content. If so, follow the ‘no spam’ guidelines and jump in with a friendly, relevant and helpful response containing your link! Mix it up with links to other websites so you don’t annoy regular users.
6. Syndicate your posts to content aggregator networks, content discovery sites and legitimate directories
Sites that allow you to add either individual links to your blog posts or your blog’s RSS feed (stands for Really Simple Syndication).
If you’re using WordPress, your RSS feed is created automatically. All you need to do is add /feed to the end of your url e.g www.blogyocuademy.com/feed.
Sometimes plugins and scripts on your site can cause a conflict and the feed won’t work. Try de-activating all your plugins then re-activating one by one to see if the problem lies there. If you’re still experiencing conflicts, you can also burn a new feed here using Google Feedburner.
I’ve gained a ton of traffic from Zest for instance and while Mix isn’t sending as much traffic, the ‘link juice’ has been hugely valuable!
Add your content and/or RSS feeds to:
- Mix (formerly Stumbleupon)
- Zest (Marketing, Social Media, SEO and blogging categories)
- Foodgawker (recipes)
- Tastespotting (recipes)
- Travelistly (travel articles)
- Viral Content Bee (works on a points-for-shares system)
7. Provide a testimonial or review
If you’ve taken a course or used a product or service that you love, try reaching out to the creator or owner with a testimonial. I recently discovered the brilliant Tasty Pins Pinterest plug-in and wrote a positive review here on the blog which resulted in them asking for a testimonial and giving me a backlink. Sweet!
8. Find broken links on your fave Influencers’ websites and suggest your content!
This is an old method used by SEO pros and is still a viable way to score credible backlinks. Simply install the Chrome extension Check My Links and it will show you all broken links on any given web page.
It’s worth spending a little time perusing blogs in your niche with a higher DA for any broken links. If your content is a good fit, reach out to the Blogger and suggest your link as a replacement. They may ignore you or they may be super grateful for the heads up and only too happy to drop in your link. What have you got to lose?!
Wrapping it up
Hopefully, you’ve realised the importance of backlinks and why successful blog promotion and marketing requires more than regular blasts to Pinterest and social media.
To really win at SEO and organic search you’ll need to think outside the box at times and look for opportunities where others aren’t. Building your website’s authority and rank isn’t an overnight fix, however. Link building and outreach takes time, but the results are so worth it.
Don’t fret over ‘follow’ versus ‘no follow’. A quality ‘no follow’ link sending a stream of fresh eyeballs to your content is better than the sound of crickets. Aim for both and you’re golden. Now go grab those links!
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