The eCommerce Guide to Building Better Backlinks in 2019
by Ron Dod
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Backlinks are one of the most influential and foundational elements of a rock-solid SEO strategy. When speaking to ranking signals in 2019, backlinks are still epically powerful in Google’s framework.
In many ways, website backlinks are the backbone of the internet, creating a tightly interwoven web of connected information and destinations. However, the way in which backlinks are measured and evaluated has changed in dramatic ways over the years, and not all backlinks are created equal.
In today’s SEO landscape, it is not just the amounts of links or the quality of the webpage that points to one’s content that matters. Relevance is also a key component.
Given the influence and importance of earning high-quality backlinks, many eCommerce merchants find themselves scrambling to gain these indicators of authority.
But what are the best approaches to obtaining links?
To help retailers the web over learn how to boost SEO performance, we have compiled the ultimate guide to building better backlinks in 2019.
Without further ado, dive on in.
What Are Backlinks?
Backlinks are connectors to other destinations within a website or to outside domains. When one site links to another in this manner, it is essentially a vote of confidence from that site. The more links a website gains from other outside domains of authority (which is determined by factors such as domain age, reputation, quality of content, etc.), the more of a positive impact the links will have on the site’s rankings.
Additionally, there are two primary types of links: There are inbound links (pages that point to a merchant’s site) and outbound links (links on a merchant’s site that lead to other websites). Then, there are internal links. These are used to link pages within a website for navigational reasons or to pass along SEO “juice.”
Website backlinks are useful to both site visitors and search engines. For search engines, these assist in establishing a site’s authority and relevance for a given topic or query. Again, if other sites point to a retailer’s web pages, this is seen as an endorsement.
In years gone by, Google only measured the quantity of backlinks to determine popularity. Since the introduction of the Penguin algorithm, pages have been influenced by the quality and relevance of the site doing the linking instead of mere numbers.
When speaking to users, backlinks assist visitors in easily navigating a website (thereby influencing SEO through user experience), providing additional or contextual information for statements made within a piece of content and pointing them to additional resources.
To ensure that a site boasts a meaningful number of quality backlinks that lend to the site’s SEO performance as opposed to hindering it, merchants should conduct a backlink audit to glean such insights.
Conducting a Backlink Audit
Backlink analysis is an essential part of maintaining a healthy profile that bolsters SEO performance. To ensure only beneficial backlinks are pointing to one’s site, it is necessary to conduct a backlink audit.
This process demands that a retailer compile all the links that are pointing to their site, classify them as “good” or “bad” and then remove the poor-quality links while doing as little harm to their site’s rankings.
The typical backlink analysis or audit process follows these steps:
To conduct a backlink audit, one must first gather all their links in a single destination. Since this can often be a challenge, it is wise to utilize a variety of tools. The primary platform for this is often Google Search Console; however, this should be supplemented with services from:
Not all are necessary, but one or two will significantly assist efforts.
Starting with Google Search Console, download a list of the site’s backlinks by navigating to Search Traffic > Links to Your Site. Under the “Who Links the Most” header, click “More.”
From this page, click the three tabs that read:
“Download This Table”
“Download More Sample Links”
“Download Latest Links”
Next, download similar files from the supporting tools chosen as each is likely not to include every link.
With several files in hand, open each in Excel as only the URLs are needed. Next, copy and paste the URLs from Excel to a text editor and remove any duplicate backlinks.
Keep this file handy as it is useful in the next step.
Classify and Disavow Links
This part is the most important of the entire backlink analysis process. It is also the most challenging, time-consuming and rewarding.
Using one of the additional tools selected earlier, upload the list of harvested backlinks into the system and begin to analyze and classify them.
The idea here is to mark each link as “good” or “bad.” To determine which category each backlink falls into, become extremely familiar with Google’s Quality Guidelines.
Naturally, sellers will want to eliminate links that are spammy, unnatural, irrelevant and otherwise only serve to drag down SEO performance. For those that fall into a gray area, ask yourself if it is desirable to have that backlink pointing to your site.
Most of this process can be automated with the tools mentioned above; however, manual backlink analysis will undoubtedly be more thorough and precise.
Once this process is complete, download the file of bad links and reach out to site owners to remove the links. If retailers cannot gain a response or cooperation, use Google’s disavow tool to inform the engine that those links should not point to your site. This removal can also be done at a domain level as well. However, the disavow tool is a last resort. Try reaching out first.
Disavowing links, no matter if the backlinks are poor-quality, is likely to have some impact on a site. While there may be some fluctuation, in the long run, it will absolutely be worth doing so.
With bad backlinks removed or disavowed, let’s dive in to some strategies for earning high-quality links.
This tip has been repeated ad nauseam, but it should not be ignored.
Search engines run on content, and to get other sites to link to a brand’s content, it must be–by all measures–genuinely remarkable, meaning that the content resonates with its audience, solves the problems surrounding the topic in a comprehensive manner and is perceived as more valuable than similar pieces from other websites.
To get an idea of the content offerings in your niche, utilize services like BuzzSumo, read the top content from others and figure out how to create something even more valuable.
Reaching out to others who are likely interested in the content featured by a site is a prime method for obtaining quality links, and people want to know about fantastic content that is relevant and useful to them.
Merchants should conduct outreach to build relationships with folks who:
If a brand has even a modicum of brand recognition, there is a decent chance that people have mentioned it without linking back to the destination.
By finding these mentions, brands can earn an easy link as the author is obviously familiar with the business. Use tools like Mention to find these unlinked acknowledgments and reach out to the site’s authors to turn the mention into a link.
But remember, not all links are created equal…
How Toxic Backlinks Can Harm a Site
Toxic backlinks come in many forms. We mentioned some earlier. Other undesirable links can come from:
Websites with security issues: Cybersecurity is essential. Safety is a significant reason why it is necessary to move to HTTPS and merchants don’t want their sites associated with hacked destinations as this can lead to a negative perception from visitors.
Superfluously monetized websites: These types of sites often feature things like full-screen opt-ins, multiple exit pop-ups and ads as far as the eye can see.
Private blog networks (PBN):A PBN is a network of blogs that were built exclusively for building links between one another. Google is always on the lookout for these and will penalize those within the network.
A site perceived to be a part of a link scheme is in violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and can be demoted in rankings and penalized by search engines. The sort of penalties brought down by Google can permanently damage a brand’s SERP performance and potentially lead to its demise. It is for this reason that conducting backlink audits is so important.
Why You Shouldn’t Buy Backlinks
Let’s get to the bottom line here: Buying backlinks is dangerous and toxic practice.
Purchasing backlinks or participating “excessively” in link exchanges directly violates Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. If the search giant catches merchants buying, selling or inordinately exchanging links, it will demote a site in the SERPs, potentially undoing years of work.
Backlinks are a prime element of an effective SEO strategy. To ensure that a site’s backlink profile is healthy and prosperous, it is necessary to regularly conduct a backlink analysis, build new (high-quality) links regularly and always abide by Google guidelines.
While this may sound easy in practice, it can be quite difficult for time-strapped business owners to manage. If your brand requires assistance with off-site optimization services, reach out to us. Visiture can manage the entire process from front to backlink.
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Ronald Dod is the Chief Marketing Officer and Co-founder of Visiture, an end-to-end eCommerce marketing agency focused on helping online merchants acquire more customers through the use of search engines, social media platforms, marketplaces, and their online storefronts. His passion is helping leading brands use data to make more effective decisions in order to drive new traffic and conversions.
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