Whether you’re a startup or an established business, your organic search rankings are vital to driving traffic to your website. If you find that your business is not ranked in the SERPs for the keywords you think you should be ranking for, you are probably going to be improving your SEO efforts.
But, SEO isn’t a one-man show. There are numerous moving parts that make up organic search. You might start researching SEO and realize that your site isn’t optimized correctly. So, you spend a lot of time and effort working on your on-page optimization with meta titles and better content, only to realize, at the end of your efforts, your rankings really haven’t moved.
Backlink Profile Importance
While your on-page efforts are important, the main reason for not showing up as high as you want is most likely because your link profile is either nonexistent or poor. Backlinks are well documented as a top-ranking factor and are considered the second-most important ranking factor in Google. Referring domains, which are URLs that send one or more backlinks to your site, also had the highest correlation to ranking high in Google according to this 2016 study from Backlinko.
If you do not have a backlink profile, or if it is weak, then Google does not trust your website and likely none of your pages will be ranking high in Google’s SERP. This means you have entered the Google sandbox.
You Are Sandboxed
Generally, the Google sandbox is where everyone’s web pages or websites begin in Google’s SERPs. Unless you have a very popular company with a high backlink profile right out of the gate, you are usually subjected to the Google sandbox.
This sandbox is where you have some positive rankings factors, such as a keyword in the title, a keyword in the h1 tag, contextual content, etc. … but you do not have enough positive ranking factors to achieve top-10 status in Google’s SERPs. You are somewhere in the index of millions of phrases.
For instance, say we created a website about “Espresso Coffee.” We created this website with all SEO best practices in mind and optimized the homepage for the keyword phrase “Espresso Coffee.” Why would Google magically jump your page over the 60,200,000 (shown below) different results for the keyword phrase “Espresso Coffee”? You need more than basic SEO best practices to achieve top 10 for 62,200,000 results. You need epic optimization to achieve top 10 status, and this includes the backlink profile.
Needless to say, backlinks are very important and are a large reason for not ranking high in Google. When you start working on your SEO efforts, you want to make sure you have a plan for optimizing for backlinks, earning them, and more to achieve your goals.
Acquiring Backlinks Starting Out
Established Branding and Backlinks
Acquiring backlinks is easier said than done. A company starting out on the journey of acquiring links is going to have a much harder time than an established brand. There are various reasons for this—like the fact that you don’t have the brand-following that established companies usually have. You also don’t have the existing backlinks to leverage.
For example, if I am a large retailer with a huge following, a high employee count, a sizeable marketing budget, and great brand awareness, it is much more likely that websites will link to me compared to startups.
For instance, let’s say I write an article and want to mention an article about top link-building tactics to utilize. I Google-search “top link building tactics” to see what results I get and, hopefully, link to a good resource my audience would find useful. Below are the results I get.
Looking at the list above I am much more likely to trust and, therefore, link to Moz or SEMrush content compared to the other smaller brands (no offense if you are reading) because they are larger brands and more trustworthy. This is a large competitive advantage more established brands will have on startup companies.
Backlinks Help Rank All Content
On top of the established branding advantage, when you are an established brand online you generally have a high backlink profile, which makes it much easier to create content that ranks in Google. If you have a strong domain authority and a great inner link structure throughout your website, when you publish well-optimized content your domain authority will have a chance to catapult that content to the top of the SERPs for the related keyword phrases it is optimizing for.
This is why there is so much information about how creating great content is the best way to acquire high-quality backlinks. The only issue? This is a great tactic if you are an established brand with a good backlink profile or following to see the content. If you are a startup or getting started in SEO without a large brand following, it doesn’t matter how good the content you create is. No one will see it, and it will not acquire high-quality links because no one will find it.
Acquiring High-Quality Backlinks Starting Out
The best way to combat these two tactical disadvantages is to not do the same backlinking tactics everyone else utilizes. You want to be creative and think of new means to acquire links. There are a lot of good resources out there, but if you think you can just create great content and the rest will take care of itself you are out of luck. Here are some different ways you can start to acquire backlinks to increase your backlink profile and, hopefully, achieve high search engine rankings.
Creating content is great, but if no one sees it then it doesn’t matter; you won’t achieve high- quality backlinks, and it won’t rank high in Google. Go here to find six ways to promote your content to the right audience to give you a better chance to acquire high-quality backlinks.
Create Visual Content
Visual content does really work well for acquiring backlinks, and it generally doesn’t require as much of a brand reputation to get more value from it. This is why it has been successful for startups and companies starting out with acquiring backlinks. See this article about new trends for visual content and this article for ten great examples of visual content to get the ideas flowing.
Create Unique Data/Studies
Extremely factual and unique content will always have a higher chance of acquiring backlinks. As long as you created the factual/unique content in a reputable way, you can create content which is very powerful and have a much better chance to acquire high-quality backlinks.
In 2016 Backlinko made a case study analyzing a million search results to see the correlations between the websites ranking high in Google. After it was released, there were many SEO-focused websites and consultants trying to do the same thing to create similar content.
Because it was so unique and powerful, the content has a much better chance to get linked to, and I find myself linking to it within the content I produce on a very regular basis. Meanwhile, I do not link to any other particular piece of content close to the same frequency. The reason? It is such a unique and powerful piece of content, it is worth the linking love.
Make content which is super unique and powerful, such as studies or data. But, most importantly, you must promote it—otherwise, no one will see it.
Writing for other websites is a very powerful SEO strategy, not only helping you acquire high- quality backlinks but also helping from a branding perspective. You can build your brand, your link authority, and more to drive more SEO value to your website. Here is a good guide to guest blogging which is, basically, writing content for other websites.
Lastly, becoming a thought leader is always a great strategy to acquire links. You can do it through producing or joining established webinars, podcasts, joint blog posts, speaking engagements, etc. Generally, building your brand goes hand in hand with your backlink profile.
Starting out with SEO and trying to acquire high rankings in search engines is difficult and frustrating for many startups or businesses just getting into SEO. The main frustrations I see are ignoring backlink profiles and acquiring backlinks, which are huge parts of the algorithm. Focus on acquiring high-quality backlinks in addition to great content and on page optimization, and you will have a very good chance to rank high in Google for the main target keyword phrases you want to rank for.
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