“Back when I was a young whippersnapper, all I had to do to rank a website was throw up a website, stuff it with keywords and meta tags and then bomb it with backlinks.”
A lot of website creators and developers still follow this antiquated thought process, and when they do they often do more harm to their client’s website than good. And hiring someone to clean up your backlink profile can be VERY expensive. Even Google still regurgitates the out-of-date Dictionary.com definition of backlinks when you search for the phrase “what is a backlink”.
All links are NOT created equally
You’ve been there. You do a search for something on Google, maybe “homes for sale in my area”, and you end up on a website that has nothing but endless links to thousands of websites. There are no homes for sale here, only links to websites that paid the directory owner to put them there.
To be perfectly honest, a decade ago being listed on a couple hundred link directories wasn’t a bad idea. But search engine algorithms evolve constantly in an effort to better match the intent of the person doing the search, and over the years Google has evolved to prefer high quality backlinks as opposed to many links from less-than-reputable websites. In other words, the reputation of the website that links to your website matters. A lot.
How to obtain quality backlinks for your website
Like all things that are hard and take time, most people just want to throw money at their inbound links and hope they can rank somewhere near the top of Google’s search results for a few keywords. But you definitely get what you pay for, and paying strangers to place your link on their website has far less value than links you can obtain organically by simply reaching out to people and asking nicely.
One of my favorite ways to obtain high quality backlinks for my customer’s websites is to first find local companies and retailers to provide goods and services that are complimentary to that of my client. For instance, if I am trying to improve the back link profile of a restaurant website I might contact a few small local businesses that the restaurant trades with, such as a grocery store or butcher, and ask for a link. I might even offer to have the restaurant wait staff mention them from time to time to customers.
Local websites that are not related to what you do can also be a good place to get a backlink. In the restaurant website example, I might also look for websites operated by local adventure companies (rafting, ziplining, etc), B&B owners, cabin rental companies and escape room adventures. Essentially, businesses that attract people from out of town and are often asked for referrals for places to eat. Normally I would reach out with an email and offer to provide a reciprocal link from a page on the restaurant website.
If you live in a tourist town or another area that a lot of people visit then look for local information websites, chambers of commerce and directories to request a link, as people often visit these websites in advance of their trip to get an idea of what they should do while they are in town. In fact if you have a linkbuilding budget, joining your local chamber of commerce and being listed in their business directory would be one of the rare instances where you would want to actually consider paying for a link. Besides, the additional benefits of joining a local business association, such as networking opportunities and free print advertising are usually worth it on their own.