The goal of any SEO strategy is to get your website noticed. One of the more important aspects of most SEO strategies is developing backlinks. Backlinks are links on other websites that link back to your site. These links tell the search engines, 'Hey, this site has some good info, and I link to it!' Most search engines use this to determine how popular a website is on the Internet. Let us first look at why search engines use this as a primary metric in determining where your website shows within the organic search results.
Page ranking & popularity
Say you have a brand new website and the only people that are linking to you are CNN, The New York Times, and Microsoft. When a search engine sees this, it will immediately rank your website as an authority on that particular subject. If these high profile websites think you are an expert, then you must be.
Now say instead of those big name websites, you have a slew of no name sites linking to your website. The search engines will see you are talking about a certain subject, but no one that matters is linking to you. This may or may not cause you to rise up in the search engines. The more backlinks you build will improve your overall ranking. However, only links from more popular sites will establish you as an authority on the web.
Most sites are a mix of the two kinds of backlinks. The more high value links you can get, the better you will do. The more low value backlinks, the worse you will do.
The easy way out
Many SEO firms will tell you that they will build you a certain number of backlinks. Often this is done in bulk across many websites. They will create profiles on directory sites such as DMOZ and Merchant Circle. Other, more black hat, techniques include duplicate blog content across multiple sites, blog comment back linking, and keyword stuffing.
Earlier this year Google released the Penguin update to its search engine algorithms. This update started to penalize and even remove sites that demonstrated these unnatural linking patterns.
Doing it in earnest
Today, getting quality backlinks is less about building them and more about earning them. The first step in earning a quality backlink is developing quality content. Give your readers something interesting to read on a regular and consistent basis. Once you become known as having good content, other webmasters whom are always in search for new content, will start to pick it up. This often leads to being a guest blogger on other websites.
The next way to earn a backlink is engaged blog commenting and forum posting. When I say engaged, I mean it. Be a part of that community. Be a regular, and comment often. Post your own questions. This often involves posting many times about subjects unrelated to your target before you reach a point where you can post something related to your business. Once that happens, you could simply answer the question and place a link back to your website, right? Why not earn that backlink? Write a blog post that answers the asked question, and then backlink to that entry. Not only did you fully answer the question, but you have now allowed further readers the ability to see the full story.
Finally, once you have established yourself as an authority of content on the Internet, you can start leveraging your popularity. This is where it gets a lot harder but a lot more valuable. This involves getting to know your local news media. Insurance lends itself well to today's news media. The news shows house fires, natural disasters, car accidents and everything related to insurance.
Watch the news, listen to the radio, read their stories online. When a story is covered that you have previously developed content regarding, send it to them, post it on their websites' comment section, or call them with the information. They might not use it this time. However, they now know you are a source of information for next time.You do not have to be just covering a disaster, you can also have them cover the goodwill you are doing within your community.
Now for the dirty little secret about all media, albeit online (blogs, websites, social media), television, radio or otherwise, they are always hungry for stories and content. By now, you know how hard it is to write quality content on a regular and consistent basis. Just imagine doing it multiple times a day, seven days a week, every day of the year. If you are a known source, and offer quality content and stories, eventually your local media will pick up a story of yours.
Now you earned your backlink on your local media's website. How does that help you get on the highest quality national websites like ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, and NBC? That same little dirty secret from before still holds true for even the national brands. They do not have the time or resources to develop content nationwide within today's constantly churning news cycle. Therefore, they source it from local affiliates, who sourced it from you. Should you get a backlink from a national brand (news is just an example), your rankings and traffic will soar.
As you can see, building backlinks without regard to content or placement is easy. Earning them is a lot harder. It takes work and patience. However, once you are known as an expert within the industry, your hard work will pay off.
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