Reputation Is Everything, Backlinks & Social Media
Old fashioned word-of-mouth recommendations are to your garden what external link building and social media sharing are to your website. The goal is to get as much buzz as possible from as many high profile places as possible.
If your garden is an exciting place to visit, people will recommend it and share their experiences with others. If someone’s best friend tells her to visit your garden, that will carry more weight than a stranger’s recommendation. However if several strangers recommend a visit to your garden, that may start to pique a person’s curiosity.
In SEO, backlinks (also known as inbound links, link-backs, inlinks and inward links) are incoming hyperlinks to your website from an external website. A social share is when someone links to your content from a post or update on their Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Google Plus or other social media account.
When someone shares your content “socially” or posts a backlink to your website, they are essentially recommending that people check out your site. They might be interested in your entire website (i.e. “This is the best online source of gardening tips I’ve ever found! Check out www.thegardencenter.com!”). Or they might backlink or share a specific piece of content on your site (“Check out this fantastic article about pruning rose bushes! www.thegardencenter.com/blog/rose-pruning”).
The number of backlinks a site garners is one indication of the popularity or importance of that website or page. Thus Google and other search engines use that as one factor in determining the overall page rank of a website. Likewise, the number of people who have shared your content on their social media platforms and the activity generated by those posts are also factors in the ranking algorithm.
Backlink accumulation used to be one of the most important factors in SEO, but it quickly became one of the most abused sore thumb SEO tricks in the book. “Google Penguin” is the algorithm change aimed to weed out websites that have over-optimized on-site and off-site SEO. Link buying and having an “unnatural” link profile are just two of the indicators to Google that a website has attempted to manipulate search rankings.
Google is now pushing businesses and organizations to have legitimate websites with real visitors and to connect with real people through social media channels. Google then rewards this effort by giving those active and popular websites preferential treatment in SERPs.
In general, the more backlinks your site has, the better. But not all backlinks are created equal. A link or social share from an authoritative website or social profile carries more weight than a less authoritative site. Links from brand new websites or sites with very low traffic are not weighted heavily.
In addition, your link building must appear natural. This means inbound links should build slowly over time. A huge spike in the number of backlinks to your website from low quality sites is a red flag that the backlinks aren’t earned, but rather paid.
Resource: To check the number of external backlinks your website has, visit https://majestic.com.
So how do you get more good quality backlinks and shares? Of course, it comes back to creating high quality, popular content. However, there are a few additional things you can do. Register your website with the main search engines and directories to get a few crucial backlinks.
Directories exist to help sort and direct web users to businesses much like the good ol’ phonebook used to do. In fact, YP.com (aka the new Yellow Pages) is one of the largest web directories out there. Once the company leaders realized the phonebook was quickly losing relevance, they jumped on board as a web directory. They even offer SEO as a service! Manta.com and Thumbtack.com are other directories worth looking into.
You should also look for directories that are specific to your industry, as this will likely help drive traffic to your website in addition to providing a valuable backlink. For example, you might want to register your garden website with a statewide garden club site. Registering for these types of sites is something you can do yourself. Many of these are free, but some are paid. It is up to you to determine whether the paid listings are worth it for your business. Note: paid listings in legitimate directories will not hurt your SEO like paying for backlinks on scam websites and “link farms.” Once again, consider the end user. If the directory provides value to users, then a backlink from that website will be good for your SEO. If the website is spammy or provides weak content, it is probably best to avoid being associated with it.
In addition to directories, getting accounts set up on the major social media venues will allow you to distribute your content to reach different audiences. Set up your profile and make absolutely sure to link to your website from your social media accounts. At the very least, fill out your bio information and try to post things at least once a month. If you only have time to manage two or three social media channels, picking which ones to use depends on your business and industry. Go where you will get the most bang for your buck. As a general rule, I recommend Google+, Facebook and Pinterest for B2C (business to consumer) and Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn for B2B (business to business). To get a better idea, ask your current clients what social media they participate in.
If you have a WordPress website, install a “Social Share” plug-in on your website for your blog posts or products (in the case of e-commerce websites). Using these buttons not only makes it easier for readers to share your content, but it will also be easier and quicker for you to share your own content on your social media accounts. These plug-ins often have the added benefit of letting you choose the thumbnail that will accompany the post on your Facebook page.
Sharing other people’s content on your social media platforms is also a great way to provide value to your followers and get noticed by other people, businesses or organizations who may be more than happy to return the favor.
Another way to get backlinks is by joining in a discussion on public forums or commenting on other people’s blogs and linking to your own website from the comment area. When used appropriately, readers of a blog will be interested to know if another site has additional information, or if there is a product or service that may be able to help them. These comments should be relevant to the conversation and add value. However, you must be careful not to post your URL just any old place, or you could get marked as a spammer. Once your domain has been marked as a spammer due to suspicious or unethical practices, it can be difficult to mend your tarnished reputation.
Sore Thumb SEO
Beware of cheap backlinking services and “link farms.” If a company promises hundreds of backlinks for only a few dollars, don’t buy in to this! They will use sore thumb techniques such as spamming and possibly even hacking into other people’s websites to get hundreds of links to your website.
If you have your own blog, you know that this is one of the primary targets of unscrupulous SEO companies. Here’s how one of the tricks works: Their robots troll the Internet for blogs with public comment areas. They post a generic comment like “This blog is amazing!” and insert a link to their client’s website. The owner of the blog, who doesn’t know any better, will publish the comment thinking it is a real compliment from a fan. Then the client has a backlink from the blogger’s website to theirs. The SEO firm does this hundreds (or thousands) of times over, using robots or overseas labor until they get the number of backlinks they promised.
As a blogger, delete these kind of comments and mark them as spam!
As a business owner, the most important thing is that you do not purchase one of these backlink/SEO packages no matter how desperate you might be! You might get a temporary spike in your rankings, but engaging in sketchy paid backlinking is almost certain to get you banned from Google.