“Backlinking” is an Old School blogging strategy. It’s the subtle art of getting other people to link BACK to your blog (or website). We used to do this with blog-rolls; but back then, blog-rolls were lists of friends. And friends linked back to friends. And the blog with the most friends would, well, win. Google’s first strategies for creating their PageRank algorithm relied on this metric fairly heavily (back in The Day.)
But that was the Olden Days, before the behemoth Google took over. Now “backlinking” or “inbound linking” as it is also called has become more valuable and at the same time, weirdly more difficult. You now have to ask people to link back to you, but not just anyone will do. It’s no longer about having the “most” friends. It’s about the quality of those friends.
When you’re looking at the most authoritative websites in SERP analyses, most of them got to their top-spot status in part because they have the most and BEST kind of backlinks. In my research this week, I found some very interesting reads on backlinking, especially this post by Derek Iwasiuk on “white-hat” backlinking and “black-hat” backlinking.
White-hat is backlinking as it should be done. Black-hat backlinking is the way that spammers and other toxic Internet befoulers manipulate the search engine algorithms in order to get their stuff higher up on the search engine return pages (those SERPs again).
Derek breaks it down for you:
The problem with link building is that it is split into three different camps: white, gray, and black. Within these camps, there are varying theories on how to best approach building links. It’s all quite confusing for a beginner. Should you be white hat, black hat, or somewhere in between?
The answer is moving ever closer to white hat. This is not to say that grey and black hat link building tactics aren’t effective — far from it. But the require a much higher risk tolerance than many marketers are willing to accept these days.
This “Ultimate Guide” is an excellent tutorial on how to conceive of material that people will want to link to. He breaks down the many factors that make up a “good” backlink in a clear, mostly non-jargon-filled way, though there are some slips here and there that will have many new bloggers and content creators a bit puzzled if they’re not familiar with HTML. Here I’ll help you with some of the jargon.
The NoFollow Thing, Anchor Text and the A HREF anchor
If you’re a blogger using some of the standard platforms like WordPress, you have two ways of creating content: using the “Visual” editor and using the HTML editor, found on two different tabs on your blog post editing page. (This is true for Blogger and a few other blog platforms I know of.) In the Olden Days, we all learned to create a link using “angle brackets” or the greater than and less than signs. These angle brackets signaled to the computer that an HTML command was about to begin. Very few of you know HTML. I used to teach HTML, back in the Olden Days (hair flip. I was cool then) but even I wasn’t familiar with this “nofollow” thing.
In the Olden Days, we coded HTML (Hyper-Text Markup Language, by hand. Bloggers and website designers would use the angle brackets and add the appropriate “anchor ” information.
Anchor TEXT would be the words between the beginning of the command and the end of the command. All commands in HTML would end with the backslash, the name of the command that was being ended, and another angle bracket. Anchor text are the words you wanted the visitor/reader to click to go to the hyper-linked document.
We’d put in the anchor command, add the HREF attribute (for hyper-reference), add an = sign plus the URL where we wanted to link, in quotes. Thus, a reference for this blog (HINT, HINT, heh) would look like this:
You could (and can) add more commands within that angle bracket command element, including the “nofollow” attribute when you make the link. What nofollow does is signal to the search engine that you don’t want this link counted towards your total score when the crawler comes around to evaluate your page. You use this on “less reputable” sites. By adding the nofollow element, you’re saying, this guy I’m citing right here? I’m not sure if he’s a very good source, so I’m going to ask you, Mr. Search Engine, not to count him as my buddy because I really am not so sure if I wanna be associated with this guy. Here’s the cool page from the old W3 school, where I learned HTML, that discusses the nofollow attribute along with all the other attributes that can be added to the anchor commands.
The search engines want to discourage people from citing every page on the planet in order to improve their own search engine scores–to defeat the “he who has the most friends wins” issue. Understanding this will help you to get the most out of Derek’s Ultimate Guide to White Hat Backlinking in 2017.
Lessons Learned: Stories of Backlink Failures
While Derek’s tutorial is a very solid introduction to what backlinking is all about, this post from Kerry Jones, 11 Lessons Learned From Failed Link Building Campaigns gives us some real-life advice on things that went wrong when they tried to get others to backlink to them. This post, from a reputable online publisher who tried (and failed) to get backlinks gives you some do’s and don’t–some of which are useful for bloggers (others eh, less useful for us mere mortals.)
The Fine Art of Asking For Backlinks (The Right Way)
The last article I’m going to recommend comes from Hubspot. This is a truly helpful piece that includes actual “go-bys” (templates) to help even nervous nellies like yours truly actually consider how to approach the “big guys” for a backlink. (I mean, how does a small blogger even do that!? “We are not worthy” keeps playing in my head).
That piece is Sophia Bernazzani’s 9 Link Building Email Outreach Templates That Actually Work.
The advice she gives is clear, concise and genuinely helpful. She discusses the problem of “cold calling” emails, different ways to write the letter, what you might say but MOST OF ALL what you need to do. All of these resources offer similar advice: create great content, find some good authoritative folks you want to link to and create something that will appeal to them. Everyone needs content. Give them something worth their while.
More reports on my SEO research will be forthcoming in this on-going roundup of how its done. I hope to keep de-mystifying this for you home businesses and bloggers and other social media marketing newbies (ahem, like me).
Best always ~Lola
Geeky update. The WordPress Editor has problems rendering the literals for examples of HTML coding. If you teach HTML that must be a pain. I had to insert a picture of the HTML text as the old work arounds no longer work-around; if you use the old code for showing people what angle brackets look like, the codes DISAPPEAR in the WordPress editor. Feeling old. Must find new work-around! 😀 –Lola.