In 2020 and beyond, the vast majority of your inbound traffic is going to be organic. People are hungry for content, and they go looking for answers to their questions.
That means paid traffic will only get more expensive and less effective over time. People are wise to ads, and we’ve all learned how to ignore them.
If you want your brand to grow despite this change, you’re going to have to figure out how to make Google, and other search engines, your friend.
What Google Wants
Does the thought of getting on search engines’ good sides make your head hurt? Well, don’t get downhearted! Google has been pretty clear about what SEO methods are going to work in the years to come, and most search engines agree.
Combine what search engines have said with what SEO experts have extrapolated from experimentation, and we have a fairly clear picture of what content is going to be at the top of search results.
Here are some key content features that Google loves:
- More value
- More engagement
- More authority
Now, let’s look at each of these features through the lens of one specific tool: backlinks. As we’re going to see in this article, backlinks (when done right) can boost value, engagement, and authority.
But first, what exactly do we mean by backlinks? Let’s get the definition straight before we continue.
What are Backlinks?
There are many different kinds of links you could put in your content.
Of course, there are outbound links. You might link to a source, or to your company’s social media channels.
But backlinks are different in that they usually link to another page within the same website. Most of the time, this means linking to past articles that are related in some way.
Backlinks show search engines that older content is both related and still relevant, which will give your site a natural SEO boost.
We’ll talk about some backlinking best practices in a moment, but first, let’s look at how the boost value, engagement, and authority.
Backlinks and Value
What does Google mean by value, anyway? What makes one piece of content more valuable than another? What makes a website more valuable?
Google sees websites as more valuable if they provide high-quality, original content. Do they say something unique and new about a topic? Do they provide more information on a topic than other sites?
Of course, there is only so much information you can provide on a single webpage, be that an article or landing page. But providing backlinks to articles on your site that give even more information raises the value of the page where the backlink starts.
Your overall website will also be more valuable to Google if you have tons of high-quality information that’s easy for readers to find. Backlinks, arranged in a strategic structure, can help with that.
Backlinks and Engagement
Google wants to see visitors come to your site and engage with your content, not just browse through it and leave. Whenever they leave a comment, share an article, or click a link, they are engaging.
Well-placed backlinks encourage visitors to click through and continue reading. This is something Google and other search engines look for.
On top of that, when readers click on backlinks and read related articles, they are staying longer on your site. Google tracks bounce rates, so keeping readers a few minutes longer is a great thing.
Backlinks and Authority
When we think of authority, we usually think about building authority in the minds of readers. But you can also raise your authority level in the eyes of search engines.
Related to value, which we talked about above, authority is a metric that shows just how original and informative a website is when it comes to any given topic.
Let’s say you want to have a page rank high for a specific search term. But is that the only page that talks about that topic? If that is the case, Google won’t see your page as a very authoritative source.
On the other hand, if, through backlinks, you show that this page is related to several other pages that talk about the same topic or a topic that is similar in some way, Google will take notice. Search engines will see your entire website as authoritative regarding that topic.
Backlink Strategy and Structure
When it comes to content and SEO, both strategy and structure are highly important. It matters how you structure your content itself, how you use categories and tags, and so forth.
In fact, even just backlink structure is such a complex topic that it could be an article on its own.
But, for now, let’s just focus on the basics of high-quality backlinks and how they can be structured to get search engines’ attention.
Start with Pillar Content Pages
To properly structure your backlinks, you’ll want to start with the one or two pages that hit your target topic and search terms right on the head.
These pillar content pages may be long, informative how-to articles, brimming with high-value concepts and tips.
Now think of these main pages as the center of a wagon wheel. The next step is to attach the spokes.
Write Supporting Articles
Supporting articles or pages contain related information. Maybe they are optimized for search terms that are synonyms or related in theme.
These supporting articles are like the outer rim of your wagon wheel.
Connect Everything up with Backlinks
Now that you have core pages, or pillar content, and supporting pages, now it’s time to connect everything together.
Many of the supporting pages may be connected by links. After all, if they are all related to the same central topic, they are probably also related to one another.
Connect all the supporting pages to one or more of the pillar content pages. You may have links going to and from the central pages to the supporting pages.
Now your wagon wheel has spokes!
Of course, the context of backlinks matters, as well. So does the text used within the link. We’ll get back to those concepts in a future article.
But, for now, remember that backlinks do make your website and brand more appealing to search engines like Google. Create and employ a powerful backlink strategy and you’ll tap into sources of organic traffic that you never knew existed before.