A few years ago, Google and other search engines were all about backlinks. The advice was to get as many as you could, as fast as you could. Kind of like blogging, it was a quantity over quality race to the top. But then search engines got smarter, and sites that were top ten on Google were no where to be found. Then a few SEO resources jumped the gun and started talking about how backlinks were on their way out. And guess what…. they were wrong.
Just like blogging, backlinks are still important, but now major search engines want to see relevant, quality backlinks instead of a bunch of purchased or irrelevant ones.
What Exactly Are Backlinks?
Let’s start off with the basics, for those of you that are new to SEO. Backlinks are inbound links from other websites that link to your website. Think about your business listings on Google or Facebook. These should have your website URL listed on them, and those links are called backlinks. It use to be that the number of backlinks a website had was a good indicator of it’s importance, and search engines would give more weight to the websites with a large number of backlinks. But now, Google pays more attention to the authority of the site backlinking, as well as the relevancy. So having a backlink from a big named blog like Style Me Pretty will go a lot farther than one that has only been around for a few months.
What Should I Look For In A Backlink?
When looking into quality backlinks, it’s important to pay attention to website authority. When comparing two back links, if both are equally relevant to your specialty, then the one with a higher website authority will improve your website SEO the most. In most situations, it’s almost always best to obtain backlinks from websites with a higher or equal website authority than your own website has. This tells search engines that these sites are “vouching” for your website authenticity, and in return, improve your site authority. The higher your site authority, the more weight you have on search engines like Google. There are quite a few free website authority checker tools available online, but I like this one!
While not required, it’s always best if a backlink anchor text is keyword specific. The backlink anchor text is the text that you click on to go to the link. While having your business name or URL works just fine, if the anchor text happens to be “Colorado Wedding Photographer”, this will help you rank higher on search engines for that specific keyword phrase.
What Should I Avoid When Looking For Backlinks?
First off, you should never pay for a backlink that doesn’t benefit your business in another way. There are many websites that are considered link farms, that search engines will actually penalize you for using. These websites usually have a decent amount of traffic, but do little more than take your money and place a link to your website on their site. It’s totally okay to pay for a link on a website that will put you in front of your ideal client, while also improving your SEO by offering a relevant, high quality backlink.
It’s also a good idea to avoid reciprocal links. A reciprocal link is when someone puts a link to your website on their site, in exchange for you putting a link to their website on yours. Best case, search engines don’t count the link as anything, worst case, you’re penalized for linking to an irrelevant site, and/or having an irrelevant site link to you.
Where Can I Find Quality Backlinks for Photographers?
The most relevant backlinks for photographers are ones that put you in front of your ideal client. This includes getting published on online blogs that specialize in your niche, having your website listed on websites and blogs that cater to your ideal client, and guest blogging on websites that have a similar clientele. As a wedding photographer, most of my backlinks came from publications, recommended vendor lists and people linking back to my content marketing posts. As a dog photographer, most of my backlinks came from pet rescues that I donated my services to and local petshops who I networked with.
A Few More Tips
It’s better to grow your backlinks over time than in a hurry. If you start growing them too fast, search engines will start to get suspicious and could black list your website. I find it’s best to build 2-4 new links per month from the highest quality, relevant places you can.
If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t get sucked into “easy backlinks” for the sake of having backlinks. Even if you see “instant results”, this will only hurt you and your rankings in the long run.
A good place to start with backlinks is on the search engines themselves as well as social media sites. Make sure you have a completed and verified account with Google, Yahoo and Bing. After that check that all of your social media sites are linking to your website. Once you have these, start working on publications, high quality listings, guest blogging and any other creative ideas you’ve come up with!