Hyperlinks have long been a critical part of the internet’s infrastructure. Practically speaking, they connect websites and webpages to each other, while providing superhighways for online readers to get from one place to another.
In the context of Google and other search engines, links are even more important. In case you aren’t familiar, links function as a kind of voting system in the eyes of most search engine; if your content earns a lot of links, it’s seen as more trustworthy and authoritative, ultimately helping it rank higher and achieve even more visibility (which is great for business owners).
The backlink-based PageRank system is much more complex than my simplistic explanation would imply, but suffice it to say, backlinks are vital if you want your content to succeed.
Because of this, and because you’ve likely encountered millions, if not billions of links in passing as you’ve browed the internet over the course of your life, you might believe that content backlinks are ubiquitous. But this isn’t the case.
In fact, 94 percent of the world’s content earns 0 external links – and only 2.2 percent of the world’s content earns multiple backlinks.
Why is this the case? And what can you realistically do about it?
The True Value of Backlinks
First, let me establish why backlinks are so important – and why you should care that your content isn’t earning any naturally. Backlinks serve multiple purposes simultaneously:
- Brand visibility and reputational benefits. First, just seeing your link in the wild can help increase the visibility of your brand and boost your reputation. If the link is coming from a distinguished author or a noteworthy publication, it can give your new customers a great first impression.
- A direct line of traffic. Links are primarily used to get from one page to another – and if your link is sufficiently captivating, your readers are going to click it. With enough links on high-profile sources, your backlink network can serve as a major source of referral traffic to your site.
- Domain authority and search ranking effects. Perhaps most importantly, links pass “authority” to your site. Search engines use links to calculate the domain-level authority of your website as well as the page-level authority of your individual pages; earning more links from better sources will make you seen as more authoritative, which in turn will support higher rankings for keywords relevant to your brand. It’s almost impossible to rise in search engine rankings (and earn more organic traffic) without these links.
Potential Factors for Rare Backlinks
There are several possible explanations for why backlinks are rare. Most likely, it’s due to a combination of factors, including:
- Unseen, unpromoted content goes unnoticed. Any content that doesn’t get seen or noticed isn’t going to earn any backlinks. People can only build links to content whose existence is known to them. If a writer in an obscure corner of the internet writes the greatest blog article of all time, it may never earn any links or get any attention simply because it can’t be found on its own. Too many writers fail to understand the importance of self-promotion; they don’t try to funnel traffic to their site, they don’t promote their work on social media, and they never try to elevate their own brand name. Because most people aren’t willing to make even the slightest effort to promote their own work, most work goes completely unnoticed.
- Most content is bad content. There’s a reason why search engines prefer content that has earned a lot of links; search engines are motivated to give people the best possible results. If a piece of content earns several links, it must be well-liked and appreciated, so it’s worth showing to others. This is important for search engines because most content on the internet is “bad” content. Because anyone can become a content creator online, there’s no barrier to entry – and as a result, most content published online is poorly written, poorly researched, and/or a poor imitation of something that already exists. You won’t see this content, because it’s often relegated to obscurity, but it’s out there.
- Most writers don’t understand the importance of backlinks. If you don’t know that backlinks are important, you won’t write in a way that earns or supports backlinks. For example, one of the best ways to earn backlinks is to provide truly original insights or information; publishing an original study or an expert opinion on a controversial subject can be very powerful. But if you’re not optimizing for backlinks, you might write about something less capable of getting you the attention you need.
- It takes time to earn backlinks. If you already have a reputation and you’re writing about a current event, you can earn backlinks quickly – but for the most part, earning backlinks is something that takes time. It takes months to build a reputation as an author from scratch, and it might be weeks to months before your content gets truly noticed (even if it’s well-written and you’re actively promoting it). The delay here results in a lot of content creators giving up prematurely.
- Some published backlinks get removed. Even if you initially earn a backlink, there’s no guarantee you’re going to keep it. Publishers may choose to remove links at any time, for any reason; your work may no longer be relevant, they may be trying to “clean up” their linking profile, or they may want to distance themselves from your brand.
How to Earn More Backlinks for Your Content
So what steps can you take to combat these inhibitory factors?
- Commit to writing great content. If you want to earn links, you have to stand out with great content. Nobody will link to your work if it’s not well-researched, well-written, and original. Try to find a niche that no other experts currently occupy and present novel information as articulately as you can. Revise and edit your work thoroughly so you only publish the best work you’re capable of producing.
- Make your content linkable. In addition to creating quality pieces, you have to find a way to make your work linkable. What would make someone want to build a link to this article? Do you offer new statistics on a problem that many people are facing? Do you have information that’s being neglected by others covering the same topic? Do you disagree with the mainstream narrative on a particular subject?
- Promote your work. Once you’ve published your work, understand that it’s not going to get popular by itself. If you want it to get attention, and eventually get links, you have to promote it; that means syndicating it on social media, sharing it with others in your industry, and possibly even advertising it.
- Network and reciprocate. Make connections with other writers and other authorities in your industry. The more you build out your network, the bigger your potential audience will be – and the more opportunities you’ll have to publish work with offsite sources.
- Publish offsite content and build your own links. Finally, try to get new content published with offsite publishers – and the higher the authority of those publishers, the better. Start small, with local publishers and websites squarely within your niche, then work your way up to bigger platforms. With each article you publish, you’ll have an opportunity to build a link to your own work (as long as it’s relevant to your content and your audience).
Whether you’re trying to launch an education platform for your target audience or you’re building a business from the ground up, content is the heart of your website – and your link building strategy. If you spend more time making your content more attractive to would-be link builders, and building some links of your own, you can be part of that top 6 percent of content creators worldwide – and earn at least one solid link for each piece you publish.