Finally! All that constant pressure, the houndings in the street, the sheer weight of demand, has broken me. So here they are – backlinks! I knew you’d be excited.
First then (for those of you whose name isn’t Jessica), ‘What’s one of those?’ Well, quite simply its a link from some other site to your own. But obviously, as always, it’s a lot less simple than that!
So, as I understand it, backlinks used to be pretty much one of, if not the most important factor when it came to ranking a site. The more sites linking to yours, the more fantastic your site must be, so obviously Google would want to show it to everyone. Made sense. Until, inevitably, this led to sites gaming the system by for example building link farms which could make a site appear to be really popular when it really wasn’t. So Google got wise, or so I am led to believe. I think it has just got a little wiser actually, and still has a long way to go.
Honour amongst the views
Thieves / the views – did that work? Almost? It’s close I think, but probably not close enough. Anyway, I recall a few years back deciding that I would not try to game the system; that I would try to cultivate respectable links only and that, coupled with a long, prestigious history and thousands of happy, socially active guests, would ultimately reap ranking rewards. I simultaneously looked forward to the demise of the many sites ranked above us that I could see were not following such an honourable route.
Now I look and see that, over the years it has been our site that has declined in the rankings and above us there are even more that really shouldn’t be there. A bit of research into the trail of sites linking to them frequently goes round in a circle, via many other sites all owned by the same company. Finding respectable links among the vast number of questionable ones is difficult. So why do they still rank above us? I can only guess, but possibly it is too vast a task for the search engines to stay on top of, or possibly the good links they have vastly outweigh the large volume of bad. Or maybe it’s a combination of other factors which, if I can match, will push us ahead in the end. I will hope so.
You may recall I asked Gosbert Chagula at the Day 5. Be My Guest roadshow about backlinks. He wasn’t that enthusiastic, but did seem to admit they were not to be ignored. He also was of the opinion that good, fresh content was much more important, but that wasn’t next on my list: I was doing Backlinks! ‘Good, fresh content’ I moved up to next after that!
According to Google’s Search Console we have 25 sites backlinking to us. Looking at our main competitors they all have thousands. There are various sites and apps to check on a site’s backlinks and I currently favour Monitor Backlinks – its numbers seem to be more reliable and consistent than others. It’s important to note that the various sites’ numbers all tend to vary, as obviously, they all track their data differently and at different rates. Over time though, they should not be too dissimilar. You can see numbers and you can also see quality, which is probably even more important – it’s no good having loads of links if they are all from spammy sites; they’ll do more harm than good!
So you want good links from big respectable sites and you want them to be ‘dofollow’ links, which will give ranking credit, rather than ‘nofollow’ which although not utterly useless, won’t.
Easy then: Just need to ask Mr Microsoft, Mr Apple, Mr Google, etc. to put a ‘dofollow’ link to our home page on theirs and we can all retire! And there’s the problem; getting a quality link is hard. Much easier to get a spammy one, or to buy lots of domains, build lots of sites and link them all together. Which is just what a lot of sites do.
The Middle Ground
But there does appear to be a little middle ground and it’s there that I have spent a considerable amount of time lately. It’s easy enough to search for sites, typically directory sites, that will accept a listing. You can then go off and check the credibility of that site and see if it appears respectable. If so you can submit to them. You can also look at your competitors’ backlinks to see if there are any that might also be willing to link to you – and, importantly, that will be ‘dofollow’.
Which is why, over the last few days, we have been doing just that. And I say ‘we’ because I have finally received a little help in my endeavours. ‘Rather than just slouching on the sofa all day,’ I said, ‘why not help me track down a few worthwhile backlinks? Whilst slouching on the sofa all day.’ She agreed most enthusiastically – all it took was some constant nagging. And some money.
There are many other ways to track down locations to get a link from, but this was enough for now. Other routes might get investigated at a later date.
If you’re a big, important site, like we obviously soon will be, then Google will come and check you over pretty frequently. Likewise for directories: Yell.com gets checked for links probably a lot more frequently than neverheardofyouanddontbothercominghere.com. Which means the results of these efforts are not instantaneous. If you pay money, the directories usually suggest you will appear much quicker (presumably they specifically submit sitemaps with you on them), otherwise you take your chances and it might be months before you get noticed by the search engines. We’ve done enough we hope to see if there is any effect, roughly doubling the number of sites linking in if they all materialise, focussing primarily on names we’d heard of, such as Yelp, ThomsonLocal, 192, etc. We will have to wait and see, but, if the effect is positive then we will continue the good work. It does seem that this sort of effort is the most likely to backfire so I am a little cautious and concerned. I do think we need more links though, and until ‘The Times’ knocks on the door offering to run a full online page spread we can only do what we can do. It does seem believable though, that the more places you are mentioned, even if they are not that prestigious, the more chance that a site you would like to be mentioned on will find you. Maybe ‘The Times’ gets all its good stories from neverheardofyouanddontbothercominghere.com!
Date of Activity: 10th October 2018