In my eyes, there are two things you can do to drive organic traffic to your site: writing SEO-rich blog posts and getting sites with high domain authority to link to your site (otherwise known as getting backlinks).
The blogging the side of it is only one side of the coin; getting those backlinks is the other. If you do these two things (and only these two things), your blog should see a bump in traffic at some point.
Blogging Is Easy, Getting Backlinks — Not So Easy
Blogging is something that is super controllable. You (and only you) have the power to sit down at your computer each day and write a compelling blog post that full of SEO keywords, voice and both internal and external links.
Or, at the very least you have the power to hire someone else to write those dang posts for you.
What you have less control over? Whether or not other people think your site is good enough to link to. What you have even less control over than that? Whether someone thinks your site is good enough to give you a do-follow link.
What Fresh HTML Is This? A Do-Follow Link?
There are two types of links you need to worry about: do-follow and no-follow links. Both types of links lead to your site. Yet one type of link gives you super-Google juice.
Yes, that’s a branded term. Super-Google juice.
No-follow links lead to your site (and many other sites around the web). You’ll find them all over Facebook, Instagram and Wikipedia. Basically, they say to Google, “We want someone to be able to link to another site, but we don’t endorse that site.”
For example, if you create a business page on Facebook and include the URL to your website on that page, that’s a link to your site. But if you were to inspect the HTML of that link, you would see the word ‘no-follow’ included in it.
It still links to your site, but Google doesn’t really recognize it as Facebook giving your site its stamp of approval. Facebook isn’t linking to your site, you’re linking to your site through Facebook.
Confused? Us too!
Getting Backlinks: Do-Follow Links
If you want sites to link to your site, you’ll need to hustle. There are plenty of sites out there just dying to link to you — but they want a little something in return.
Yes, you can pay for do-follow links. But sites that charge for them are considered ‘a little sleezy’ (to say the least) for doing so. Google no likey sites charging for links. It cheapens the whole algorithm.
If you want do-follow links, you need to:
- Get recognized for your highly fresh and informative content
- Write a post for someone else (for free) and ask for a do-follow link to your site in return
- Offer some help to a reporter (in the form of a nice quote to complement her or his article)
- Check ‘bad’ links on other blogs’ sites and give them the heads-up that you can offer them a good backlink
Getting Backlinks Tips
I have a couple of tried-and-tested ways of getting backlinks. By no means am I breaking the mold with these tips. You can find them pretty much anywhere on the internet. But these happen to be the ones that I’ve had great success with in the past.
HARO stands for ‘Help a Reporter Out.’ It’s a site where reporters can post their need for sources in a story.
Let’s say reporter (let’s call him Tom Hanks, mostly because he’s an American treasure and I look for any excuse to weave the man into a conversation) needs a source for his story on the importance of chocolate cake in American cuisine. He can’t just write a story on chocolate cake all willy nilly without interviewing people who actually know about the trials and tribulations of using a double boiler. He needs to find someone whom he can interview and quote in his story.
Where does he find these people?
If he’s at a loss, he can log in to HARO and say, “I need a source who can speak on the importance chocolate cake in the American culinary tradition!”
Everyone who knows anything about cake will respond to Tom (we’re on a first-name basis in this scenario) and offer their knowledge in the form of a quote. In their responses, these sources will also include their names and websites for credit.
Mr. Hanks gets his sources and these sources get backlinks to their sites.
Getting backlinks while helping members of the free press? Now that’s what I call quid pro quo.
2. Guest Posting
Another easy way (though slightly less easy) of getting backlinks — especially those coveted do-follow backlinks — is to offer to write some unique content for someone else’s site. The owner or content manager of that site gets a break from blogging for a week — and you get a backlink to your site.
You can either set up the backlink in the post itself (if it makes sense and doesn’t look spammy), or you can ask for a bio with a link to your blog at the end of the post.
Another super-fast road to getting backlinks is to give someone else a backlink — in the form of a roundup. Then, ask for them to return the favor.
If you blog about cooking, you could write a roundup of the best baking posts of the past year. Obviously, you need to link to said posts. Reach out to the owner of that blog, mention you linked to said blog and kindly ask for a backlink in return from one of their posts.
Sometimes the other blogger will be all like, “OMG, thank you! Of course!” and sometimes… not so much.
You win some, you lose some.
4. Broken Link Checker
Some people swear by this technique (I’ve not had great success with it in regards to getting backlinks, so do what you will with this knowledge).
If you use Google Chrome, you can download a broken link checker extension. When you activate this extension, it will highlight all broken (bad) links on a site in red. Broken links on your site can force your Google rating to drop (clearly also bad).
Sites want to maintain fresh links to stay in Google’s good graces. If you find a bad link on someone else’s site, you’re doing them a solid to give them a heads-up about it. You’re doing them an extra solid to give them a link (to your site) that isn’t broken — saving them the time of finding one themselves.
5. Get Good Press
This is kind of like HARO, but better. Reach out to editors at local newspapers (if it’s a school newspaper, even better! Google lurves .edu sites!) and ask them to write about you (and your blog/site/company).
Explain what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and how you’re making your community better. Editors love pieces like this. They’re also used to PR pros reaching out to them and they find it absolutely refreshing when the owner is the one to reach out instead.
When an online publication writes about you, they’ll usually give you a do-follow link, too.
And if it’s a no-follow link? It’s still free press!