Getting Google to Find You: Listings and Backlinks
Ah, long time no see! If you’ve been following this series, I’m sure you’ve been itching to read the next article. Those that are new here, prepare to read the easiest, most educational (and most absorbable!) article about SEO.
Now I understand that SEO can be a real trigger word to marketers and business people alike. Whether that’s because you’re craving all of the new information you can get out of it, it is confusing or it gives you a big fat headache, Torchlight Marketing is here to help.
With this being the fourth article in this series, you might have some catching up or even some review since it’s been a few weeks since we last touched on this topic. Our entire goal of this series is to give insight on SEO to every single person who may come across these blogs. Yes, SEO has many moving parts, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be complicated.
We’ve divided up SEO into four pillars that encompass the most important aspects of SEO to focus on. These include: Structure, Content, Citations & Listings, and Technology. In today’s blog, we’ll be covering Pillar #3: Citations & Backlinks.
Let’s get started.
What Do Citations and Backlinks Really Mean?
Essentially, what citations and backlinks refer to are all mentions of your business including partial listing information (such as only a business address or phone number) and backlinks on the internet to your site. Fully populated citations or listings are most important because Google ranks websites that have more, high quality listings higher on SERPs.
Many business owners might know the importance of citations and backlinks to their brand, however they might not be aware of the importance of the quality of these.
Why are citations and listings important to SEO?
Any site that you are able to put your business’s listing on gives you one more area to create a higher quality backlink and will allow you to increase your business’s discoverability in a local search result. In the eyes of both Google and your customers, it will give your company more authority and reassure them that your business is alive and well.
One key tip is to put as much information about your business that the listing platform offers: address, phone number, hours, etc. If you don’t want or have a physical address for your business, put your P.O. box like we do! That includes your profile information with your chamber of commerce membership and trade associations.
Additionally, make sure all of your listings are accurate across all of the listing platforms your business is on. Change your hours or your phone number, don’t forget to update everything. Consistency is key!
An easy way to ensure this is by using a reputation management tool. At Torchlight Marketing, we use a tool known as MarketPulse for our clients, which when enabled, allows us to track, update and edit a client’s business listing across almost all listing platforms.
This makes it extremely easy to make any adjustments we might need to in order optimize and aid in their SEO efforts.
If you have questions about MarketPulse and how it can help your business, reach out to us for more information!
What is a backlink?
Now if you’ve never heard of a backlink, you might think it’s pretty similar to a hyperlink. However, there is a key distinction between these two. All backlinks are hyperlinks but not all hyperlinks are backlinks. Let me explain:
A hyperlink is a link a user can follow in order to get from point A to point B, typically by clicking on a highlighted word or phrase in a document, article, etc. It can be as simple as me explaining a particularly funny picture of a cat wearing sunglasses, and hyperlinking it here. A backlink on the other hand, while it is a link from one webpage to another, deals more in reference to sourcing your information and is a hyperlink heading back to your website.
For instance, if the New York Times lists the top 5 marketing agencies in the United States and lists Torchlight Marketing as #1 along with a link to our website, that would be known as a very high quality backlink (hello New York Times!). If a local high school were to give Torchlight a shoutout on their website with a link to our website, that would also be a backlink, just not as high quality. The reason for this is because the New York Times is a highly credible and authoritative source with millions of people viewing their news everyday. And while a high school is certainly credible it just simply isn’t as well known– especially in the eyes of Google.
How Do Backlinks Affect SEO?
In terms of SEO, Google gives websites with more high quality backlinks a higher rank on the SERP. Getting 1 high quality backlink from the New York Times will get you further than 10,000 low quality backlinks. The same principle applies for listings and citations.
Similar to backlinks, all listings and citations are also not created equal. The more platforms your business is listed on that are credible and well-known, the higher quality those listings are. We can use the New York Times example again: if they listed Torchlight Marketing on their list of top marketing agencies in the U.S. and included our address, business hours or phone number, that’s a high quality listing. The reason high quality listings, citations and backlinks are more important to Google is because they are harder to come by.
What is a Low Quality Backlink or Listing?
Now just because your website or business’s address might not be listed on a national news source page, doesn’t mean that any backlink or listing other than that is low quality. A true low quality backlink is something completely different.
This is where decade-old schemes come into play with specialists who are disguising “hard work” for your business and their SEO is absolutely useless with tactics that simply waste your time and money. And if you’re not careful, these tactics could still trick you today.
The facade goes something like this: if a business wants to improve their SEO, they might hire a specialist or company to help increase their number of backlinks. If this business didn’t know much about SEO or backlinks, they might have the misconception that the more backlinks produced the better– and this is exactly what happens. The SEO company reports back at the end of the month with a backlink report filled with pages of hundreds or even thousands of backlinks “proving” to the business that they spent all of this time producing backlinks for their webpage. But in reality, this specialist created these backlinks by inputting the business’s website on random web pages, chat rooms, or in comment sections underneath content that has nothing to do with the business.
Technically speaking, the reports are filled with hundreds of backlinks for the business, but what did this actually accomplish? Absolutely nothing; these backlinks don’t do a single thing in terms of improving the business’s SEO. All they do is create more trash and noise on the internet– basically it is just a bunch of backlink spam.
Think of it like this: a business owner hires someone to go hand out flyers for their business to increase traffic and sales. Rather than actually handing them out to people, this person puts them on cars in a junkyard– completely pointless. When he goes back to the business owner, he can technically say he “handed all of them out” but ultimately all he did was litter and waste the business owner’s time and money.
If you take anything away from this blog, let it be this. If an SEO specialist or company comes to you at the end of the month with hundreds of backlinks…run.
Now as we’ve stated before, there is so much more to SEO than what we touched on today. In fact, there’s so much more to citations and listings. The only way for this area of SEO efforts to work effectively is if you’re paying attention to all of the other numerous areas of SEO.
Improving your SEO is not a one-stop-shop, and anyone telling you differently isn’t giving it to you straight. At Torchlight Marketing, we pride ourselves on educating anyone who is curious about learning more about digital marketing, and SEO is just one of those aspects.
If you’re confused on what those are, start at the beginning of this SEO blog series where we discuss a brief overview as what we hold to be the most important pillars of SEO. After that, we have two deep dives available where we go into further detail of website structure (spoiler: this is pillar #1) and website content (and this is pillar #2).
If you are hungry to get started, check out our Digital Marketing Toolbox, where you can use some of the tools we list to scan your site.
Be on the lookout, because although we covered pillar #3 here, we still have another deepdive for you that is out – SEO Technology!