Why isn't your contractor website ranking? Optimized content, high-quality portfolio photos, calls to action, and your website design can all play a role in your website's success. If people are finding you online and you're getting leads and new clients coming in as a result of your website, that's a success!
But if you're not experiencing success from your website, the reason could be a lack of backlinks.
Here's what you should know about this critical ranking factor.
What is a Backlink?
What is a backlink? It's just what it sounds like: a link from one website to another.
Let's say you did some work with a local interior designer. She wants to feature the finished project on her website. She writes up a blog and mentions the work you did to remodel the bathroom and kitchen and includes a link to your website.
That's a backlink.
Not only does this help you carve out a little bit of their audience and (hopefully) make it your own, but Google and other search engines look at this as an indicator that your website is essential.
Search engine optimization (SEO) experts agree that backlinks are among the most critical factors built into Google's algorithm related to organic search. This means you only need to care about backlinks if you want to be found by searchers online. (No biggie.)
Not All Links are Equal. Why Domain Authority Matters.
Having said all of that, it's equally essential for you to understand that not all backlinks are created equally. Asking your friend to put a link on their website to your home page is NOT the same as getting a backlink on a site like Houzz because you gave an interview or wrote a blog post.
Those big websites, like HGTV or Houzz, have massive amounts of daily and monthly traffic, resulting in a high Domain Authority.
Your friend's website probably doesn't meet either of those two characteristics. And if your friend's website has nothing to do with your industry (i.e., not relevant), not only is that backlink not helping you, but it could be hurting you, too.
Domain authority, also sometimes referred to as thought leadership, describes a particular website's relevance for a specific subject area or industry. A lot goes into determining how authoritative a domain is, including:
- The prestige of a website or the people who write for it
- The quality of the information found on that website
- The general scope of the information found on that website
- The relevance of your site to a searcher's intent
In other words, backlinks that come from websites with high domain authority carry more weight to search engines like Google.
If you are on the golf course and a total stranger recommends a golf club to you, it's nice but doesn't hold a lot of weight (i.e., low domain authority). If you run across Tiger Woods on the golf course and he recommends a golf club to you, it means a lot because of who he is (i.e., high domain authority).
A few backlinks from sites with high DA will always outweigh low DA sites in search engine ranking.
It's about quality, not quantity, after all.
Beware Spammy Backlink Practices
Unfortunately, some unscrupulous SEO companies out there have created blogs for the express purpose of creating backlinks for SEO clients. Unfortunately, those blogs may have no traffic and low domain authority. As clients of theirs, it seems significant that they are getting you backlinks, but those backlinks can hurt your website's ranking more than they help. Others may promise a certain amount of backlinks per month but engage in spammy practices to deliver those links. And that could get your site red-flagged and penalized by Google.
It would be best if you ALWAYS asked any SEO provider that you're considering working with the sites' names where they will create backlinks and ask them to verify the domain authority for those sites. If you don't recognize the sites' names -- or worse, if they don't know what you're talking about -- keep looking.
The Secret to Building Quality Backlinks
To build as many high-quality backlinks as you can and to establish yourself as someone worth paying attention to in your industry, you need to focus on creating as much relevant, high-quality, high-value content as possible.
The better a blog post or white paper is, the more people are likely to share it. Continue to reach out to those industry blogs or other industry professionals, and see if you can schedule an interview, write a guest post, or contribute somehow. Not a writer? Find a freelance writer with SEO experience to help you.
Take the time to build meaningful relationships with other people and earn those backlinks the good, old-fashioned way.
Success (and backlinks) won't happen overnight. That's OK because the long game is much more critical. Backlinks tend to generate their momentum, and the more positive attention you're able to create for yourself, the more links you'll be able to develop as a result.