The Importance of Citations and Back Links on Your Website

Chauncey: Welcome to the Being Found Show. We are the local business guide to being found online by more buying customers. We are talking about citations and backlinking and why they are important to your business website.

Clients constantly have questions about backlinking, like how many they should have on their site. There is no quantifiable number that you should have, as it all depends on the site and the quality of the links. First I will explain what backlinking is. I think the word itself is somewhat self-explanatory. You’ve got your website, and there is another website with a link on it that links back to you. That is a backlink in its simplest form. People then need to understand how backlinks can help them.

If you are a business owner and you have a marketing company working for you ask them if they are doing SEO and if you have a backlinking strategy.

The easiest way to explain how Search Engine Optimization (SEO) works to help people understand at the most rudimentary level, you think of your website is a colander. There are two ways to hold liquid in the colander. You can pour more liquid into it, or you can plug more holes. So for onsite optimization, when you go through your website, and you do little things to make it great, you’re plugging holes and when you’re doing stuff that’s not on your website, your pouring more water into it and hoping it will fill up. And a bottom line is if you have more water in your colander than your competitor, you’re going to get more traffic.

That being said, there are some backlinks that are maybe like pouring acid into your website. They’re poking more holes, although rare. You may hear a lot of people saying they are getting rid of backlinking that it’s going to get you blacklisted by Google. Google doesn’t penalize you for the little stuff. They tend to warn you when they see something they don’t like so there’s not a lot of blacklisting going on. People would have you believe that.

Back-linking vs Citations

Your SEO company is no doubt going to mention a lot about citations. What is a citation as opposed to a backlink? Any mention of your business on another site that isn’t linked back is what’s considered a citation or a mention. A lot of citations come with a link. Normally a citation is like a profile or a website that happens to mention your business or your website.

Backlinks are incoming links to a webpage. When a webpage links to any other page, it’s called a backlink. We need to throw out there that the best way to build backlinks is by creating quality content. I’m creating a need or fulfilling a need. So if you write a great article and a bunch of people shared, talked about it, link back to it and hit you with a buzzword,  it has gone viral, there is no better backlinking situation than that.

A lot of the time with backlinking, you’re manually going out there, and you’re doing it. You get a big list of sites and you are asking them to mention you or you write a blog for them you are asking to be credited and linked backed to.

So, the best way to get backlinks is to write great stuff, the consumer or the internet users are going to see it, share it, and link back to it., You have created a resource. That ultimately is the best way to do things.

We are going to dig through how to get started. Once you begin, you can’t go back, so you want to start on the right foot. There’s this point where you could have the greatest, funniest idea that everybody’s going to like and everybody’s going to share, and you can put it out there. Put it on your website to draw traffic and share it on your facebook to your grandma and your aunt.

The reality is, it’s just not going to go anywhere without backlinks or a way for consumers to find it. So there’s definitely the foundational stuff that you kind of have to do to create those audiences and create an environment where if you do put out this great content, people are likely to pick up. You can’t fake it.

Even SEO companies and marketing companies have a hard time doing backlinks. Backlinks are like the jump from local marketing to national marketing. The jump from highly competitive local marketing is a major change because there are much more important ranking factors for local until you start hitting this competition level or unless you’re able to get these massive backlinks. For local, as long as you’re focusing on reviews and your citations and onsite optimization, you should do fine. If you have all that wrapped up but you’re still not getting up in there, that’s when you start focusing on some backlinks.

In the real world, business is a little bit more abstract. As far as internet marketing goes, it is a strategic battle of numbers. So your website inevitably has some backlinks out there. A big part of this is taking those backlinks and finding out where they are and where they aren’t. I’ll explain how to do this.

Google has these things called search operators. If I wanted to go to the dance and I put “dance” into the search bar, every search on the results page will include that word and chances are I don’t want most of them. If I put “I want to go to the dance,” I will only find things with that phrase when put in quotation marks.

This is what we use to sort of find where our backlinks are. We searched for our business name and then if you have a site with a reasonable amount of content on it, there’s also a search operator to exclude your own website, so you don’t have to go through those URLs. So now we’re left with a list of websites that mentioned your business by name and can start going down that list. You would check if the information is right, is there a link, and is it correct? We would make sure they are all clear and can check that off and move onto the next result.

Another thing that you need to remember is that we’re going and we’re making sure that these things are right. If your business name has changed over time, you will want to make sure that those quotes or mentions have changed the name as well. It’s good to know that it’s out there and accurate, but you’re also going to find quite a few situations where it is not accurate.

What I tend to find that’s not accurate has little to do with backlinking, but it does have to do with your trust factor and reputation is the phone number. The phone number is always some sort of screwy combination of either your number, your Google voice number, or your old office number.

Jake: Here is an issue that I’ve bumped into. We have a client who has some pretty sophisticated marketing setup on their website. So depending on where you come to the website from, it changes the phone number in the header. Google picked up on this and changed it in “Google My Business“. So we had to call them and ask if they had changed their number. They said, “Well, this is the one we found in your header, but when we get on, it’s a completely different phone number there. Can you speak to that at all?”

Chauncey: This is called tracking, and there’s a javascript sort of thing going like if the referring URL is this, then show this number, right? So they probably have some sort of Google AdWords that have a call tracking number and googled, got there via their own AdWords link and said, hey, this is the number, so we’re going to populate it with this because they figure that Google AdWords is very trustworthy. Does this site have a Schema or Age card or any of that stuff on it?

Jake: Yes they do

Chauncey: Okay. So we might address some of that and make sure those numbers are in the Schema as secondary numbers and give ourselves a primary location number in that Schema for Google to come through. The way they set up their call tracking might be a problem also. So you might be going directly to the site and seeing the phone number that you want. The way the call tracking works is based on the referral URL. You might search the business, follow that link and see what phone numbers are showing up.

To bring this back to the main idea, make sure you are consistent across the web with links, phone numbers, and information. Make sure you identify your primary and secondary numbers hopefully so that Google and other bots that crawl your site can identify that primary phone that you use as your phone number.

This is a prime example of when we’re going through websites, and we find things on these off sites that are not accurate. Whether it be a phone number or an incorrect citation or mention. Another thing to do for cleaning up your backlinks when you’re dealing with what you have is, of course, searching for your domain name. That’ll be all-encompassing, and once again we go through the list, and you make sure that all that stuff is accurate and you look for backlink possibilities. Another one, like we were saying, is searching for your phone number specifically.

Now that you bring that up, I would say to search for all those secondary phone numbers as well because we might find quite a few things that need to be cleaned up and quite a few backlinking possibilities at the time. As smart as these bots are, they are still pretty stupid. They’re still bots.

Your number one best place to get started with cleaning and building backlinks is to clean up what you have and track it. If you’re reaching out to people, when did I reach out to them and have they gotten back to me? Now a lot of them are not going to get back to you, and it’s just sort of the way of the Internet. More pages are created every day than people on the planet probably.

Just developing that consistency over a lot of different sites is going to help your site as a whole. Moz has made a pie chart that shows local ranking factors by percentage and link-building ranks as an importance factor of 17.31%. 

There are a lot of SEO companies that work solely off of link building. When you go to hire them, they don’t even need or to want access to your site because they are focused on fixing and building the backlinks all across the web.

Most of them are not very powerful, you know, they’re not ones that are gonna hurt you. It takes a lot to get a link that’s going to hurt you. I don’t want to cover any shady topics, but I’m sure all of you can think of all the topics and types of websites that you probably don’t want links from.

Quickly I want to cover what a non-helpful link might look like if someone’s trying to sell you one? A non-helpful link or a bad backlink definitely would come from a site dealing with pornography or something like that or what’s called a link wheel. Let’s say you have thousands of backlinks coming into your site that all say the same thing, or they’re all coming from a personal blog network that one guy owns. It’s all coming from one IP address, and he’s sort of trying to manipulate backlinks, that is shady.

Why it is important for you to create backlinks to your site?

  • Improves Organic Ranking
  • Faster site indexing
  • Helps to get you Referral Traffic

Thank you for listening to this segment of the Being Found Show, to hear the full show listen here: Being Found Show Episode #55 or subscribe to our podcast.