One difficult thing to understand is how Google chooses to rank websites in search results. In some ways this is a tricky question to answer, but we’re going to take a look at one thing we know is important to search rankings:
We’ll talk about what a backlink is and why they’re so important.
What Is a Backlink?
A backlink is simply a link from one website to another website. When we look at the links that point to the homepage, blog posts, local landing pages, articles, or any other page on your HVAC company’s website, we refer to them as backlinks.
Let’s look at an example:
If you’ve done a little online marketing, you might have signed up for a few different services. You may have a Google My Business page, a Facebook page, a paid spot on a newspaper website, and a listing in a contractor directory.
Generally, each of those services will ask you to enter your website address - you’ll enter this:
They take that address and linkify it, adding HTML code to the link to turn it into a clickable link that will take you to your website. That usually looks something like this:
<a href="https://www.example.com">Example Business</a>
And once you submit your information the end result is a link from Facebook, Google, the newspaper, or directory that looks like this:
The above link is a clickable link to your site - this is what we call a backlink.
In our example, your HVAC website has 4 backlinks, one each from Facebook, Google, the newspaper, and the directory.
What if you get another link from the newspaper?
Let’s say you buy uniforms for a Little League team and the local newspaper wants to do a little article about your HVAC business on their website (these are great backlinks to get).
They do the article, and at the end of the article they put a link to your HVAC business website.
This is your 5th backlink.
However, the more backlinks you get from a particular website, the less powerful those links tend to become.
This is because Google likes to see that you have a diverse link profile:
lots of links coming from lots of different websites
This isn’t to say that you should ever turn down a link, especially a local newspaper article link! Just that you should realize that it’s good to have links from lots of different sources.
Generally an HVAC site with 100 links from 60 different websites will beat out a website with 100 links from 10 different websites.
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But How Do Backlinks Work?
Backlinks are essentially like a vote for your website. Back when the Google was coming up with how to deliver search results, they came up with the idea of using backlinks.
It stands to reason that if a lot of websites link to your website there must be a good reason for it, right?
It generally means that you have good information or you’ve done something and people want to show you to other people. You might have the best article on the internet about how a boiler can explode or you might have donated your employees to a trash cleanup for a day.
A backlink is a way of saying, “Hey, this website is notable, you should take a look at it.”
When a lot of people link to your website, Google thinks you’re important and pushes your website up in the search results.
There are three link power types to be aware of:
- Some links are very powerful and will easily push your website to the top of the search results. These are hard to get.
- Some links are moderately powerful. Most links are like this.
- Some links are weak and won’t do much to help your search rank position.
- Some links are poisonous and will damage the reputation of your website in the eyes of search engines.
This is pretty simplified, as link power is on a spectrum. The power of a link mainly has to do with the power of a website and where on that website the link comes from.
This might be hard to understand, so let’s look at some examples:
New York Times website link vs. Your local newspaper’s website link
Strong site vs. weaker site
The NYT website is huge and has tons of links pointing to it. It has a powerful and trusted reputation in terms of search engines because it has lots of backlinks and lots of content.
Your local paper’s website has fewer backlinks and less contents. While it may be powerful and trusted within the scope of local websites, it can’t match the power of the NYT website.
Official Facebook homepage link vs. Your HVAC business page on Facebook
Strong portion of site vs. weaker portion of site
No one will ever get a link from the page at facebook.com, but if you could, it would be incredibly powerful. A link from your HVAC business page on Facebook is much, much less powerful. This is largely because everyone has one, and it dilutes the power of the link.
A Facebook business page link is still important to have, as it’s another signal that you’re running a real business and customers can engage with you. But it comes from a “weaker” area of the Facebook website.
Follow vs. NoFollow
Should Google follow the link?
Website owners can specify whether Google should follow a link or not. A normal link usually looks like this:
<a href="https://www.example.com">Example Business</a>
But a “nofollowed” link looks like:
<a href="https://www.example.com" rel="nofollow">Example Business</a>
Here’s why this is important:
Many people believe that adding “nofollow” prevents the transfer of link power from one site to another. There are some Google guidelines about when you must nofollow, and you may encounter nofollow links in some blog posts, all advertising links, and some forum posts.
Note that many websites have taken nofollowing to an extreme, and they nofollow every link they send out. We, and many others, believe that this is unethical, but that is another article in itself.
So, generally, you want to pursue links that are going to be dofollow, the standard default link, and avoid nofollow links. However, having nofollow links is still a part of a normal healthy backlink profile - they aren’t bad, just another type of link.
Forum links vs. Article links
Persona links vs. an informational webpage
Forum post links are generally less powerful than a typical article that links to your site. Forum signature links don’t count for much, but links within the actual post can be helpful.
It is valuable to your HVAC business to contribute to a forum, whether it’s for homeowners or other contractors, but it won’t be as powerful as getting direct links from website articles and info pages.
Forum posts are often nofollowed, as well.
Article comment links vs. Article links
Usually unverified persona links vs. an informational webpage
Blog and article comment links are generally not too powerful. There is a lot of spam in blog comments, so Google probably discounts the value of most of them.
However, they are still useful as a form of controlling link anchor text. We wouldn’t count on these for link power, but they are good for diversification. A good article or info page is much more powerful.
What Does This Mean For an HVAC Business?
Backlinks are the principal metric that Google looks at to determine where to place you in search results. Backlinks work in concert with keywords - keywords are just things like “air conditioning repair in Hopewell NJ”.
With equivalent websites, an HVAC website will rank above another HVAC website if it has more links that are more powerful than a competing HVAC website. If your HVAC website is sitting on page two of Google in your local area, it’s often because you don’t have enough backlinks.
Sometimes, your website needs a tuneup to make it faster and add local landing pages that focus on keywords. Getting good backlinks to an optimized website is like putting lighter fluid on a fire.
Backlinks are also one of the only ways that you can start ranking in search results for local areas that you want to be servicing.
If you want leads, backlinks from powerful websites are the way to get there.
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