Are Backlinks Important for B2B Service Providers?
A nuanced and informed take on backlinking shows that it has become a more powerful tool for B2B service providers to establish their authority in their industry niche of choice.
I’ve been navigating the marketing industry as a professional content creator throughout most of the early aughts. Throughout that time providing writing services to clients across various industries, it’s been hard to ignore the constantly shifting requirements on my efforts stemming from the evolution of the technology and software driving search engines. Laying claim to 92% of search engine traffic, Google’s AI-driven algorithms have had a significant impact on not only the type of content I write but how it’s written.
Packaged under the umbrella of search engine optimization strategies, content creation is one of the most flexible and versatile tools in a strong marketing team’s arsenal. The right words on the page, with the right facts and figures to back them up, can transform a simple landing page into a powerful sales tool. A well-worded social media post can be an influential driver of inbound traffic. But nothing strengthens the words on the page more than backlinking, or the practice of supporting quotes, facts, and figures with links back to established and verified sources.
Backlinking Has a Long, Complicated History with SEO
The responses by those operating in the marketing sphere to Google’s algorithm updates over the years have not always been healthy or by today’s standards ethical. Before 2005, it was fairly well known that search engine rankings could be easily manipulated by marketers creating hundreds of content-free websites that instead housed links back to their various clients. Because search algorithms gave more weight to websites that were often referred back to by other websites, this padding strategy allowed websites to dominate search engine results regardless of the on-page content.
Starting in 2005 with the Jagger update, however, Google began to address the marketing community’s serious concerns about how links were handled in the web crawling process. Amongst the changes Jagger implemented were penalties in the search engine performance of sites discovered to be engaging in reciprocal link sharing without an underlying business cause or subject similarity, as well as sites proven to have purchased backlinks or soliciting the padded “link farms” discussed above. The result across industries was a massive shakeup in search engine rankings page (SERP) results that forced SEO professionals across entire segments of the industry to reposition and reformat web pages for the new search paradigm. In 2012, Google’s Penguin update started a trend in the search engine’s ongoing strategy to force businesses to stop relying on blackhat link building tactics and word stuffing strategies to ensure users would be provided with a positive experience and quality content.
What’s Changed in the Approach to Backlinks
From the 2012 Penguin update and forward, content creators have honestly benefited from Google’s focus shifting to websites that can provide high quality and well-written content that provides value to the reader. It’s refreshing not to receive assignments along the lines of “please use the following 10 keywords a minimum of 10 times each, but the topic of the article is this other unrelated topic,” alongside a list of backlinks that must also somehow be integrated into an article no more than 500 words.
Recent changes to SEO strategies have content creators tasked with creating content that reduces page bounce and increases reader time on page and time on the website. Therefore, it’s no longer useful to a website on either side of the relationship for a page to include as many offsite resources as possible. Instead, writers now seek to tie content to internal landing pages where the calls to action have been tailored to the specific reader. With more and more organizations using blogs to establish their industry credentials, writers also tend to link to blogs or articles the company has written on a related topic to give their page more weight within the website. For a writer to use an offsite link, that resource must serve the very important purpose of establishing the business’s online credibility—a strategy that is critical in the B2B sector.
Subscribe to the UpCity Blog
How Backlinking Can Help B2B Companies Improve SEO Performance
There’s chatter across the marketing industry at a high level that backlinking is an outdated strategy that might be on its way out. From the boots on the ground, content-creation point of view, I can say that what veterans in the marketing industry view as backlinking is no longer what we do—in fact, we help our clients actively avoid meaningless offsite links. The buzz across the digital landscape sums it up as “backlinking is out, dynamic content is in,” and while that might be true at a certain level, it’s disingenuous and dangerous for businesses to think that off-page linking no longer holds value in the larger marketing strategy. What’s crucial for businesses to understand is that the practice of providing off-page backlinks has shifted and become an extremely powerful tool in content management, especially for B2B service providers.
For anyone who has ever written a research paper or article, did you ever try to sneak in a statistic or bit of data you found somewhere online without including a citation or reference? Do you remember what your instructor or editor drilled into your head at that point? Having written both academically and professionally now going on 20-plus years, I can sum it up for all of you: if you can’t provide a credible source for your data, it didn’t happen, and you can’t use it to make your point. For B2B service providers, where the sales cycle is longer and the competition is shoulder to shoulder, building brand recognition and authority are amongst the only means of establishing a competitive advantage. And there’s no better way to do that than to provide your readers and clients access to content chock full of facts, statistics, and data they can rely upon to improve their operations.
Validate You Can Be Trusted and Build the Brand Relationship
Creating content that is both meaningful to the reader and supported by other authoritative voices in the industry proves your brand’s authority and expertise on the topics covered. If you provide credible and authoritative references to the data and guidance you provide to your readers, then your content becomes their first stop for industry-relevant guidance, rather than the search engines or even the resources you have referenced. Rather than having to go look for the data, you’ve established for your customers and potential clients that in fact, your brand is already providing access to the information they need, and they can trust it to be well-researched and verified.
Show That You Can Lead Your Community to Success
For a B2B service provider to establish a solid backlinking strategy requires more than just creating well-sourced content and linking to reliable sources. Establishing the validity and value of the B2B services content means that they have to start interacting with and communicating with the niche community they’ve chosen to operate within. Sharing articles and content across social media, showing a wider audience than your target market the value of your brand, and inviting readers to interact with, share, and even cite your content directly helps to create organic and meaningful backlinks to your digital real estate that search engines will place a lot of value on in determining your website’s SERP ranking.
Backlinking Is No Longer Just a Hyperlink
There’s a very telling element to the buzz surrounding the discussion on the current value of backlinking in SEO—dynamic content is in. And it’s true. Creating content on your website that includes multimedia, highly targeted through analytics, and innovative and informative is absolutely the current standard. However, dynamic content also implies that the playing field has become much larger in the last 10 years.
As Google has evolved, so too has the scope of the professional digital landscape. Backlinking evolved at a time when blogs and websites were the primary pipelines of customer traffic, but now that scope has expanded to include social media platforms, industry directories, review sites, and even Google’s own Google My Business. All of these are avenues for linking back to your website and provide an opportunity for you to establish your organization’s credibility and authority by linking to sites you find to be authoritative.
B2B Service Providers Need the Vote of Confidence Made Possible by Proper Backlinking
Google’s changes to its search engine functionality over the last several decades have forced marketing teams to make sweeping changes in their approach to help their clients remain relevant and competitive. A limited and outdated view of backlinking might solidify some marketers’ feelings that there is validity in the argument to phase out the practice. However, a more nuanced and informed take on the topic just shows that backlinking has changed and become a more powerful tool for B2B service providers to establish their authority in their industry niche of choice. Looking for a link-building service to help your brand or a content services provider to help you navigate your SEO successfully? UpCity’s B2B service provider directory is a great place to start.