Spend enough time learning about SEO, and you will almost certainly stumble across some practitioner of the dark SEO arts telling you that you need backlinks if you want to rank.
They’re not necessarily wrong, but they are almost certainly going to break some rules and risk your site’s ability to rank if you pay them to get you backlinks.
But there’s a better way — a way that gets you natural backlinks that won’t leave you with a penalty from Google. It’s all about linking intent.
Never heard of it? No worries — it’s what this post is about. Keep reading.
The Basics of Linking Intent
Publishing content that targets keywords with linking intent can generate backlinks for your website, which is likely to improve your search engine rankings across the board. That sentence probably contains a few SEO terms of art that warrant some explanation. Let’s define exactly what we’re talking about here.
What Is a Backlink?
A backlink is a link from a website that isn’t yours that points to your site. Backlinks and related factors like quantity, quality, anchor text and link velocity have long been known as SEO ranking factors. That’s because Google and other search engines understand the internet by following links.
A backlink pointing to your website is like a vote for your site. Somebody thought your content was good enough to link to in their content, and that has to count for something. Because SEO is so competitive and valuable when it works, whole companies have sprung up around the concept of generating backlinks for websites.
What Is Search Intent?
Search intent refers to the intent of the search engine user when they type a particular query in. In other words, it defines what the user is expecting to find when they search something on Google.
There are four widely recognized types of search intent:
Informational. The user is seeking information. Example queries include “what does a content writer do” and “who was the 32nd president of the U.S.”
Transactional. The user is wanting to buy something. Example queries include “purchase blog subscription” and “Jiffy Lube oil change coupon.”
Commercial investigation. The user is considering making a purchase but is seeking more information before moving forward. Example queries include “Tesla vs Toyota Prius” and “best copywriting services.”
Navigational. The user is looking for a particular website. Example queries include “Facebook” and “PayPal login.”
Linking intent is a hidden fifth type of search intent. We’ll explore it in more detail below.
About Linking Intent
A keyword with linking intent is one that the user enters while looking for something to link to in their own content. In web content writing, writers know to link to their sources. They also head straight to Google when they need to back up a point or illustrate an idea with hard facts or numbers.
When you’re targeting linking intent, you want your content to show up when people who are writing web content are looking for sources. The idea, of course, is that they will link to your content, creating a backlink to your website.
Why Targeting Link Intent Matters
Why should you devote the necessary time and resources to creating content that is good enough to link to? A few reasons:
Companies that specialize in getting other websites to link to websites like yours charge a lot of money because they know how valuable backlinks are. And if you find a company that is selling cheap backlinks, you can almost guarantee that the quality will be low.
And Against the Rules
Let’s not forget that Google has explicitly banned exchanging money, goods or services for links. They have programmed the search engine’s algorithm to detect paid backlinks, and they also employ manual reviewers who are looking for link schemes.
If you get caught, your site can be penalized, which means you might lose all or many of your existing keyword rankings.
To be clear, Google is relatively transparent about the ranking power of backlinks. They just say that they need to occur naturally:
“Creating good content pays off: Links are usually editorial votes given by choice, and the more useful content you have, the greater the chances someone else will find that content valuable to their readers and link to it.”
Couldn’t have said it better. And creating content that targets linking intent is one effective way of doing exactly what Google is recommending here.'
How to Create ‘Linkable’ Content
Let’s say you’re convinced of the power of targeting linking intent, and you’ve decided to implement this strategy to get backlinks. How, exactly, are you supposed to convince other websites to link to yours without paying them?
It’s simple: Capitalize on your expertise and/or data. As a business owner, you have a certain level of expertise in your industry. You likely also have mountains of data that you could use to create content that satisfies linking search intent.
For example, if you’re a Salt Lake City real estate agency owner, you have hard numbers about all of the home sales your agency has facilitated in the SLC area. You can use that data to create statistics that would be interesting to particular publications and websites.
Then, publish an article that includes those statistics, and target a relevant keyword that has some search volume. In this example, a good keyword target might be “Salt Lake City real estate statistics,” which is searched around 170 times per month on average.
Statistics are a good starting point, but you can target linking intent with any hard facts or statistics that are specific to your business or expertise.
Looking for Link-Worthy Content?
Creating content that generates natural backlinks for your site is hard work. The top content writers at Hire a Writer know that because we do it all the time. It’s worth the investment, but many website and business owners simply don’t have the time or writing skills to create content that truly targets linking intent.
You’re busy running your business, and we’re busy creating link-worthy content. Sounds like a great match. If you’re interested in working with Hire a Writer, just reach out.