Not too long ago, I wrote an article titled "Five Reasons Why Your Website Doesn't Generate Leads." In it, I talked about some of the major mistakes that I see builders and other contracting professionals make when building their websites. Things like a lack of visibility, unprofessional or nonexistent portfolio photos, missing calls to action, and more all play a far more important role in a website's success than most people realize.

The general theme is that if your website isn't ranking on Google, it's likely not generating leads, which means that you're also not generating revenue and meeting your goals. Therefore, addressing these five points one by one is a great way to solve the lion's share of your problems, essentially all at the same time.

But thinking about it, there's another reason why your contracting website isn't ranking that also happens to be the one that most people just don't think about at all. More specifically, backlinks are a critical part of your website's success—and possibly a major contributing factor to its less-than-stellar results—that you need to pay more attention to moving forward.

Backlinks: What They Are and Why They Matter

For those unfamiliar, a backlink is exactly what it sounds like: a link from one website to another. In this case, it's when someone else on the Internet includes a link to your business' website on their website.

The classic example of this involves what happens if you reach out to a thought influencer in your industry to write a guest post for a blog (like these articles I write for Builder Online.) At the end of the blog they include a link to your website. 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 important.

It's very, very hard to rank highly for your target keywords if you don’t have backlinks. Search engine optimization (SEO) experts agree that backlinks are one of the biggest factors built into Google's algorithm as it relates to organic search. When you consider that organic search accounted for roughly 94% of ALL organic traffic in 2017 alone, it's easy to see why this is something you need to care about.

Common Misconceptions About Backlinks

Having said all of that, it's equally important for you to understand that not all backlinks are created equally. Simply 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 HGTV because you gave an interview or wrote a blog post.

Those big websites (with HGTV being just one example) have massive amounts of daily and monthly traffic, bringing with it a high domain authority as well. Your friend's website probably doesn't meet either of those two characteristics.

Domain authority, also sometimes referred to as thought leadership, describes the relevance of a particular website for a specific subject area or industry. A lot goes into determining how authoritative a domain actually is, including:

  • The prestige of a website or, conversely, of 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; and
  • The competitive situation around the topic or subject at hand.

In other words, backlinks that come from websites with high domain authority naturally "count" more in the eyes of Google because major search engines always consider the source.

To add clarity, I often use this analogy. 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).

In search engine ranking, a few backlinks from high domain authority sites that people in your target audience actually trust and care about will always outweigh the former. It's about quality, not quantity, after all.

Now that you know the difference between a high domain authority site and a low domain authority site, you are armed to ask the right questions when hiring an SEO company. You need to make sure the SEO company you hire is building high-quality backlinks on websites with high domain authority.

Sadly, there are SEO companies out there who have created blogs for the express purpose of creating backlinks for SEO clients. Unfortunately, those blogs have no traffic and low domain authority. As a client of theirs, it seems great that they are getting you backlinks, but those backlinks can actually hurt your website’s ranking more than they help.

You should ALWAYS ask any SEO provider that you're considering working with the names of the sites where they will create backlinks and ask them to verify the domain authority for those sites. If you don't recognize the names of the sites—or worse, if they don't know what you're talking about—keep looking.

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 double down 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 in some other way. Take the time to build meaningful relationships with other people and earn those backlinks the good, old-fashioned way.

Note that this isn't something that is going to happen overnight, but that's OK because the long game is much more important, here. Backlinks have a tendency to generate their own momentum, and the more positive attention you're able to create for yourself, the more links you'll be able to generate as a result.