Backlinks: What are they & should you be using them?

Apr 4, 2024

Image of a link against a rainbow background

You know that SEO is the key to making your website stand out. A healthy SEO strategy includes numerous on- and off-page optimizations. Backlinks are just one of the many things that factor into your SEO, but since it’s something we’re asked about, we thought we would break it down in a blog post.

So, what are backlinks, and should you be using them?

The short answer is that backlinks are links that point back to your website from other locations, and they are helpful with SEO. The most important thing to know is that, if you’re doing SEO well, backlinks will occur naturally.

Keep reading to learn more about backlinking as a component of off-page SEO. You’ll learn a little about the history of backlinks and find out why the emphasis on backlinking has decreased in recent years.

For apartment leasing sites, getting the right traffic is crucial, so it’s important to understand all the potential strategies that will drive renters to your website. Incorporating backlinks is one way to do so.

According to Semrush, a backlink is a link that one website gets from another that helps enhance your SEO performance. Using backlinks as an off-page SEO strategy helps give your site more credibility and rank in the eyes of search engines like Google. When search engines see another site linking to yours, they take that as a sign of trust and authority.

“Backlinks as a signal has a lot less significant impact compared to when Google Search first started out many years ago. We have robust ranking signals, hundreds of them, to make sure that we are able to rank the most relevant and useful results for all queries,” said Duy Nguyen from Google’s Search Quality Team.

For your own apartment leasing sites, you can create a backlink within the narratives by hyperlinking a word or phrase that takes the user to a separate, external site. On the other hand, you can receive a backlink when another site creates a link that goes back to your own site. Both creating and receiving backlinks help with search rankings.

Backlinks are different from interlinking, which is when the linked phrases are all within the same property domain. That is, a link on your site would connect to another page on the same site, for example when the amenities page links back to the homepage.

Both backlinking and interlinking can be beneficial tactics to incorporate into your website optimization strategies. Before considering using backlinks in your apartment websites, let’s take a look at some history and how their effectiveness has changed over time.

Around 10 years ago, backlinks were the king in SEO. Search engines placed emphasis on how many backlinks your website received, so essentially, the more links you had, the more you had established a level of credibility in the eyes of Google.

When people discovered that placing simple links in their site could boost their SEO and search ranking, they began placing as many links as possible into their site narratives. So much that they actually exploited Google’s affinity for backlinks. And of course, Google was smart and able to detect this. While backlinks used to reign as an SEO signal, over time, Google depreciated their value.

Eventually, Google had an algorithm update that changed the focus of the backlinking strategy as a whole. Rather than viewing backlinks as valuable in terms of quantity, the algorithm shift revealed the importance of high-quality links instead.

Because search engines now view excessive linking as an artificial way to increase your site’s position and ranking in search results, it is important as SEO experts to put strategic effort into the process. We must be wary of black hat SEO specialists who are attempting to “trick” Google because this can ultimately result in poor user experience and can hurt websites in the long run.

It is now crucial to focus on quality backlinks over quantity to bring value to your site and appeal to Google’s updated ranking algorithm. This means, only linking to sites you trust, making sure the link naturally folds into your off-page strategy and not stuffing keywords with as many links as possible.

At REACH, we primarily focus on building backlinks from business directories and social media, utilizing Yext and Google Search Console. These platforms allow us to partner with a variety of business directories, see the gross volume of links that each site has and actively get your property onto other relevant sites.

Considerations for apartment marketers

Do you need to add backlinking as an extra SEO strategy to have a successful site? No.

Backlinking is an extra tactic that can be considered. However, we believe you can primarily focus your energy and effort on other, more important SEO strategies instead. It is more valuable to spend time creating high-quality page content that aligns with user intent and utilizing location-based keywords.

Our REACH agency does not have a specific backlinking strategy. Rather, we focus our attention elsewhere and rely on platforms like Yext to help manage business directory listings.

In apartment marketing, it’s important to appeal to our target market — renters — in our on-page strategies, focusing on quality page narratives and implementing effective keywords. With this in mind, it’s OK to not focus on backlinking as a primary SEO strategy.

If you do decide to establish some links for an extra search boost, here are some tips:

  • DON’T pay for links
    You should never have to pay to create or receive a backlink from an external site.
  • DON’T put too much time and energy into it
    The time that it takes to establish quality over quantity backlinks is not worth the SEO boost that you’ll get in the long run, so focus your efforts elsewhere.
  • DON’T rely on blogging
    Blogging takes a lot of time and effort, so unless you have other reasons to blog, it’s not worth going this route for backlinks alone. If you are going to post blogs, link back to your own site pages.
  • DO focus on social media profile backlinks
    Social media has high domain authority and are well-trusted by Google and other search engines. These links are more valuable than any other links from any other site you have.
  • DO consider our industry
    Make sure that listings link back to the website organically and that the information on the listing actually matches what’s on the website (or else this will depreciate the value).

Final thoughts

While backlinking can be a helpful strategy to boost your site’s search ranking, it’s a delicate process that marketers need to implement carefully or else risk being flagged by Google.

As Gretchen Walker, REACH agency manager, stated in a recent educational session, “The less effort you put into it, the better off you’ll be. If you get SEO correct in the first place, the backlinking is folded into it naturally.”

Nina Breister

Nina Breister is a content intern with REACH by RentCafe at Yardi. She engages in SEO copywriting, content creation and social media management with the West Region Search Team. Nina is a student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and originally from San Diego.

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