The first 6 things to do with backlinks (for an absolute SEO beginner)

Aime Cox-Tennant, founder of Studio Cotton website design studio, gives a masterclass in how to get on track with a successful SEO backlink strategy

Aime Cox-Tennant sitting in a stylish office. She has curly light hair, rounded glasses, and is wearing a floaty tiered dress and beige lace up boots.
Aime Cox-Tennant

Do you want more visits to your small business website? Ok, that’s a silly question because I know ya do – which means that I also know that you already love a bit of SEO.

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is all about optimising your small business website for search engines like Google, so that they send as many of their searchers your way as possible.

Now Google analyses a tonne of different factors to decide how high and how often a website will rank in its search results – but today I want to just about just one: your backlinks.

Backlinks can be the stifler or the booster of all your SEO efforts. You can tick every other SEO checkbox out there – but without backlinks you can still find yourself falling afoul of Google, so here’s ​​the first 6 things to do with backlinks (for an absolute SEO beginner).

    1. Understand the SEO benefits of backlinks

    Google uses the connections between websites to better understand the context and authority of your small business. A backlink – which is a link from any other website to your website – is like a little stamp of approval that says a metaphorical “my business can vouch for your business”.

    By casually dropping in that you can read more of my blogs over on the Studio Cotton blog, I’ve created a backlink in an article about websites and SEO from Bristol Markets to Studio Cotton. 

    This is a top-tier backlink for Studio Cotton as Bristol Markets has a tonne in common with my business –  it’s focused on small businesses and based in Bristol. Not only am I getting a stamp of approval, but Google has evidence that I probably have something to do with SEO and websites and Small Business and I probably have something to do with Bristol too.

    There’s a common misconception that the best backlinks are from the biggest, busiest websites. That’s only kinda true, sure, the links from these websites might have the biggest impact – but – let’s say that Studio Cotton gets a shoutout on the Pfizer website in an article about treatments for vitamin D deficiency. 

    What would that tell Google? That we have something to do with pharmaceuticals and vitamin D according to an absolutely massive website. Well, we don’t, but that rogue, big backlink could heavenly sway Google’s impression of my business in the totally wrong direction.

    Prioritise relevance; focus more of your time on building SEO backlinks from websites that have a similar subject matter and/or target audience to your own.

    2. Run your website through a backlink checker (regularly)

    There are a tonne of free backlink checkers you can use to see who is linking back to your small business website, as well as Google Search Console.

    My personal go-to is the ahrefs backlink checker – it can be a little iffy with Shopify websites, but in general this tool is super handy for that quick, top-level look at a website’s backlinks.

    It also gives a website a score out of 100 for ‘Domain Rating, a rough estimate for how much SEO power a website has, based on backlinks. 

    It’s a great way to monitor if you’re in that stifling or boosting territory I mentioned earlier. In my experience, a Domain Rating of less than 10 will be majorly suppressing a website’s SEO potential.

    Checking in with your backlinks and that Domain Rating score let’s you know how urgently you need to focus on backlink building, and if your efforts are paying off.

    3. Add your own backlinks to other websites

    One of the easiest ways to get backlinks and boost your SEO is to just do it yourself. These self-managed backlinks can come from all kinds of places – your Etsy shop, your Pinterest profile, even the Thompson Local directory – basically any website where your business has a profile.

    My tip is to keep an eye out for when other websites allow you to add links into longer blocks of text. I grabbed myself some backlinks by dropping a mention of our blog into our bio on (the platform we use to manage our membership) and mentions in the descriptions for every event we’ve ever listed on Eventbrite.

    4. Get on your contacts’ websites

    So you can get backlinks two ways – you can create them yourself, or you can get someone else to create them. Boy-oy-boy is it a lot easier when that someone else is someone you already know.

    We’ve already published a couple of blogs on this, so make sure to check out 7 simple and free SEO backlink building tips using only your existing contacts and relationships and our follow up, 6 ways to create mutually beneficial SEO blog content with your small business mates.

    5. Jump on press & PR opportunities

    Now comes one of the trickiest and potentially the most rewarding kind of backlinks, those that come from press & PR.

    Blog features, magazine articles, podcast spots, interviews, contributions, public speaking – all of these and more have the potential to create some juicy SEO backlinks from big and relevant websites.

    I’m not a PR expert, so as to how you grab these opportunities – I’m very much still learning myself. I will share one of the best tips I’ve ever heard from the wonderful Rosie, founder of PR Dispatch

    Keep an eye on #journorequests on Twitter (seriously, bookmark that link) – it’s where a lot of journalists pop shoutouts for sources and contributions.

    I can thank this one for my feature in a Courier article on Instagram as a marketing tool, which bumped our Domain Rating up 8 whole points.

    6. Find out where your competitors are getting their backlinks

    Ya know that backlink checker you can use to monitor your own backlink building progress? You can run your competitors through that bad boy too.

    This will help you find backlink building opportunities like niche directories, industry blogs, press contacts, potential collaborators, and even more of those self-managed backlinks too. 

    So there’s your beginners guide to backlinks and a few helpful backlink building ideas to get started. If you’d like even more bitesize small business advice and website help, make sure to follow @studio.cotton on Instagram, and bookmark the Studio Cotton blog.

    About Aime Cox-Tennant

    Aime Cox-Tennant of Studio Cotton, in her office.
    Aime Cox-Tennant

    Aime Cox-Tennant is the founder of Studio Cotton, a website design company that works exclusively for small businesses. From her studio in central Bristol, Aime creates heaps of practical and accessible website help and advice available via @studio.cotton on Instagram, the Studio Cotton blog, and the Studio Cotton Clubhouse

    Photos: Georgia de Lotz

    If you found this article interesting, why not check out our Blog pages for small business tips, Meet the Maker, Indie Friday and more!


    Bristol Market

    We support independent and ethical brands across the UK – check our directory for inspiration to treat yourself or a loved one. We help you shop for ethical gifts that were made with care, love and the planet in mind.