What Are Backlinks?
by Jo Shaer, on February 18, 2013
So, here's how backlinks were viewed back in February 2013 before all the major algorithm updates kicked in.
Search engines see these back links as a sort of vote for your website, so the more votes (or links back to your site) the higher Google will rank the site - particularly against the words and phrases that you have chosen as the anchor text for those links.
Your effective Off-Page SEO strategy should be about human interaction in the form of backlinks.
Where to get backlinks
These can come from:
- Other Related Websites
- Social Bookmarking Sites
- Online Articles
- Press Releases
- Blog Posts
Imagine the familiar charts of the solar system? Well, the idea is to build up a mesh of links all coming back to your website - the sun at the centre of the universe.
As explained above, you should be looking to get backlinks from other blogs, related websites and forums, etc. You can also comment on other people's posts or videos - but make sure these are relevant and not spammy, generic rubbish which is more likely to get you banned from that blog. Alternatively, you can use social bookmarks to favourite your site's content so that it can be exposed to other interested parties.
You should be careful to control the rate at which backlinks are built. It's all about being natural. Sure, if you have one piece of content - usually video - that goes viral, you will get lots of links in quick succession but this probably wouldn't happen on a regular basis so links should be built at a slow and steady pace with the focus on relevance.
For example, if you are a handyman, you could look at hooking up with tool hire shops. They could link to you - for those customers who would actually prefer an expert to do the job. And you could link to them as a place to get great tools for the smaller jobs that are not worth you quoting for when the customer could do it themselves.
If you were a hotel or bed and breakfast, you could exchange links with other local businesses who provide entertainment and things to do in your town. It makes sense for you to promote each other to bring more people into the town to use both your businesses.
Quality and Variety are KEY! You will need lots of different types of backlinks from different websites, which means you can’t just get hundreds from one webpage or another website and think that your website will then dominate the rankings. This is where many website owners and SEO practitioners fall down. They work on the basis that the more backlinks they have, the higher they will rank for their keywords on Google's results pages. They try to scam Google with fake back links.
But Google has got wise to this and has started to put in place markers which highlight backlinking campaigns which do not look natural. They made several big changes to their algorithm last year - the most famous ones are Panda and Penguin - in an attempt to weed out these fakers and tricksters who were filling the front page of Google's SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) with websites which were very poor quality.
These fraudsters had worked out which words and phrases got the most searches in that industry and then designed websites around those keywords. But the resulting pages did not provide the promised information. They did not provide fulfilling answers to the question being asked in the search query - just a lot of nonsense with the keyword mentioned in it a few times. They made users frustrated and Google got angry.
Google's goal is to have SERPs which show their users the most up to date and most relevant content to answer a particular search query. If the scammers can get all ten places on that front page, it provides a very poor user experience and searchers will stop trusting Google as their number one search engine.
It wants well written content which answers the searchers enquiry with information that is current and on point. But it is also checking that these websites are linked to by similarly authoritative domains. Getting onto the front page for any particular search term is about having great content that has quality backlinks from other authority domains.
What are backlinks?
– These are backlinks which can be found in the content of a webpage. These are valuable because, if someone is reading an article on a page of a website and suddenly comes across a word or phrase that is of importance and which links back another website that gives more information on that subject, the reader is likely to click through - it gives this type of contextual backlink high visibility within the other written text on that page.
Search engines know this! The more of these type of backlinks, the better it will help your ranking. Again, having a relevant keyword in the anchor text will do you a lot of good in the eyes of the search engines. It tells them that the linking website is approving of your page's content on that word or phrase.
These are links which appear across the site. So, rather than being in the text on one particular page, these links are on every page that shows up to the reader - whether it's in the header, footer or sidebar.
These are entries on related directories - whether it's local listings or industry-specific listings. Most will have a premium section where you pay to get better visibility but, if you can get a hyperlink to your website included in a free entry that tells people about your business, you should grab the opportunity with both hands. This is a free backlink.
Free Backlinks on Social Media
This is one of the strategies that Google has now put in place to try to foil the tricksters. It is much harder to scam being a human being. You should always ensure that your website and individual blog posts give the opportunity for readers to share them on their own social media profiles.
This is often confused with getting people to like your Facebook page but is actually completely different. The little social media symbols that you see at the bottom of blogposts and pages which encourage you to like or share this on Facebook, to retweet, to stumble on StumbleUpon, to digg on Diggit, to share on LinkedIn. These are chances for a link to your website to appear in the newsfeeds of the friends of that reader. People are building you free backlinks on social media because you have provided a good read or something useful.