What is a backlink?
What’s the matter with backlinks? Every SEO forum and blog you stop constantly praising the function and necessity of backlinks, they must be a big deal! So what exactly are backlinks? In short, a backlink is a link to another website (external) that points to a page on your website. For example, a link on this page to a page on another website is a backlink to that web page.
How do backlinks help us rank?
Think of it this way: Backlinks are human references. In a way, we can control the pages that we, as internet users, want to display on the search results page (SERP) by linking to the content we like. Compared to other links, pages with higher link quality get a higher ranking. The part about quality is very important. This is not only about who has the most backlinks, but also where those links come from.
If you want to lose weight, would you be more willing to trust the opinion of some Joe Shmo or professional health experts? This principle applies to backlinks and how they affect our rankings. A link to a website established as an authority (such as a health expert) carries more weight than a link to someone commenting somewhere on a fitness forum. Google uses its advanced algorithm to weight these links and their value, then uses this data to decide how to rank your website / page. Your website doesn’t have to be a colossus to score high. Instead, you can get high rankings by getting quality backlinks from other authorized sites.
Let’s pretend our previous health experts told us that Joe Shmo really made some good points and his views are correct. Will we start to trust Joe Shmo more and see more value from his perspective? Likewise, if an authoritative health website links to Joe Shmo’s small niche site, Google may realize that Joe’s website may be more authoritative than they realize, and they will rank higher for it. The network is not managed by the computer. It is managed by humans, which is reflected in our online behavior and linking methods. Search engines know this and respond accordingly to try to provide us with the results we need and build our own results.
How do we get backlinks?
Now that we know the importance of backlinks and why they affect our rankings in this way, we need to figure out how to get backlinks. The full answer to this question can take hundreds of pages, so we will have a broad understanding of certain backlink strategies to better understand how to obtain high quality backlinks.
Unfortunately, backlinks are not as simple or straightforward as our health expert example above. You’re unlikely to get links from powerful permissions like CNN or Apple, but just create great content. Our technology will have to be like a guerrilla. This does not mean that the quality of the content is irrelevant, quite the contrary. The core of the upgrade and backlink strategy should be quality content. We assume you already know how to produce great content and continue backlinking.
There are many ways to get backlinks, and each one takes a little time to learn and master. I will not give you an in-depth introduction to a single backlink strategy, but instead provide you with a list of methods for obtaining backlinks. We will continue this SEO course by covering the principles of backlink management and how to measure its quality (knowledge that can be successfully applied to each individual backlink method). The following is a comprehensive list of methods of obtaining backlinks:
- Free blog (blog, wordpress, squidoo)
- Profile backlinks
- Blog comments
- Article marketing
- Press releases
- Social bookmarking
- Blog carnival
- Video marketing
- Forum comments
- Document publisher
- Podcast folder
- Software publisher
Each of these methods can be explored in depth to achieve the best results. For this SEO course we will introduce the factors that make up a good backlink.
Anchor text is clickable text in a hyperlink. For example, if you look at the links in the resource box of this article, the anchor text of one of the links is “SEO Course” and the other uses only the URL of my website as the anchor text.
Anchor text is very powerful and has a major impact on the effectiveness of backlinks. Positioning text allows search engines to quickly scroll through the content of another page, so you’ll want to use as many keywords and other keyword variants as possible. Google says over and over again, their goal is to provide the most relevant search results. This means having relevant content and having relevant backlinks pointing to your content. A relevant backlink appears to be very relatable to your keyword. The same factors that make any page relevant to a keyword are the factors that would make a backlink relevant to your keyword. For instance, an article with a good keyword density for your keyword and your keyword in your anchor text would be pretty relevant. To increase the relevance of any backlink you can use proper anchor text, surround the link with relevant text, and use a relevant title if possible.
The effect of PageRank on you rankings is often completely overrated. The honest truth is that PR is NOT that important in how well you rank for your keyword. It is but one of over 200 factors that affect your ranking and its value is often exaggerated. It’s always better to get backlinks from high PR pages when you can, but don’t place too much importance on it.
One really obvious misconception is that if the home page of a site has a high PR, then any page you get a link from on that domain is going to pass a lot of PageRank. For example, people who sell link packets sometimes tout how they have high PR forums you can get links from. This doesn’t make any sense at all because your link is not going to be on the home page. It is called PAGE Rank, not SiteRank – it’s right in the name! If you create a profile link on any forum, it’s going to be on your new profile page with a PR 0. Getting links from High PageRank pages (pages – not sites) is great and definitely helpful, but it’s not the holy grail to ranking .
Nofollow Vs. “Dofollow”
Another factor that affects links is whether or not they have the nofollow link element applied to them. The nofollow link attribute was created to tell Google to ignore certain links. In essence these would be links to sites that you aren’t completely comfortable linking out to. Google states that the nofollow tag should be used for links that are paid or lead to untrusted content. Also, they are a little vague about how they crawl nofollow links. They say that they generally do not, but they do sometimes: / (I know right?) So what does this mean for our backlinking?
Google states very clearly that nofollow links do NOT pass anchor text or PR. Matt Cutts, Google’s outspoken web spam engineer, has also said plainly that there is no SEO benefit in a nofollow link. He might have said that in an effort to slow down people spamming sites / pages with nofollow links, or he might have been completely truthful. We can’t really tell, so I’ll let you be the judge.
So do we care or not if a backlink is nofollow? Here’s a logical way to decide which links will be worth your time:
When blog commenting, if you come across a blog, and all the comments are “nofollowed” ask yourself this: Will I get traffic from this link? If the answer is yes then post a comment, if not, you might want to just move on. Don’t forget – the whole point of doing SEO is to get targeted traffic, so why would you ever turn down targeted traffic just because a link is nofollow? I will still leave comments on blogs that use nofollow on comment links, but only if there are signs of decent traffic on the blog.
Indexing Our Links
The last thing you need to know about backlinks is that they need to get indexed. Search engines won’t give you credit for a link they don’t know exists. You need to get one of their spiders / bots to the page with your backlink on it so that they crawl your link and find that it leads to your site. There are two easy (and FREE) ways to go about getting your links indexed.
1) Social Bookmarking
Social bookmarking sites get crawled constantly by the search engines. When you post a bookmark on one, you’re link will likely be crawled in a matter of hours. It really is that easy. Of course, you can never guarantee anything that Google or other search engines will do, but you’re link / page is more than likely to be indexed in a relatively short period of time with just a bookmark or two.
The actual technical process of pinging isn’t important to us. Put simply, pinging notifies the search engines that you have new content, and in response, they crawl that new content. This is another fast and effective way to get your backlinks indexed. There are a number of good, free pinging services, but the one I use most is pingomatic.com
SEO Course Conclusion
Backlinks are essential to getting the top rankings that you desire. They give your site authority and relevance in the eyes of the search engines. Backlinking doesn’t have to be a dry, tedious process, nor does it need to be confusing and complicated.