Back To Backlinks: Why They Still Matter To SEO
What works in SEO is always changing. That’s why it’s important for web marketers to constantly work on learning new aspects of SEO, which in some cases are old SEO techniques that are actually still relevant.
What are backlinks?
A backlink is beautifully simple – it’s when an external website links back to yours. It’s just that straightforward.
Well, maybe not that straightforward. Not all backlinks are created equal.
What Google is looking for in backlinks is legitimacy. The more sites that link to yours, the more confident Google’s algorithm can be that your site is offering content that’s valuable to other people. Think of backlinking as essentially modern day word of mouth. Traditional word of mouth works best when it comes from sources that can be trusted. In the digital world, the higher ranked and therefore more trusted the page is that’s linking to your site, the higher your own site ranking will be.
When you think about it, that makes a lot of sense. The web is full of sites that don’t offer much of anything and one of the biggest tasks of search engines is to weed out the junk and bring only quality websites to the top of the heap. Backlinks offer search engines a quantifiable way to measure how well other people on the internet think of you. The more backlinks, the more well respected the site.
In this age of fake news, it’s more important than ever for search engines like Google and Facebook to determine which websites are legitimate and which websites are not. Making that determination is no small task, as so much of the information that’s housed on the web is subject to personal opinion.
Important points about backlinking
There are all kinds of ways to backlink to a website, and not all of them are necessarily created equal. Getting the right number of backlinks from the right kinds of sources is the key to success in SEO in general.
Total number of backlinks is important.
Which pages those backlinks come from plays into the equation, but so does the sheer number of backlinks that a given website has. More is more is more. In terms of volume, backlink quantity is a goal that websites can comfortably work towards with confidence that getting more links out there is going to improve ranking.
Quality backlinks are just as important and lots of backlinks.
As was mentioned earlier, where backlinks link from is critical. One link from a high authority site better for SEO than one hundred links from low authority sites. Again, search engines are looking for legitimacy. The higher the page rank and site rank of the website that’s linking to your website, the bigger the boost your site will get from that link that directs back to you.
Higher ranked pages are in the whole going to have fewer backlinks coming out of them, which means that this is an exclusive club to get into.
Anchor text linking is still debatable.
A hotly debated issue since the last Penguin update from Google is whether links need to be from anchor text in order to have a massive impact. Exact match text links can in fact be a hindrance to ranking following a crackdown in that last update from Google. In general, backlinking from anchor text can be useful, but since the crackdown it doesn’t offer the same power packed SEO punch that it once did, so it’s not worth focusing on if you’re wanting to build your website’s profile in search.
Backlink acquisition is hard work.
There is no easy way to go about getting backlinks. There’s no secret trick, no magic formula here. Building a library of highly ranked sites that link back to yours takes a great deal of effort and resources. Valuable content is one key – no one is going to want to link to your site if you don’t have useful information on it. Getting great content up involves putting a lot of love into what you’re sharing with the world.
Another important piece of the backlink acquisition process is ensuring that your site is technically optimized. Working on your site to make sure that everything is working properly at all times means that when a high authority site does link to yours that it’s going to go somewhere that’s in good working order. If potential linking sites find that you’ve got issues with the technical end, they’re not going to be inclined to link to you because they want to offer value to their visitors.
Backlink acquisition requires legwork and relationship building. For sites to link to yours, you’ll have to reach out to them. That might be through guest posting, social media, comments, etc. There are lots of ways to build backlinks, some of them bought and others organic. Organic backlinking is almost always better than paid backlinking.
Building backlinks is time consuming.
This isn’t an instant fix for improving SEO, it takes time. A LOT of time. You’re looking at several months before you see any real fruition from the hard work that you put in. Again, that makes sense from a legitimacy standpoint. If you’re a site that is going to offer real value to end users, you should be around for a while. Google wants to see that, and one powerful way to show it is through backlinking. There are no shortcuts here, and if you’re ever tempted by a site who says that they can offer you shortcuts for a price, beware.
Backlinking isn’t going anywhere
Backlinking offers a way to test the legitimacy of a website in a fundamentally useful way. If a broad range of sites that have established legitimacy are linking to a specific website, then it can be assumed that the website being linked too is also legitimate. If a site is linked repeatedly within a niche, then search engines can safely assume that the content is relevant. That beautiful, simple logic is the reason that backlinks continue to be an important part of the SEO process, and will continue to be relevant for the foreseeable future.