Backlinks are an important piece in modern day search engine optimization (SEO).
Bloggers and webmasters who fail to understand the value of backlinks and the value it provides remain in a perpetual state of oblivion. No successful website was or can ever be built without optimal usage of backlinks. This article examines what a backlink is and how to go about realizing its full potential.
What Are Backlinks?
A backlink is a web link pointing to a page or website under reference. Backlink is a digital age term created by combining ‘back’ and ‘link’. So, in simple words it’s a link pointing back to a website under discussion. As you might guess from a technical standpoint a ‘backlink’ is still a link.
Once upon a time when search engines were not smarter than humans backlinks were even more important than they are now. The number of backlinks pointing to a website was considered as a metric of how many people/institutions consider a particular page as important. The more the number of backlinks, the higher was the deemed value of a page. The smart bloggers and webmasters started using this flaw to their advantage by creating ‘artificial backlinks‘. An artificial backlink, as opposed to organic backlink, is one that is created through some sort of coercion.
As the evolutionary war between search engines and content producers progressed the search engines got smart enough to figure out an artificial/coerced/fake backlink. Nowadays the search engines impose severe penalties on fake backlinks. For example, if you are blogging about politics it will be a terrible idea to have your backlink on a programming blog. After all, reasons Google, why should programming and politics mix? Therefore, a site with lots of artificial backlinks is automatically demoted in the rankings, defeating the purpose of the whole artificial link creation exercise. In a nutshell, in today’s world a blogger trying to create artificial backlinks is nothing short of suicidal.
Some search engines have now taken this evolutionary race to next level by cataloging all websites that are known to indulge in backlink malpractices. You would be doomed if your website were to figure on one of these websites.
Decoding SEO Jargon: Must Know Terms
When a website A contains a link to another website B, A is said to pass ‘link juice’ to B. In the eyes of Google, the great, this is akin to A sharing its goodwill with B. Therefore, if website A is a hot favorite of the search engine, the ratings of B rises as well.
Many a times a webpage contains links to another website but the author doesn’t want to pass on the link juice. This is achieved by embedding the no-follow tag (rel=”no-follow”) in the html code of the link.
With the rapid rise of social media, a new kind of implicit no-follow link has emerged. This is a backlink which does not have the code rel=”no-follow” in the html source but still search engines don’t consider it relevant for ranking pages. A nice example of this kind of implicit no-follow links is the links to a website from its Facebook page or its Twitter handle. Whereas search engines attach a lot of value to people sharing the links on your social media page, the links on the page by themselves don’t count. So, if nobody is sharing your links they are as bad as dead.
A do-follow link is a ‘regular’ link that passes link juice. There are no special tags there. A modern day webmaster should use do-follow links very very judiciously.
Linked Root Domain Count
Linked Root Domain Count is a count of unique websites as opposed to unique webpages backlinking to another website. If a website A has 100 pages backlinking to website B, A will still count as 1 linked root domain.
A link to some other location (page or section of a page) within the same website is called an internal link. Internal links help reduce the bounce rate and increase the time visitors spend on a website.
Anchor text is the phrase that is used for a link. It is primarily used for keyword targeting. If there are a large number of backlinks to a particular page with a particular keyword, the backlinked page will rank better for that particular keyword.
Managing Your Backlinks
Managing your backlinks continues to be one of the main cornerstones of modern day SEO strategy. Here are five most important points about backlink management –
- Never try to artificially create backlinks. This is especially true for backlinks created on websites in unrelated area.
- Try to create high-quality content that meets real needs of real people. This will help you create organic traffic and increase your traffic manifold.
- If you are just starting out with your blog or site and you are not hosting on Google, it’s all the more important for you to get high quality organic backlinks. These backlinks inform search engines that a new kid has arrived on the blog. New websites that fail to generate backlinks may take up to a month to get discovered by Google. This discovery is faster if you are hosting your website on a Google platform such as Blogger (Blgospot, to be more precise).
- If you are an eCommerce store or shop you should focus harder on backlinks. In an eCommerce setting typically many vendors are selling the same product. Moreover, product descriptions, prices and reviews also tend to be similar, if not identical. So, as far as a search engine is concerned it’s the same content that is repeated on multiple eCommerce stores. The point of difference than boils down to backlinks. An eCommerce store having high quality backlinks will definitely fare better (at least in terms of traffic) than the competitors.
- In modern day SEO the quantity of backlinks is far less important than the quality. A single high quality backlink can be a thousand times better than thousand low quality backlinks. In fact, if the backlinks are of real poor quality they can damage the reputation of your website, sometimes irreparably. So focus on high quality backlinks rather than lots of backlinks.
Generating High Quality Backlinks
A lot of webmasters constantly keep asking – How do I get high quality backlinks for my blog or website?
Here are five proven ways of generating backlinks for your websites –
- Produce quality content that solves real problems of real people
- Participate in discussion forums or on Q & A websites related to your domain
- Harness the power of social media
- Think beyond Google
- (Don’t) Submit your URLs to web directories
1. Produce quality content
This is the most important aspect of organic backlink building. As search engines continue to evolve and grow more intelligent, the importance of quality content will keep growing. It’s quite conceivable that eventually nothing else will matter in backlink building except high quality content.
Since high quality content is the backbone of all successful online ventures, we will spend some more trying to define it. High quality content doesn’t necessarily that it’s scholarly content. Nor does it mean that the content you post be breakthrough inventions. Before preparing and posting content take a moment to think about your potential audience. What do they need, what format suits them best and what would impress them enough to come back to your website again.
2. Participate in discussion forums and on Q & A websites
Posting useful backlinks to your websites in a relevant context is perhaps the only other way apart from quality content to gain powerful backlinks. This methodology of creating backlinks relies on posting links to your webpages in response to questions posted by other users. Note that modern day Q & A websites such as Quora.com & StackOverflow.com are smart enough to distinguish good responses from bad ones. Therefore, don’t even think about spamming. To get a long lasting powerful backlink your link must be a coherent part of response that answers a query.
3. Harness the power of social media
With most users on internet joining the social media bandwagon, the search engines have changed their algorithms to attach more weight-age to social media. Links on your social media homepage don’t count as backlinks, but if they go viral search engines start attaching a lot of value to those backlinks. Also note that not all social media are equal. Facebook & Twitter are first among equals. Many researchers believe that Twitter is more future-proof. Therefore, if you just enough resources to manage one social medium, make it Twitter. Some research points to a hypothesis that Facebook is more effective in generating traffic than Twitter. Some of other popular social media that you can consider include Tumblr, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram.
4. Think beyond Google
Google is the dominant search engine. It has been so for as long memory serves us and is likely to remain the dominant force for a long time in future. Other search engines are also-rans and fail to pose any major challenge to Google. Nevertheless, 2 to 3 % of search engine traffic comes from these search engines such as Bing. If you are the David facing Goliath, this can be easy picking for you. Most large and successful websites focus on Google to the extent that they stop caring about other search engines. You can boost your traffic by getting traffic from smaller search engines. For example, a backlink for wordpress.com website might be deemed more valuable by Bing search engine than by Google.
5. (Don’t) Submit your URLs to web directories
Once upon a time submitting your webpages to web directories used to be part and parcel of every effective SEO strategy. Nowadays it’s suicidal to submit your URLs to any web directory. In fact, if your URLs appear in some of the bad web directories, Google may club you with spammy websites and severely hurt your rankings. In a nutshell, in the era of Google Penguin algorithm it makes no sense whatsoever to submit your URLs anywhere.
It must be pointed out here that there is exactly one place where you MUST submit your URLs. That ‘web directory’ is Google Webmasters. This is the reason why Don’t has be placed in parenthesis in the title above. Submitting your web pages to any other directory is most likely going to do more harm than good to your business.
Backlinks are an important piece in SEO. In this article I have tried to highlight the most basic essential elements of backlink management. Managing backlinks properly is the key distinguishing factor between a thriving and failing online venture. Failure to adhere to the principles is likely to be catastrophic to websites. Hopefully the ways of generating quality backlinks described here will help your online venture get more organic traffic.