What is a backlink?
A backlink is an incoming hyperlink from one web page to another website.
Search engines, like Google, see a backlink as an endorsement for your website.
Why do backlinks matter?
Google use backlinks as part of their authority score calculation. If a relevant website links to your content, your content is seen as noteworthy, and so more credible when it comes to responding to a search.
In other words, high quality backlinks can help to improve your ranking position within search engine results.
How do backlinks work?
Think of backlinks as a chat amongst websites.
Jane is a blogger, and she writes an article about a wellbeing event in London.
Another blogger, Sam, is writing about a wellbeing modality, and references Jane’s article as it adds depth to a point he was making. He adds a link so that his readers can find out more about the event without the point of his blog getting side-tracked.
Sam writes for a well-known Health and Wellbeing magazine, so other bloggers read, refer to and link to his blog, which is good for the magazine website authority. Jane wins a backlink from a reputable site, which in turn is good for her website authority.
Do Follow and No Follow backlinks
Figure 1: Source WPBeginner
You can create a link to another website, but tell Google not to follow the link – the link works, but the exchange is ignored from an authority score perspective.
Do follow are the valuable backlinks as these work towards your authority score, and improve your chances of getting higher up the Google rankings.
Are backlinks “Black Hat” SEO?
If you try and fight nature with quick fixes, your garden will often fade. If you work with nature and nurture your plants, your garden will flourish.
There are plenty of SEO tactics that work with the Google system, however, when SEO tactics, including backlink building, try to “cheat the Google algorithm”, you are in dangerous territory as you may fall foul of the Webmaster Quality Guidelines.
Search engines such as Google and Bing, apply these guidelines, and are expressly clear about which practices go against their terms & conditions. They punish transgressions by downgrading your authority score, and may even de-index your site (i.e. make it invisible on Google).
What backlink tactics should be avoided?
“Good” backlinks are earned – they are editorial votes of trust between websites, so “link farms” should be avoided.
In their article about black hat SEO, SEMRush cite the following backlink tactics as toxic:
- Paid (sponsored) links that don’t contain a rel=”nofollow” or rel=”sponsored” attribute
- Excessive link exchanges
- Blog comment spam
- Forum spam
- Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns
- Automated link building
- Spammy directories, bookmarking sites, and web 2.0 properties
- Site-wide footer or sidebar links
- Links that use exact match or commercial anchor text
What are high quality backlinks?
The best backlinks are editorially earned, from a relevant, authoritative website and not paid for or sponsored.
Top 10 tips for getting high quality backlinks
Backlink building takes time and effort, but the gains are worth it when you get it right.
- Make sure your content is link-worthy. If you are asking people to link to what you are saying, your content needs to be relevant to them and have something special about it. Remember, keep it focused – quality is more important than quantity.
- Check that your Social Media profiles have links to your Website
- Search online for one of your best blogs. See what comes up in search and improve and expand on the content accordingly. If your blog comes up top of the list, more people will refer to it
- “List”, “How to” and “Why” format posts win more backlinks, as do posts with infographics and embedded video
- When you link to another website, let them know that you have mentioned them in a blog you’ve written, and ask them for a backlink mention in return
- Apply to be featured on Resource sites – curated link lists (e.g. Information sections for local online magazines)
- Link your recent blogs together with a “Pillar Article” which gives the context for everything you are talking about. Bloggers like linking to these Ultimate Guides as they add depth and perspective to what they are saying in their content
- Write guest blogs or testimonials with links back to your site for other people
- Consider who the influencers are in your industry or niche and contact them to invite them for an interview with you, or tell them about an blog on your site that they may be interested in linking to
- If you sell branded products, ask your suppliers for a backlink to your site. If you don’t, ask any associations that you belong to if you can be added to their directory (e.g. Local Chamber of Commerce)
Additional Pro resources :
How to check your backlinks
As other people give you backlinks, you need to check the quality of your backlink profile on a regular basis. If you don’t spot a toxic backlink coming in to your site, it’s your site which is penalized by the search engines, not the sender’s. Under the Webmaster Guidelines, it’s also up to you to ask for any toxic links to be removed from your site.
You can check your backlinks via Google’s Search Console, which, whilst fiddly, is free. If you are ready to invest in analytics tools, both SEMRush and Ahrefs have insight platforms widely used in the Digital Marketing world.
Whilst building a quality backlink profile takes time, it’s well worth the effort as part of your off-site SEO strategy. However, there is a lot of to-ing and fro-ing involved, which is where Digital Marketing Agencies such as WSI Digital Advisors come in.