When it comes to search engine optimization (SEO) and ranking higher in the search result pages, there are many contributing factors to take into account. From title tags to reviews to content and so much more, many different aspects contribute to site ranking. One important element that is not always properly understood is backlinks.
Backlinks (or inbound links IBLs) are links on outside websites that direct users to your website. For example, if you were on the website of a local dentist and that dentist had a link to the website of the orthodontist in the area that the dentist likes to refer patients to, that would count as a backlink for the orthodontist. People on the dentist’s site who click on the link would be redirected to the orthodontist’s site.
Such backlinks are great indicators to the search engines of site (or page) authority and popularity. It’s a trust signal. Someone else out there thinks you know what you’re talking about in regards to a topic and therefore is featuring you on his or her site.
Quality & Quantity
Search engines like Google give more credit to websites that have good backlinks—considering them solid options for potential search queries that share related keywords. Now, what do I mean by good backlinks? The thing about backlinks is that quality matters just as much as quantity. Many moons ago when backlinks first started to matter in the site rankings game, people could utilize “link farms” to get a plethora of backlinks. (Link farms are websites solely generated for the purpose of hosting links to other webpages.) However, search engines have become smart over the years, and today they value the quality of the site that the links are coming from as much as they value how many links there are. Nowadays, link farms could actually cause harm to your website because search engines may ban your site as punishment if they see that it is engaged in shady dealings.
In order for a backlink to uphold quality, the site it is coming from is called into question. Does this site exist to serve its own purpose, not just host links for others? Is it an established website with good SEO practices? Is there some notable relation (content or otherwise) between the site and the site it is backlinking to? These are all questions that search engines take into account when analyzing the quality of a backlink through their algorithms.
Search engines also pay attention to backlink profiles when assessing link quality.
A backlink profile basically analyzes the ratio between your number of backlinks and linking domains. Taking the dentist example from earlier, the dentist’s website is one domain. If the dentist’s site links to the orthodontist’s site on three separate occasions that would count as three backlinks. So in this scenario the ratio of the orthodontist’s backlink profile would be 1 : 3.
Search engines want a good backlink profile because that is another way of anchoring the quantity of your backlinks with quality, and helping weed out things like link farms. For instance, a website with a 10 : 15 backlink profile, a 1 : 1 backlink profile, or a 235 : 300 backlink profile are all doing well, ratio-wise. But a site with a 3 : 197 backlink profile raises a red flag. In this case the ratio is showing that the website only has three other websites linking to it, but within the fold of those three websites there are 197 backlinks. Obviously that is not a good quality indicator and implies some sort of spam is afoot, which the search engines will not reward.
How To Not Be Shady
As I said, search engines are smart. They measure all aspects of search and utilize continuously updated algorithms to stay vigilant for site owners that try to “hack” the system through spam and shortcuts. You want to stay on the search engines’ good side. So here are some tips for site owners who want to avoid any shady backlink situations:
- Be wary about any digital marketing companies that promise #1 organic search rankings. This type of promise is hollow. There are too many variables in regards to SEO to ever make that kind of promise, so you can assume companies that offer such guarantees are not the most trustworthy.
- Never, ever buy backlinks. This kind of dealing will likely result in your links being plastered across link farms, which is pure spam and not reflective of any good backlink quality.
- Generate your backlinks slowly through organic means. There are no quick fixes or shortcuts in the SEO game. Like all good things, quality backlinks and high search result rankings are the result of hard work. So steadfastly try and grow your backlink profile naturally over time.
Backlink Best Practices
There are many ways to prime your site for the acquisition of backlinks, and make sure your backlinks are reflecting good quality. Here are some suggestions for going about this.
- Write quality blogs on your site that show authority, are keyword rich, and are formatted for best blogging practices.
- Submit content to popular industry blogs, or submit guest blogs to other websites.
- Outside of blogging, create unique, compelling, SEO-friendly content on all pages of your site to establish your authority and appeal to your site visitors and search engines.
- Put social sharing tools on your content to make it easy for people to share and pass it on.
- Create listings on trusted directory sites that are related to your business. Many of these sites offer a free basic listing option, so you can just add your business and website URL.
- Utilize quality anchor text. Anchor text refers to the actual words that a link is attached to. Instead of using “click here” language for your backlinks, make sure they are being attached to keywords in the text that relate to the site the backlink is redirecting to.
- Keep track of your backlinks by using tools like Domain Stats Tool or Ahrefs.
- Do research for backlink building opportunities through Backlink Builder Tool or Moz.
The Backlink Benefit
Backlinks are a great contributor to SEO and can add strong layers of authority, trust, and (thus) ranking prowess to your site. However, it is important that these backlinks always reflect good quality, contribute to strong backlink profiles, and follow best practices, otherwise search engines may punish your site severely. So do the work and reap the ranking rewards today! And backlink this blog if you’re feeling in the spirit!