A Backlink is a link from another website that links back to your website. Backlinks are important to SEO, search engines like Google use them as a metric to determine what websites are popular, trustworthy, and authoritative. To put it another way, Backlinks to your website are a signal to search engines that others vouch for your content, when many sites link to the same website, search engines assume that content must be valuable. Backlinks also provide users helpful ways to find other sources of information or related information. If you are a blogger, you can use backlinks to cite your sources.
The Link Juice – Link Equity
Not all links are the same, some are more valuable than others. Links that come from more popular, high-authority sites are worth more “points” to search engines. When one of these reputable sites creates a link to another site, they pass on some of their value in a concept referred to as link equity (once called Link juice). Links from educational sites with the .edu domain, or .gov government sites are highly valued by search engines for their trustworthiness but they also tend to be difficult to gain Backlinks from these sites. Backlinks are the single most important way to improve the number of your organic searches.
Just as links from high-value sites can drive up your search rankings, the inverse is also true. Links from shady, spammy sites can drive down your search rankings. Site owners do have the ability to label a link as follow or nofollow. Nofollow simply means the links do not pass on their value. Thinking used to be that quantity links were all that mattered. Websites, comment threads, and forums were full of spammed links. Nowadays these kinds of links get marked as nofollow by the webmaster and don’t contribute towards link equity.
Internal and external links can both pass on Link Equity, but there are a few factors that determine how much equity gets passed:
- How relevant the pages you are linking are.
- How authoritative the site is. (Trusted sites that already have a large number of links to them.)
- Whether or not the link is a follow or nofollow link. Nofollow links tell search engines to ignore the link and give no link equity but the link can still have some value as a way to funnel traffic to your site.
- Is the link crawlable? (search engines are able to scan, search, and index web pages.)
- Location of the link. Links located in the footer or sidebar aren’t weighted as much as links in the body of the page.
- How many links are on the page? If your link is only one of a list of several hundred links on a page then the link receives less weight.
Earning Backlinks to Improve SEO
Knowing how valuable Backlinks are, you are probably wondering how to get more of them for your site. Unfortunately, there is no quick and easy way to build up Backlinks – it takes a long time and a lot of work. It is part of the reason search engines use the Backlinks as a metric for popularity because it is so difficult for people to manipulate the system. It is important to note you should never buy backlinks; it’s against Google’s terms of service and will penalize you with lower rankings. Paid links must have a ‘sponsored’ label on them. But there are other ways; here are some safe ways to build up your Backlinks:
- Write a guest blog for larger sites. This takes lots of time but it builds connections, broadens your brand’s reach, and drives traffic back to your website. It also has the benefit of gaining long-term relationships with more established and authoritative websites and brands.
- If you sell a product, ask a blogger to consider reviewing it. Just make sure your product is in a state that is ready for review.
- Get your business listed in online directories. This is an older method of getting links and is not as useful as it once was but there are still some useful directories out there.
- Look for niche-specific industry directories
- Join forums related to your industry
- Donate to a nonprofit, many have sponsorship or contributor pages.
- Spread your social media presence, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube all provide opportunities to link back to your site.
Creating Your Own Quality Backlinks
But what if you are the one including links on your own web pages? Here are some quick tips for good linking etiquette.
- Create informative Anchor text. Anchor text is the text that is displayed that users click on to go to another site. Anchors that simply say “Click Here” or “Next” are not good because they provide no context for where they lead to.
- Make sure the link is relevant to the subject matter.
- Where possible, include links above the fold to make sure it stands out.
- Limit the number of links you include, a good rule of thumb is 3 to 5 links per 1,000 words.
- Have a single clear Call to Action, piling multiple links at the end of your content will drown out whatever objective you are trying to achieve.
- Don’t be afraid to link your sources, including quality external resources that help your content.
- Exclude gated links; links that require an account and password to see the content.
Backlinks are a valuable SEO tool for small and large businesses alike, and they can be difficult to gather, but they will be beneficial for building your brand. SEO tools like UberSuggest, SEMRush, or Moz can help you track and analyze these, as well as give you ideas for potential opportunities.