What are backlinks?

 1/27/2018 12:00:00 AM
Views: 6,941
5 Minutes, 19 Second
 Written By John Marx

What are backlinks?

When it comes to search engine optimization or SEO and you are talking about organic SEO every conversation will eventually cover backlinks and why you need them. Backlinks are a key way to organic search engine success but that doesn't mean they are a good thing. As with everything in life, there are good and bad when it comes to backlinks. backlinks are links from domains outside of your control that link back to one or more pages to your website. backlinks are also referred to as referring links or referring domains.

People will always state that the more backlinks you have the better. This is both a true statement as well as a completely false statement. If every referral backlink is a credible site then the answer is definitely true. If some, or all, the links are from known spam sites, new sites, or sites that have yet to gain trust those links can actually bring down your search engine results.

When backlinks are used correctly they will help move you up in the search engines. Each one can be considered as a vote of "trust" that the site is believed to have valid information and provides relevant authoritative information, is useful to the site referring, or is a site that there is a business relationship with (e.g. think chamber of commerce as backlinks -- this are very credible). Backlinks from sites are often in the same industry that the referring backlink is coming from. If you sell widgets then the referring link to your site typically will also sell widgets.

In the past the more links the better. Today with the advent of search engines that are a lot smarter they don't look at quantity but the quality of the backlinks. If you have a lot (e.g. you've paid for backlinks) you stand a very good chance that your organic search engine optimization will drop and you will soon no longer be on page one or have a chance to get to page one without a lot of extra effort. Shortcuts when it comes to search engine optimization will almost always hurt your efforts in the long run. Always remember that search engine optimization is a marathon that requires small changes that add up to success rather than big and fast changes.

A key benefit to backlinks is an increased chance that the search engines will visit your site more often. The reason for this is that the search engines may link from the referring site to yours. The time this doesn't happen is when the site might list your company but also add what is called a "no follow" attribute that means that the search engine might see the link but do not follow it to your site. This link still has a purpose in that it is showing some trust but not as much trust as it could if it was a typical "follow" link.

As you are building your referral links a key item to remember in backlinks is that if you add ten articles to one site that links to yours you will only get one valid linking root domain. A linking root domain refers to the number of backlinks coming from your website from a unique domain.

Let's look at a scenario of the importance of backlinks when combined with other search engine optimization techniques. We have a client that we added about a year ago. They were spending $1,500 a month on Google AdWords. Their website was two years old and they didn't want to spend money on it as it was a "cost center" and not creating results for them. We looked over their entire marketing, the AdWords they were spending. We built an entirely new website with product pages, service pages, and blog articles covering every keyword they were using. We launched the new website and kept the AdWords but knew that within 3-4 months we would be dropping. We did our submissions to the search engines. We looked at industry-related sites that we could also write articles on. In four months we started seeing results and started cutting back on the AdWords. They went from 5 backlinks to 227 backlinks and are ranking on the first page of Google and Bing for the keywords they were paying for. We have completely eliminated their AdWords and each month they are moving up more while we continue to expand their backlinks and keyword phrases.

Here is a perfect example of how backlinks are abused and many businesses pay for it as they are told this is normal. You hire a company to build your website. You pay them money. They add links to their website. Their business increases. They didn't pay you. You paid them. This is a poor backlink. Why would you pay someone to advertise on your site? Shouldn't it be the other way around? The backlink to your web designer is really a "good backlink" for them and a crappy backlink for you as it doesn't benefit you. Don't settle for crappy backlinks.

Key takeaways for backlinks are

  • NEVER pay for or offer to pay someone for backlinks
  • Link to industry-specific directories that are positive influences in your industry
  • Request removal of any backlink that is not helping your business grow
  • Write awesome articles on other sites
  • Use Broken link building method
  • Comment on other articles and have your signature link back to your website (many times these are "no follow" links)
  • Fix broken links to your website

Areas that affect backlinks

  • Fix technical errors with your website
    • Site loading speed
    • Mobile friendliness
    • Remove any duplicate content
    • Use proper 302 redirects
    • Redirect chains
    • 404 errors
    • Canonical errors
    • Duplicate META data
    • Incorrect uses of directives (noindex, nofollow, etc.)
    • Fix broken internal links
  • Have a great site architecture
  • Have high-quality content

Backlinks should be a core component of your search engine optimization strategy. Backlinks will take you time to build up and will take a lot of manual effort to be built on credible sites. Backlinks will help you grow your overall search engine presence. The quantity of your backlinks means less than the quality – go with the quality!