Backlinks – why are they so important for your SEO?
What Are Backlinks?
A backlink is simply a link from another website to your website. The link to your website is usually created because the linking website sees your information as relevant to their content and their visitors. Your information is being validated as useful.
Nowadays there are good backlinks and bad backlinks. In the old days it was merely the number of backlinks that was considered by search engines as a ranking factor but things have changed. It is now the quality of the backlink that is the factor.
Why are backlinks important?
For search engines and Google in particular backlinks are a way of them discovering how valid and respected your website content is. The more quality links a website gets indicates high quality content. This means that Google will rank the site highly and therefore improve the organic listing position of the site. No one really knows how much weight backlinks contribute to the whole organic ranking process but it is 100% agreed that they are a very important factor.
What are Good Backlinks?
A natural backlink is considered a good backlink. But what does that mean? A natural backlink is one that has been “naturally” created by someone else. In other words, backlinks that you create yourself on things like forums or links you trade with other websites in logo links, for example, are not natural links. Good links are contextual because it shows that the link is discussing your subject - logo links for example are not contextual and have no qualitative value. Nowadays search engines rate links higher that have been created by other people because they link to your content for a reason.
The other thing about good links is that they should be from related business websites and probably from your own country. A lot of links from say a country like Russia when your website is in Australia will probably have a negative impact on your site. Equally, lots of links from unrelated businesses is also not a very good idea. Why would an Indian website about spices link to your Australian website about underfloor heating? Links like this are worthless if not harmful to your Google ranking.
Links like this are sometimes hard to prevent but they should definitely not be sort after. As long as you have some good links and a small number of not so good links you will not be penalised. You should only seek out the good links though.
The idea is that if your content is great then you will encourage natural links as people will link to your interesting pages. So the best way to get natural links is to create great content that attracts them. Write interesting pages and blog posts. Be informative, helpful. Become an authority on your business subject so that people recommend you to others who will link to you too. Creating content that attracts natural links takes time and work. Do not listen to someone who says I can get you 100 backlinks these will be bad backlinks.
Good Backlink Example:
Your site sells electric underfloor heating systems. You write a post about the top 5 reasons to use electric underfloor heating and provide a pdf download of a reputable organisation report on your electric underfloor heating products. A builder’s website links to your post in a page about his service of installing underfloor heating. Your site gets a backlink from a relevant source and this type of backlink is of value and a good backlink. If the backlink was from a “authoritative” institution like a university, TAFE, or government department then these would have increased value.
What are Bad Backlinks?
You wouldn’t find it funny I’m sure if I simply said bad links are not good links and left it at that. But in reality, if you follow a link building process that does not create good links then you will be creating bad links. Good links are not easy to get. So never buy links, never let others create links for you on unrelated websites, forums, blogs. Never join link farm sites. Don’t merely get sites to create lots of links for you on business directories. Remember it’s not the number of links but the quality of link that is important.
Things that raise a flag with search engines are, rapid growth in the number of links as these can not be natural, a large number of links from other countries and or unrelated businesses, links without text, lots of directory and forum links as these are created by you or on behalf of you.
Guest blogs, forums and directories
You will find lots of info about guest blogging, forums and business directories on the internet and much will be conflicting. In general none of these are considered natural backlinks because they are links created by you or by others on your behalf. They do not illustrate the merit of or the third party interest in your website content as you are creating the links. Ultimately, in theory, they are not good backlinks. However they are useful for brand exposure and can create site visits which can obviously be good for business. In general links from forums and business directories will be of low value so it is probably only worth listing with the best and the most local and related to your business. Not too many though is the key here. Do not waste your time listing with directories for example outside of your business catchment area. If your business only applies to Sydney then no point in listing with sites that are for Perth. So we come to guest blogging.
In 2014 Matt Cutts from Google and the then Head of Web Spam had a definitive statement about guest blogging. This in itself was rather unusual as Google does not give away information lightly. He said:
Okay, I’m calling it: if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop.
A couple of things here - “as a way to gain links” and in 2014 this was the new SEO mantra - guest blogging. There were sites everywhere full of low-quality articles with links back to websites. Google felt they had to put a stop to it. It was creating a lot of spammy articles of no real value and all for the purpose of creating backlinks.
However, a lot of people are saying that high-quality guest blogging seems to bear fruit. So it may well be worth seeking out high-quality blog sites that are related to your industry and see if you can create worthwhile and quality content. Then if you can get a contextual link in there too then all to the good. The trick is do not go mad, and guest blog with just anyone. Be discerning and in that way you will not be deemed as merely “blogging as a way to gain links”. You will be passing on quality information.
- Natural Links - links that others create on their website because they find your content relevant to their content.
- Links from related websites in your business category.
- Links from authority sites in your business field.
- Links from organisations like .gov .edu.au.
- Major media link
- Contextual links - links from content rather than lists or images that have anchor text
- Links that are relevant to your business with high link equity “link-juice”
- Links that you pay for - link farms.
- Links from low-quality sites.
- Links that are not natural.
- Links from poor and unrelated forums, business directories, guest blogs.
- Lots of non-contextual links like logos, images, website lists.
- Links from unrelated sites and links from unrelated countries.
- Too many links with the same anchor text - these are likely to be created by you as natural links would tend to use different text in their links
In all things you need a mix and a balance and that applies to your backlinks strategy. You need to be discerning in who you are trying to get links from and you need to build the links carefully and slowly. Also just because you have a lot of great content does not mean you will all of a sudden get great backlinks. You need to work over time to generate these links. Whatever you do make sure your links are relevant to your business.
The other thing to remember is that not all links have the same value. Links from small websites will not carry the same “link-juice” value that a highly respected or .gov or .edu.au website link will have. The more respected the website that links to your site means that your content is of significant value as it comes highly recommended by a respected website.
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