Backlinks, backlinks, backlinks. Oh my! It may seem as alien a concept as the land of Oz to some, but it need not be scary. On the contrary, understanding what backlinks are, how we got them, and the purpose they serve will only strengthen any business with a desire to conquer digital marketing, customer engagement, and online sales.
The Google Search Engine and the Groundbreaking Concept of Weighted Ranking
The origin of Google is a story about the origin of an idea, and that idea was Larry Page’s vision that a World Wide Web search engine could rank links based on the concept of weighted ranking. Weighted ranking examines how often other pages were linking to a specific site or page on a site. With Sergey Brin’s mathematical help, the idea turned into PageRank, the foundational algorithm of Google Search.
Together, the two founders created a ranking system that rewarded links originating from essential sources and penalized those that did not. In addition, both Google founders authored and presented a paper to Stanford University that introduced backlinks by comparing them to source citations in academic work. Think of writing an academic essay and realizing that specific sources will be weighted more heavily than others based upon the source’s authority. This was the foundation of Google PageRank and pivotal transition in the internet landscape among search engines and is mainly responsible for many of the rules that dictate marketing strategy to this day.
For example, many sites link to IBM.com. Those links might range from a teenage programmer in suburban Illinois blogging about the new ThinkPad received at Christmas to a business partner affiliate site in the technology industry. But, of course, to a human observer, the business partner is a more important link in terms of IBM’s place in the world.
Backlinks are a strategy for increasing website conversion rates and SEO rank. Backlinks are a foundation for the Google ranking algorithm, so it is essential to have backlink diversity to escape being detected by Google’s statistical analysis algorithms.
Let’s delve into why backlinks are an essential part of any successful SEO strategy. We’ll also provide examples of different types of backlinks that can help you get started with improving your site’s backlink profile, which will lift your page’s Google rank!
What is a Backlink?
Backlinks are links from one webpage to another. For example, if site A links to site B, then site A has a backlink from site B. Conversely, if site B links to site A, then site A has a backlink from Site B. Backlinks to a website signal to search engines that others vouch for the site content. If many sites link to the same website or specific webpage, search engines can infer that the content of said site has value. Therefore, if a site is worth linking to, it is also worth surfacing on a Search Engine Results Page (SERP). So, earning these backlinks can positively affect a site’s ranking position or search visibility.
To improve your site’s chances of receiving valuable backlinks, you should consider using the following tactics:
- making high-quality content that provides value to users
- sharing helpful information on Facebook. Twitter, and other relevant social channels
- promoting unique offers through email campaigns
- social media advertising such as LinkedIn Ads or Facebook Ads
- utilizing platforms like Adwords or Linkedin Ads.
Why are Backlinks Important?
As mentioned, some backlinks are inherently more valuable than others. In other words, backlinks have weighted values within the algorithm based on type. For example, the most desirable backlinks to earn are backlinks from popular, high-authority, trustworthy sites. In contrast, backlinks from low-authority, potentially spammy sources are typically considered undesirable or even harmful backlinks. In addition, whether a specific link is followed [or not followed] provides relevant information to be considered within the Google algorithm. In this case, ‘Followed’ means whether a site owner specifically instructs search engines to pass, or not pass, link equity [which is created and only visible in the underlying CMS.]
However, don’t entirely discount the value of nofollow links. Even just being mentioned on high-quality websites can give your brand a boost.
Most Common Backlink Sources
There are many different sources for earning quality SEO backlinks that you should consider when developing an individual strategy:
- Acknowledgment backlinks
- Authority sites
- Badge backlinks
- Comment backlinks
- Directory submissions
- Editorial backlinks
- Free tool backlinks
- Guest blog posts
- Image metadata optimization
- Image sharing
- Press release backlinks
- Relationship-based backlinks
- Social media sharing
- and more
Are All Backlinks Equal?
No, not all backlinks are equal, but all backlinks affect your SEO.
According to Google, spammy backlinks are annoying and will negatively affect your search results; there’s a real possibility they could severely harm your website’s reputation. Thus it is imperative never to give them a chance to do so. Therefore it is recommended practice to check your backlink profile regularly. In addition, if you experience a sudden traffic jump or drop that you can’t explain in web traffic, it often means you need to examine your backlink profile by conducting a site audit and disavow harmful, damaging backlinks.
Examples of Backlinks
Do-Follow vs. No-Follow Status
Technically speaking, the one difference between these two types of status is that a nofollow link has a nofollow tag [in the code]. For the average customer [i.e., site visitor], the difference between a dofollow and a nofollow link is indiscernible and irrelevant. However, Pagerank only counts dofollow links in the algorithm.
A nofollow link, according to Google, is one where Google does not pass any PageRank along with it when crawled by Googlebot. In other words, they still count as backlinks but do not affect your page rankings or search traffic! It’s essential to know how these work because there are times when you want Google to crawl certain pages of your website even though those pages don’t have anything valuable in them from an SEO standpoint–like sitemaps, for example!
A dofollow link is a hyperlink on one site that directs to another website on the internet, not owned by the current owner of the linked page. Googlebot does attribute PageRank when crawling these types of links.
Since Google uses backlinks as an essential ranking factor in their algorithm, having nofollow and dofollow links can be helpful or harmful depending on your goals with Google rankings for specific pages. For example, a best practice is to keep outbound nofollow links such as affiliate or partner links because Google may see them as spammy, resulting in penalties like lower rankings and traffic from organic search results!
Building internal links is the process of linking to other pages on your site. The main purpose of internal links is to establish an information hierarchical structure (aka guiding how bots crawl and index your site) and distribute link equity across the site. Linking between relevant pieces of content makes Google think that everything belongs together and will help them figure out which topics are essential or not.
This helps Google understand what content is most important based upon which pages/subpages receive more link equity than others. Doing so helps Google understand what some content means, especially if it’s an obscure topic that doesn’t get much search traffic. Internal links also increase usability by helping Google index your website’s content more accurately.
For example, say you have a page about how soccer cleats are made. If there is no one ever searching for “soccer cleats,” Google won’t know that this particular page exists until someone clicks through from another page on your website–like maybe the blog post where you write an article talking about all different kinds of sports equipment!
Most SEO tools will show you backlinks, however it is important to note that links from internal pages on your own website are different. Internal links help with the indexing of your web pages and also contribute link equity across your website. This link equity helps raise the overall SEO ranking of a website or sub page in search engine results for particular keywords.
An external link is a hyperlink on one site that directs to another website on the internet, not owned by the current page being linked. It can be beneficial for SEO because it helps Google crawl deeper into other significant sites similar to yours! Which could result in your page earning higher rankings in Google if they find some backlinks pointing towards your site while crawling through high authority websites.
Be careful, though–Google will penalize links from spammy sources, so make sure any websites linking back are relevant and have good user signals like social media activity or blog commenting.
A reciprocal link occurs when two different web pages agree that each webpage will link to the other. They can also be called “link exchanges.” For example, if I’m selling handmade soap and you’re selling homemade candles, then we could trade links on our sites that point at each others’ websites under a section for affiliate or partner links. Another example is a polymer plastics company working with one of their clients to reciprocate links detailing how the client uses the materials in the manufacturing process.
The Backbone of SEO Strategy
Backlinks should be the backbone for all your SEO endeavors. Your online efforts should include a strategy to implement some backlinks from each category we have mentioned. A plethora of backlink types helps ensure a robust SEO strategy to see your PageRank rise for the keyword topics you want to see each page rank.
Backlinks may seem confusing or tricky, but amazing things can happen as a site PageRank rises! When a business works with an experienced and knowledgeable marketing partner to develop an online marketing strategy for SEO guidance and backlink development, sales and engagement increase exponentially as Google’s front page becomes your best friend. We invite you to contact Enilon today to learn more about developing a comprehensive strategy to tackle backlinks and strengthen your SEO backbone.