The Importance of Backlinks

An effective optimization plan must include three main components: onsite SEO, social media and backlinks. This article will focus on the subject of backlinks and how they can be used to propel your website up the search engine rankings and widen your exposure.

What is a backlink?
A backlink is a hyperlink from an external source which points directly to your website or webpage. To help me explain this further I could add a link to Wikipedia from this article. If you were to click this link you would be directed to Wikipedia and away from my website. In doing this I have provided Wikipedia with a backlink. Similarly, if Wikipedia was to add a link to my website on one of their webpages they would be providing me with a backlink. Backlinks can come from a variety of sources and we will explore some of the most commonly used techniques later in this article.

Why are backlinks important?
Backlinks provide two main benefits for your website: firstly they help to improve your search engine rankings, and secondly they provide additional exposure and access to your website from external sources. Let’s look at each of these benefits in more detail.

Backlinks act like votes in that they indicate to the search engines that the link provided must lead to something of value and interest. A backlink is basically a way for other people to say they like what you have to offer. If you wrote an article that I felt would benefit my website readers I may decide to link to your website. If other webmasters read your article and also link to it you will soon have multiple websites all linking to the same page on your website. If this happened over and over again from many different websites it would indicate to the search engines that the linked to page on your website must contain something that many other websites consider to be of value.

The more votes (backlinks) you have the popular your website will appear to be in the eyes of the search engines. However, it is not just the quantity of backlinks that is important it is also the quality of the source it is coming from. Just as they would be in other voting situations, the most authoritative, powerful, influential and credible the voter is the more beneficial the vote will be to the recipient. One backlink from a well respected source can often be more valuable than many from poorly respected sources.

Backlinks are always considered in terms of search engine optimization however they also have another important benefit which is often overlooked and the relevance of which can be typically underestimated. If you can create various backlinks from various external sources which are all pointing directly to your website you have much more chance of being found.

If I were to browse Facebook I may come across a page I like and in turn I may check out their website. I could be discussing something on a forum and read an interesting comment from someone who has a link to their website within the text. As their comment seems interesting I may check out their website. Therefore, backlinks not only improve your search engine rankings by also allow you to promote and emphasize the importance and quality of your website to a much wider and far reaching audience.

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What factors influence the quality of a backlink?
As previously stated the quality of the backlinks you aim to achieve should be a top consideration when implementing your backlink strategy. In the good old days of poorly functioning search engines, that were far too easy to bamboozle, the more backlinks you had the higher you ranked. It was pretty much as simple as that. However, with the search engines’ ever evolving in their ability to sniff out this sort of behavior there are now a few factors to consider when adding a new backlink to your website. Ultimately all the backlinks you add should be from high quality websites and be varied in their source and link location. It is also important that your backlinks look natural in their source, anchor text, link location and frequency they are added.

Authority
Ultimately you should be aiming for backlinks from authority websites. These are unfortunately much harder to come across especially if you have a brand new site (which is why they hold more value). After all, why would a popular and powerful website link to your tiny little blog? But as long as the website you are linking back from is more authoritative than yours you will benefit from their superior power. The authority of a website can be crudely measured by assessing its Page Rank (PR) and domain age. Any website with a higher PR and domain age than you will be a suitable candidate for a backlink. However, if your website has a PR of 1 and you get a backlink from a website with a PR of 3 you will benefit but over time your PR will hopefully increased rendering backlinks from these sites less effective. Therefore, the higher the PR, the older domain age and the more authoritative the website is the better.

Theme
The theme of the website is also an important factor to consider. If you have blog about gardening and many other gardening websites link to your blog it will indicate to the search engines that your blog is popular within this theme or niche. This will enhance your rankings as your website will appear highly relevant when keywords associated with this theme are searched for. Having links to your gardening blog from many other websites within this niche will also provide people with an interest in your niche direct access to your blog.

You may also want to consider related niches as these will also be of benefit. For a gardening blog you may want to target backlinks from websites that focus on home improvements, bird watching, sheds, ponds or any other possibly related topics. These will provide a varied backlink pattern that will appear natural without losing the focus of your theme.

Anchor text
The text that you use for you link is known as the anchor text and it is used to add links within a webpage without breaking the flow of the content. When a search engine comes across a link it reads the anchor text and if you use related keywords within your anchor text it will inform the search engines of the subject the link is related to. You should use keyword rich anchor text that is relevant to the destination of the link or the keyword you are hoping to improve your rankings for. If I was creating a backlink for this article my anchor text may be ‘backlink strategies’ or ‘why backlinks are important’ as these terms are relevant to the content of this webpage.

When links first started to appear within written web content terms were used such as ‘click here’ or a naked web address displaying a raw URL. These were used as a ‘call to action’ to make it clear to readers that a link was embedded within the words. But as people have become more familiar with links in text this call to action is not really required. Most people recognize a link when they see one and there is no longer a need to use ‘click here’ as your anchor text. The only time this would be relevant is if you are directing someone to a webpage about the term ‘click here’. Otherwise you should almost always use keyword rich anchor text as this is more relevant to the search engines and also allows your content to flow more freely.

Bad example: To find out more about backlink strategies [click here].

Good example: Find out more about [backlink strategies].

Final thoughts on backlinks… 
Backlinks are links from external sources which are directed to your website. They are important for search engine rankings as they act as a vote and indicate value. In addition, backlinks will broaden your reach and accessibility, exposing your website to a much wider audience. You should aim to add backlinks from a range of high authority websites within your theme or niche and ensure that you use keyword rich anchor text where ever possible.

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