We talk a lot about backlinks, but what actually are backlinks?
In this post, we will explain exactly how back-linking works, some of the jargon that goes with back-linking, and most importantly, why it’s important for you as an online business to obtain backlinks regularly!
What are backlinks?
Backlinks are inbound links from other websites to your own. This represents a vote of confidence from the site linking out, to the site it links to. In the past sites would use spammy back-linking techniques in order to get pushed up the rankings, this could involve receiving links from irrelevant, low-quality sites. Many of Googles updates over the years have sought to get rid of this technique, as we will discuss later.
Why are backlinks important to SEO?
As we just said, a backlink represents a vote of confidence from one site to another. As Google has consistently shown, its main aim is to show trustworthy sites, and one of the biggest ways of showing trust is when another site links to your own. The means of doing this over the years has changed, pre-2012, a backlink could be of little relevance to the site it links to and could provide thin content and would still help that site get ranked. Google noticed this was an issue as it was allowing sites to game their system.
What major updates have affected link building?
This brings us nicely onto our next point. Over the years many updates have affected back-linking in some way or another, but the first to truly put a dent into the old ways of doing back-linking was back in 2012 with the Penguin update!
This update sought to rid its search pages of sites that used low-quality link schemes such as the purchase or acquisition of low quality or unrelated links from sites.
Instead, they would reward sites that had RELEVANT, content-heavy backlinks from high DA, high authority sites.
This actually increased the value of backlinking rather than decreasing it. Because now sites had to focus on getting DECENT backlinks from great sites, which oftentimes meant more outreach, more time and thought put into the content created. But also greater reward, as not all sites would put in the amount of effort now needed to get great backlinking.
But the Penguin update wasn’t the only update to change the game for backlinking.
Only last year (2018) Google introduced the Page Rank Patent update, this new update split the internet into shards (or different servers) each of these shards would focus on a certain topic/ niche and classify what it saw as the niche authoritative site. From then on it would calculate the link distance between that site and the sites it links out to. I posted a handy diagram showing exactly how that works on my google update post, which I’ll post again below now!
As you can see the closer you could be to that niche relevant site the better!
This has yet again only increased the importance of link building from relevant and authoritative sites, Google has raised the stakes again and made our jobs as SEO agencies more important than ever in helping our customers obtain those great links!
How to get great backlinks?
There are a variety of ways to get great backlinks.
Remember that it is the quality of the backlink that is most important, not the number – although the more great quality backlinks the better of course!
Most people will say ‘have great content and people will want to link to you’ and whilst great content is a MUST! Those some people espousing those views will also be paying to be featured on great sites like Huffpost or Forbes!
They’ll say that Google will know what you’re doing if you pay for links!
Of course, they won’t! Google Penguin was set up to target those that use spammy back-linking techniques – meaning they’ll get hundreds upon thousands of backlinks from quite frankly, crap sites!
This is not something that we offer here, we only offer QUALITY backlinks that WILL help boost you up the rankings!
Why would Google penalise you for being featured on a high-quality site where the article is written by a known contributor or editor and is relevant to whatever niche your business is about?
Of course, there are other ways of getting your link out there, but most of them involve time, finding those right people to contact and probably writing a lot of content.
Whether that be:
- Fixing broken links e.g. contacting a webmaster, telling them they have a broken link and would they be interested in replacing it with your content?
- Start guest blogging on other relevant sites!
- Create great content that people will want to share; whether that’s infographics or a super informative, in-depth article.
- Get yourself on web directories!
Whilst all of these are viable methods for getting backlinks and are something you should be doing! It won’t necessarily net you the big fish that you want! Or maybe the amount of quality backlinks you need!
Laying the foundations for great backlinks
There are many basics of SEO and just good online practices that your site should meet before heading down the backlinks path! If not, you may just be throwing money or time down the drain when Google will be penalising your site for other many numbers of reasons.
- Having the best UX (user experience) possible; e.g. a fast page loading speed (check out tools.pingdom.com), being mobile-friendly (you can test pages from your site on Google’s mobile-friendly check), ensuring canonicals are tagged, duplicate content and so on!
- Having a strong site build; your site should take on the form of a pyramid; Homepage then category page, then subcategory pages.
This will allow Googles spider to properly crawl your site and understand what each section is about, and will give you a greater chance of ranking on Google for each given section!
3. Producing great content; in order to be linked to you’ve either got to have a great product, service, piece of content or infographic that will make people want to link to you!
4. Clean up any broken external links as each external link saps a little bit of your link juice. You can easily do this by going to AH refs, ‘outgoing links’ and then ‘broken links’!
5. Perform a link audit of your site; this is something we provide here, and can be necessary if you’ve got a lot of inbound links that you’re not sure about, if you feel like you could have been the target of negative SEO or if you’ve ever used other companies in the past to obtain links that may now be deemed spammy or low quality or if you were ever part of a public blog network (PBN). Those bad backlinks could be stopping you from ever being to able to rank properly and could result in you wasting a lot of time and money
If you ensure these basics are covered on your site then it will make it a lot easier to begin working on getting great backlinks!
Back-linking Jargon explained
We understand that sometimes the language used in the SEO industry can seem a little confusing, and sometimes pretty amusing – I mean link juice! Who thought of that name? So we thought we’d give you the lowdown on some of the back-linking language you need to know!
When one webpage links to another on an external site, they pass ‘Link Juice’ as Google views this link (if relevant and authoritative) as a vote of confidence in your site, this, in turn, increases your own sites domain authority and therefore helps with the ranking of your work.
This is when an outbound link on a page is tagged ‘no follow’ this means that it does not pass link juice to that site it is linking out to, and therefore it will not affect the overall quality of their own site. Most major sites that people want links from, are now no-follow; Forbes, Huffpost, Wikipedia and so on! HOWEVER, confusingly enough a link from one of those sites will still help your site climb Googles rankings, as Google still understands that those are very authoritative sites.
These are the inverse to No-Follow links, meaning that you will pass that Link Juice on to the site you are linking to. This is how sites are set up by default.
These are links out from your own website to another, these will pass Link Juice onto that site unless specified ‘No-Follow’.
Internal links (interlinking)
This is when you link within your own site, for example between one blog post and an item or category page. It is important to remember when ‘interlinking’ to only link to other relevant sections of your site. If you have completely different sections of your site that aren’t relevant to one another you should avoid interlinking between them unless there is a contextual linking factor, as this can confuse Google spider when it tries to understand what your site is about, and how to rank you (see silo diagram above).
We talk about low-quality links and they can come in a number of forms, links from porn sites, content farmed sites, sites that have little to no content (think 500 word articles or less), links from automated sites where you can see that the content has been written by a computer, or simply links that have no relevance to your own site whatsoever. All of these things can harm your site and stop you from going up Googles rankings.
Linking Root Domains
This refers to the number of links coming in from one site. Some say that you may get 20 links from one site, but it will only be considered as one link from Google. HOWEVER, there is a bit more to it than that.
Yes, if you have 100 links from 1 high authority domain
100 links from 100 different high authority domains
Google will favour the second, because it is more difficult to obtain 100 links from 100 high DA sites, than convincing one high DA site to link to you 100 times. And of course, it increases the chances of your trustworthiness and reliability.
If you have 50 links from low DA sites
1 high DA site links to you 50 times
That high DA site that links to you 50 times will pass on more link juice.
In this sense, we can see that it is the context of the domain authority (as well as the relevancy of the links) that affect the outcome.
This is the text that is used for the hyperlinks to your site. You want good anchor text variation e.g. say Zara the clothing retailer wants 100 links to a ‘Yellow dress’ they are selling you would want to see;
‘yellow dress’ – which is an exact match
‘summery yellow dress’ – a partial match (or any sort of variation)
‘Zara’ – The Brand name is linked to directly.
www.zara.com/yellowdress – the naked URL as the anchor text.
‘Click here’ or ‘here’ etc – a general word or phrase.
(An image of the yellow dress) – A link in the image to the Yellow dress.
If possible having this sort of anchor text variation shows Google that the linking is NATURAL, an old spam back-linking technique was to use the same keyword e.g. ‘Yellow dress’ for all anchor text to help the original site (e.g. Zara) to rank for that keyword. Google now understands this as a spammy practice which is why anchor text variation is advised.
Public Blog Network (PBN)
This is when a bunch of sites are owned by one webmaster that normally use expired domains, and then use those sites to all point to the one site they want to rank. Like you can see below.
They can also be known as a ‘private blog network’ HOWEVER an actual private blog network should only be known to the person that is running it, as soon as they start selling it to the public then it is a public blog network. Google has penalized these sites since 2014 for attempting to circumvent their guidelines. HOWEVER, the private blog networks can still work, but only if:
- You use different domain registrars
- You use different IP addresses for each site.
- Do not interlink your supporting sites within your PBNs – only link them to the main site!
- Create great content for each site, otherwise, it is likely Google will penalise you.
- Diversify your anchor text
- NEVER mention that you have a PBN! As soon as you do they go from private to public!
- The links to your main site MUST be contextual!
Back-linking is a tricky but rewarding business that if done right can reap you great rewards and if done wrong can see your site obliterated within seconds.
Nowadays Google is becoming harder and harder to fool, meaning that the backlinking we engage in must become more and more natural, more and more relevant and more and more authoritative.
Which is why we’re happy to offer our back-linking services so that we can use our insider knowledge and vast database of webmasters and editors to help get you the best links possible.