I was recently working with a client and had given them an analysis of their website. As I was explaining to them what all the information meant my client suddenly said “What the hell is a backlink?” I had always assumed that everyone knew what a backlink was, I mean the concept seemed simple enough to me how could people not know what they are. Immediately I went about defining what a backlink was. At the end of our conversation my client felt far more informed but what troubled me was since I had never given this question much thought my explanation to my client was rather rudimentary. Backlinks are not a complicated matter but they should mean a little more than simply a link to your site. The purpose of this article is to explain what a backlink is, why it is important in terms of your sites search engine ranking, and how you can gain backlinks without stepping on the toes of Search Engines in the process.
First and foremost, what are backlinks?
Backlinks are simply links to your website from other sources. They are also known as inbound links in some circles. They can be in the form of a listing directory i.e. Yahoo Directory or Dex, a blog post or part of a signature when posting on a forum, or they can also be a direct link from one of your affiliates how to create backlink. What I am trying to get across is that backlinks come in many different forms. Backlinks are one of the most important facets of SEO since most search engines will give more credit or authority to sites that have a high number of quality backlinks. This in turns means that websites with more backlinks are often considered more relevant than others on a results page for a specific query. While they are nearly always helpful to your website and its search engine presence some backlinks are far more valuable than others.
When search engines go about calculating a sites ranking for a specific keyword they consider, among other things, the number of quality backlinks (or inbound links of you prefer) to that site. We should not obsess about having as many backlinks as possible rather we should focus our attention on generating quality inbound links to our sites, as it is the quality of the link that matters and not so much the quantity though quantity can help.
Search engines consider the content of the site to determine the quality of the link. They are looking for inbound links that come from sites with similar content. What that means is if your site sells pet supplies, a link from a pharmacy in Canada is not the type of backlink you want. You should focus on sites that are in a similar niche as you. I tell my clients that I focus on companies that are closely similar but not directly competitive either due to the products/services offered, geographic location, cost, etc. While it may seem difficult at first to find sites that are in a similar bracket but not directly competitive it is well worth the effort. Focus on finding quality sites that you want to link to or have link to you and offer them some incentive for creating this partnership. I am not suggesting a link exchange but there are other methods that will cause other sites to link to you, you simply need to find out what those are.
One important issue to note is that Search Engines have become very particular as of late to the types of inbound links web sites have. Years past it used to be that if you wanted to rank number one for a keyword you found a site that simply was a page full of links, known as a link farm, paid them to place a couple thousand links for you and within a short time you were ranking very well for that specific key word. However, times have changed. Search engines want all websites to play fairly, so to speak, and have therefore implemented rigorous standards when it comes to websites, backlinks and SEO techniques. It has become very difficult to influence search engines with external back links from other websites. The reason for this is that a search engine’s criteria for quality inbound links has gotten even tougher. Things such as time the website has been online, to the rate at which your site is generating backlinks i.e. did you have 2 yesterday and 1000 today, etc. all factor in. This stringent criteria, while certainly a nuisance for us, is also one of the reasons that backlinks factor so highly in a search engines algorithm.