What are Backlinks?
In layman’s terms, there are two types of links: inbound and outbound. Outbound links start from your site and lead to an external site, while inbound links or backlinks, come from an external site to yours. e.g. if cnn.com links to yourdomain.com, the link from cnn.com is a backlink (inbound) for yourdomain.com, however the link is an outbound link from cnn.com’s perspective. Backlinks are among the main building blocks to good Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
Why Backlinks Are Important
The number of backlinks is an indication of the popularity or importance of that website. Backlinks are important for SEO because some search engines like Google, give more credit to websites that have a large number of quality backlinks, and consider those websites more relevant than others in their results pages for a search query.
Therefore, when search engines calculate the relevance of a site to a keyword, they not only consider the number of backlinks to that site but also their quality. In order to determine the quality, a search engine considers the content of the sites. When backlinks to your site come from other sites, and those sites have content related to your site, these backlinks are considered more relevant to your site. If backlinks are found on sites with unrelated content, they are considered less relevant. The higher the relevance of backlinks, the greater their quality.
For example, if a webmaster has a website about how to rescue orphaned dogs, and received a backlink from another website about dogs, then that would be more relevant in a search engine’s assessment than say a link from a site about car racing. Therefore, higher the relevance of the site linking back to your website, the better the quality of the backlink.
Search engines want websites to have a level playing field, and look for natural links built slowly over time. While it is fairly easy to modify your webpages to make them more SEO friendly it is a lot harder for you to influence other websites and get them to link to your website. This is the reason search engines regard backlinks as a very important factor. Further, search engine’s criteria for quality backlinks has gotten even tougher, thanks to unscrupulous webmasters trying to achieve these backlinks by deceptive or sneaky techniques, such as hidden links, or automatically generated pages whose sole purpose is to provide backlinks to websites. These pages are called link farms, and they are not only disregarded by search engines, but linking to a link farm could get your site banned entirely.
When a link incorporates a keyword into the text of the hyperlink, we call this anchor text. A link’s anchor text may be one of the most powerful resources a webmaster has. Backlinks from multiple websites with the anchor text “orphaned dogs” would help your website rank higher for the keyword “orphaned dogs”. Using your keyword is a superior way to utilize a hyperlink as against having links with words like “click here” which do not relate to your website. The ‘Backlink Anchor Text Analysis Tool’ is a tool which will assist you find your backlinks and the text which is being used to link to your website. If you find that your site is being linked to from another website, but the anchor text is not being utilized properly, you should request that the website change the anchor text to something which incorporates relevant keywords. This will also help boost your rankings.
Ways to Build Backlinks
Even if plenty of backlinks come to your site the natural way, additional quality backlinks are always welcome.
1 The Backlink Builder Tool
When you enter the keywords of your choice, the Backlink Builder tool gives you a list of relevent sites from where you might get some backlinks.
2 Getting Listed in Directories
If you are serious about your Web presence, getting listed in directories like DMOZ and Yahoo is a must, not only because this is a way to get some quality backlinks for free, but also because this way you are easily noticed by both search engines and potential visitors. Generally inclusion in search directories is free but the drawback is that sometimes you have to wait a couple of months before you get listed in the categories of your choice.
3 Forums and Article Directories
Generally search engines index forums so posting in forums and blogs is also a way to get quality backlinks with the anchor text you want. If the forum or blog is a respected one, a backlink is valuable. However, in some cases the forum or blog administrator can edit your post, or even delete it if it does not fit into the forum or blog policy. Also, sometimes administrators do not allow links in posts, unless they are relevant ones. In some rare cases (which are more an exception than a rule) the owner of a forum or a blog would have banned search engines from indexing it and in this case posting backlinks there is pointless.
4 RSS Feeds
You can offer RSS feeds to interested sites for free, when the other site publishes your RSS feed you will get a backlink to your site and potentially a lot of visitors, who will come to your site for more details about the headline and the abstract they read on the other site.
5 Affiliate programs
Affiliate programs are also good for getting more visitors (and buyers) and for building quality backlinks but they tend to be an expensive way because generally the affiliate commission is in the range of 10 to 30 %. But if you have an affiliate program anyway, why not use it to get some more quality backlinks?
6 News Announcements and Press Releases
Although this is hardly an everyday way to build backlinks, it is an approach that gives good results, if handled properly. There are many sites that publish news announcements and press releases for free or for a small fee . A professionally written press release about an important event can bring you many visitors and the backlink from a respected site to yours is a good boost to your SEO efforts. The tricky part is that you cannot release press releases if there is nothing newsworthy. That is why we say that news announcements and press releases are not a commodity way to build backlinks.
Link Practices That Are To Be Avoided
There is much discussion in these last few months about reciprocal linking. In the past few Google updates, reciprocal links were one of the targets of the search engine’s latest filter. Many webmasters had agreed upon reciprocal link exchanges, in order to boost their site’s rankings. In a link exchange, one webmaster places a link on his website that points to another webmasters website, and vice versa. Many of these links were simply not relevant, and were just discounted. So while the irrelevant backlinks were ignored, the outbound links still got counted, diluting the relevancy score of many websites. This caused a great many websites to drop off the Google map.
There is a Google patent in the works that will deal with not only the popularity of the sites being linked to, but also how trustworthy a site is that you link to from your own website. This will mean that you could get into trouble with the search engine just for linking to a bad apple.
Many webmasters have more than one website. Sometimes these websites are related, sometimes they are not. You have to also be careful about interlinking multiple websites on the same IP. If you own seven related websites, then a link to each of those websites on a page could hurt you, as it may look like to a search engine that you are trying to do something fishy. Many webmasters have tried to manipulate backlinks in this way; and too many links to sites with the same IP address is referred to as backlink bombing.
One thing is certain, interlinking sites doesn’t help you from a search engine standpoint. The only reason you may want to interlink your sites in the first place might be to provide your visitors with extra resources to visit. In this case, it would probably be okay to provide visitors with a link to another of your websites, but try to keep many instances of linking to the same IP address to a bare minimum. One or two links on a page here and there probably won’t hurt you.