Whenever the topic of organic search engine optimization is reviewed, the conversation is divided into talking about two separate primary focus areas for doing optimization: one, on-site activities like tagging and content building, and the other about off-site, or external to the website activities, like blogging, social media generation, and backlinking.
Today, it is recognized that without proper tagging and content development, what is done outside the website will not overcome the deficiencies of the website. So, pay attention to the website first. Once that is in order, then one can start paying attention to the off-site SEO activities, which consist mainly of creating backlinks and social signals. Most importantly, to boost your ranking in SERP’s (Search Engine Results Page), you need to generate quality links from high authority sites I’ll arbitrarily designate websites with domain ranks of 40 or higher (on a scale of 1-100) and with page rank authority of 15 or higher (every page on a website has its own unique rank; the authority of a page, and any links emanating from a page is a combination of domain rank and page authority).
How can you know what the domain rank and page authority are? It’s easy. Many of the best SEO tools software programs provide tools that you can use for limited purposes. Happily, checking domain rank and page authority is one of the uses that is allowed with these programs: Ahrefs www.ahrefs.com), SEO Moz (www.moz.com), and Small SEO Tools (www,smallseotools.com). Our personal favorite is Ahrefs. Their software seems to “see” links that are posted more quickly and to see more of them. But, all three, and others, will give you the answer.
It would be hard not to have heard of “backlinks” in today’s world, but a good understanding is more uncommon. We’re going to review backlinks and how they can help rank your keywords in the search engine results.
Exactly what is a backlink?
“Backlinks” are incoming links to a webpage from another website, social media site, like Facebook, or from directories, i.e., websites that list and aggregate services and websites, i.e., like Yelp. When any web page links toany other web page, it’s called a backlink. They are called “inbound links” if coming from another, external, site, “internal” if they link one page of a website with another page in the same website, or “outbound” if sending a link from your website to another website.
We’re going to focus on “inbound’ links. Internal links have little value to the search engines (although we have found that if links are added to the “footer” of the Home Page and link to an internal page of the site, it seems to help the search engines find and value the content on the internal page). Also, outbound links to authoritative sites, like the ones shown above, seem to also be valued by the search engines; but, by and large, it is the inbound links that prove the value of your website, its content, and keywords to the search engines. Tim Soulo of Ahrefs recently stated that his company, Ahrefs, strictly looks at the inbound links to determine the authority of a site. This came about after an exhaustive study and correlation of ranking factors and actual rankings (https://inbound.org/discuss/on-page-seo-is-dead-we-studied-2m-search-queries-to-learn-that-research-by-ahrefs). This article comes from a site with a domain rank of 63 and a page authority of 23. As determined by Ahrefs.
Search engine algorithms use the number of backlinksand their relative as an indicator to determine if your site is important and deserves ahigh ranking. The three major search engines seem to slant their rankings based on their own areas of emphasis. It is not uncommon to see a keyword rank highly on Google and not on Bing or Yahoo, and vice versa. Google seems to like links from relevant sites; Bing and Yahoo seem to emphasize social signals and links from social media sites, particularly Facebook (we’ve seen Google place more emphasis on Google+ postings and links and YouTube videos and links, both of which are affiliated with Google). But, these are feelings or opinions, not scientific facts.
Why are Backlinks important?
SEO backlinks are vital to help define the products and services you offer for the search engines and to provide relevant content to which the search engines can direct searchers. Search results have a finite number of spaces to list the results on a page, 10 to be exact. That is the prize turf and where you should focus on being. Over 90% of searchers never go beyond the first page of the search results (for mobile, it’s probably even fewer due to lack of viewing space on a smartphone).
Proper backlinks help define your niche and can separate you from other players in your niche. These backlinks open a window to your site for viewers who land on another site and who seek more, and better, information. These backlinks also tell the search engines that your website is a font of information, not only on your site but co-related with other sites in that those sites are tieing in with your site about that content. Conversely, links from non-relevant sites can alert the search engines that your site is non-relevant because it links to so many non-topical sites with no relevant content. Better to have fewer links with relevant content than more links with non-relevant sites. The right mix of backlinks will help your siteget indexed, and for the proper content/keywords. This, in turn, will bring organic traffic to the site either in dribs and dabs if the search traffic is light for the particular keyword, or in great numbers, if the keyword is heavily searched. (Keyword analysis and selection is left for another time.
Backlinks help immensely to improve search ranking for a keyword. We regard backlinks as 70%-80% of the tangible elements that get a keyword ranked. (Content, tagging, and a myriad of other factors account for the balance.)
Type of Backlinks
There are two types of backlinks:
1. Do-follow Backlinks
2. No-follow backlinks
What are Do-follow and No-follow backlinks?
When Google bots are crawling a web page, they look for externallinksthat point to other sites. So, if your link was “do follow” thensearch engines will follow the link and so “link juice” gets passed, i.e., the links provide heft for the website, the keyword, and the content.
<a href=http://www.digiio.com <http://www.digiio.com/>rel="do-follow">Digiio</a>
<a href=http://www.trello.com <http://www.trello.com/>rel="external"> Trello</a>
Look at this rel=”do-follow” and rel=”external” code. These tags define thatthe link is a do-follow link. (If the rel attribute is not used, then the link willbe automatically treated as ‘do-follow.' These “do-follow” links are relevant for searchengine optimization as they allow the search engines to track and value the links and the relationship of the link to the content and keywords (which is called link juice), which means a portion of the value of the site from which the link has emanated will become attributed to the website, content, and keywords of the site receiving the link, i.e., the “link juice”.
Respectively, whensearch engines find a “no-follow” backlink, they just ignore the link, i.e., the “no-follow” aspect of the link, which is a deliberate decision by the link provider not to share the juice. So, the search engines will not attribute value from that link to the receiving website.
<a href=http://www.huffingtonpost.com <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/>rel="no-follow">HuffingtongPost</a> (Huffington Post has a domain rank of 80 and 200 million backlinks, so a link from this site would be very valuable.)
A “natural” link pattern will include some “no-follow” links. So, they have value by showing that your site is acquiring links in a natural manner. Importantly, how many outbound links a specific page generates can affect the value of the link. A rule of thumb is that if the originating link comes from a page with more than 100-200 outbound links, the “juice” from these links is greatly reduced (there are exceptions for authoritative sites, like Wikipedia). In an extreme example, the search engines will note the disproportionate number of outbound links and blacklist the site, which can impair the ranking of sites receiving links from those sites. Several years ago, PDN’s (Private Data Networks) were prevalent and were used to generate thousands of backlinks. Google found many of them and took down the rankings for many sites associated due to the links received from those sites.
Where to use?
• Look to receive links from sites with related content and to build on content on your site
• Find sites/blogs/social media sites with rankings higher than your own; a link from a lower ranked site will provide little “juice” and if less than a 10 page authority, practically no value (.edu and .gov sites have high authority and special juice that is valuable). Did you know you can get links from Google Drive and Google Playstore). Go for it.
• Links to the original source (in case you like to refer to someone's content that provides depth or authoritative information, much like the link to the Tim Soulo article cited above)
• Need some to show natural development of links
• In comments section, since getting “do-follow” links may not be realistic)
• From unrelated sites in content.
• Most promotional links fall into this category since they are intended for short term use and or specific targeted audiences. You DO NOT WANT short term links because they are likely to disappear.
Summary on Value of Backlinks
Backlinks are vitally important to developing high SEO page rankings; and, not all links are created equal. Low authority links, “no=follow links, links from non-relevant content, and links from overused sites and pages have no place in your link hierarchy.
The “juice” from good backlinks can carry your website and keywords to a high place in the searchresult listings. Know where you are getting your links from and what impact they may have on your strategy, placement, and ultimate profit scenario.