We get lots of questions like this: What is a backlink? Well, this guide will tell you everything you need to know about backlinks. You will not only know the basic, but the more advanced stuff like pagerank, contextual links, and how to properly manage a backlink profile.
So, let’s dig in!
The History of Backlinks
It is 1996. Google has just been launched and they can index websites and allow you to crawl the internet quickly and find a website. Let’s say you own a pizza place. You put in your website that you are an Original Italian Pizza Place in New York. You can see we say you are a “Pizza Place in New York”, but don’t a bunch of pizza places say the same thing in their website? Well, then how will Google rank one over the other?!
Google obviously wants the best business and most relevant for the searcher, so they look at stuff like your website. Is it quick to load? Does it clearly say what it is? Does it allow the user to find more information? Then, it looks at the time the business has been around. New pizza places might find themselves in the back of the line. Then, they look at the third metric, which is the largest, called backlinks. Backlinks are the staple of the Google search engine. Backlinks show popularity and show how well recognized a business is. If you don’t have backlinks, how will Google value your website?
What is a backlink?
A backlink is just a hyperlink coming to your site or out to another site. We call them links for short, and incoming links we call backlinks for short. There are two types: outbound links and inbound links. Inbound, as you can guess, points to your site and outbound are hyperlinks on your website pointing to other sources.
You can see I linked to Wikipedia about backlinks. That way users can find even more information on backlinks if they wish.
So, do I need thousands of these?
Below is a quote from the head of spam at Google, Matt Cutts. It is pretty blatant that they do not want you to the spam the internet. When backlinks were first a score factor in the algorithm, marketers just blasted sites with thousands of backlinks. Tools like SENUKe, GSA Search Ranker, and more were one-click SEO domination shops. Now, these tools and almost all of these tools do not really work anymore. You need high quality links that gather social signals and natural links. Sorry, but the game is now hard and you have to put effort into it.
“Disavow backlinks: PageRank is Google’s opinion of the importance of a page, based on the incoming links from other sites. (PageRank is an important signal, but it’s one of more than 200 that we use to determine relevancy.) In general, a link from a site is regarded as a vote for the quality of your site. Google works very hard to make sure that actions on third-party sites do not negatively affect a website. In some circumstances, incoming links can affect Google’s opinion of a page or site. For example, you or a search engine optimizer (SEO) you’ve hired may have built bad links to your site via paid links or other link schemes that violate our quality guidelines. First and foremost, we recommend that you remove as many spammy or low-quality links from the web as possible. If you’ve done as much work as you can to remove spammy or low-quality links from the web, and are unable to make further progress on getting the links taken down, you can disavow the remaining links. In other words, you can ask Google not to take certain links into account when assessing your site.”
So, not only do we need backlinks, but we need the right backlinks. Here is what we look for when we look into backlinks:
Anchor Text is the most widely abused way to game the system. If you make your anchor text (the words in blue that are the clickable link) something you are trying to rank for, you can seriously jeopardize your rankings. The penguin Google updates smash websites that try to spam their anchor text. If you have above a 1% exact match keyword, meaning if I try to rank for “dog food in Atlanta”, and more than 1% of my backlinks are “dog food in Atlanta”, you could suffer from a penalty.
Our recommendation is to only use branded anchor text i.e. “your business name” like “Visiture”, your URL https://www.visiture.com gumarketing.com, or generic phrases like “click here” “visit it”. This will enable Google to view your links more naturally.
Use a tool like Ahrefs to make sure your anchor texts are fine:
You can see our anchor phrases for domains are pretty heavy on one side and that is okay. We are not perfect and work on correcting it, however, on the pages side we are pretty good.
In the same regard with Anchor Text, you want your backlinks to have to do with your keywords you are trying to rank for. If the article is about “diapers” and you are trying to rank for “Auto mechanic shop”, you will have a very difficult time doing so. You want to make sure you get backlinks from sites that have to do with what you do and the article or “context” of the link/website has to do with what you do. So, if you are an auto mechanic, you would ideally want links from auto mechanic websites.
Authority is how much “link juice” or power comes from a backlink. If you get a homepage link from inc.com you will get lots of authority. There is no system to measure authority.
Domain authority is a complex system that ranks a website from 1-100. Inc.com is a 99 and gumarketing.com is a 41 (on a good day J). The higher the domain authority, the better for your site. Use this tool to check out other sites. Check it out with http://smallseotools.com/domain-authority-checker/.
Just because you get an awesome link from an awesome site’s inner page (i.e. inc.com/category/example/myarticle-is-here), it does not mean you get awesome authority. You have to have good page authority, and the way to get it is by people sharing the link on social media, getting backlinks to it, and so on.
A tiered system is another way of saying links pointing to links. If you get that awesome article on inc.com and other links point to your article, it creates a tiered system. This is natural in viral campaigns because if you make an awesome article, other people will link to it, but marketers have spammed it in the past.
Social signals are just social media shares on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the other platforms. More social signals will create higher quality backlinks, but it won’t help ranking directly, at least there are no case studies to prove it.
If you manually create a backlink, it is good to put a “no follow” tag on it. It looks like this <a href=”signin.php” rel=”nofollow”>sign in</a>. If you include that tag, you are good. ALWAYS use this in press releases. That is the most obvious manually created one. Just because it is a big company, it does not mean they can’t feel Google’s wrath. eBay felt the wrath before, so anyone can be vulnerable.
There is only one type of penalty from Google, and it is called a manual penalty. They come in the form of a direct manual penalty, meaning someone from Google saw your site and decided you should not be indexed, or at least part of your website you were trying to spam rank for. The other penalties are not really penalties, although we call them penalties. They are actually just the Algorithm devaluing your site. That is the most common penalty. It is when the algorithm used to rank you, then the algorithm changes and they do not value you as much anymore. You need not to worry about how to fix it, but just how to move forward to get back to where you were ranked before by creating great links and having solid on page optimization.
We have talked a lot about ideal backlinks, but remember you want some dirt in your link profile. Overall, you always want good quality, but if you just have good quality, Google might find that bizarre. You want links from local citations (Yelp, Yellow Pages, etc…), social platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Google+), and even from low authority sites. Google knows whether they were intentional or not and will not count them against you or for you. To analyze your backlink profile, use AHREFs, SEMRush, Majestic SEO, or SEOProfiler. We buy them all and use them all, so we have no preference.
How to get them:
There are THOUSANDS of strategies to get links. Some are like creating content, some are more simply like creating a scholarship. In the interest of time, and us remaining in business, we will show you one way we got an ultra-high authority backlink and how it helps us.
First, we did our research. We wanted to find a high quality site to get a backlink from. We found a site call smallbiztrends.com. We basically Googled “top small business blog”, and it was unanimous. We did our research and found it has a domain authority of 82.94 (from http://smallseotools.com/domain-authority-checker/). So, we know this is an awesome place to get a backlink from. We looked at their footer and saw guest content. We then saw their guidelines, so we know WHAT content they want written and what we should write. We also saved their content editors information so we could reach out to them.
We researched their site and found lots of small business news and trending content. They want content that talks about small business and trends in them. Well, this is perfect to talk about SEO for small businesses, right? So, we wrote an article called ‘2 Clever SEO Tactics You Never Hear About”.
This article was built for their website. To write the article, we researched our content using buzzsumo.com. We entered in topics and found great content. It literally tells you whether the content is good and has done well in the past. Obviously, don’t copy and paste it, but it gives you a good starting build on your content.
Once we had our topic “clever SEO tactics for small businesses” (obviously not listed on the image), we renamed it “2 Clever SEO Tactics You Never Hear About” and wrote a MUCH better and MUCH more awesome piece of content. There is no guidelines and creating content. Just make it 100% unique, and if you don’t get excited about it, the content is not an awesome piece of content.
Once the article was written, we were excited. We reached out to the content editor and it went something like this:
My name is Ronald Dod with Visiture, an internet marketing agency focused on SEO for eCommerce businesses. We reviewed your site, your audience, and your content, and love it all. Being that we work with lots of small businesses, we wrote an article tailored FIT for your audience and website, “2 Clever SEO Tactics You Never Hear About”. We would love it if you published it on your website and just give us a link back to our site in the bio to give us credit for it.
They obviously accepted it and published the article. You can see our backlink in the bio:
You see how the Visiture is blue? It is hyperlinked to our homepage. For high authority links, we only use branded hyperlink anchor text and only send them to our homepage. A lot are also rel=nofollow, and that is fine. Google says they don’t count, but they do in our opinion.
Here is what is important: 770 social media shares 2 months later, ranked #2 on Google News for SEO for 1 month, 8 comments, and 130 backlinks. THAT IS POWERFUL!
That is the content you want to create. Awesome, sharable content. We only spent maybe 2-3 hours on this and received a tremendous benefit. We didn’t have to build 130 backlinks; they were built for us.
Look at that! 129 backlinks just from one article. That is a success and what you want to look for. We even had a client reach out to us telling us about it. We had a potential client who saw the article before. It builds your brand, trust, and credibility in the industry too.
Do you have anything to add? Sound off in the comments section.
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Ronald Dod is the Chief Marketing Officer and Co-founder of Visiture, an end-to-end eCommerce marketing agency focused on helping online merchants acquire more customers through the use of search engines, social media platforms, marketplaces, and their online storefronts. His passion is helping leading brands use data to make more effective decisions in order to drive new traffic and conversions.
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