When you start out on your internet marketing career you often get swamped with new terms and ideas.
Some of these are absolute fundamentals and some are flash in the pan trends. It takes time, and experience to usually sort through this mess.
However, one thing area of internet marketing that hasn’t changed in importance since the first search engine is backlinks.
What are backlinks?
A backlink is an incoming link from another website to yours. It’s as simple as that.
Some backlink terminology
Internet marketing, like any other profession, loves it’s jargon, and backlinks have a whole bunch related to them. Here’s a quick overview for you:
- Backlink: A link incoming to your site
- Link Juice: This is a term by marketers to visualize the power of a link. The more esteemed a link, the more link juice it has. If a spammy site links to you it has less “juice” than a government or international company website has.
- Nofollow link: This is a special attribute on a link telling search engine spider bots not to follow the link. As such these links don’t pass “link juice”.
- Do-follow link: Actually this is a misnomer as it refers to normal links that don’t have the nofollow rule.
- Anchor Text: The text that masks the link, so rather than seeing http://ivetriedthat.com, you would see ITT, where ITT is the anchor text.
- Internal links: Links on your website that point to other post and pages on your website.
How do backlinks help?
Search engines use lots and lots of different factors and metrics to decide on what websites to show for a search query and where to rank each one in the list.
One of the most important ones is your websites backlink profile.
It’s been said that since the Google Panda algorithms that backlinks have less of an effect on ranking. This might be true, but I can tell you that they are still an important ranking factor, more so than social signals and keywords.
Having a solid backlink profile can help Google et al understand that your site has authority within the niche. This in turn helps improve ranking.
What is a backlink profile?
In short, a backlink profile is just the list of backlinks coming into your site.
Different links coming in will hold varying degrees of worth (link juice). For example you may end up having lots of links that come from sites outside your niche, and these will have a lesser effect than ones coming from sites that match your websites niche.
Therefore a backlink profile will consist of a mixture of high quality and low quality links.
The ideal of course is to have more high quality links (relevant, from reputable sources) than low quality links.
It is quite possible to manipulate your backlink profile though both manual and automatic processes.
For example, you could start an outreach campaign and begin to obtain backlinks though guest blogging, commenting, and sharing quality content.
Or you could buy backlinks.
Purchasing backlinks is almost always frowned upon and can in fact have a negative impact on your site.
The main reason for this is not just the relevancy and reputation of the backlink source, but the fact that purchasing backlinks rarely, if ever, adds them to your backlink profile in a natural way. Instead they tend to get dumped in large lumps which raise multiple flags for search engines.
As well as that, most purchased backlinks are low quality and can even be faked or lost over time, which does not make for a good investment.
How can you get backlinks?
As mentioned above, you could purchase backlinks, but it’s not a sensible long term business move.
How then can you obtain links?
#1 Write or produce high quality, shareable content
By crafting unique and interesting content more people will be willing to link back to it via their own site after.
#2 Guest blogging
By writing content for others, you can gain valuable backlinks on related, and hopefully popular, sites.
#3 Commenting & Forums
This is an old link building method but one that can still provide solid backlinks for your profile. Commenting on other bloggers sites and in community forums can, in most cases, allow you to leave a link as well.
Of course, be sensible with this and only comment if you have something worthwhile to say, otherwise you may be considered spam and blocked.
#4 Social Media
Social signals are helpful and links back from people’s profiles and feeds are a great source of backlinks.
#5 Directory sites
This type of site used to be very popular, but nowadays have been “Google slapped” and have less weight behind them. However that doesn’t mean they are useless. As long as you pick a reputable directory the links carry some weight and help to broaden your profile.
Bonus points (figuratively) if the directory is niche specific.
One thing to avoid though is the directory sites that force you to pay for submission. They are usually highly expensive and don’t provide value for money.
Visual data sources like infographics are very popular and can often be shared far and wide. You can get one created for a couple of hundred bucks which is reasonable for a quality and shareable piece of content. Or if you have an artistic flair, you could create one yourself.
Use a mixture of anchor text for all the backlinks you create personally, in order to mimic more natural trends.
In the same light, make sure not all the links you create are “do-follow” links, throw in some nofollow again to recreate natural link building. Yes this sounds counter-intuitive, but it really does assist in creating a natural backlink profile.
This may seem like an odd choice for a backlink article, but internal links should be treated just the same and are in a lot of ways just as important.
Building internal links not only allows your visitors to find new and interesting parts of your site, but keep search engine bots there for longer, allowing them to index more of your site in one go.
Use a mixture of anchor terms and make sure that you link to relevant articles, not just to the homepage or to an article you want to rank.
Are all backlinks created equal?
Not at all.
Consider a link from a university in a field related to your niche or one from a link farm whose site contains 30,000 or more outbound links to a wide variety of niches. Which would be the better?
Search engines can and do rate the relevancy or reputation of the incoming link, so it’s important to focus on trying to obtain solid ones.
The negative aspect of backlinks
As links hold such weight in terms of page ranks, it is a sad and horrible thing that some people can actually use this against your site.
Such negative link profiles can be built quite cheaply and can have a very damaging effect on people’s websites.
This became such a problem that Google even set up a Link Disavow service to help people distance themselves from negative link building.
The Bottom Line
Until the web changes dramatically and shifts from links, backlinks will always be an important part of ranking your site. As such it pays to invest in creating a natural and wide ranging (keeping relevant still) backlink profile.