Backlinks for SEO

SEO is multi-faceted

On your journey of discovery in the world of Search Engine Optimization, you will more than likely have encountered the term “backlink” as having some kind of special importance.

Usually any complete SEO strategy will include the basic optimisations of:

1. keywords

The usual advice is to do some research on the keywords of your niche. This will differ depending on your promotional goals. You may be trying to sell something, get people to sign up for something or just be a general authority on a subject. Each case will require specific words to be used for maximum relevance.


2. keyphrases

A similar situation to keywords. These are often called “long tail keywords”. It just means a term containing more than one word, possibly up to a complete sentence. An example of a keyphrase would be “places to buy long sleeve shirts”. Long tail keywords are generally more specific and thus more targeted to a user’s intent, but at the same time they get a lot less search volume than one or two word phrases.

3. competition analysis

There are almost always other people in the same business as you or doing the same activity. This practice is just studying in detail what your competition is doing, particularly the ones at the top of the search engine results pages, and see where you can improve or incorporate the strengths that they are displaying.

4. content quality

“Content is king” used to be the cry we heard fom all directions in the SEO field. Content is vitally important, but it is also possible to rank on reputation alone. One might compare it to some popular music. The content can sometimes be garbage, but it is wildly popular regardless. This depends largely on your niche, culture and personal taste. In general, try to have the highest quality content possible within your niche.

5. social media strategy

Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and the rest must all be considered as part of the SEO ecosphere. A facebook page and a Twitter account specifically for your company or website can be a huge source of publicity and activity. Of course it takes time and resources to create and maintain these social media presences but it seems no business is complete without this presence.

facebook social

6. user analytics

Using a tool such as Google analytics it can be determined exactly how traffic behaves as it enters and leaves your website. You can see which country they came from, how long they stayed, how many pages they visited, what browser they used, what operating system they used, the type of device it was (mobile or desktop) and lots more information. It is a lot to take in at once and it should be determined what will be monitered and what the data means to your site.

7. and the holy grail…backlink aquisition.

You may have seen backlinks written about with almost rabid fervor, or treated with the greatest of reverence as though they are the elixir of eternal riches.

There is a reason for this as not only do search engines consider them in their ranking algorithms, they also provide a direct pathway for users back to your website.

What backlinks are is a matter of perspective. Links from one web location to another have officially been known as “hyperlinks” since the birth of the internet. The perspective metioned here is the vantage point of your own website.

If you are looking at the internet from the outside, you see all the links pointing to each other and you say “look at all those hyperlinks!”.
When you look at the internet from the viewpoint of your own website and you see all the links on other sites pointing back at you, you say “look at all those backlinks!”.

Another term for a backlink that is sometimes used is “inbound link” or IBL. If your site has a lot of IBL’s from other respected and/or reputable sites, Google puts a lot of value in this. Regardless of SEO, such IBL’s will bring you traffic by themselves.

Backlinks are special.

If you are someone who is researching SEO and you have come to the subject of backlinks within that scope, you probably have noticed that backlinking stands out from other SEO disciplines. It has its own significance and the weight they carry for search engines speaks volumes as to why web masters seek and value them so much.

The search engine designers made the simple deduction that a site which is referenced by other sites, particularly those within the same subject area, carries some importance in that subject, therefore should be given preferential treatment in the results considering some other parameters.

While backlinks can and do massively help search ranking, it can have the opposite effect if done indiscriminately. There was once a time when you could rank your site for a keyword by simply repeating it tens of thousands of times invisibly in the site content, for example by making the keyword text the same colour as the background. The search algorithms in those days were so simple that they would see the keyword 5000 times on one site and 10,000 times on another and just put the one with the higher number in the higher position.

As search engines evolved, that trick no longer worked and in fact worked against the desired effect.

Backlinks then became the new keywords.

Web masters would simply splurge as many backlinks as they could around the internet pointing back to their website and that worked. For a while.

Google and the others soon caught up to that trick and now they look at the quality and relevance of backlinks and give those metrics a higher weighting than the sheer quantity of them. Quantity of backlinks alone can now work against a website’s search engine visibility if they are “unnatural”.

The look of a link.

Let us now clarify the forms that backlinks can take, i.e. how they might appear on a web page.

Backlinks might take the form of hypertext (a dated term, now more commonly called anchor text). An image can be a backlink, in which case the alt tag behind the image acts as anchor text. The relevance of this is that the text used as anchor text is considered by the search engines as well. It’s better if it is relevant to the destination, rather than something like “click here”.

There are two types of inbound links that Google (let’s be honest, that’s who we’re actually talking about here) generally considers.

1. Relevant, coming from a website of good repute and naturally placed there by writers or editors as a valuable addition to their own content.

2. Irrelevant, forced into place and unnatural looking, appearing similar to many links from other low quality sites.

The first of the items above counts towards a web site’s rank and the second, as if I need to explain in detail, counts against.

In fact, when I first bought this domain, the previous owner had link-spammed the domain name – – into the ground. As a result, I got the domain name for a low price but Google didn’t trust the site. Now there’s a huge task to create some decent content and get enough high quality backlinks so that all the garbage ones no longer matter.

So how do we determine the “quality” of a backlink?

In this case, it comes down to relevance. Search engines are extremely advanced machines these days. They are supercomputers running artificial intelligence algorithms which can “read” and “think” about an entire website in several thousandths of a second.

The quality of a website is a result of things like the writing standard. Spelling, grammar and information imparted all count. Other content types are media such as images, video and audio. If a site with good content that is related to your website also has a link to your website somewhere in a good position, that would be considered a high quality link. The flipside is that a link from a website that is thin on content, perhaps poorly written and spammy, is a low quality link and one you would be better off without.

Another metric that would be considered about IBL’s is the uniqueness of the domains from where the backlinks originate. Thousands of backlinks coming from only a few sites or sites which are themsleves interlinked will count for less than the same number of links from individual sites.

Naturalness is a concept that must be borne in mind with any link building strategy. Google has algorithms that can detect if the inbound links are growing in a natural way or are being forced into place, for example by buying backlinks in bulk. After the backlink craze started, websites began to crop up which existed solely to host pages of links. These are known as link farms. You, as a webmaster, should never have anything to do with link farms, ever.

Two more types of backlinks:

The two types are “nofollow” and “dofollow”.
A nofollow link will have rel=”nofollow” as an attribute within the link tag. This is a request to the search engines not to consider that link in their ranking algorithms. It’s up to the search engines whether they aquiesce or not.
Dofollow links are every other type of link we have already mentioned. They are considered more valuable than their nofollow counterparts, but the link mapping of a website will appear more natural if it contains a healthy amount of both types.

If I can’t buy, trade or spam links then how do I do any “link building”?

Good question. You have to forget about any and all shortcuts to getting backlinks these days. You have to be open, professional and pretty much “white hat” if you want any type of link building strategy to work in your favour.

This means that you will need to have a website that offers some type of value. Whether it answers a question or solves a problem or is simply good entertainment, it will need to be a good experience for the intended consumer.

That’s the first step.

Once you have your awesome content, you can do nothing and let people link to it organically or you can actively promote that content. There are legitimate, effective and easily actionable ways to do this. I highly recommend Brian Dean’s site to learn the right way of content promotion and getting the topmost quality backlinks in ways that get results.

If you click through to that website and don’t come back, I’ll understand. With the info Brian Dean puts out for free, he deserves the extra traffic.

Link wheels.

If you own several websites, possibly even each with related content, then it might be tempting to link them all together and get all those “free” backlinks from your own websites. Google isn’t stupid. This is known as a link wheel and again, such antics can harm your ranking to great degrees. If you are interlinking the sites as part of your own user’s navigation experience through your content, then that is up to you to make it obvious what your intentions are. Even so, you still risk penalisation for trying to manipulate the backlink weighting of your sites.

You just need to get in touch with people in a civil way and give them a good reason or ten to put a link to your website on their own website.
Some of those reasons could be:

  • There’s a dead link on their webpage.
  • You have better content on your page than the link that’s already there.
  • You think your link will add value to their content.

Once you have your SEO and backlinking campaign underway, you will be pleased to know that there are tools to keep track of backlinks to a website. You can see who is linking back to you as well as how they are linking back to you, i.e. what type of anchor text they are using for the link. One good tool that Google provides for this purpose is the Google Search Console, another is the Domain Stats Tool. These tools allow you to see exactly what is mentioned here, anchor text and locations of inbound links. They also offer many other services and are well worth taking a look at.


Backlinks are quite an important aspect of any SEO campaign. I would still say though that content is king. That fact was proven to me today without a doubt as I saw a webpage I was working on jump from the 6th page of the target keyword to the first, eighth position, literally overnight. This was achieved purely with a content upgrade and absolutely nothing else.

In competitive spaces, getting high quality backlinks is essential. I would say the best way to do that though is to make the best content that you possibly can, and then start contacting the people in your specialised field, showing it to them and getting them involved.

In this case a bit of reciprocity will not harm at all. Quality and relevance trading links to one another is absolutely fine.

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