During the process of optimizing your website for top Google results, you have likely come across the term ‘backlinks’. If you google this term itself you will face a list of checkers and audits offering to vet the quality of your backlinks, and maybe the occasional site offering to sell you hundreds of links for a relatively small amount of money. These two types of results are closely linked – the popularity of sites selling hundreds of bad backlinks has led directly to the success of the backlink checker, but how do you avoid the backlinks that might result in Google penalties for your site? And how can you build a reliable network of quality backlinks without paying for them? Read on to find out more about the importance of backlinks in terms of quality, quantity, and sourcing.
A LITTLE BIT OF BACKLINK HISTORY…
One of Google’s early ranking factors looked at the number of inbound links (backlinks) a website had, used this as a measure of its popularity and relevance, and ranked it more highly accordingly. However, webmasters soon got smart to this and figured out how to trick the search engine’s algorithm with large quantities of links from websites set up only for the purpose of linking to other sites. This began to professionalize, as people realized they could make money by setting up contentless websites and selling backlinks from these to valid webpages looking for links. This resulted in a huge increase in the number of poor quality websites, and Google in turn got smart to this and decided to combat it with an update that looks at not the quantity, but the quality of the backlinks directing people to your website.
QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
The new Google patent looks at the relevancy of the backlinks linking to your website. For example, a hotel website with a link from a tourism site will be ranked better than a restaurant website with a link from a website offering (ahem) Viagra and other ‘enhancements. The new algorithm will assume that this irrelevant link has been bought or otherwise dishonestly obtained, and may even penalize the restaurant’s website for attempting to discredit its results. Quality backlinks create a kind of network of recommendation, an online equivalent of word-of-mouth marketing, whereby a business in the same industry endorses the services offered by your website.
HOW TO GET QUALITY BACKLINKS
So if you can’t buy quality backlinks, how do you get them? It requires more leg work than it did a few years ago, but it is still possible to build a great network of links to your site. Start by thinking of how your customers hear about your business in the real world, then apply that chain of communication online. For example, if your business was dog grooming, perhaps your customer heard of you through a kennel service or vet surgery. You can then approach the owners of the vets or kennels in your area, and ask them personally if they might be interested in featuring a link to your services on their website, providing some information on the services you offer and contact details. This way, the linking website is relevant and you are likely to see some traffic to your website coming from it, which results in both improved SEO, and increased visitor numbers to your site. Depending on your industry, there may also be relevant forums that you can make your own entry on including a link to your site, and many businesses can now get positive endorsements and backlinks through bloggers or review sites.
Just remember to find the most relevant sites possible and provide the best quality content when placing your backlink, and you will soon create a web of reliable, useful links to your website.