What are backlinks, and how are they used?
In the simplest of terms, backlinks (sometimes called inbound links) are links to your website which have been posted on other websites. This is important because when someone clicks through to your site from another site, the search engine views it as a positive “vote” for your site.
Search engines highly associate your site’s backlinks with your site’s ability to satiate a browser’s search wishes. In other words, they are an indication to the search engine of your site’s popularity and importance.
Through links, engines can not only analyze the popularity of a website, but also metrics including spam, authority and trust. Legitimate sites tend to link to other trusted sites, while questionable sites receive very few links from trusted sources.
With links, as it is with most things, quality trumps quantity. A search engine considers the content of a site to determine whether a given link is quality. When inbound links to your site come from others sites, and those sites have content related your site, they are considered more relevant by the search engine.
There is no magic number of how many backlinks a site should have. Ideally you want to acquire links from reputable sites. These should be acquired at a natural and consistent pace as you develop good relationships with other webmasters.
Backlinks are easy to manipulate, but if the search engine views you to be “cheating”, you will be penalized. Because of these tactics used by some webmasters, criteria for links has become more difficult in recent years. Tactics such as hidden links or automatically generated pages called farm links are not only disregarded, but they could get your site banned from the search engine entirely.
Many webmasters who own more than one site may try interlinking their own sites. This too can backfire, as linking too many sites with the same IP address is referred to as back link bombing and will be a red flag to the search engine.
So how to you build up backlinks the right way? First, it is helpful if you are able to keep track of the sites linking back to yours. There are a number of online tools that can help you do this. Some programs can help you identify what other sites are out there that carry content similar to yours – if another website has similar content, they will be more likely to link to your site.
Another important strategy for backlinks is the use of anchor text. When a link incorporates a keyword into the text of a hyperlink, it is called quality anchor text. Instead of writing something which is irrelevant to the content such as “click here”, a savvy webmaster will write something relevant to the content of the linked page such as “blueberry pie recipe”. If you find that your site is being linked to from another website, but that anchor text is not being used properly, you should request that the website change the anchor text to something incorporating relevant keywords. This will help boost the quality of your backlink score.
Because of the importance placed on backlinks by search engines, utilizing them properly is key to your success in search engine optimization.