What are Backlinks & Why Are They Important for SEO?
Essentially, backlinks are links that point to your website. These are seen by search engines as one website vouching for another. In 2015, backlinks are still a core component of Google’s algorithm and play a crucial role in how websites are ranked by Google in the organic search results.
In SEO terms, quality backlinks provide a mechanism for Google to trust a website, build authority and credibility. And you guessed it, in time, more authority translates into better and stronger organic rankings.
How Google “scores” backlinks has changed tremendously over the past several years and continues to evolve while the search engine strives to improve the quality of their search results.
So what defines the quality of a backlink?
There are many quality factors and signals that Google assesses when determining the quality and in turn, the strength of a particular link. Not all links are created equal and this a critical component to understand when engaging the services of an SEO company. In 2015, it is more important than ever to understand that quality far outweighs quantity.
In layman’s terms, a single backlink can provide more strength and subsequent ranking results than dozens or hundreds or lower quality links.
So back to the original question; what defines the quality of a backlink?
Difficult to acquire links are typically of higher quality whilst that might sound like a very generic statement, let me elaborate. Editorial links such as those from authority websites cannot be easily acquired by webmasters and hold far greater strength in the eyes of a search engine.
Think about some of the big branded websites out there that you know of. Now think of receiving a link from these sites – yes, you guessed it – a huge vote of confidence for your website in Google’s eyes.
Links that are of poorer quality or “spammy links,” as they are often referred to, are very easy to obtain – these links can be obtained by anyone and do not require any great work to build them. These include forum profile links, article directories and spammy blog comments to name just a few.
Relevancy plays a big part in helping your backlink efforts. Google likes to see relevant industry websites linking back to your site – whilst not all links can be built this way, links from relevant industry sites are a must.
More is not always better
Google’s algorithm has become highly sophisticated in assessing natural link building to those that break their guidelines. Link velocity (the spend that links are built – found by Google) should not be ignored and can quickly trip algorithm filters.
Your link building campaign should be a strategic one. There are many amazing third party tools on the market that will allow you to access backlinks such as ahrefs. Tools like ahrefs allow you to snoop on your competition and assess their backlink portfolio.
This is an amazingly simple and effective technique to give you link sources that you may have not thought of. Always leverage the success of your competitors for your own campaigns.
When Google strikes back – help, my site is penalised!
As we discussed above, Google has become very sophisticated in assessing the quality of backlinks and techniques used by webmasters and SEOs, and subsequently whether your website deserves to be ranking in their search results.
Google Penguin, for example, can be merciless when accessing a websites backlinks. Whilst Google doesn’t always get it right, algorithmic layers such as Penguin turned the search landscape on its head as Google works to try and remove spam from their index.
If your site has been penalised, whether it was Google Penguin or another algorithmic layer, it’s important to remember that there are measures available to reverse penalties/filters.
Always engage the services of an SEO company or professional that has experience with these penalties. Reversing a Google penalty does take patience and expertise.
Written by Dim Apostolovski — Technical Director at WME.