What is Backlinking and Why Is It Important

Most business owners are familiar with the term search engine optimization (SEO) and they know that ranking in Google, Yahoo! or Bing for non-branded target keywords is the best way for their website to be found online. However, most owners do not understand the technical components and aspects that influence search engines results affecting how their website ranks.

There are several factors search engines use in their algorithms when determining search results for your target keywords. One of the most important factors is the number of “backlinks” a website has. Considered a “vote” from another website, backlinks are incoming links to a site or page from another source. Also known as inbound links and part of an “off-page SEO program”, a backlink is essentially a hyperlink pointing from one website to another.

The number of backlinks a website has is one key indicator used by a search engine’s algorithm indicating the importance of that page, while helping that page become associated with your target keywords—the fundamental basics of SEO. The strategy used to obtain backlinks is particularly important and if not done correctly, could actually harm your rankings in the search engines. In order to build safe links for your site, it’s important to have an understanding of the four basic components needed for a successful backlinking campaign:

Link Popularity

This rule of popularity is based on how many other websites have links on their page that point to yours. Because popular sites with well-written and unique content should naturally attract incoming links, this is a factor the search engines take into account when ranking a website. A page with more quality inbound links will more than likely have stronger influences on the search engines than a page with no back links to it.

Link Reputation

Not all incoming links are created equally and it’s vital to obtain backlinks from quality sources. Based on relevance, the link reputation determines the quality of one’s links. This is defined in part by how closely related the sites are that link to one another. For example, a general sports website may include links to other website pages that are on lacrosse or football. These are considered relevant links and will likely have more of a positive impact in the search engines algorithms. However, if the same sports page linked to a site for pets or household goods, the search engines wouldn’t consider it as relevant and would provide less importance on that link. After all, Google considers the backlinks to your page the “company” you keep. Make sure that you’d be comfortable with a site representing you to the search engines before linking there!

Anchor Text

Relevance (and ranking) in the search engines is also done through anchor text. These are words or phrases that are clickable hypertext to your web page. As both human viewers and search engines see this text, anchor text defines the web page it links to and therefore should be relevant to your website. To be successful in the search engines, businesses must use a varying set of keywords that compels others to click on the link to visit that web page. Before visiting the website, people should know what the website is about by having relevant, descriptive text.

Google Page Rank

Google Page Rank is not the “end all, be all” measurement, (after all, Larry Page named it after himself); however, it is an effective tool for marketers and webmasters. The page rank of a website is a link analysis algorithm that Google uses to measure the generalized importance of a page. Ranging from zero to ten, it combines link popularity and reputation to decide how high a site will place on that scale—zero being the lowest and ten being the highest. Websites with a higher page rank are likely to have more relative, authoritative inbound links. While Google reads an incoming link for website #1 to website #2 as a “vote” from the first URL to the second, it also takes a close look at the website that’s providing the vote. A website that is considered “popular” provides a stronger vote, becoming the ideal place for websites with less popularity to get backlinks from. This form of endorsement can help the lesser popular websites become better known and rank higher.

While there are several elements of backlinking, it is perhaps the most important to build incoming links naturally and directly for human visitors. Before placing a backlink, think about whether it would still be worthwhile if Google didn’t exist. The search engines are trying to make a user-friendly experience and usually give more credit to links that are natural and beneficial. Obtaining backlinks through this method is one of the best ways to help your website rank high in the search engines.