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What Are Backlinks, and Why Are They Important For Search Engine Rankings?

Backlinks are essentially links from other websites to yours, and they are very important for your website if you want to rank at the top of search engines. This is the MOST important OffPage SEO factor. Think of a backlink as a vote in your website’s favor – a vote that says that your website is authoritative enough or trusted enough to link to. As Google attaches a lot of importance to these links when analyzing websites, the more backlinks you have, the better your placement in SERPs.

The first thing you need to understand is that not all links are created equal. There are dozens of factors that relate to what's a quality link and what is not.

Can You Tell Me More About Backlinks?

You may ask yourself, “How do I get more backlinks to point to my website?” This can be very difficult, because Google and the other search engines can discern the difference between a trusted, relevant link and one that was created solely for the purposes of boosting page rank.

However, there are many different types of legitimate backlinks, for example here's a potential few:

  • - Trusted Website Directories
  • - Google News Syndicated Press releases
  • - Authority Blog posts
  • - Social Network Shares/Posts/Profiles
  • - Certain Types of Online Articles
  • - Certain Types of Social Bookmarks

Anyone involved in linking has a huge responsibility, because of the very sensitive nature of the work. There are risks involved, as you can actually damage a website’s reputation and its placement in search engines if quality linking tactics are not employed.

Because Google and the other search engines look at the source of the backlinks and the authority behind them, and they can detect unnatural patterns. Gone are the days when link wheels, and link exhanges worked. If Google detects anything they don’t like in the linking structure or source, they can and will penalize websites or completely disregard the links in their system. This typically results in a reduced placement in SERPs.

What Makes a Good Backlink?

As of 2015, several key components are the hallmarks of a “good” backlink – in other words, links that Google will consider favorably in its algorithm. They are:

  • * Link source – where is your incoming link coming from? Links from trusted sources are weighed more heavily than obscure or unknown sources.
  • * Link quantity – the overall number of external sources linking to your website
  • * SEO visibility of linking pages – again, how trusted or authoritative is the linking source? News sites and heavily-trafficked sites are better than obscure sites without much of an SEO presence or traffic.
  • * Number of news domains links to your homepage – this signifies freshness or recentness of your content.
  • * Number of same-country links – incoming links from halfway around the globe may set off Google’s alarm bells
  • * Number of NEW links – recently-created incoming links
  • * Number of AGED links – those that have been around for a long time
  • * Number of nofollow links – those links can be every bit as important as traditional links, and even may encourage interaction on the part of the visitor
  • * Link anchors – links that point to a specific part of a webpage

Which of these is most important, in terms of favorable page rankings?

The top 3 in importance are:

  • - Number of backlinks
  • - SEO visibility of backlinking URL
  • - Percentage of nofollow backlinks

Learning all the appropriate methods to do link building correctly takes a lot of time; it can be a very complex process. There are dozens of tools that can be used, and it can mean a full-time job for sites that are serious about growing.

What Are Some of the Other Components To Be Aware of In Backlinks?

It is important to get in the mindset that linking should be viewed as building a relationship with other websites.

When you link to another website, or another source links to YOUR site, you are reinforcing that the site has relevance to your business and that it is a trusted resource to share.

Link velocity is another aspect to be aware of. This is the timing or sequence of links that appear (or dissappear! - negative link velocity is a real thing, so those of you courageously dissavowing all your links - you've been warned). Gaining a lot of links very quickly – 600 in one day, and none the next – may impact how Google views your website because that may be considered an unnatural pattern.

Steady, slow growth link acquisition is the way to go. The pattern of where those links are coming from can also be important, and the goal is to get backlinks from a variety of sources, including news sites, blogs, directories, and others.

Remember – if it looks suspicious or follows an obvious or unnatural pattern, your website can be penalized in SERPs.

Do everything you can to maintain links from sites that have linked to you for years. Aged backlinks suggest trust to the search engine algorithms. Likewise, fresh backlinks are important, too – they signify freshness and relevance of your website’s content.

What is Multi-Tiered Linking?

Multi-tiered linking is a technique that some SEO professionals use, but most do it incorrectly. When websites are launched, they often have no backlinks whatsoever. Getting links is crucial, of course, so there are ways to get this backlinking going. In short, multi-tiered linking starts by:

  • - Creating in-depth content on other sites and linking those to the new website. You’re only as good as the links pointing to your links; in other words, Google may not attach much weight to this tier of the linking strategy, and want to see what links to those other pages.
  • - Create relevant blogs and appropriate links that support your business’s website. Content doesn’t need to be as high-quality as in the first tier.
  • - Repeat with another set of blogs or social media outlets, with appropriate links as required.

It is very important that you put yourself in a “zero footprint” mindset – in other words, doing this link building without any detectable patterns and without running afoul of Google’s algorithms and link/spam policies.

Google does not like to index new content, and they can be very stubborn with their criteria for evaluating that new content. To keep Google happy, it is ideal to use a variety of indexing resources to get the search engines to see and to index your new links. These can include:

  • - RSS feeds
  • - Micro blogs
  • - Social Bookmarks
  • - Blog comments
  • - Image syndication

The overall number of backlinks is very important. On average, the top 2 positions in SERPs have over 2500 backlinks!

Is Anchor Text Important?

In 2012, the Google “Penguin” algorithm was released, and this caused a shakeup in the SEO world. In a nutshell, this is Google’s anti-spam algorithm, tasked with tracking down and penalizing websites engaged in unnatural link-building strategies (sometimes referred to as “link spam”). Anchor text can set off Penguin’s filters if not done correctly, so as with all other aspects of SEO, it is crucial that the links are created safely and correctly.

Here are a few safe variations of anchor text links we use:

  • - Naked URLs (such as
  • - Brands or Branded terms (domain name, or brand product)
  • - Keywords, with or without variations like plurals
  • - Keywords with a positive sentiment (favorite “keyword”)
  • - Generic words (click here, visit this website)
  • - Capitalizations, punctuation, and formatting (bolded words, exclamation points, etc.)

It is a good practice to use as many of these as possible in no discernable pattern to stay safe from Google Penguin penalties, and make every link count - because remember, you'll have a difficult time achieving top rankings without links.

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