Most of you will know that a link is text or an image which, when clicked, takes you to another page on the internet. What you might not be aware of is that links are extremely important for search engine optimization and helping your site rank well in the search engines for your important keywords. In this lesson we look at Getting Backlinks for SEO.
Ever heard of "Google bombing" or "link bombing"? This is where a webpage is able to rank highly for a search term purely because there are many sites linking to the page using those words in the clickable anchor text. This is how a search for "miserable failure" was once manipulated to show results for pages about President George W. Bush, or for documentary film maker Michael Moore.
It didn't matter that these sites had no mention of "miserable failure" in them, what mattered was that hundreds of other websites thought differently and linked to the sites using that text. Although search engines now employ measures to prevent "link bombing" from manipulating search results to show unrelated content, it's evidence of the search engines' emphasis on anchor text for determining rankings and relevance.
PageRank, briefly, is the "reputation" of your site, based on the number and quality of sites that are linking to you. It's one of the core ideas behind Google's ranking algorithms, and even though it isn't the only thing that determines your search engine ranking, it's a useful thing to work on building. Of course, the only way to build PageRank is by getting links to your site.
(Take a read of our lesson What is PageRank? for an introduction to PageRank)
Beware, however - a lot of affiliates get caught in the "must build PageRank" mentality and thus don't bother to get links from sites that don't "pass on" PageRank; they forget the most important thing (and the reason for building PageRank in the first place) - your goal, first and foremost, is to get traffic to your site! If you can get your links in places where they will receive a lot of click-through traffic and targeted visitors – even if the link doesn't give you PageRank or help your search engine rankings – then all you've done is skipped a few tedious steps and gone right to the finish line. So don't look past blog sites or social networking sites when you're building links: these can deliver lots of good, targeted traffic.
Some links are better than others. What makes a good link depends on which of the benefits we discussed above interests you most.
Link that improve your ranking for a specific keyword use your keyword in their anchor text and aren't marked with the "nofollow" attribute.
Links that are good for improving your PageRank come from sites with high PageRank, appear on pages where there aren't too many other links and aren't marked with the "nofollow" attribute.
Links which get traffic are enticing and interesting or arouse curiosity. One good trick is to leave a thought unfinished, or ask a question that people want to know the answer to - then people have to click through to find out!
Also: Don't be spammy! Remember you're trying to get people to click on your link, and they won't click if it looks like rubbish. Finally, if this link is only being used to garner traffic, it doesn't matter if you apply "nofollow" (or it's automatically applied).
Generally links appear on prominent pages, rather than being buried deeply inside a site. Ideally, your links will appear on pages that get a lot of traffic and are relevant to your site - there's not much point in your automotive restoration website being linked to by a vegetarian food forum.
Finally, where possible, your links will come from authority sites or well respected sites - High PageRank sites are great, as are sites with a .edu top level domain. A link from CNN is (probably) going to be better than a link from your local petanque club website.
Inbound links to your site are good links. They all help you, whether it's by giving you PageRank, helping you to rank for keywords, or sending you traffic.
Even if they don't do any of these things very effectively, they certainly can't hurt you - your site won't be penalized in any way if bad, disreputable sites link to yours. The worst that can happen is that your site becomes the subject for a "Google bomb", and starts to rank well for undesirable keywords – but even that can be turned into a good thing!
Be warned, however! If you decide to link to disreputable sites from your own site, even if it's just part of a link exchange for SEO purposes, you can end up being penalized for associating with bad internet citizens. Your site gets tarred with the same brush, and you might find your rankings plummeting and your site being de-indexed; be careful when participating in link exchanges, so you're not being unwittingly drawn into a bad neighborhood.
In this lesson we've looked at what purpose backlinks serve in SEO, including:
We then looked at what attributes make a good link for each of these aspects, including:
If you'd like to learn about the most current backlink building method, check out this lesson, "4 Simple Steps to Building Quality Links that Google will Love."