Understand the basics of one of the most popular and powerful modern SEO tactics: building backlinks.
Backlinks have been a hot topic in SEO for a long time. Marketers regularly debate the finer points on how to get them, how to make them look natural, and how to find high-quality opportunities — all while avoiding penalties from Google.
And if you’re a freelance designer who helps businesses with their ads, you need to know them.
Why is that? Because your backlink profile tells a lot about how important your website is, making it a critical marketing tool for your page and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) strategies.
That’s why, in part 1 of our 3-part backlink series, we’re going to focus on understanding what backlinks are and why they matter. In Part 2, we’ll dig into how to build backlinks, and then move to some powerful backlink monitoring tools in Part 3.
- what’s a backlink?
You need to understand what a backlink is before we dive into how to create backlinks.
Fortunately, this is easy: a backlink is a hyperlink from one site to another — specifically, from another site to your site or your client’s page.
- why do backlinks matter?
Backlinks provide what SEO experts also call “link juice” that can either support or damage your page ranking, depending on the quality of the site you connect to. Let me clarify that.
If Google analyzes a reference pointing back to your website, the value of your website (or “domain authority”) is correlated with the value of the website on which the connection is based. This reference is often referred to as “link juice” because the meaning of this website flows through a link to yours, a kind of electrical current.
The theory is: if Website A finds this URL to be important enough to connect to, and Website A is a high-quality website, then Website B must also be a good website.
But let’s make that a little more concrete: let’s presume you’re writing a blog post about web design, and Smashing Magazine wants to connect to your post later. Since Google sees Smashing as a high-quality website, your page gets a nice little boost from that reference.
On the other hand, if you connect a low-quality website to your article, Google may look less favorably on your website.
You start building a backlink profile over time, which is the total value of all your backlinks.
- Few things to think about for your backlinking strategy
When you work to build your backlink profile (which we’ll dive into later), the reliability of the website you link to will be one of the most important factors.
But this is not the only important element. There are two more details to keep in mind when creating a backlink profile for your website:
Nofollow links vs. do-follow links
The backlink needs to be done-follow to get good link juice. This is the “Google can assign value to a reference pointing back to your page” SEO jargon, and this is the standard for links.
Websites who wish to avoid potential damage by connecting to a low-level website will not pursue their backlinks, which does the reverse. I.e., it asks Google not to add you to their website.
Most major websites and newspapers like the Huffington Post do not pursue their external links to avoid damaging their backlink profile.
Organic anchor text
One of the most popular ways to get backlinks used to be a guest post, because you could easily add a reference to your website into your guest post, or profile, and get new backlinks.
Unfortunately, in the last few years, many spammy implementations of this technique have tarnished guest posting’s credibility.
Companies would draw up a list of keywords that they wanted to rate. Then link to landing pages optimized for those same keywords (i.e., “exact match keywords”)—which Google now considers to be poor practice. As such, the 2012 Google Penguin Update killed the ratings of thousands of websites using this strategy.
Now, SEO experts suggest that you use natural anchor text by connecting from:
- A less “optimized” phrase, i.e., one that isn’t an exact match for the target keyword or phrase of the destination page
- Your business or website name
- The name of the article you’re referring to
- Bad anchor text: Remember to check the cost when buying printer ink.
- Good anchor text: When buying printer ink, remember to check the price, says Office Buying Analysis 2016.
Through Google’s hands, the latter example gives the reader more importance. Instead of “cover” a reference to a non-descriptive anchor message, you’re providing more detail to the reader so they know what they’re scrolling through.
In the second part of this series, we’ll delve into all the deets on the backlink building: “How to create backlinks.“
Thank you so much for reading!
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