What Backlinks Are – And How to Use Them for SEO
For successful search engine optimisation (SEO), it is not just the content of your own site that is important, but the site’s appearance in other places on the internet. In a previous post, we looked at how to boost the optimisation of a website through social media. The appearance of links to your website on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, and the visitor count produced by them, are factors which are considered by search engines when assigning a place to a website in its results.
What are backlinks?
Backlinks are also known as inbound or incoming links, and they are links to your website from another place on the internet. They are extremely useful to search engines, because they give a good indication that a website is popular. Another website adding a link to you is essentially a vote for your website, as it shows their customers that they think your site is worth visiting.
In addition to promoting your site via social media, it may be worth seeing if you can get links to your domain included anywhere else – for example, if you are a trade supply firm and the stores and tradesmen who use you have links to your website on their own sites, these backlinks will generate visitors to your site. They will also show search engines that your website is relevant to the type of people who are interested in those particular products or services..
Using backlinks for SEO
Search engines will consider the quality of backlinks when indexing and ranking a website. A good backlink will have most or all of the following attributes:
It will come from a reputable source.
If a website is very popular, is highly relevant to the keyword that is being searched and is generally considered to be reliable and trustworthy, then links provided by that site will be viewed positively by visitors and search engines.
It will be included on a page which contains relevant information.
Links added to pages which are irrelevant to your website content will be viewed as spam by search engines and penalised in the rankings. This is to deter people who try to ‘cheat the system’ by placing large numbers of links around the web in the hope of unfairly gaining visitors – a form of ‘black hat SEO’.
The link text will be a relevant keyword.
Link text, or anchor text, is the visible link on the screen. Ideally, this text should be a strong keyword, as this clearly shows visitors and crawlers what the link is about and therefore its relevance to a search term. For example, if I wanted to link to Google, I could do so by writing www.google.co.uk, but this wouldn’t indicate what the link was about or if it was relevant unless you were already aware of the website. A strong backlink will be a relevant, descriptive keyword – my example link would be far more successful if my anchor text was search engine.
Your own website will be of good quality.
Strong backlinks are no good to you if your website isn’t helpful to visitors who arrive there. Ensure all your webpages are easy to navigate and filled with relevant keywords and content – even if a site receives a lot of visitors to its homepage, if they are not finding what they need and clicking through to other pages on your site, this may also harm your search engine ranking.
Knowing how to use backlinks to leverage your visibility in search engines is a crucial element of SEO. Following the guidelines above, you can ensure you’re making the most of your website’s backlink profile.
This article was originally published on 12 January 2012 and updated on 08 June 2017