Today, backlinks are more important than ever. If you’ve spent any amount of time studying search engine optimization, you’ve probably heard of link building and know that it is essential in competing online.
If you don’t know why they’re so important, or if you are wondering what they are and whether you should incorporate them into your digital marketing strategy, know first that without them, you will have a hard time competing in search result pages.
So, why are backlinks so important for SEO?
What are backlinks, and why do we want them?
Backlinks, also known as inbound links, are one of the primary factors in establishing authority online and in SEO. The process of link building consists of collecting hyperlinks that point from one site to your own.
They may come from social media, blog references, website content, directories, and more, but the most beneficial will come from sites that are relevant to your industry.
The goal of their acquisition is to eventually generate traffic by way of referrals from these linking sites, but more importantly, the byproduct of building links has an effect on your brand’s presence in Google; the more backlinks you have, the better your search engine rankings will be.
In the digital marketing world, backlinks from unique referring domains are like currency; everybody wants them because of how much value they hold in establishing a strong online reputation. The number you have is a good indication of how popular your site is and how relevant it is in the industry or niche it is in.
When search engines determine if a website is related to a keyword or search query, they calculate it based on the quality backlinks leading to it. They then take this information and place the site in the SERPs accordingly, or they don’t if there are no links or poor-quality links.
However, it is crucial to note that not all links are created equal. Google can catch on to black hat link building techniques as they relate to spammy sites versus high authority sites.
You could have hundreds of referrals, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to outstanding ranking potential. The more links you have, the higher your score will be, yes, but only if they come from several diverse, quality, authoritative domains.
Why are backlinks so important to search engines?
There are several reasons why backlinks are useful to Google and other search engines:
- They help search engines find and index new pages: Backlinks increase the odds of your website being found, which is especially significant if you suffer from low domain authority syndrome.
We all know that establishing a presence is a project. It takes time, it doesn’t happen overnight, and the wait can be discouraging.
Well, implementing a backlink strategy can help speed up the indexing process and essentially present your website to the Google spiders on a silver platter.
- They help search engines determine the context of the page. To be viewed favorably by Google, your website must carry three essential characteristics: expertise, authority, and trust.
Google will use the anchor or content around the link that’s pointing to your site to determine the context.
When spiders crawl and index your site, they get an idea of the quality and relevance it has to offer. During this time, inbound links are analyzed using PageRank to help the scaling process.
- They make you more credible. Put simply, a high authority website isn’t going to link to an unreliable source because it risks compromising their own credibility. When they do link, it is because the website offers supporting information that complements their own content.
So, if a big website links to a smaller website, it increases the smaller website’s trustworthiness in the eyes of Google. However, this is only the case when the two websites are relevant to one another.
If you collect backlinks from any site you can, you won’t be doing your site any favors..
What makes a strong link building campaign?
There are several ways to generate backlinks, but the most important element in any strategy is the quality of your content. If your content sucks, no one is going to link to it, plain and simple.
If your content is high quality, offers a ton of value, is unique to what already exists online within your niche, and includes excellent external links for supporting resources, Google will mark your website as relevant, and industry leaders will learn to trust you as a source and hopefully link to you.
If your content is thin and essentially regurgitates information from other websites, search engines will have no reason to rank you, and authority figures will have no reason to cite you.
Once you have created high-quality content, the next step is to promote it across channels and identify which sites you want backlinks from. Now, it is essential to acquire backlinks from quality websites.
The authority of these pages is the single-most-important factor because they transfer authority to your own site.
While it can be difficult to get links from the most authoritative websites (think MSN linking to a one-year-old food blog, yes please!), it is incredibly worth the effort as the rewards are massively beneficial.
So, how can you get a backlink?
Contact the webmaster for your preferred websites and ask for one. Explain how you found them and tell them why they (and their readers) may be interested in your content. Be sure to include how your text or graphics fit in well with something that is already published on their site to make life easier for them.
This will make the process more seamless, rather than expecting them to find a correlation on their own. You may also do some blog outreach and ask if you can submit a guest post with a link back to your website.
While not every major website will respond to your outreach efforts, all you need is a select few to give you the time of day. Remember, the more value you can offer, the better chances you have of getting a backlink.
The one caveat of backlink requests comes with whether the site gives you a ‘follow’ or a ‘nofollow’ link. When applied to an outbound link, the rel=nofollow attribute tells search engines not to follow the link, essentially removing the credibility factor.
While the search engines may still follow the links for indexing purposes, the receiving end won’t receive that all-important popularity equity that they were looking for in the first place.
With that in mind, be sure to check your backlinks once you acquire them to make sure you weren’t given a ‘nofollow.’
Backlinks are so important to SEO. They help establish credibility, promote relevance, increase the odds of rising in the search engines for targeted keywords, and ultimately driving traffic to your website.