What Are Backlinks, Why Are They Important, and How Can I Get Them?
If someone like Apple CEO Tim Cook were to recommend a good website for iPhone app reviews, you would probably pay attention, right? That is what backlinks are all about, and it’s why Google cares so much about them.
Backlinks, also known as “incoming links” are where people elsewhere on the Internet are talking about and linking to your website. They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but on the Internet, linking to someone is by far the greatest compliment you could give. A link is a sign of trust and of respect. It means, you vouch for what this website has published, and you want people to visit it.
You’ll hear many things about backlinks. Both for or against their real value in Google’s analysis of your website’s quality and value. I advise that you try to ignore all of the noise, and instead focus on what Google has said most recently about backlinks and why they are important.
In this article, I will cover:
- A brief overview of how Google views backlinks to your website.
- What kind of backlinks are most important in Google’s eyes.
- How can you successfully build your list of incoming links without getting in trouble with Google.
What Are Backlinks?
Google considers how other people link to your website as one of the most important indicators of the value your site brings to whatever topic or industry you are a part of. Online, reputation is everything. The “bigger” the name of the person recommending your website, the more authority you will have in that magical Google algorithm that calculates your placement in search results.
In Google Webmaster Tools, among other search query tools , you have a feature available where you can see incoming links to your site by clicking on the “Links to Your Site” under the “Search Traffic” section.
This report will give you an overview of how many incoming links Google has registered for your website from around the Internet, what websites out there link to you the most, what content on your website is linked to the most, and what terms are used most often when people link to your site.
This information will be important when you’re looking to get even more links for your site, but for now it’s only important to note that Google tracks all of this, and this information is used to measure the authority and value of your website on the Internet.
For example, Lunatic Outpost links to my site a lot. Checking the Page Rank of Lunatic Outpost, I can see that it’s a 3/10. Hey, it’s still an incoming link, so that’s great, but its value is not quite as good as a website with a Google PR higher than my own site. All it takes is one link from a more authoritative site, by the way – you don’t need thousands.
Why Backlinks Are Important
Searching down through the list, I found sites like Free Republic and Schneier.com — two sites that are respected within the alternative news and security niches, and two that also rank higher than my own site.
This is the goal, to attract the interest and links from reputable, highly authoritative websites. Each of those links is a huge boost to your reputation in Google’s eyes. It’s easy to see why — a link to an SEO blog from Matt Cutts own blog would be a huge reputation boost. A link to Windows blog from Bill Gates own blog would be the same. Unfortunately, endorsements like these will be few and far between.
The value of backlinks can’t be understated. In a very recent video, Matt Cutts explains just how important backlinks are to Google’s analysis of a website’s value and authority.
In this video, a webmaster asks Google whether there’s a version of search results that don’t include backlinks in the analysis. Matt explains:
“It turns out backlinks, even though there’s some noise and certainly a lot of spam, for the most part are still a really, really big win in terms of quality for search results.”
This leaves no doubt at all that for now, Google values how other sites link to you as a very strong indication of the importance and value of your website.
How Can I Get More Backlinks?
In a video at the end of 2012, Matt Cutts explained how Google analyzes backlinks in a discussion about site-wide backlinks (when a site links to another multiple times.)
In the article, Matt explained regarding how such links are evaluated:
The idea here is that even though backlinks can be helpful, manipulating them can hurt your site more than you might imagine. Manipulating links would include getting a friend to link to your site using specific keyword phrases, using article or site directories to try and build up links, buying links on other sites, or otherwise trying to manipulate your count of incoming links.
That’s the secret word. Manipulate. As Matt mentioned in the video above, Google will initiate a manual investigation of your site if they suspect “irrelevant, off topic links, or even spammy links”. You don’t want to manipulate. They want “completely natural” growth of your link count, and natural growth only comes from the following activities.
- Write high quality web pages that get noticed by people with expertise in the field who will recognize your level of expertise.
- Offer to guest blog only to spread awareness about yourself, and to market your knowledge, never for SEO purposes.
- Mention other experts in the field by name, and link to their blogs and websites. They may very well take notice and mention you in return.
- Create articles that are unique and remarkable. Don’t just write about what other people are talking about. Come up with original, interesting ideas. Not only will other experts link to you and talk about you, but Google will naturally take note as well.
Doing something that no one else is doing, and doing it well — that’s how you get noticed, and it’s how you get backlinks. These days, it’s less about tricking search engines into seeing you, and instead naturally getting other people to notice you and to link to you. That, and that alone, will bring you success both in your field of expertise, and in the search results.
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