The Google algorithm for search is always changing, but the value that building backlinks to your website isn’t going anywhere.
Optimizing ones website pages’ Google ranking used to be about keyword-stuffing, optimized anchors, and a host of black-hat SEO tricks that in the end, didn’t help you or search engine users. These days, Google is quick to penalize any website that tries to increase their organic search in underhanded ways, making it essential that businesses keep their page rank building safe and informed with practices that have significant impact on their SEO value.
A great place to begin this process is to understand the best way to build backlinks to your site.
For those unfamiliar with this process, backlinks are contextually relevant links posted on other websites that reference your content and direct users to your site for more information.
The value of backlinks to readers comes from their ability to direct them to valuable resources. The value of you adding backlinks in your website content is it directs readers to original sources that add credibility to your content.
The value of backlinks to you goes beyond that. Yes, you want your content to be informed with research, but backlinks can provide you with other advantages over less-optimized sites, including:
- Increased page ranking in search results
- Building relationships with your industry colleagues in the interest of mutual promotion
- Making connections with trusted industry influencers
- More traffic from qualified viewers being directed to your page
But to understand why these benefits occur, we need to examine exactly how links are treated by the search engine juggernaut known as Google.
Linking and Search
When search engines like Google crawl the web, they examine both page content and how many other pages link to you. This gives them a strong indicator of how much authority your piece has and how relevant it is, allowing Google to estimate how well it should rank in search results.
The influence of site elements on ranking factors, as found by Moz
Though backlinks used to be the primary determining factor in Google’s PageRank algorithm, things are a little more complicated these days. A 2015 Search Engine Ranking Factors survey conducted by SEO consulting firm Moz highlighted this by attempting to break down the impact of various site elements on page ranking. They found that, from most important to least important, they ranked as follows:
- Domain-level link features
- Page-level link features
- Page-level keyword and content features
- Page-level keyword-agnostic features
- Engagement and traffic/query data
- Domain-level brand metrics
- Domain-level keywords
- Domain-level keyword-agnostic features
- Page-level social metrics
The take-away here is that while the exact impact of each of these factors is a closely guarded secret by Google, the quality and number of links that point to a page continues to be an important factor in overall page ranking.
The All-Seeing Eye of Google
After hearing some of the benefits of backlink use, you’re probably ready to jump out there and start loading up your site with SEO-enhancing links. Be careful, though—you can’t just arbitrarily add links on your website page and expect to get a better ranking.
Trying to cheat the system to boost your page ranking artificially doesn’t work the way it did in the past. This is a practice known as over-optimization, which is a trend that Google has enjoyed slapping down in the past few years with penalties.
These penalties can include removing the impact of the offending links from PageRank or devaluing your page by lowering its overall search ranking. Practices that will earn you a slap on the wrist include:
- Link spamming in web directories or article registries to artificially build a link portfolio.
- Reusing anchor text in multiple links across websites.
- Linking to spam sites or sites with questionable authority as determined by Google.
To build links safely and avoid the wrath of Google, keep these tips in mind:
- Track your links to learn how each link affects your overall ranking — and to monitor whether spam sites are linking to you.
- Create quality content that provides enough value to generate backlinks on its own.
- Pursue customer endorsements and trustworthy reviews from those you’ve worked with, as this type of feedback ranks well with Google.
A Window to The Future of SEO
While the impact of backlinks on page rankings has undeniably decreased over the past few years, there’s no question that it remains an essential part of good SEO practice. However, site owners need to remember that it’s the quality of the link that matters, not the quantity.
To see the most benefit from your backlinks, they need to be included in high-quality material that promotes the type of sharing and authority that naturally leads to a better page ranking.
What other ways have you used backlinks to increase the legitimacy of your site? Let us know in the comments below!