When one website looks at another website and says, "Hey, this guy's okay."
WHAT ARE BACKLINKS?
A backlink is a link that one website has to another website. When someone creates a link to your site, then you have a backlink from them. When you link to someone else's website from your site, then they have a backlink from you.
Also known as 'inbound links' or 'incoming links,' backlinks are an important part of SEO.
Why Are Backlinks Important?
SEO can seem like a confusing and labyrinthine subject at times, but the heart of it is simple. In its most basic form, SEO is all about increasing the chance that people will see your website. The more people see it, the more people will visit it, and the more successful it will be. Easy, right?
Backlinks are the internet equivalent of good word of mouth. They represent a "vote of confidence" from one website to another. If someone whose opinion you trust tells you to check out a particular bakery, you'd be more likely to visit than if you'd never heard of it. Backlinks are like the opinion of that trusted person.
This is important for SEO because backlinks send a signal to search engines that says others can vouch for the quality of your content. If multiple links lead back to your website, search engines will infer that the content is worth featuring higher up in their algorithm. Essentially, the more backlinks you have, the louder the voice that says, "Hey, this site really deserves more attention."
Are Backlinks A Good Thing?
With multiple sites backlinking to your website, you'll rise higher in the search engine algorithm and more people will see it. What's not to love?
Well, as with most things, the devil is in the details.
Going back to the bakery analogy, suppose you're told to visit the bakery by someone that you know is a consummate liar and untrustworthy individual. In that case, not only would you not go to that bakery, but you might avoid it altogether and even tell others not to go. Word of mouth is only good when it comes from a good source, and backlinks are the same. If sites that are spam-oriented, broken, or untrustworthy are backlinking to your site, it won't carry the same value as backlinks from popular, high-authority, trustworthy sites—and it could even hurt you.
Relevance is also a factor in backlinks. The more your website has in common with the site giving you backlinks, the more successful a link it will be. If a catering company has two backlinks, one from the website of a popular wedding venue and one from the website of a veterinarian, the wedding venue link will add a lot more value because it's relevant to the catering company's audience.
How To Acquire Backlinks
Getting backlinks is not as easy as simply asking a website to link back to your link, even if you ask realllllly nicely. Backlink generation, or 'link earning,' is an important process for off-site SEO, which refers to actions taken outside of your website to affect your SEO rankings. There are a number of strategies for earning quality links that will increase both your site's traffic and your SEO ranking:
- Reach out to the people that you mention or recommend on your site to see if they'll return the favor.
- Create articles or infographics with valuable information that people can share and link back to you.
- Promote your content to bloggers and publications who are looking for content to feature.
Types Of Backlinks
Just as there are multiple different ways to share information and promote a business or service, there are several different kinds of backlinks that can lead users back to your site.
When a journalist, publisher, or blogger links to your site, that is an editorial backlink. These are the most common types of backlinks, as well as one of the most valuable. The value of this type of backlink comes from its authenticity. It happens because someone sees your content and decides to spread the good word.
This form of backlink comes from using another platform to promote your business or site, usually by sharing information that is relevant to what you do or offer. The important thing about this kind of backlink is that in order for it to work, your post has to provide genuine value to the reader. You cannot simply create a guest blog post that promotes your site and nothing else.
These are not to be confused with general directories, which are the bane of SEO everywhere and should be avoided at all costs. Niche directories are more specific and intended to generate traffic to their relevant areas. Some examples of niche directories include Yelp and the Better Business Bureau.
Backlinks Are a Big Part of SEO Optimization
The more information that is being shared about your website or content, the more people will know it exists, and backlinks play an important role in that visibility. You could have revolutionary content that will shake the foundations of society itself, but, if no one sees it because it's buried in the search algorithm, then the quality of your content won't matter.
We can debate endlessly about trees falling in forests with no one around them, but if a website has content and no one is around to see it, then it is indisputably silent.
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