For your site to rank effectively, you must encompass a wide array of digital marketing techniques. Factors such as the quality of your content, effective on-page optimisation and many technical SEO aspects are crucial in rankings. Additionally, an old classic that is also still as important today as it was in the early days of SEO is your backlink profile. However, what do we mean when we refer to backlinks and what are the importance of these? Here at USDigital we have compiled a guide for you on backlinks and their importance in the world of SEO.
What Are Backlinks?
Backlinks, also referred to as inbound links, are created when another site links to yours. Backlinks should be natural, you should not use artificial means to obtain them. The quality of your backlinks matters far more than the quantity.
Why Are Backlinks Important In SEO?
Backlinks are important in SEO as the linking site is effectively vouching for your content. Inbound links from highly reputable, trustworthy and authoritative sites to your own effectively tell search engines that your content is of a similar ilk. When a search engine notices that a webpage or site has a variety of high quality inbound links, that the site is worth linking to and visiting, they will be more likely to rank your content higher on their result pages. There is a strong correlation between a high quality and authoritative backlink profile and effective site ranking and search visibility.
Shady Link Building Tactics
If the world of internet marketing was simple then we would only need one type of link attribution. However, as we all know it is never that simple! In the early days of SEO there was only one standard regular link attribution. The result of this was spammy and unmoderated link building tactics. Common schemes would involve social bookmarking, automated directory submissions and comment spam.
- Social bookmarking – this was especially prevalent on sites such as Reddit and Delicious. Users would effectively create a link as a bookmark and post it out to these various sites. This link would point back to your site and pass on authority.
- Automated directory submissions – automated software programmes would take information such as company name and site URL and fire out this information to hundreds of poor quality directories. Again, the site would receive plenty of poor quality, spammy links. A common tactic was to also use the primary target keyword as the anchor text to try and rank higher for this given term.
- Comment spam – this would involve jumping onto the comment sections on articles or blogs and firing back links to your site. Again, the vast majority of these links would be poor quality and spammy in nature.
What Types Of Links Are There?
The problem with all these shady backlink schemes was the links would be obtained from poor quality sites that had been hit with similar tactics of people trying the same link building processes. With all these spammy link building schemes, search engines came to the decision to introduce the rel=”nofollow” attribution. This effectively tells bots to not pass on any weight or ‘linkjuice’ from the linking site. In the mid 2000’s this came into effect and towards the end of the decade large sites began to implement it sitewide. Used in conjunction with the ‘Penguin‘ algorithm update, the desire was to reduce ranking for sites that used black-hat SEO techniques. Below shows how a rel=”nofollow” link would appear in the backend of a site.
Penguin focused specifically on poor quality, spammy backlinks and wiped out the effectiveness of these. Black-hat link building tactics such as comment spam were no longer effective as the site would no longer pass on any authority – although this of course has still not stopped the tactic from being deployed! Regular followed links are only applied when the webmaster deems it appropriate to do so.
More recently, Google has also announced that it will be introducing two more types of link attribution, rel=”sponsored” and rel=”ugc”.
- rel=”sponsored” attribution can be used on all sponsored and paid links.
- rel=”ugc” refers to user generated content, and is designed for use on links like comments and forum threads.
They have also added that you do not need to use these new link attributions, continuing to use the standard rel=”nofollow” is fine. There is no need to go through your site and update your links! Google have also added that they will use the attribution “nofollow” as a hint, it is completely at their discretion as to whether they pay attention to your directive. This will become live as of March 2020.
Tools such as AHREFS and Moz are excellent when it comes to reviewing the strength of a given backlink profile. Measures such as Domain Rating (AHREFS) and Domain Authority (Moz) provide scores for a site out of 100 relative to all sites in the world. Although not in themselves considered to be a ranking factor, they do provide a useful barometer of how your site is performing in comparison to your competitors. As your site grows it becomes harder to grow your domain authority. It is far easier to grow your site from a DR score or 5 to 10 than it is to grow it from a DR score of 45 to 50.
While we talk about the power of links, so far we have only considered the power of external linking. Another powerful tool in a digital marketers arsenal is that of internal linking. Effective internal linking allows us to pass that important ‘linkjuice’ from the most powerful pages on a site and spread the authority. If we consider a website structure similar to that of a spiders web, where the centre is the strongest page such as a homepage. As we expand outwards to pillar pages such as services or blog pages we should aim to maintain a strong internal linking structure. As we then expand further onto sub-categories it allows the effective distribution of domain authority.
An effective internal linking structure is also extremely beneficial in allowing crawling bots such as Googlebot to crawl the entire site properly and index pages. Any page available to the public on a site should never be more than three clicks away from any given page.
The Importance Of Backlinks In Your SEO Strategy
You could own the most aesthetically pleasing and interesting website in the world, but if your site does not receive exposure than what is the point of it? A strong and well-rounded digital marketing strategy that encompasses various aspects such as SEO, technical and social is crucial should you wish to succeed. And the power of backlinks in all of this is as important now as it has ever been.
If you are interested in a full digital marketing strategy but don’t know where to start, why not try out our free SEO audit!Free SEO Audit