What is a Backlink? SEO talk for beginners
What is a backlink? This is a word that comes up frequently when you start reading about SEO and Search Engine Optimisation techniques. The purpose of this post is to explain what a backlink is and how it impacts your site.
Most of my readers are coaches, therapists, counsellors and psychologists, and I know they don’t have much time to learn SEO in depth.
Not SEO in depth… yet
If this is your case and you’ve just started to get acquainted with this kind of language, I bet you´re a bit overwhelmed.
I’m not surprised.
Exactly the same happened to me when I started designing my first coaching website back in the day. I was under the impression that the more I read and learned, the less I knew!
Yep. One thing leads to another and, suddenly, after months of trying to learn, you realise that your knowledge is so mixed up, confused and untidy, that you seem to know less than when you started.
Worry not. I will try to help as much as I can.
For starters, I’d advice you to see my post about SEO, simple for beginners, where I explain what SEO is in less than 1300 words*.
If you are trying to make your coaching or therapy website bring you better results, you must start by knowing what SEO and visibility are, then checking out a few SEO aspects that make your site visible or not visible.
But this post is about backlinks, a very important part of SEO.
*Incredible! Less than 1300 words! I tell you, for me, writing a post of such short length is so exceptional. It’s hard to believe even for myself. Anyway…
Types of Links on the Internet
If you don’t fully understand what a backlink is, don’t worry.
Most people who are starting, struggle with the term, what it is and what it means to your SEO and the success of your online business.
But I think you’ll better understand what a backlink is if I first explain briefly what the different types of links are.
Hyperlink or link
An ordinary link is a connection between two different HTML documents, such as web pages. By clicking, it allows you to jump from one document to another in milliseconds. A link points in a suggested direction and the user chooses whether they want to follow the link or not.
Links pass what is called LINK EQUITY (formerly known as LINK JUICE). Remember this term, we’ll talk about it later.
Internal links are those links that exist within the same website or root domain. They are usually placed between web pages or posts.
For instance, the navigation menu on top of most websites contains internal links to the pages they point to.
Or, in your home page, you may place internal links pointing to other pages that may seem less visible to the reader, or even videos, audios, etc.
See that link I placed earlier under the words (anchor text) ordinary link?
It points to a website that isn’t this one. It’s external because it points to a place outside my domain, the source of the link.
We use external links, usually, to provide the user with sources or additional information relating to the subject, should they choose to find out more.
In the case above, I’m linking to a website called Techterms that explains a bit more about what a regular link is.
A backlink is an incoming link, that is, a link that points to our website from another website. So, it’d be an external link like the above, but in reverse.
This means that Techterms have just received a backlink from my site. And this is good for them. I’ll explain why later.
To sum up, there are basically two types of links:
- Internal (within the same site), and
- External (outside of the source of the link). When they are outgoing, we call them external. When they are incoming, we call them backlink.
The Story of Backlinks
Traditionally, backlinks were a key metric for the ranking of pages individually and websites as a whole. Sites and web pages with lots of backlinks tended to rank higher in search engines, than those without. This is still true, although not as “easy” as it was years ago.
The reason why search engines, specially Google, rank better those pages with more backlinks is that a backlink is kind of a trust vote for the page they are linking to.
Linking from this site to Techterms, means that I trust and value that site. It’s like telling them: “Hey, Google, I got this information from Techterms and it’s good”.
This is the reason why Wikipedia, for example, is so popular. It receives thousands of backlinks daily.
Google will follow the link and decide whether they think the backlink is natural and the site worth it or not. But it wasn’t always like that. Ages ago…
Of course, SEOs realised that this was a major opportunity to improve the optimisation of their websites or their customers’. And they started to place backlinks all over the place. Didn’t matter how many, the more the better, or where.
This technique is called link building (there goes another outgoing, external link, which will in turn be a backlink, incoming link for Moz.com) but we must be very careful with the backlinks we are generating. They must come from trusted websites, not just anywhere, because…
Because link building started to turn nasty. Some SEOs just placed backlinks anywhere, with no rhyme or reason, left, right and centre.
Google said, “Right, had enough!”, and started to penalise the sites who were receiving tons of backlinks willy-nilly.
Nowadays Google’s algorithm is much more sophisticated and cleverer. It’s able to distinguish more or less “natural”, quality backlinks, from fake, unnatural ones.
Better than using this vulgar “black-hat SEO” techniques, write good content that will be linked naturally and won’t put your online business at risk.
Why Backlinks are Important for SEO
What it’s more important for you to know is that backlinks are good for your website’s SEO and relevance. But they must be quality backlinks.
This means they must come from sites that have good rankings and a topic that has something to do with your site’s.
If your blog’s topic is psychotherapy or coaching, and you get a backlink coming from a football site, that’s not going to add much to your site’s SEO. In fact, it could harm it.
The benefits of getting quality backlinks
There are 2 main benefits:
Organic ranking (your position in search engines) improves
To answer the question why backlinks are important for SEO, it’s simple: the more quality backlinks to your site, the more trust and importance Google gives, which results in an improvement of its position in Google search, and visibility of your online business.
Referral traffic, opening to new audiences
Referral traffic is when your site gets visits coming from backlinks.
If someone is reading Other blog and clicks on the backlink that directs to your website, they will be discovering you for the first time. This traffic opens up the possibility of getting new readers, followers and, ultimately, potential customers.
How to get Backlinks
Ok. Now you fully understand what backlinks are, why they are good for your site’s SEO and their importance and benefits. So, how do we generate some quality backlinks?
You probably have been thinking all along that, in reality, you have no say in what a third party does with their blog or website. That they place backlinks to your site is something totally out of your control.
Ok. Right and wrong.
There are a few things you may do to get backlinks, always remembering that it’s not the quantity, but the quality that matters.
There are many ways to generate quality backlinks, but these are the main two:
Write great blogposts
If you write great posts they are bound to be linked naturally from other websites.
It’s the best and simplest way to get those inbound links. There are thousands of blogposts on how to write great content for your website or how to create awesome content for your blogs. Try googling those keywords.
Write for other blogs: Guest Blogging
Another way to get good quality backlinks is to start guest blogging. Find blogs that have topics that are somehow related to your own topic.
For instance, if your blog talks about coaching, then find other coaching, therapy, psychology, emotional intelligence, NLP, neuroscience, blogs.
Contact their owners and ask if they accept guest posts and what are their norms about it.
Write an awesome article for that site and include one backlink to yours. Two at the most.
Where to point my backlinks when guest blogging
You should point your backlinks to the most relevant page or post in relation to what you are guest posting. It also depends on the anchor text you´re using.
If you choose to place your link in the keyword
couples’ therapy, for example,
and you have a major static page whose keyword is that one, then send your backlink to your main page for that word.
But if you want to boost a recent post you wrote about how to get over a marriage crisis, then mention this keyword in your guest post and link back to your article.
More on anchor text below.
Other ways to generate backlinks are, for instance, submitting your website to web directories, using Forums, Discussion Boards, Answer Sites, etc., to place NON SPAMMY links, etc.
Also, don’t forget that your own interlinking (using internal links) is key to your site’s SEO.
Some people consider internal links as backlinks, since they are generated in one post or page (outbound) and point to another (inbound or backlink).
Other terms related to Backlinks and Links
I’m guessing that, by now, you´re a bit tired of all this new information I’ve given you about backlinks. Bear with me, please. Little to go.
I just want to give you some brief and simple definitions about terms frequently used when talking about SEO, backlinks etc.
My aim is not to go beyond 2000 words (fingers crossed: we’re at 1720!).
At the beginning of this article I said there is something called LINK EQUITY, the term formerly known as LINK JUICE.
Let me explain briefly.
Imagine each page of your website having a value of 100.
When you insert a link in that page, you are passing some of that value (juice, equity) from this page to the one it’s pointing at. We don’t know the exact amount of “juice” we’re passing. Let’s say it’s 1/100.
Then, the page’s value will be 99 and the one receiving the juice will be 101.
Therefore, the more link equity a page receives, the better.
Anchor texts are very important in SEO.
The anchor text is the text where your place a link. You must do it correctly.
People who don’t know the importance of anchor text, place links over a text that will not improve their SEO. Text such as Click here, This link, etc. These anchor texts don’t help SEO.
You must find a way to make the text relevant to the page that it links to. Just notice the anchor texts I have placed in this document.
Follow and No-Follow links
If you’ve been reading about SEO for quite some time, perhaps you’ve noticed the Follow (do-follow) and No-Follow terms.
All links are usually “follow” by default.
These are HTML tags which tell the search engines to follow the link or not.
When you place a no-follow link, the search engine acknowledges the link but doesn’t go to visit the page. No-follow links don’t pass on link equity. They are used to link to unknown websites, or when you don’t want to pass on link equity.
For a beginner, the above is quite enough to start with. I hope it was useful for you and if so, why don’t you share this post with your friends and followers? Thanks!
(Ugh. 2040 words).