Backlinks, also called “inbound links” or “incoming links,” are created when one website links to another. The link to an external website is called a backlink.
Why are backlinks important?
Backlinks are especially valuable for SEO optimization because they represent a “vote of confidence” from one site to another.
In essence, backlinks to your website are a signal to search engines that others vouch for your content. If many sites link to the same webpage or website, search engines can infer that content is worth linking to, and therefore also worth surfacing on a SERP. So, earning these backlinks can have a positive effect on a site’s ranking position or search visibility.
Earning and giving backlinks
Earning backlinks is an essential component of off-site SEO optimization. The process of obtaining these links is known as link earning or link building.
Some backlinks are inherently more valuable than others. Followed backlinks from trustworthy, popular, high-authority sites are considered the most desirable backlinks to earn, while backlinks from low-authority, potentially spammy sites are typically at the other end of the spectrum. Whether or not a link is followed (i.e. whether a site owner specifically instructs search engines to pass, or not pass, link equity) is certainly relevant, but don’t entirely discount the value of nofollow links. Even just being mentioned on high-quality websites can give your brand a boost.
Just as some backlinks you earn are more valuable than others, links you create to other sites also differ in value. When linking out to an external site, the choices you make regarding the page from which you link (its page authority, content, search engine accessibility, and so on) the anchor text you use, whether you choose to follow or nofollow the link, and any other meta tags associated with the linking page can have a heavy impact on the value you confer.
Search engines like Google rely on links for a number of reasons. Putting your website’s SEO and ranking aside for a moment, the “World Wide Web” was named as such for a reason: with its series of pages and websites connected together by links, it really does resemble a web. Links add context, and tell the “spiders” that crawl the Internet that there are more pages to be found through the backlinks that exist there.
Let’s say you have a brand new website. No one links to it, and you don’t submit it to Google, either. How do you expect it to be found? You can’t! However, if someone links to your site, a search engine spider can crawl through that link, discover your site, and index (or make findable) your newly created content. This is one reason that backlinks are so important: without them, search engines won’t know that your content is there, nor will users.
Now let’s return to SEO. Links are an important part of Google’s ranking algorithm. Generally speaking, the more relevant, high quality backlinks you have pointing at your website, the better you will rank in searches for your targeted keywords. So it is desirable to have these kinds of backlinks, because ranking highly can increase your traffic, purchases, conversion rate, and so on.
This doesn’t mean that you should go out and try to acquire links from every powerful-looking website on the Internet. Google’s algorithms are so complex that a link’s relevance will be just as important as its source. So while it may feel good for your pet supplies store to get a link from your friend’s popular marketing blog, it may not help you rank any better.
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