Now that you know how to structure your website’s internal linking, it’s time to turn your focus outward. In this SEO tutorial step, you learn how to get those all-important external links to your website (and use two free tools in the process).
Links have been the lifeblood of search engine optimization for a long time. Ever since Google cofounder Larry Page invented PageRank back in the late ’90s, links have been a primary way search engines determine rankings. Still today, getting quality inbound links from other websites (a.k.a., “backlinks”) is a crucial SEO ingredient — if they are obtained naturally, safely within search engine guidelines.
In this lesson, you’ll get to use two free SEO link tools that will help you identify links, AND you’ll learn:
- Why high-quality backlinks are so valuable
- How to develop a link earning rather than link building strategy
- What kind of backlink to avoid
- How to attract links that increase your site’s link popularity and rankings
What Are Backlinks?
Backlinks are incoming links (excluding ads) that point from another website back to your own. Evaluating a site’s backlinks (or inbound links, or external links) helps search engines determine the site’s popularity, authority, and relative importance on the web.
It’s about Link Popularity
In Google’s PageRank algorithm, each hyperlink to a web page acts like a vote of confidence for that page, similar to a popularity contest. It’s expected that websites will naturally recommend high-quality resources to their readers, and that’s the simple concept behind PageRank (as well as the link measurements used by other search engines). For example, a site about fishing would link to a site where someone can get a fishing license; a site about stamp collecting might link to the U.S. Postal Service; and a marketing blogger might link to this SEO tutorial. Every keyword topic is like its own popularity contest, and the top spots in search engine results pages (SERPs) go to the most-linked-to websites on that topic. Er, not exactly …
Actually, It’s about Authority, Trust and Relevance
Unlike a popularity contest, the PageRank system doesn’t give every backlink an equal vote. In fact, some backlinks can even have a negative impact on your website’s ability to rank. In an effort to stop sites from trying to manipulate PageRank and game the system, search engines analyze links and penalize sites suspected to have unnatural backlink profiles. In the next lesson, you’ll find out more about search engine guidelines and avoiding Google penalties in particular. But for now, suffice it to say there are:
- Good backlinks: These links come from authority websites in your field, experts who write about your topic, or non-spammy sites that have content that relates to your site’s subject.
- Bad backlinks: Links from unrelated websites (for instance, a dog training website linking to an insurance brokerage) don’t do you any good and could look unnatural.
- Ugly backlinks: Links coming from link farms, spam sites, sites known to sell links, or low-quality content (such as pages with lists of random links and no text) can put your site in hot water.