What Are Backlinks & How Do They Affect Your Website?

10th November, 2016 by

Boosting your SEO with valuable backlinks could increase the traffic to your website.

Ask a member of the public how to ensure a website is ranked highly on search engine results pages, and their response is likely to involve SEO. Yet ask a webmaster or IT professional the same question and they may well cite backlinks as the preferred approach. Also known in the industry as inward, inbound or incoming links, this process is one of the most challenging yet effective ways to enhance ranking results.

So what exactly is a backlink?

In essence, a backlink is a hyperlink from one website to another. When a user clicks on the link, they are transported from the originating site to the destination site, either in a new browser page or within the original page. Since this frequently ends the user’s stay on the originating site, backlinks are generally chosen with care and with an appreciation for the content they point towards. These votes of support for third-party content have made backlinks one of the main factors by which Google algorithms judge a website’s importance. The more external resources a particular website receives link-directed traffic from, the more importance, value or popularity it must have.

There is clearly huge marketing value in having lots of websites linking to your own site. However, few companies are willing to drive traffic away from their own servers without good reason. The inevitable Noughties explosion in link farms (websites populated only by backlinks) fell out of fashion years ago, and any association with such farms will be severely detrimental to a site’s future ranking results. Nonetheless, this practice continues to a lesser extent through blogs and aggregator sites.

In truth, the highest quality backlinks come from sites that are themselves considered to be authoritative. Educational links from websites with .edu suffixes or major traffic portals like the BBC offer the highest value – a link from a friend’s barely-read Blogger page will inevitably be ranked as less important. Another key variable involves the anchor text applied to the originating site’s hyperlink. Favourable anchor text will be identified by search engine crawlers as relevant and important, and it will boost future SERPS results more than merely publishing the link would. Ideally, anchor text should identify a destination website as having direct relevance to the originating site’s industry or key topics.

Below are other legitimate and relatively straightforward ways of obtaining new backlinks:

  1. Find online references to your brand that aren’t currently linked, and email the webmaster to politely ask for a hyperlink to be added.
  2. Investigate whether local or regional academic institutions would be willing to list your site on their Resources or Weblinks pages. It’s important to have some relevance to courses being offered or services students may need (such as an employment agency or property rental firm).
  3. Create accounts on websites where corporate profiles can be hosted. The vast majority of marketing sites, resource portals and account-based services will include user account pages with at least one field where a hyperlink can be added.
  4. Submit requests to aggregator sites. These are a more acceptable version of the link farms outlined above, with lengthy lists of third-party sites listed by topic.
  5. Social media sites. The efficacy of this will diminish with repetition, but if you don’t already have LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook and Twitter accounts (to name just four), each platform offers potential for at least one backlink to the webpage of your choice.
  6. Reciprocal links with relevant websites. Established brands with complementary or related products and services may be amenable to adding reciprocal backlinks to new sites, providing these links are relevant to both parties and neither site is a link farm.

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