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What are Backlinks, and How Can They Grow Your Audience?

Posted 25th May, 2015 by Aliysa

There are many techniques to boost your website's exposure, from creating Facebook posts to collecting customer reviews. Today we're tackling another tactic for acquiring traffic, the SEO method of "backlinking".

A backlink is a link on somebody else's website, which points to content on your site. This could be a link added by the website author, one which you've added in a comment or a link to your site on social networks.

So why is backlinking so handy for SEO, and why do you need to approach it with some caution?

Why are Backlinks Useful?:

Search engine bots crawl the web, looking for content to rank in their search results pages (SERP). Theoretically, the more links to your content these bots encounter, the more ranking they'll pass over to your site.

On top of this, being referenced by respected sources can also help boost your reputation, which increases your traffic volume. For instance, a link to your site on BBC News or Wikipedia could potentially lead to thousands of new visitors on your site.

What Makes a Good Backlink?:

Sadly, not all backlinks are useful. Spammers frequently use backlinks in order to gain a higher position in SERPs. It's one of the main reasons that blog comment spam is commonplace, as spammers try to add as many backlinks to their site as possible.

Search engines use a variety of indicators in order to determine how relevant a backlink is. The most important characteristics of a good backlink are:

  • No "NoFollow":

    Backlinks which search bots can "follow" pass ranking benefits to your site, whereas links that are marked as "nofollow" do not pass on any direct ranking.

  • Points to quality content:

    If search bots judge that your content is informative and engaging, they're far more likely to pass over any ranking that you receive from backlinks.

  • Located in the main text of the page:

    Search bots pass more ranking over to links which are in the main text of a page, then they do to links situated in the comment section or footer of a site.

  • From an authoritative source:

    High quality content is more likely to be referenced by relevant reputable sources like industry influencers or news sites. Search engines will hand more ranking juice over to you if your backlink comes from an authoritative site.

  • One of a few backlinks from that domain:

    Search engines prefer it if a website only contains a couple of links to your content. The fewer links a website has to your content, the more ranking benefit you'll get from each link.

  • One of many different sources:

    Similarly, search bots scan to see how many websites are linking to your content. If a number of relevant authoritative websites link to your site, this is a clear signal that your content is useful.

  • Drives lots of relevant traffic:

    Search engines track web users as they click through to your site; if they see that these visitors are hanging around on your site, and exploring your content, they'll deem the backlink to be more relevant.

  • Next to other good backlinks:

    If a link to your site is located on a page which also references other authoritative sites, this suggests that your content is equally relevant.

    • *

How Can I Legitimately Build the Number of Links to My Site?:

Sorry if you were hoping for a special trick here, there isn't one:

Most SEO experts agree that the best way to legitimately build links to your site is by producing relatable, useful, shareable content for your audience. Quality content is more likely to be shared by readers on social media or their own personal sites, and therefore has a better chance of being seen by relevant influencers.

If you don't provide your visitors with good content, or if you use spammy tactics to increase backlinks to your site then search engines will quickly spot this, and hit you with a ranking penalty.

Where Can I View the Backlinks to My Site?:

Google Search Console (formally "Webmaster Tools") contains a handy section to help you keep tabs of every known link to your site. To view this data, simply add and verify your site, then go to "Search Traffic" and then "Links to Your Site".

Whenever Google bots spot a link to your site, it'll be added to this section. By clicking about you can see which domains link to your site, the number of links they've pointed at your site, and the number of web users who have clicked on each links.

Bing's Webmaster Tools, which also serves Yahoo search bots, has a similar feature for tracking backlinks to your site. You can check it out here.

Yikes - Lots of Spammers Are Linking To My Site!:

There's no need to worry about a few spam backlinks to your site. However, if the vast majority of backlinks to your site are from spam domains this could be damaging your search ranking.

Both Google's Search Console and Bing's Webmaster Tools include a feature called Disavow, which lets you request that search engines ignore certain backlinks to your site. Disavow is for "worst-case scenarios", where you're absolutely certain that a backlink is hurting your site's search ranking. Before you use it, we strongly recommend that you read all the official advice on how it works:


Have you had any experience of using backlinks to grow your site? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.


Categories: SEO

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