What Are Backlinks To A Website?
So the question I've been getting asked a lot is - what are backlinks to a website and do I (you) really need them?
And from this one question I've discovered after talking to a lot of people.
Many people are confused, misinformed and just plain misguided when it come to SEO (search engine optimization). And maybe, just maybe you're in this group as well.
Now I know there's all kinds of areas of SEO. But today I'm just going to talk about backlinks and give you my perspective on them, and how you can save yourself all kinds of time and energy when it comes to backlinks.
Ok, before we get further into this. Do you know what a backlink is? Yes/No?
Simply put a backlink is an incoming link to a webpage. So If I created a link to your website, let's say through an article text link from my website. That would be considered a backlink to your website. These links are also called "inbound links".
Ok The Elephant In The Room
Here's what I hear most of the time. "Backlinks are good for your websites ranking". And here's the answer:
Yep, but it depends on the backlink.
Prior to Googles huge Penguin update back in 2014. Much, or a good size part of Googles algorithm based your sites rankings on the number of backlinks links your site had.
But Google made a big boo, boo about inbound links to websites. But you can understand why they made this boo, boo. You see they assumed that a site that had a high number of inbound links from other popular websites must mean that your site is popular as well.
And if your site is popular, then Google should rank you higher in the SERPs.
Yeah here's the problem. Backlinks can be cheated. Heck there were and still are companies that would get high quality backlinks for you, and do it for dirt cheap.
So overnight you could have all these inbound links pointing to your site, fooling Google into thinking your site is popular thus giving your site a higher ranking.
The 2014 Penguin Update
Anytime any part of Googles algorithm can be gamed like that, it destroys the quality of the search results, because they're clouded and unreliable. And because of those crappy search results it ruined the user experience for any Google user.
So Google didn't waste anytime and brought the hammer down with the 2014 Penguin update. Overnight many, many buisness saw their high ranking disappear and in turn saw their online business disappear as well - poof gone!!!
All those businesses disappeared because they're whole ranking strategy was solely based on backlinks. Hell I knew a few people that woke up to no buisness after the update.
As for me, I LOVED this update. Finally all these shitty, useless websites were gone. And because of this house cleaning by Google my rankings skyrocketed. Thank you very much!!
And they skyrocketed because I never relied on backlinks before the Penguin update and I sure as hell would NOT waste one second on backlinks today!!
What are backlinks to a website and do you need need them? And will they help you?
Yes they will. But remember I said it depends on that backlink?
You see there are 2 different types of backlinks. There are Natural backlinks and then there are manufactured or paid for backlinks.
And it's the sites that bought manufactured backlinks that got wiped from the face of the earth in the Penguin update.
Natural backlinks will help your rankings, and the more the better. Paid for (manufactured) backlinks will kill your site.
Googles Ranking Factors
It's pretty well known that Google has over 200 ranking singles.
And people are always playing the guessing game of what are the most important ranking factors Google uses.
Now back in 2015 Google revealed that RankBrain which is Googles machine-learning artificial intelligence system that’s used to help process its search results was it's 3rd most important ranking factor. But it never said what the top 2 were.
But in a Q&A with Google on March 23, 2016 with Andrey Lipattsev, a Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google, said the other two factors were:
Now he never said which one was more important. But from that Q&A we now know for sure what the top 3 ranking factors for Google are.
But Remember This
When it comes to backlinks it's natural backlinks that are important, NOT one's you would go out and purchase.
Ok so how do you get the RIGHT type of backlinks?
Through Your Content!
Natural backlinks happen when people engage with your content and then share it with their audience by linking to it.
Google wants high quality relevant content - so make that your focus. Forget buying backlinks unless your goal is to kill your website and your business.
Jayson DeMers, founder and CEO of Audiencebloom a very well respected content- and social-media marketing firm says...
"Marketers and SEO professionals should still focus on developing the best content they can to attract quality inbound links to their content, and that usually means executing a solid content marketing strategy,"
He also went on to say...
"It's harder to stand out these days due to increasing competition in the content sphere, so if there's one change I can recommend … it's investing more to make sure your content is truly remarkable, even if that means creating less content overall."
When it comes to your content don't forget your writing for people first - not for Google. Yes, you have to be mindful of what will get your content seen and ranked. But don't do it at the expense of your reader.
The quality of your content is the key.
The quality has many factors, or measure-ability. So things such as proper grammar and spelling are important. Along with the relevance of the content. Is it meeting the needs of the reader? Is it covering many different aspects of the topic? So is it engaging?
We know that Google does factor engagement into things - exactly how, well that I (we) don't know. It could be through social media? Maybe it's through the comments on your site or bounce rate. But whatever it is, make sure your content is engaging your reader.
So, how you doing? Just engaging a little more with you.
Simply put focus on creating thoughtful, helpful high quality engaging content and you'll be golden when it comes to this element of SEO.
For even more about the quality of your content Neil Patel, one of the most influential people online did a post on the Content Marketing Institutes website How Google Judges Quality And What You Should Do About It
What About Keywords?
I often get asked when it comes to the keyword of the content, should you have it throughout the content? And the answer is NO.
A long time ago keyword density played a roll in rankings and people did do a lot of blackhat keyword stuffing techniques.
None of that works any more and in fact keyword stuffing is another site killer.
It's much simpler now.
In my walk through of how I do keyword research I mention to have your keyword in the title of your content.
This also creates the permalink that Google and other search engines uses to index your content. Then have your keyword(s) in the first paragraph of your content and then just write naturally from there.
It's no more complicated then that.
Doing this also develops LSI keywords as well . LSI stand for Latent Semantic Indexing. This is the relationship between terms and concepts in content term. So when your webpage is crawled by teh search engines the most common words and phrases are collated and identified as additional keywords for the content.
In other words you can have your content ranked in the search engines for keywords you never were aware of. Very cool huh?
The length of your content matters. Writing short 200 and 300 word articles will never out perform long form content. Long form content simply performs better in Google.
In fact a survey that Brian Dean did shows that it does. Brain is the founder of Backlinko. And in his survey it showed that they average word count of Googles first page results were 1,890.
And when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. In order to satisfy your reader and give them them engaging quality content. The content they deserve. You're never going to accomplish that in a short 200 or 300 word article.
Now this does not mean you always have to have articles over 1800 words. I never worry about that. But when I do write content I always make sure my stuff is en-depth, engaging and informative - and by simply following those rules my content is typically over 1000 words.
If you're still with me, so far the word count for this article is 1,341.
As a content marketer it's your content that's going to rank in the search engines before your main domain will.
That's why you do your keyword research and find those low hanging fruit keywords with low competition so you get those top positions. Like I said that's where the bulk of your traffic is going to come from.
But there are other factors that do influence your rankings. Now these having nothing to do with your actual content but these are things you should be aware of for the overall rankings.
So make sure your site is sound. And by that, I mean make sure your site is devoid of technical issues. You could have great content but technical issues can play a roll in your content not getting ranked as high as it should. Hell it could even prevent your content from getting ranked at all.
Remember Google wants users to have a positive experience. So make sure your site has good navigation, good site structure, loads quickly, proper re-directs, no duplicate content and is mobile friendly.
Other things to be mindful of are the proper use of H1 and H2 tags. H1 for your titles and H2 for sub-heading within your content.
And the Meta description. Don't allow automated meta descriptions. Create them yourself.
I mentioned this in my last post, make sure your site is encrypted (HTTPS). Google is now using HTTPS as a ranking signal, all be it a small signal it's one none the less. It is a must moving forward with your online business.
Even if you don't collect payment information and your site is not encrypted any visitor using Google Chrome will see a security warning popup telling people your site is not secure. And you don't want that.
Best Practices For 2017 And Beyond
Yeah I tossed a lot of information at you, but I hope you found it useful and not overwhelming. So with that said here's what I recommend now and moving forward as a content marketer.
1) Focus on the quality of your content.
Yep Googles algorithm is constantly changing and there's not a dame thing you or I can do about it. So personally I don't worry about it. And neither should you. Just create informative, engaging helpful content and you'll be rewarded.
2) Keyword research
When creating content you want to be writing with intent. And that starts with keyword research. People are searching for everything online and they're using keywords and keyword phrases to do it. So you want to get your content in front of them.
Make sure to have your keywords in the title and the first paragraph and then just write naturally from there allowing your LSI score help you even further with additional rankings for other keywords.
3) A great user experience
You want people to have a positive user experience when they come to your site. So make sure your site loads quickly, has good navigation and can be viewed on mobile devices.
4) Be proactive
You've created great content so make sure to share it with teh rest of your audience through social media. Let the world know.
5) Forget about manufactured links
Simply create great content and you'll get those natural links, and the ranking.
At the end of the day you're still going to come across conflicting information about backlinks. Hell maybe you don't like what I've mentioned here.
But if you want to dumb it down to the basic level when it comes to backlinks. Just writing kick ass GREAT content!!! End of story.
Well my fingers are tired, and I'm calling it a day. I really hope you found this post helpful. If you did please share it with your audience.
Oh, this post is 2,172 words long. Dame!!
I believe in you!