Backlinks are links on one website that, when clicked, take the user to another site. For example: this is a link, click here, Example, example.com, http://www.example.com.
Backlinks can be in the form of an image as well as text. If a link is an image, the anchor link text is the alt tag of the image.
Anchor link text is the text that’s used to create the clickable part of a backlink. It can be a URL, branded (your name, your business’s name, etc.), phrases that include the keywords you’re targeting, or phrases that don’t include the keywords you’re targeting.
It used to be the case that it really helped if the anchor link text used for a backlink was the same as one of your target keywords, but this is no longer the case. It can now actually be counter-productive to have too many links in that format.
If your website has a backlink profile without lots of branded links (like ‘Company Name’ and ‘www.companyname.co.uk’), it can signal to Google that you’ve been using manipulative link building tactics.
A nofollow link is one that has had the rel=”nofollow” attribute applied to it, which instructs Google to not use that link when calculating the trust and authority of the page being linked to.
Dofollow links, which have no attribute applied to them, and are used by Google in their ranking algorithm, are more valuable than nofollow links, however, a link profile with few nofollow links looks unnatural.
You can see a near complete list of who is linking to your website from within your Google Search Console account. Login, go to ’Traffic’ and then ‘Links’.
Backlinks affect search engine rankings more than anything else. The number and quality of them pointing towards your site will largely determine in what position your site ranks in the search results.
You need to actively go out and seek backlinks. Your site will acquire some naturally, but if you need to catch up with more established competitors, and you want to rank highly, you need to be pro-active.
Building backlinks is not difficult or technical, and you don’t need any special skills, tools or software to be able to do it. More than anything, it’s about contacting people and building relationships with other site owners.
You can outsource link building, but if you do so cheaply (less than £250 a month), the SEO company building them will be inclined to build easy, low quality ones, that may result in your site being penalised by Google.
Building links steadily over time, like a few a week, is preferable to building 100 in a week and then not building any again, as the latter approach can signal to Google that you’ve engaged in unnatural link building.
How many backlinks you need depends on how many keywords you’re targeting, the level of competition for those keywords, the quality of the backlinks you acquire, and how good your on-site optimisation is.
It’s not purely a numbers game when it comes to backlinks. Simply getting more links than any of your competitors isn’t the aim – getting more high quality links than them is.
Not all backlinks are equal. Some will improve your rankings, some will have no effect on them, and some might have a negative effect on them.
If you have 10 trustworthy and authoritative links from relevant sources, and a competitor has 100 spam backlinks, then, in terms of backlinks at least, Google will favour your site over theirs.
Having lots of low quality backlinks can have a negative effect on your website’s ranking, so be selective when link building, and don’t get a link from another site just because it’s easy to do so.
Be prepared to work for high quality backlinks. Generally, the more easily you can acquire a link, the less value it will likely have.
For a backlink to be considered a high quality one, it must meet multiple criteria. The more of the criteria a link opportunity meets, the more time and effort it’s worth investing to get it.
Having a link in a prominent position on a highly visited page makes it valuable, because, regardless of rankings, it will bring your website a continual stream of targeted visitors.
An in-content backlink (i.e. one within a block of text) is, all else being equal, more valuable than a link separated from content (like in the sidebar or footer) or a link within a list of links.
Don’t worry about the authority (PageRank, Ahrefs Domain Rank, etc.) of the page that a link is on. All pages start off with no authority but can increase over time, so a PR0 page today, can be a PR5 page in 6 months time.
The trust and authority passed on from a page gets divided up between all of the links on that page, so getting a link from a page with few other links on it is preferable to getting one from a page with 50+ links on it.
Links from relevant websites are best, followed by links from relevant pages on irrelevant (or multiple topic / magazine style) sites. Links from irrelevant pages on irrelevant sites aren’t worthless, but don’t invest much time or effort into the acquisition of them.
Links from other UK sites are best (if you want to rank highly in Google.co.uk), but links from sites in America, Canada, Australia, etc. are beneficial too.
Try to get links to as many different pages of your website as possible. Not just to the homepage (which will naturally acquire the most), but to internal pages too – like your category/product/service pages.
After getting one link from a site, any subsequent ones from that same site have much less value, so focus on acquiring links from new sites, rather than getting more from sites that are already linking to yours.
It can take weeks for your website to be credited for a new backlink. First Google has to find the new link, then they have to work it into their algorithm, then they have to update the search results.
The best ways to find websites to get links from are to research who is linking to your competitors and to search on Google for sites that are talking about topics related to yours.
Use a backlink research tool, like Ahrefs. Doing so gives you access to extensive backlink data for your site and your competitors’ sites.
Backlink analysis tools never show a website’s complete link profile, and it can take weeks or months for new links to show up in them. Whichever tool you use, you’ll only see 30-50% of a site’s backlinks at most.
There are lots of ways to get backlinks. Don’t rely on just a few methods because a varied link profile looks more natural and is less likely to be negatively effected by future algorithm updates.
Email is the standard way to contact someone about linking to your site, but try contacting people through Facebook, Google+, Twitter, etc. first if they have links to their social media profiles on their site.
When contacting someone about linking to your site, make the communication as personal as possible. Reference the name of their site/business, and use their first name if you can find it.
When emailing people, avoid mentioning ‘link’ or ‘backlink’ in the subject field, don’t include any URLs in the first email, and leave out any SEO terminology, like rankings, algorithms , dofollow/nofollow, etc.
Be persistent when contacting people – a social media message, then an email, then a follow-up email, then a phone call. Only give up when they give you a definite ‘no’.
Attach some some kind of offer/value to your link requests that makes it worthwhile for the other person to respond, as if there’s nothing in it for them, 99% of the time they won’t respond.
There are basically 5 reasons that someone will link to your site: they think your site is unique/interesting/engaging; they know you and/or owe you a favour; you link to their site in return; you give them content to publish on their site; you provide them with a financial incentive.
Acquiring good quality backlinks becomes much easier if the content on your website is worthy of being linked to. If your site is essentially just a collection of sales pages, then you’ll struggle to persuade others to link to it.
It’s best if you can get someone to link to your site without you also having to link to theirs, but exchanging links is better than no link at all, so if it’s a relevant, good quality website, and they want to exchange links, then do it.
If you’re exchanging links with another site, try do so from within an article or blog post (existing or newly created) on your respective websites, rather than from partner/links/friends style pages.
Buying backlinks is technically against Google’s guidelines, but it’s a widespread practice, especially for high value, competitive keywords.
If you buy a link on a specific website and deal directly with the owner of that site, then it’s pretty much impossible for that to get flagged as a paid link (unless the site is advertising that they sell links).
Don’t buy links being openly sold (like in forums) or offered to you via email, and don’t use automated link building tools, software or services.
The price of a single paid link can vary from £25 to £1000+ a year. Even £25 might seem a lot, but if it’s a good link on a good, relevant site, the improved rankings and the extra traffic generated can more than pay for the cost of the link.
If you take an aggressive approach to building links, it’s highly likely that your site will be penalised by one of Google’s Penguin updates, which specifically target unnatural linking practices.
Be cautious and conservative when building backlinks, because trying to remove links that have gotten your website penalised is not simple or quick.
Telling Google that you didn’t build the links that they’ve penalised your site for isn’t accepted as a valid excuse and won’t result in the penalty being removed.
Recovering from a Google penalty caused by unnatural backlinks will take at least 3+ months, and in lots of cases a year or more.