Can you tell us what backlinks are and why are they so important?
Backlinks are as old as the hills, okay, well not that old in reality- but they were part of Google’s magic formula for as far back as the invention of Google’s “PageRank”.
Now when it comes to SEO, well that’s old, meaning that it’s not a newly fangled update, such as Google’s more recent update named Google RankBrain for example.
Backlinks therefore an established part of how Google and some other search engines decide on where a business should be ranked. Don’t get us wrong however, backlinks are not the only ingredient that Google uses to work out how good your SEO recipe is, nope, Googles algorithm is now thought to take into account a whooping 200 ranking factors when working out where to rank a site- see us seo agencies do have our work cut out for us.
In this article we are a dive headfirst into explaining exactly what backlinks are, why they are important, and why you have to know what you’re doing when you are building links.
Okay, sock it to me, what exactly are these backlinks?
Well quite simply put they help people to navigate around the Internet, so for example if you have ever been on the website, clicked a link, then gone to another company’s website in a jiffy, this is simply called following a backlink.
So, for example you might be wanting to make yourself a rather tasty pizza, an authentic home-made woodfired pizza, so you simply find the number one result on Google for “woodfired pizza recipe” and off you go into the garden to cook yourself an authentic slice of Italy.
Now as you flick through the list of ingredients, you’re presented with a link, where the person who wrote the informative article has bought all of their various items from, for example from an online supermarket.
If the author was super helpful, they might have even provided a link to every single ingredient such as the flour they purchased, and this would obviously help you save time if you’re buying them ingredients online. So, click, click and click there you have it the tomato sauce, the cheese they used and that all important peperoni is now sitting in your basket, all because someone’s provided you with a link, and made it super simple for you to order the goods you need. Its just now you’ve discovered that there’s no pizza coming tonight, as you have to wait for a delivery slot!
So, this is what is meant by “following a link”, which is all well and good, but you might now be sitting there in your office chair with a cup of coffee thinking, well, what is this got to do the SEO, well hold your horses and we shall explain all.
Why are backlinks so important?
Okay, so imagine you are at a party, and everybody is asked to raise their hands to the person they like the most, now somebody who has the most show of hands in the room, is obviously the most popular, and is probably the one with the biggest ego to match as well.
Egos aside, that is a vote of who is the most popular, and this could be the same when it comes to implementing SEO, the website has the most show of hands, but in this case backlinks, could have the strongest SEO.
Yet, notice how we use the wording “could have”, because as with all things SEO related, it’s not that simple, it’s not just about having the most.
More, more and more of backlinks is not always better, it has to be balanced out with, are they quality links?
So, it boils down to this, the backlinks leading to your business must be “relevant”, they have to be built in a “white hat” way and also be “top-quality”.
So sure, you might have 20,000 backlinks pointing to your site’s homepage, but if they are complete garbage, then this can actually drag you website down or actually get it penalised, so yes you got it, it could actually damage the whole businesses SEO. Remember this, rubbish links = poor performance.
Yet, there’s another website which only has just 100 links in total, all pointing at the homepage, but every single one is from a real high quality source, and that website could be the one that ranks number one, simply because it has quality on its side.
Quality trumps everything else.
It’s therefore all about quality.
So, in terms the pecking order, how important are backlinks? Are they the most important ranking factor?
So one of the founders of Google is named Larry Page, and part of their original formula they used to decipher where a business should rank, was simply called Google’s PageRank, which looked at backlinks as part of the formula to work out which companies should rank where.
Now don’t get us wrong, things have moved on massively since the days of PageRank, in matter of fact the algorithm now is thought to take into account over 200 different ranking factors, so it is extremely complex. So, this is why you shouldn’t just ring around a few Bristol seo companies, and award your well earned wonga to someone who’s the cheapest, nope, don’t do that.
Instead, you need someone or an agency full of SEO minds who can offer top quality work, but keeps on top of the changes, as seo is a fast moving business sector, if the grass is growing under the feet of your agency, well its time to swap them for someone else.
So, if you were to barge your way into a few digital marketing agencies about the great city of Bristol, and you decided to shout at the top of your voice at the front door, “what you think are the most important ranking factors then”- then they are likely to yell back you, “backlinks” they might show you to the exit swiftly after, but if they say backlinks well, this would be correct, as they are one of the most important ranking factors.
However, it all comes down to how they are built, because if they are quality, well they could push you up the ranks, if they’re not quality, well they could push you back down.
A word on Google’s updates
If you were to mention various Google’s updates, that have been rolled-out over the years, such as the “Penguin update”, then this might get some agency owners quaking in their boots.
However, if you do SEO right, we always think you have nothing to worry about, but there’s always some agencies that want to cut corners, they want to sit like a nodding dog in front of their clients saying that everything is possible, when in reality it is not.
Then, once an update is rolled out to penalise poor SEO practice, these are the websites to get punished by being removed from Google.
So, a word to the wise, there have been many Google updates, which we could reel off until we are absolutely blue in the face, but just take this as good advice, if SEO is not done right, then this can mean that your website is removed from Google’, so don’t cut any corners, do it the right way.
Okay so what’s the right way?
Now you are asking the right questions! That is show off your expertise, it doesn’t matter if you’re an accountant, solicitor or hairdresser you will have a huge amount of knowledge, or at least you should have about your industry, now it boils down to this, are you able to convey that knowledge better than your competitors on your website?
So, for example, let’s say somebody needs some legal advice, but before they pick a practice, they are going to have read a few good blog posts that you have written first.
Now, this advice might be so good, if it is written in a straightforward manner that is, and if it really useful, then guess what?
It’s likely that other people will want a link to the work- and there you have it, if the work’s top quality, and it’s been written by somebody that knows what they’re talking about, and follows all the SEO rules, then you can start to have incoming backlinks.
However, we have to return to this point one more time, that’s before we finish, and that is if you buy links or you build rubbish links, then your business is likely to vanish from Google, thats because you have incurred a penalty.