In this digital age of marketing and the fierce competition to build a reputable and highly visible online presence, one topic that is constantly evolving is SEO. As SEO tactics are developed and evolve, the older way of doing things tends to get exploited and abused. So much so that some SEO practices become a detriment to a page’s SERP ranking instead of having a positive, helpful effect.
One of these SEO tactics is the use of backlinks. Backlinks are a major factor in determining site rankings, but the way in which backlinks are being looked at by the latest search engine algorithms is certainly changing. Being aware of these changes and the latest do’s and don’ts of backlinks are necessary for any SEO strategy to be effective.
For starters, it might help to know what a backlink is. Here’s the rundown:
What is a Backlink?
Most people know what a regular link is (which is short for hyperlink). The basic definition of a backlink is just an incoming link to your page from another outside web page that points to or promotes your site or blog.
What Makes a Good Backlink?
Let me start by listing reasons why backlinks are good, or how to make them better—then it will be easier to understand the backlinks that have lost their way…and are a force for evil.
- Quality – Your site will be rewarded by search engines with higher rankings based on the number of quality backlinks found on other high quality and reputable sites. This is because quality backlinks found on other popular and important sites help to validate the relevance of your site.
- Shiny Anchor Text – For those unfamiliar with the term ‘anchor text,’ this is simply the visible text that you click on that represents a hyperlink. Make sure that the anchor text of your backlinks is descriptive and relevant. It will make them more valuable.
- Traffic – This one is kind of a no-brainer, obviously the more places that are linking back to your site, the greater amount of traffic your site is going to get. The tricky part is getting those backlinks out there without being naughty and using black hat tricks—more on that below.
- Clout – Proper and strategic use of backlinks will help to establish your site or blog as an authority in a specific area.
What Makes a Backlink Bad?
The short answer to this question is simply abuse. It seems like that is the usual pattern whenever helpful things are developed in the technology realm; the cheaters find a way to use and abuse it. It used to be that simply having a lot of backlinks helped optimize your pages in search engine rankings. However, because of abuse through methods like linkspam, search engines have modified their algorithms to look very closely at the quality level of the content at both ends of a link rather than just the quantity of links/backlinks. The main things to keep in mind to avoid bad backlinks is:
- You’ll Pay for Paid Links- You should avoid services that charge money for generating inbound links. These services will not only cost you money, but will generally do harm when it comes to SEO. They may drive more traffic, but it is probably not the quality audience that you want because they are generally putting those backlinks out on dodgy sites. In fact, many of the folks that have paid to get more backlinks are now having to pay again for services that remove them!
- Dull Anchor Text – Kind of just reverse of the shiny anchor text mentioned above, when anchor text is off topic or repetitive this will hurt your backlinks.
- Bad Company – The most important thing to remember is doing your best to keep your backlinks away from sites containing things like poor spelling/grammar, restricted/adult content, spammy paid sites, and generally irrelevant content.
For the most part, these points should be considered common sense. Google and other search engines are constantly upgrading to favor natural and quality content and punish those that try and cheat the system. Play by the rules and life is good.