When coming up with your SEO strategy, you may be wondering, are backlinks important for SEO? While it’s true that you can get a bunch of links from bad, low-quality websites and call it a day, it won’t have the same effect on your website’s search engine ranking as it has in the past. Google’s search engine algorithm updates have even placed penalties on websites that employ low-quality backlinks to try to “game the system.”
Why Are Backlinks Important for SEO?
Backlinks are important for SEO because it’s one factor that Google uses for organic search. If done correctly, it can have an impact on your organic search visibility. When a link from a highly regarded website points back to your website, it shows you are more authoritative and trustworthy to Google. The more of these high-quality links there are, the more trustworthy the page on your website seems, and your website is ranked more favorably.
What Are Backlinks?
There are different types of links to be aware of: internal, inbound, and outbound links.
- Internal links are when you link from one page to another on your own website.
- Inbound links are links that point to your website from a different domain name.
- Outbound links are on your own website and link to a different domain.
Backlinks typically refer to inbound links from other websites. You want other high-quality domains to link to you.
What Backlinks Are Good for SEO?
It can be difficult to evaluate which links are good for SEO, but here are some important factors.
It’s good to look at the domain authority and the page authority of the inbound link. An inbound link back to your website will hold more value if it has better authority. A newly created site won’t have a good domain or page authority, and if a new site sends a flood of backlinks to your website, it can seem at first that the site may just be created to create backlinks.
The relevance of the link should also matter. The content and link that is directing back to your site better be relevant. If you are a lawyer and your backlink is from a site all about restaurants, there should be a good reason to make it relevant. If the site isn’t all that relevant, the content better be. This can be contextual relevance, such as the content surrounding the link. In this example of a restaurant site linking back to a law firm, the backlink could be from an article on the restaurant site about legal issues of slip and fall cases (hence the relevance of the backlink back to the law firm website).
Anchor text can also play a role in relevancy. In the past, the anchor text used to be the exact match keyword that you wanted to rank, but now the link must look natural. Using the above example of a restaurant backlinking, if the law firm’s website wanted the page being linked back to from the restaurant to rank for the keyword “restaurant injuries,” the keyword “restaurant injuries” needs to appear naturally in the text of the article on the restaurant website and link back to the article about “restaurant injuries” on the law firm website.
Entire Backlink Profile
Besides the links themselves, your whole backlink profile is taken into consideration. You should have several unique domains that link back to your website. Too many links to the same page can look unnatural, and too many links from the same domain also will appear unnatural. There should also be a mix of follow and no-follow links. Nofollow links indicate the search engine should not crawl or follow the link. While some think that Google does not look at these, that is not actually the case.
It’s important to pay attention to links that may seem like good links but could easily be faked. Some examples of these are online forms, blog comments, Q&A sites, and article directories. These may be identified as fake by search engines right away, but not always.
Local SEO Backlinks
One of the great things about employing a strong local SEO effort is the variety and quality of the backlinks. For example, if you use the Listing Builder in the LOCALSYNC Local business Online Toolkit to manage your business listings, you will immediately generate 60+ high-quality backlinks to your website from these local directories.
Why does Google treat these local directory links as high quality? These sites deliver location data to users and are not likely to be faked. What is the point of creating a backlink to a business if all of the information is fake? Why create 100+ backlinks that contain fake business data? Your customers will all go to the wrong place.
Other great local SEO strategies to improve search engine rank are to use professional directories (like the Injury Lawyer Index for injury attorneys) or industry directories (like the National Association of Realtors for real estate agents) to link back to your website. Building detailed, extensive premium profiles on these directories not only improve SEO with relevant, high-quality backlinks but can also help you land customers. How? Through the process of social validation, the more a potential client sees complete profiles of you and your business that are attractive and consistent, the more they will trust you. That consistency reinforces who you are (and online that is the only thing a potential customer has to evaluate you).
Ever wonder how you look online to your customers? Use the free LOCALSYNC business scan tool and find out now.
What about Toxic Backlinks?
Toxic backlinks have been discussed since Google released Penguin in May 2013, causing sites with bad link profiles to drop in search engine visibility. Knowing when to remove links can be tricky since you don’t want to remove anything that could actually be helping you.
There are a few ways to determine if you have been affected by toxic links. The first is if you have received a link warning from Google in your Search Console. You may also be able to tell if you use any SEO tools that alert you to bad backlinks, like Ahrefs. If you find that you have toxic backlinks that are causing your website traffic to drop, you will need to remove them by contacting the webmaster or doing so through a Google disavow file.
Are Backlinks Important for SEO – Final Thoughts
As Google continues to update its algorithm, you need to prepare for the future of your company online. Here is a recap of some of your top tips and thoughts going forward:
Do Not Try to Game the System.
Trying to game the system is like buying a house on a foundation of straw. The house may stand for a while, but one day the wind will blow and the house will come tumbling down. The same thing goes for SEO. Don’t buy links. Don’t subscribe to PBN networks. Google is getting better and better each day finding people gaming their algorithm and penalizing their websites.
Focus on Content
Content, content, content. You hear it all of the time. Why? Because it is the one technique that will never go out of style. Delivering a searcher to the best place is Google’s mission. Be the best place. Show the world your expertise through publishing articles, podcasts, videos, Q&A areas, infographics, and other media. Build an online portal that helps your customers and answers their questions.
Backlinks are Important for SEO but Not the End Game
Building a more robust link profile is important but not the end game. Your backlink profile will grow naturally if you build out great content and then promote that content. Think like a media company that wants to make a great experience and build a huge audience. Remember, the goal is getting more CUSTOMERS not creating a bunch of backlinks.
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