SEO Tips – Understanding Backlinks

In a previous article I introduced the topic of search engine optimisation or SEO to give an overview of how google and other search engines, decide where to place articles in their ranking system. In this article I will look specifically at the topic of back links which are one aspect of creating a strong article, that google will see as beneficial and useful for your readers.

image links

back links are used to connect between different websites (image found on buzz feed.com)

Remember the key point that was mentioned, with regards to search engines, is that google  and others are trying to bring the best and most relevant articles to the attention of the searcher. That means that many of the old techniques for SEO optimisation (or how to cheat the google system) can backfire if they are not integrated with a more holistic approach to developing content.

Article content

  • What are backlinks?
  • Creating backlinks from
    • other writers / articles
    • Guest blogging
    • Using social media
    • Community Forums
  • Checking backlinks

What are Backlinks?

Back links happen when you receive a link to your site from another website, for example this picture below was reproduced from another site, which I have named and provided a link here in the image caption. Now there is a link between my website and the one that the image is on, in other words they have received a back link to their site from mine.

Does google like back links?

The short answer to this is – it depends on the type of link. You may have heard about the Google Penguin update, well this refers to the changes google made to its search algorithm in April 2012, and has been updating ever since. The Penguin updates specifically focused on companies and websites that were trying to use back linking as a way to cheat the google ranking system.

penguin image

Image found on etsy.com

In traditional SEO advice days, back links were seen as a way of showing how popular the site was and well respected within the community. There were a number of tactics that were used by website owners that would make it appear that the site was more popular than it was, which included buying links and/or acquiring them through link farms. However as with most things google soon realised what was happening, and along came Penguin.

In his article on why back links are not the future of SEO, Neil Patel outlines why content is now google’s number one priority and not the number of backlinks on a site. This is part of google’s overall strategy to raise the standard of content available out there on the internet, and to try and get marketeers and content writers to focus instead on developing real quality in the work they are producing.

Having said that back links are still a valuable way of acquiring traffic and also of increasing the quality of your own written content, so how do you acquire them?

Creating backlinks from other blog sites

The organic way to create back links is to create good quality content that other writers then share, like I did with the mention of Neil Patel’s article earlier on. As a writer Neil didn’t have to do anything other than create the article, however in reality he did have to do a lot more. In order for me to include him as a resource in my work he had to have achieved the following.

  • established expertise on a particular topic
  • have a strong reputation so that it would enhance the quality of my work
  • produce an interesting article that my readers would also be interested in

In other words gaining credibility and having other writers link to your site takes a lot of time and experience. It is also important to routinely check your links because broken links leading to websites that have since been removed will make your own site difficult to navigate and you will be penalised for that by search engines.

So what other options, other than waiting for expert writers to recognise your talent, are there that could perhaps work a bit quicker?

Guest Blogging

Another well known route to gaining back links was to guest blog on a well established site and include your website link at the bottom of the article. This is another way to showcase your work to a wider audience and encourage readers to visit you to read more of your work. The problem with this approach is that many guest bloggers used writing from their existing work, so now the article was on two different websites and google decided this was duplicating content.

New google rules are – if you are writing for other sites be selective about who you write for,  and about the number of sites and try to use original material at all times.

Social Media

In todays social media world it is important to share your content on a number of different social media platforms. If your content has images then these can be picked up by many of the social media sites such as Instagram, Pinterest, Google+ and Facebook, these types of articles are easily shared and can provide opportunities for back links to be created naturally.

Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 13.50.35

Image found on uniquewebsites.co.uk

Social media shares and likes are becoming one of the tools that Google can use to assess how popular and relevant your work is, and this may become more important in the future SEO algorithms that google develops.

Community Forums

Community discussion groups are another way in which you can spread the word about your work. Industry websites specific to your own niche area often have comment sections where you can add to the conversation and possibly add in any appropriate links to your own articles on the subject, (you just need to avoid spamming the site with irrelevant links though).

General chat forums are other ways in which you can share your knowledge and attract followers, you see more examples of how to utilise online forum sites in this article 7 Proactive Ways to get Backlinks

However it is also important that the links you acquire are not from spam sites or other sites that google has blacklisted. For this reason it is important to check the source of your back links.

Checking backlinks

One of the easiest ways to track your backlinks is to use Google Console, as it’s now called (formerly Webmaster Tools). As you can see from the screenshot under the Search Traffic heading there is a category called Links to Your Site. By clicking on this you will get a list of all the sites that are linked.

screenshot of Google console

There are other tools available that you may already be using, such as woorank.com which provides a free trial analysis of your website including back link data. Its real use is much broader though and it offers a range of different analyses covering all aspects of your site.

Finally tools.quicksprout.com is another web site analyser, again it covers more than back links but can provide some useful information about overall site performance.

More SEO Information

Backlinks are only one tool, of many, that used together will contribute towards improving your overall search engine optimisation process. The important message for all SEO work though is that quality content is the first priority, especially in the beginning when trying to establish the expertise and trust of the site. Everything else is a tool to assist in promoting that quality content.

Finally this particular article is part of a series of content writing and SEO blogs, and you can check out some of the other topics on this site that are linked to SEO by following the links below.

I hope you found the information useful and if you have any queries please leave a comment below and I will get back to you asap.

8 thoughts on “SEO Tips – Understanding Backlinks

  1. rufat

    There are many ways a site can get backlinks to improve overall rankings in search engines. Getting backlinks is also an excellent method to drive more traffic to a site. One thing we should always keep in mind that instead of getting tons of backlinks from other sites it’s much better to get one quality backlink from a reliable and famous blog that can both improve your websites rankings and send a good amount of traffic. This is of course not easy. You need to do a lot of research in order to create an epic content that other famous blogs would want to share or place on their blogs to benefit their readers. I find this strategy the hardest among other strategies but it’s well worth the time you spend on it and if you can accomplish this task it will pay off in the long run.

    Reply
    1. admin

      Hi Rufat thanks for your comment and yes like most aspects of SEO acquiring good quality back links is a challenging process in its own right. It does require a lot of research but as you start out don’t set your targets too high. Your aim is to slowly build a solid reputation and establish your own level of expertise and that does take time. Even linking to smaller blogs and adding your take or enhancing a point they have made, are all valid ways to build links and establish reputation as an expert, remember the aim is to do both.

  2. alisonklingvall

    Hi Marie,

    Thank you, I now have a much better understanding of backlinks.
    So, as someone in the early days of blogging do I just wait to develop a reputation (you know, like Neil Patel;) so somebody might actually choose to “backlink me”.
    I guess all my social sharing helps but is there any benefit to asking friends to share my site too o does that fall under the category of buying links, r is it better if it’s all organic?

    Alison

    Reply
    1. admin

      Hi Alison thanks for your comment and question. There is definitely a benefit to engaging with friends and getting them to comment on your site and share it within your known circles, this is all part of the natural development of building your expertise and getting you known.

      When I refer to buying links this is through companies that claim to be able to link your site and you pay them, this is definitely a no no as far as google is concerned and could undermine your credibility. Hope that helps and feel free to ask anything else, once again thanks.

  3. Boyo

    Hi Marie,
    Interesting and useful article. I found you site whilst researching the whole topic of “backlinks”. I see that there are numerous people promising to create/or sell backlinks in order to boost your SEO rankings.
    From reading your article I guess I should stay away from these sellers and concentrate on website content?
    Also, are some backlinks more worthwhile than others? Does Google prefer some backlinks over others?
    Thanks a mil,
    Dylan

    Reply
    1. admin

      Hi Dylan, thanks for your questions I think I probably answered some of them above (or below) in the previous comment. Basically buying back links from link farms or companies is a no no and google is trying to stop this. The Penguin update also shifted google’s focus away from back links per se and into content, so the links have to relate to the content.

      Are some more worthwhile, yes those that google recognises as being from quality sites. This is why affiliate links can sometimes be penalised especially if they go to a landing page and then straight onto a product sale, i.e. no content involved. So basically use your own links and use them to enhance the quality of your content.

  4. Vera

    This is good stuff to know, especially for newbies who might be frightended to use backlinks, after Google’s “Penguin Parade” penalized son many cheating black hats:)

    I think it’s a good change of SEO to the advantage of those who are working hard to provide helpful quality content online. And there is still space for using backlinks in a legit way, thanks for showing how to do this properly!

    Reply
    1. admin

      Hi Vera, yes your point is very true many people did get a scare (or more importantly lost rankings) when the Penguin update started. Other changes in the Google algorithm such as Hummingbird have focused more on the quality of content and the best use of links. This affects how we use all links whether it’s back, content/ internal and affiliate / products sales links.

      As I have mentioned earlier and in some of the comments here there is a legitimate use for links, especially when you have readers who want to know more about the topic and you can lead them to other sources. In addition images and content used from other sources, all need to be linked to ensure that authors are referenced properly.

      It’s like like really – everything in moderation!

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