Backlinks 101

Backlinks have always been one of the hottest topic in the SEO world. They are a critical tool that search engines use to determine the authority of a site, and they can also get you banned from search engines forever. I think that Backlinks are also one of the most confused topics out there and many people fail to grasp the basics which are actually the most important.

By the end of this tutorial you will know how to find good, meaningful backlinks for your site. I will also teach you how to spot the scams and avoid paying money for a service that could get your banned from search engines. Since this is Backlinks 101 let’s start with the basics.

What is a backlink?

A backlink is just a fancy term for a link to your site from another site. Most people just call these links but in the SEO world we like to call them backlinks which are different from internal links you have on your site. The text that is linked within a backlink is called the anchor text. I will create a backlink for one of my own sites below as an example:

Domain Investing

The link above points to www.LintonInvestments.com, my company’s homepage. This means that it is now a backlink for www.lintoninvestments.com. The anchor text used for the backlink is “Domain Investing” which means that the link is giving search engines data on what keywords best target my site.

If 20 other people link to my site with the anchor text of “Domain Investing” then I would expect to rank better for this keyword phrase. Let’s suppose you are running a pet food store in your local area. Maybe you’d like to target a term like “Westwood pet food” – then you’ll want backlinks to your site with this keyword phrase as the anchor text. Go it? Good!

How do backlinks help you?

Backlinks help you rank better in search engine for relevant keywords in your niche. Google’s algorithm gives a huge amount of weight to backlinks, specifically how reputable the source of the link is. This is one of the most critical things to understand about backlinks. It’s not about having as many links as you can, it’s about having as many links from reliable sources as you can. I like to think of the quality of a backlink similar to the quality of the people you associate with in real life.

If you’re applying for a job and your list of references includes scammers how would that reflect on you as a candidate? Wouldn’t it be better if your references were big businesses like the New York Times or a popular blog in your niche?

The same goes for backlinks. Think of them as your resume that you provide to Google, which you can’t always control since anyone can link to you whenever they feel like it. You want to show Google that lots of reliable sources vouch for you, and how to they do it? By providing you with a backlink – showing that they endorse you. If the New York Times writes an article about pet stores and includes a link to your pet store’s site in the article this will really help you be seen as a greater authority in Google. The same goes for tons of other websites and blogs.

So how do backlinks help you? They help you by showing Google the quality of the people who recommend you. The more quality people who recommend you, the more Google will see you as an authority in your niche.

How can backlinks hurt you?

Backlinks can absolutely hurt you and in some cases even cause you to get delisted from search engines. Just like backlinks from high-quality sources helps you, backlinks from low-quality sources can hurt you. Going back to the job interview example, what if every reference your potential employer called was a scammer, would they still want to give you the job?

If most of your links come from scammy sites Google might see you as a scammy site yourself. Just think about it – now the people who are recommending you are scammers, people with a low level of trust, and you might just blend in with the crowd. This is why it is so important to not only build backlinks, but build backlinks from high quality sites.

When Google sees a lot of scammy or low-quality links added all at once or in high volume for a few months they might think you’re trying to game the system – this could get you banned. Your focus should always be on getting high-quality backlinks from other sites and brands that you would like to be associated with and are relevant to your niche.

One-way backlinks

Now that you understand what a backlink is and what makes them important, let’s talk about one-way links. Backlinks carry the most weight if they are one-way links. This means that a site is linking to you but you are not linking back. This tells search engines that someone is linking to you because they endorse you and not because you have some link-swapping deal together.

In the early days of search there were huge link-farms where people would exchange links and help each other rank better. Over time Google has dramatically lessened the value of two-way links. When it comes to building backlinks you’ll want to stay focused on getting one-way links to your site.

One important item to note is that two-way backlinks do carry some weight just not very much. So if someone that you like links to you, and you want to link back to them, go for it. As long as the person you’re linking to is also a reliable brand this will only help you, it just won’t provide nearly as much SEO benefit as a one-way link to your site would.

How to get backlinks

Now for the moment you’ve all been waiting for – how do you get backlinks? To most people this process is a complete mystery, which is why they’ll waste money buying backlink packages or using scammy-looking backlink services. Remember, you shouldn’t be focused on the number of backlinks you’re getting but instead on the quality of the backlinks.

The #1 way to get backlinks is (drumroll please) – do things that make people want to write about you! That’s right, the best way to get backlinks is to write a great article or have a great product or service. The best backlinks are those that you don’t have to ask for but instead come to you naturally. Sure, if you’re building a 5-10 page mini-sites this probably won’t happen, but if you’re building a real online brand people should be interested in what you’re doing.

Of course in order for people to link to you because they like what you’re doing, they’ll first have to hear about it. This is where press releases come in. Most of the top SEO firms use press releases as a part of their SEO process. Heck, if you’re a real business, innovating and doing cool things, you should let the world know, right?

There are lots of places you can go online to get your press release out. I recommend PRWeb for beginners as they have an easy-to-use interface and very reasonable pricing. There are also some great free places to get the world out online like PRLog.org which leaves you no excuses to get the word out about your brand and why it’s worth talking about!

Now that you know the #1 way to get backlinks let’s talk about some of the other ways. Another popular way of getting backlinks is guest posting on blogs in your niche. Let’s suppose that you run an online business selling bicycle parts. You could write guest posts on cyclist blogs about essential bike gear or another topic related to your business. Bloggers are always looking for great content from people with experience in a niche and are usually more than happy to let you include a link back to your site.

One of the best things about building backlinks through blog posts that you write is that you have control over the entire article and the anchor text. In some cases you can even setup a weekly or monthly relationship so that you’re continuing to add quality backlinks on a regular basis.

You now have two solid backlink building techniques under your belt. I’ll talk about a third and final technique and everything else I’ll save for backlinks 201. The third technique you can use to build backlinks is writing articles for sites like Squidoo, Helium, etc. While these sites may have lost a lot of their top rankings in Google they still pass-along good link juice.

With article sites you can either write the articles yourself or use a service like Textbroker to hire a professional content writer. Strive for quality here, remember, anything associated with your brand represents your brand. With an article service you can also pick your anchor text to target exactly the keywords that are relevant to your business.

Putting it all together

I know this was a lot of information to take in so I thought I’d provide a quick high-level summary at the end to bring everything together.

  • Backlinks are links from another site to your site
  • The link text itself is called “Anchor Text”
  • The quality of the sites linking to you matters
  • Building backlinks quickly or having lots of low-quality links could hurt you
  • Some simple ways to start building backlinks is through:
    • Press Releases
    • Guest Blog Posts
    • Trusted Article Directories

Please remember, this is Backlinks 101 and is intended to give you all the basics of backlinking. To learn more about backlinks make sure to stay-tuned for my next post in the series backlinks 201.

{ 7 comments… add one }

  • Nima.Co October 4, 2011, 12:11 pm

    Fantastic introduction to backlink acquisitions via content syndication, Morgan. I like your use of video and the transcript for seo. The advanced portion of backlinking is the secret sauce in our industry. Interested to see how much you indulge. It’s hard to find a happy medium between what you can share and what would compromise your own seo strategy.

    Reply
  • Douglas Haynes October 4, 2011, 3:41 pm

    When I used to do a lot link requests I would send the complete link code so they could copy/paste it without making mistakes. Of course with WordPress and other cms so widely available people probably don’t need to do that now, they can mess it up in their dashboard 😉

    Reply
  • Morgan October 4, 2011, 6:08 pm

    Backlinks are not very easy to come by these days without spending some money, unless you have a gigantic reputation. However, the most useful method for those of us whose reputations don’t precede us was mentioned… PRWeb. A good press release can really score serious backlinks and traffic. I’ll have to look into the free PRLog site you mentioned. Thanks

    Reply
  • Douglas Haynes October 5, 2011, 8:22 am

    When I pull your rss feed into my site the post is only the first paragraph and doesn’t have a link back to you to read more. I would like if it was included.

    Reply
  • james carroll October 6, 2011, 7:25 am

    So if i blast my competitor with a bunch of spammy links using a bot I can get him delisted your saying? 😉

    Reply
    • Morgan October 6, 2011, 7:38 am

      @James – this could have worked years ago, Google is now pretty hip to Blackhat SEO techniques like this so typically doing this won’t work. Sorry to burst your bubble 🙂

      Reply
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    Reply

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