What Are Backlinks?

Domain names and internet concept

Backlinks are one of the primary components of the search engine algorithms that determine the rank of pages that are the responses to a search.

So, what are backlinks? Well, simply, a backlink is a link from one webpage to another webpage.

Let’s label them so that it is easier to understand. Suppose that a source page contains a link to a destination page – the source page is considered to contain the backlink to the destination.

The more backlinks that are out on the web pointing to your content, the higher the search engines will rank your content page. This means that they will consider your page to be a better solution to the search keywords for your content.

However, there is more to ‘what are backlinks?’. A backlink also has a weight – a value that comes from the popularity of the source website. For example, suppose you have a set of backlinks to your web page about dog grooming. You have done the things you needed to make your content be appropriate for the keyword ‘dog grooming’ and now you are analysing your backlinks to see if you need to get more (the answer is usually yes!)

The source of the backlink lends weight to your backlink when it also ranks highly for your keywords. So, a backlink from a very popular site that specializes in dog grooming is worth more than a backlink from a more generic, but popular, site – like Facebook. And both are more valuable than a backlink from a brand new site with little popularity.

Some of the factors that can affect the amount of weight that a backlink brings to your site are:

  • Font color and size – the more visible the link, the more likely it will be clicked.
  • Link position in the source site – people are more likely to click links that are earlier in the content.
  • The number of words in the source content text.
  • The keywords in the source content text.
  • The words surrounding a backlink are taken into account. A ‘natural’ link is more likely to be contextually consistent with the keywords of the destination site.
  • If the link is attached to an image in the source site, more weight is given for bigger images.

Since the actual algorithms for the search engines are secret, there is quite a bit of debate over how much each of these qualities adds or subtracts from the weight a given backlink contributes to the destination site. There is also some debate over the value of getting a lot of ‘low value’ backlinks versus a few ‘high value’ backlinks.

Also, each search engine has its own algorithms. Google is the most popular search engine right now – and a lot of folks focus only on how well they are doing with Google. Remember that your results will be different on every search engine.

In general, it is fairly easy to get a lot of backlinks with lower value by generating a variety of articles/videos/blog posts that are submitted to directories. Another approach is to use a tool that taps into the social media sites to bookmark sites or inform others what sites a user is visiting. You can also get backlinks by participating in forums that focus on the subject matter of your content – each forum post can contain a backlink to your content. You might also contribute to a wiki that focuses on your subject matter. Or be a guest blogger on a site in your niche.

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