Search engine optimization is a complex process, and for every solid tip that you receive, you’ll hear a dozen equally pointless suggestions to help increase your search engine rankings. One of the more popular tips that you’ll hear is the concept of backlinking. A backlink, simply put, is when a website provides a link to your website. Why is this important, you ask?

Imagine that the World Wide Web, is just that… a web. Websites are linked to one another through the strands of silk that create that web, and spiders crawl across these strands. This analogy is very solid, as Google even refers to the programs that scan the Web as “spiders”. Google’s spiders crawl the web, jumping from page to page, through the hyperlinks on that page. When the spiders see a link to a different website, they follow it as well. Imagine the “web”, with millions of spiders routinely crawling from site to site, gathering key words and phrases, then taking that information back to the search engine, where Google’s algorithm evaluates the info and subsequently uses it to determine where a site should be ranked for a given term. That, in essence, is how search engines work. Google ranks websites based on the perceived importance, and more importantly, the relevance, of a web page, and how it compares to a given search result.

When performing search engine optimization on your website, it’s important to remember just that…. Search engines are looking for the most relevant results, and those are typically the ones that rank highest. While there are dozens of factors that are constantly being evaluated, one of the most important are backlinks. Each backlink that comes into your site represents a “vote” for your site. The more votes that your site gets, the higher your site will likely rank for given search terms. The focus of this article is not to explain which terms to use, or how to lay out your page. The focus is twofold. First of all, to debunk myths relating to backlinking, and second, to explain how to correctly backlink.

Ineffective Backlinks

Many SEO “experts” will tell you that all backlinks are created equal, and that a link from a directory, blog, social network or discussion forum is valuable. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Google understands that anyone can post links to public forums and boards, and they’re smart enough to realize that these links are likely posted by people who are simply trying to get their site out there. That does NOT mean, however, that these represent relevant links. Google uses a merit based system to rank websites, using a 0-10 scale. Typically, public forums and small blogs will rank lower, so links coming from these sites will be less valuable than a link coming from an established and highly valued website. If each backlink represents a vote, keep in mind that valuable and highly ranked websites can count as multiple votes. In essence, while 10 backlinks from low ranking sites might garner 10 votes, a link from a highly respected and ranked website may earn your website 20 votes. So, as the article title states, not all links are created equal.

Effective Backlinks

If easy, quickly posted links on link farms, blogs and discussion forums represent lower quality links, it stands to reason that links from highly respected sites will bring higher quality links. These high quality links will lead to higher search engine rankings. To find valuable links, create real relationships with established websites. It’s easy to simply ask the webmaster of an established site for a backlink, but these webmasters know the value of their links, and aren’t likely to simply link to you as a favor. This privilege must be earned. Seek opportunities to develop real relationships with these businesses, by partnering with them, providing them with a service, or a reason for them to link to you. For example, if you’re a new personal trainer in the area, instead of simply asking the local health club to link to you, consider including a blog including fitness and diet tips that would be of value to them. This will in turn give the club a real reason to backlink.

While it’s typically easy to post links on those forums and blogs, search engine recognizes this, and in turn, places more weight and value on perceived relationships and “organic” links. For more information about search engine optimization and climbing the ranks, call or email us today with your questions.

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