This is the 3rd post in a 3-part series. Here are all the posts:
SEO Strategy Part 1 – Site Structure And On-Page Elements
SEO Strategy Part 2 – Content Is King
SEO Strategy Part 3 – Backlinks and Linkbuilding
Backlinks are simply links back to your site. I don’t know why they’re not called linkbacks, but sometimes they are called simply links or incoming links.
The number and quality of links to your site matters greatly for your search rankings. The search engines see backlinks as “votes” for your site. Let’s say that Joe Shmoe has a blog with very little traffic and low pagerank and he decides to link to your site. Well, that’s certainly worth something in the grand scheme of Google’s weighting of your site, but not nearly as much as if, say, cnn.com linked to your site.
Backlinks are a HUGE part of SEO.
Google (and of course Bing) think that people can’t game the system very much and manufacture backlinks, therefore give a high relevance to sites with nice, natural-looking backlink profiles.
Except people can and do manufacture backlinks all the time. Even the white hat SEOs do it, albeit in a completely different manner than black hat SEOs.
There are many ways to make backlinks, although that subject is much too grand to cover in this post. We can gloss over what some SEO people do though, and that includes things like article marketing, creating links on Web 2.0 sites and directory submissions. Basically what the gray and black hat SEOs do is go to other sites and create the link back to their own site themselves.
They can do this manually but there are tons of software programs that help them speed this process up. Some programs let SEOs post articles with a backlink to their site to hundreds of directories or blogs. They can also automate things like comment and forum spam.
Meanwhile, the purest lawful-good white hat SEOs create great content and find ingenious ways to get it to spread virally. This is sometimes called linkbait – i.e. they’re baiting people to be so interested in this content that they want to share it with others. A great example of this in recent years are infographics, although the Web is starting to get oversaturated with those.
Ultimately, the white hats believe that if you build great content the backlinks will come. The blackest hats will go to great lengths to maliciously hack websites so that they can add whatever backlinks they want.
Personally, I believe that a mixture of all things is good. Well, except for the malicious black hat stuff. Create great content and make it easy for people to share it. But also do some semi-gray hat linkbuilding such as article marketing.
Linkbuilding is not a bad thing. Look, in a perfect world, Google would be able to discover what sites had great content and have those ranking near the top, while giving the ban hammer to ANYONE doing fishy linkbuilding of any kind.
But so far Google has done a piss poor job of this and people doing gray & black hat SEO are ranking just fine in the SERPs (search engine result pages). In order to compete, at least if you’re just starting a website, you’re at a huge disadvantage unless you play the linkbuilding game as well.
Sure, you can create the content and pray the backlinks will come but your content had better be AWESOME. There’s a saying that comes to mind: “pray to God, but row away from the rocks”.
I’ll cover backlinks in much more depth in future posts, but hopefully this was a good intro!