The term “backlink” refers to a link that leads from one website to another. In contrast to a “normal” link, however, a backlink is an incoming link – in order to land on the website, the user will have been redirected from some other site. Like a normal link, such backlinks usually have a fixed function within a text. However, backlinks are also a very interesting feature of search engine optimization and are therefore often “misused” for SEO purposes.
In general, a link on the Internet is used as a way for the website operator to provide the reader with more detailed information on a topic. To this end, he or she builds the link into the HTML code of the website to establish a link to another site. For the “recipient,” an incoming link usually means more visitors and, if the site is a commercial entity, more sales. For this reason, links now serve far more purposes than simply conveying additional knowledge. For example, in a text about private pension insurance, it would be possible to provide links to various insurance providers or to a large pension insurance assessment. The website hosting that pension insurance assessment would then benefit from a higher number of visitors and, in an ideal scenario, would transact more insurance business. Thus, (paid) backlinks are a popular online marketing tool used to guide potential customers, from a blog, to a particular site or domain for example.
However, the most important aspect of backlinks is their significance for search engines and search engine optimization. For Google et al., backlinks are now an important factor in their website evaluation. A relatively simple principle applies here: If there are no incoming links, then the website concerned has no particular significance for the corresponding website topic. Though there are still several other online marketing and search engine optimization measures that can be taken to improve search engine rankings, without a single backlink to your site, it would be almost impossible to secure a high ranking.
If Google et al. are to recognize a backlink, then it must be set up correctly. However, since backlinks are incoming links, the website operator being linked to has no real influence on the structure of the link. However, backlinks are often “exchanged” between sites – so if sites link to each other, then each website owner should know the correct structure for an HTML link:
<a href=”http://www.example.com”> anchor text </a>
In addition, the so-called nofollow attribute can be set up within the link. Simply add the “rel =” nofollow “” after the URL. The nofollow attribute causes a search engine like Google to ignore the link when analyzing the site – but more about that later.
As mentioned at the beginning, backlinks are enormously important for search engine rankings. The reason for this is obvious: If a topic is frequently linked to a certain website, this page will usually have a high relevance to the topic – at least that’s how it works in theory.
The basic idea that a lot of links to a particular site signified a high thematic relevance was naturally taken up very quickly in the online marketing world. In the beginning, this realization led to the above-mentioned practice of paid backlinks. Alternative strategies include exchange links, i.e. the reciprocal linking of two websites, and the creation of so-called satellite sites set up by the website operator for the sole purpose of generating backlinks to their own website.
However, through updates, Google and other search engines have become much better at detecting the quality of backlinks. As a result, most SEO experts now assume that the number of backlinks has become less important than their quality or thematic relevance.
Improving your own website ranking via backlinks is a matter of finding the right partners with whom to set-up links. One of the most important factors is the closeness of website topics. If a private annuity insurance site gets a backlink from a dating portal, a search engine like Google will attach little importance to that backlink. However, if the link involves a large insurance company, it is clear that the topic is of close concern to them – a feature that is evaluated positively by the search engine. Other decisive factors are the thematic relevance and the Page Ranking of the source of the backlink.
The thematic relevance closely resembles the thematic proximity – however, in the case of the former, the ranking of the site also plays a part. If the site mentioned in the above example for private annuity insurance is given a backlink from a website that appears in Google’s Top Ten results for the search term “private pension insurance,” then this backlink would be much more “valuable” than a link from a site that appears in the SERPs way down on page six. In the same vein, the rating of the site from which the link originates is suggested by its Page Rank algorithm. This specifies how many backlinks a site has. The higher that number of backlinks, the more effective the backlinks originating from the site are rated to be. Linkbuilders call this the “linkjuice” effect. However, in its original form, the Page Rank algorithm no longer counts for much with Google, which has since replaced that method with a more complex approach, about which little is known at present. Nevertheless, most SEO experts assume that the quality of incoming sites also has an influence on how your own site’s backlinks are rated – and that the influence of good sites can “radiate” outwards and positively influence other sites.
In addition, other factors affect the evaluation of a backlink. Where the backlink is placed on the page is also important. Google rates backlinks in the header or footer differently to backlinks in the body text or in images. In addition, the anchor text, i.e. the “clickable words” in the link, is important for the quality of a backlink. Ideally, the reader and the search engine should be able to discern the content of the linked site from the anchor text wording. Descriptive anchor texts are thus particularly effective, especially if they are used together with keyword combinations.
Finally, there is the matter of the nofollow attribute. Basically, it serves to dissociate itself from linked sites. For example, a nofollow link is useful if you consider a page to be untrustworthy but would not want to deny the reader access to content of that site. In such circumstances, a search engine will then ignore the ranking of that backlink – at least in theory. In SEO circles, whether search engines actually ignore such links has become quite controversial. If you don’t want to take risks with your link construction, it may be best not to use nofollow links.
Backlinks and link building are an important part of search engine optimization and are therefore often used in the context of online marketing and SEO measures. Since search engines such as Google can now evaluate the quality of backlinks quite reliably, it does not really help your site ranking if you have a collection of random backlinks leading to your website. Instead, you should try to follow the basic idea of a backlink – a thematic signposting for the reader. This results in thematically relevant backlinks, which Google et al. also view positively. In addition, you should pay close attention to the selection of the right partners when creating a link, because a backlink from a non-topic site has no practical effect on the ranking of your own website.
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