What are Backlinks and Why Are They Important to You?
You may or may not have heard the term “backlink” before. In short, it is a hyperlink pointing to your website from an outside source or third-party. For example, if you put a link to my site on your site and said “check out this cool SEO company!” then I would have a new backlink. This is important because Google and other search engines take into account your backlinks to help determine your “PageRank” and the PageRank is used as part of the formula for determining where you’ll place in search results. There are good and bad backlinks, as well as guidelines you want to follow for getting them. The focus of your backlinks should be getting them from websites with a high PageRank and authority. You want to focus on getting them from .ORG, .EDU and .GOV domains first and foremost, as they traditionally carry much more weight than other domain extensions. You want to make sure that when they are linking to you, they include “anchor text” which basically describes who you are and what you do along with the link. Otherwise, you’re just a random URL pasted on a random page with no rhyme or reason. Bad backlinks come from “shady” sources or places that may have negative connotations. Backlinks from questionable sources will hurt you but one or two shouldn’t do much damage, since after all - we can’t stop someone from linking to us.
So how do you go about getting backlinks? The best place to start is organizations you’re affiliated with. If you do volunteer work with charities, non-profits and local school or police organizations – give them a friendly email with your pre-formatted link complete with anchor-text so they can just paste it right on there and normally they are happy to do so. Another great way is to produce quality content that others want to share without you even asking them to. Write up an article regarding a topic you’re particularly knowledgeable about that is related to your market or niche, which contains fresh and relevant content that others will find useful and post it around the net on social media sites, blogs, etc. Every time someone reposts that article, you’re getting a backlink and although re-posting a story on a social media site doesn’t always count as a backlink, it’s most certainly taken into account by Google in other ways and will surely be beneficial to you. The best place to check your links and many other SERP (search engine results page) ranking factors is to check Google Webmaster Tools. I would recommend doing this on at least a monthly basis. There you can see a plethora of different data-sets that can push you into the right direction with your SEO strategies and let you know if your initiatives are paying off.