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What Are Backlinks?

Last Updated On May 22, 2018
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Backlinks are a measure of trust and authority. Users use them to navigate between pages. Search engines sometimes use them as ranking signals.

Backlinks (also known as hyperlinks or links) are one of the basic building blocks of the web. They enable users to quickly move between web pages.

Everyone who’s used the web knows what a backlink usually looks like! It’s the dark blue underlined text. Here’s a link to an article from the Telegraph. In the fifth paragraph, the Telegraph have linked to another website:

This is what getting a backlink from the Telegraph looks like.

That link leads to a study about the rising demand for cloud storage. Because the study on that particular page has a backlink from the Telegraph, search engines have more reason to trust that study and to trust that page. This will help that page and that website to rank better.

That’s a backlink, and that’s how backlinks help with off-page SEO.

Links Can Either be Internal or External

An internal link is when a page on your website links to another page. This is an internal link to our PPC management page.

An external link is one that links to another website. The link to the Telegraph article above is an external link.

Many business owners who are new to SEO worry about including external links in their copy. Isn’t that the same thing as sending traffic away from your website?

Turns out, there’s good reason to use external links liberally. Studies show that search engines favour websites with a healthy external backlink profile, all other things being equal. These means that websites with external links will earn more organic traffic than those without external links. This should more than compensate for any traffic that leaves your website via an external backlink.

If you’re still worried about external backlinks, you can always set them to open in a new tab. This means that a user won’t be taken off your site every time they click on an external link.

Backlinks and Anchor Text

Anchor text is the clickable text which contains a link.

Let’s take another look at our article from the Telegraph:

In the example above, the anchor text for the backlink is “services market is estimated to be worth $246.8 billion”.

If you right-click on that link in the Telegraph article and choose “inspect” from the dropdown menu, you’ll be able to see the HTML code for that link. It looks like this:

<a href=”http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/3616417″ target=”_blank”>services market is estimated to be worth $246.8 billion</a>

The anchor text is the dark blue text.

What Anchor Text Should I Use?

The words that you use as anchor text matter. In some cases, the anchor text tells readers and search engines what to expect when they click on a link. In this instance, we can safely assume that the page which the Telegraph is linking to will contain information about a services market worth $246.8 billion.

Anchor text gives people and search engines context. It’s a common SEO practice to use keywords in the anchor text of a backlink. So, if I sold tennis shoes in Bristol, I might want a backlink from the Telegraph with the anchor text “tennis shoes in Bristol”. Keyword-rich anchor text is the most powerful kind of anchor text.

But it’s also the most dangerous. When your anchor text matches your target keyword exactly, it’s know as an “exact match phrase” or an “exact match keyword”. Too many exact match phrases doesn’t look natural to search engines. A healthy backlink profile should contain links with a mix of different anchor text types.

Here are the different types of anchor text that you can use. When you’re building backlinks to your website, you should aim for a healthy, natural-looking mix of the following:

  • Exact match keyword. Anchor text that contains one of your exact keywords.
    E.g. “tennis shoes Bristol”.
  • Keyword phrase. Anchor text that is close to your target keywords, or part of a longer phrase. E.g. “honestly some of the best tennis shoes in Bristol”.
  • Brand name. Anchor text that contains your brand name E.g. “Bristol Sporting Experts”
  • Branded. Anchor text that contains your brand name as part of a larger phrase. E.g. “head over to Bristol Sporting Experts for some great deals!”
  • Keyword branded. Anchor text that contains parts of your keyword (or an exact match of your keyword) in a phrase which also mentions your brand. E.g. “tennis shoes from Bristol Sporting Experts”.
  • Other / generic. Anchor text that contains no mention of your brand or keywords. E.g. “click here to head over to their website”.
  • Naked URL. Anchor text that is your naked URL. E.g. “www.BristolSportingExperts.co.uk

It’s difficult to say exactly what percentage of your links should be made up of each type of anchor text. You probably want slightly more keyword-rich anchor text and slightly less generic or naked anchor text. But most of all, you want a healthy mix.

Does it Matter Which Sites Link Back to me?

Why does it matter so much that you have a backlink from the Telegraph, the BBC, the Mirror, or TechRadar? What about a link from your friend’s blog or your local newspaper? Aren’t they just as important?

To fully understand this question, we need to look at how Google worked before 2012. At that time, Google simply counted the number of links pointing to a website as a primary ranking factor. A website with 1000 links would be ranked higher than a website with 900 links, all other things being equal.

But this system was open to abuse. People would build “link farms” — poor quality websites that contained nothing but links. To address this, Google rolled out the Penguin update in 2012. In this update, Google started assessing not only the quantity of links but also the quality. Links from highly authoritative sites become much more powerful.

Relevant, Authoritative and Trustworthy Backlinks are Best

Search engines like to sort things out by how relevant they are. An American cake review website providing a backlink to a cake shop in Indianapolis is a relevant backlink. A Swedish tech website providing the same backlink is jarring, strange and makes little sense.

Search engines pick up on this sort of thing. The relevance helps to make sense of the keywords being used. The cake shop in Indianapolis is likely going to have “best cheesecake Indianapolis” as a keyword.

For off-page SEO, it’s important to earn links from websites which are related to these keywords. Bakery magazines, dessert review websites and baking blogs are all going to contain synonyms and/or words related to “best cheesecake Indianapolis”. As such, links from these sorts of websites are going to be relevant, authoritative and trustworthy.

So, while a backlink from the biggest possible website is a brilliant thing, your pursuit of that shouldn’t distract you from getting backlinks which are relevant.

If you read this article from Warehouse News, you’ll find a backlink at the very bottom.

 A backlink from Warehouse News might not sound earth-shattering, but it matters.

The backlink is for the homepage of Jungheinrich, and the anchor text is just the URL for the website itself.

Some people with a very basic idea of what SEO is might tell you that this is a terrible backlink. The website is small and the backlink is just a URL. However, after reading up until this point, you know better.

By now, you should know that just over a sixth of your backlinks should probably contain a URL to make your backlink profile more varied and natural. What’s more, you should know that relevance is a key part of SEO. So, when a website which is the number one authority of warehousing and logistics news in the UK links back to a website which specialises in warehousing and logistics services, that’s great for everyone involved.

 Natural, relevant and trustworthy backlinks are what our content marketing team churn out by the bucketload. Contact Exposure Ninja today and request a FREE website review to get started.

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