Backlinking: Everything You Need To Know About SEO Backlinks

Backlinks are often considered the holy grail of SEO, it’s what everyone likes to talk about. In our option, it’s only one part of the SEO puzzle, but it’s what most SEOs like to gossip about. 

Don’t get us wrong, it’s super important, we even review backlink in our enterprise analysis reports.  Which is why we decided to make a guide all about it. 

What is Link Building?What is Backlink?

Lots of SEOs see major traffic from link building. The reason for this is because it increases the power to your website. 

Simply put, this is a backlink, the little blue text from another person’s website to your website:

This blue text (or whatever color) is a strong signal to search engines that the page you are promoting is a good source of information. Therefore it should get more of a boost then the other pages that also write about this topic. 

Think of it this way. 

Lots of tutorials say it is similar to a “vote” to your website. We think that’s a poor example. It’s much better to think of a backlink as a reference letter. 

Pretend you are applying for a job as a marketing manager for a large company. 

If your mom writes you a reference letter, that’s nice, but it won’t carry much weight. If anything, it might have a negative impact on you getting the job. 

However if a marketing industry leader writes you a reference letter, that’s MUCH better. The person is coming from a highly trustworthy authoritative source. 

Common backlink tools for anaysis & research

Okay here is where SEO tools play a pretty big part in SEO. There is simply no free way that is any good to go about it. 

Here are some tools we like to use:

  • Ahrefs
  • Moz
  • Majestic SEO 

Why we like Ahrefs site explorer the best (better then Moz & Majestic SEO) 

Franky, they are all good and you are welcome to play around with each one. We just find that Ahrefs has the best data. 

It also does a lot of things outside of backlinks that we like to use. Although it’s not cheap, we find it is the best value considering how much it can do. 

Here is what we look for when we analysis backlinks:

Authoritativeness

How powerful is the link? For example a link from a well known newspaper would help your website a lot. Even though it’s not 100% related to your website, it’s super powerful and trustworthy. 

  • Ahrefs calls this “DR” or “Domain Rating”
  • Moz calls it “DA,” or “Domain Authority” 
  • Majestic SEO calls it “Trust Flow”

Anyway you look at it, it’s a number or metric that these tools use to determine how powerful a site is. 

Here is an easy example, at least based on this metric alone, the Taipei Times is much more authoritative than a random news site we found:

Based on this quick overview alone, a backlink from the Taipei times would carry a lot more weight. 

Trust

We determine trust in 3 different ways:

#1 Does the website have anything to do with your website?

If you write about digital marketing, chances are a website about gardening will not help too much in your Google rankings. 

In terms of a ranking or traffic boost, It is much more natural and more effective to get a backlink from another digital marketing website. 

Stay within your niche or related markets. 

#2 Does the website get any traffic? 

This one is probably the most important. In short, you want backlinks from sites that currently gets Google love. The only way to measure that is if the site actually gets website traffic. 

If a website has high DR (the metric from Ahrefs, or whatever tool you prefer) but no traffic, this is a warning sign. Do not get a link from that website.

However if the site has a nice flow of traffic or the traffic is ever increasing, it’s likely a good target. 

Here is a pretty healthy example from our friend Ahrefs:

Here are some things we look for:

  • Is there any traffic at all? If there is no traffic, you probably want to skip it.
  • Is the traffic increasing or decreasing? If it’s rapidly decreasing, it means it is losing google love and you might want to skip it.  
  • Does it have a steady flow of traffic? If so, it’s probably fine. 

#3 – How Are the Backlinks To The Site You Are reviewing? 

How are the backlinks to the site you are reviewing? Do they have lots of powerful links that are related to their target market? Or is it a bunch of garbage? 

This is a learned skill, you’ll have to mess around quite a bit before you get the hang of it. 

Here is where it is located in ahrefs:

How does Anchor Text Play a Roll?

Anchor text is a super important SEO factor and cannot be ignored. Basically it’s the text that you see in a link. It helps Google determine what your page is all about. 

Google Penguin  – What happen with Penguin?

Basically around 2012 Google came out with an update that heavily analyzed anchor text from backlinks. 

If you were super over optimized – they removed all your traffic. 

Long story short, they figured out most SEOs were gaming the system with anchor text and they removed this advantage, in fact you got penalized if you took it too far.   

What are the different types of Anchor text you need to learn for backlinking:

Branded:

The anchor text is simply the brand name of your website. For example “YourWebsite.com” would be branded anchor text. It’s just the name of your website. 

In real life it might look something like this:

Sometimes people will say something like “According to YourWebsite.com….” 

Exact Match:

The anchor text contains exactly the keyword you are targeting. For example If you are targeting the keyword “best marketing tools” and your anchor text contains “best marketing tools” that would be an exact match. 

In real life it might look something like this:

When you are looking for the best marketing tools you should consider…. 

Partial Match:

If the keyword you are targeting is “best marketing tools” and the anchor text contains the word “marketing tools” or any of the 3 words in “best marketing tools” that would be a partial match.

In real life it might look something like this:

When shopping for marketing tools that help your SEO offers…..

Neutral

Meaning, the anchor text has nothing to do with the target article. For example if the anchor text contains the word “this article” that would be neutral. 

In real life it might look something like this:

When you are looking for marketing tools this article does a great job of explaining….

How can you learn the differences?

We suggest you look at a lot of websites with the popular SEO tools we mentioned. Look at a lot of different websites until you get the difference. 

What radio should you use? 

This is a highly debated subject, but for the sake of this article and keeping it simple. Simply match the ratios of competing sites. 

Meaning, if 3 websites are ranking and their website is quite similar to yours.  Match the ratios of each.   Again, study a lot of websites until you get the idea.

So if you do the math and these 3 websites each have:

  • 10% excatch anchor text
  • 80 Partial match anchor text
  • 10% branded  anchor text

Then you should consider doing something similar. 

Why only look at 3 websites? What about the other website ranking?

We prefer to do a 1 to 1 radio. Meaning if a DR 70 site is ranking and you have a DR 5. The DR70 doesn’t need as many backlinks. You should take this into account. 

Picking competing competitors to compare your site to is a very valbue skill set. 

How Do You Get Backlinks? Can You Buy Them?

Yes, you can buy them. However this is not considered a “white hat” steriay. If anything it’s considered black hat or gray hat. 

There are a lot of different strategies, we prefer to use “what hat” ones. While they are the most difficult to get, we find them to be the most long term. 

For example, you can write a really good article and promote it to a bunch of related websites. 

What about Backlink strategies that bend the rules?

We are not completely against them, however you should take into account they are often a “short term advantage” – meaning over time Google will figure it out and likely remove the advantage and your rankings.

It really depends on your overall SEO strategy, we are not against them, just know what you are getting yourself into. 

Can Google Search Console Help?

Yes. As we lay out in our Search Console courses we use it mostly for on page optimization. However it does have a few helpful features for backlinking. 

For one, it will show you backlinks that you got, but more importantly they have a disavow tool. 

What is a Disavow tool? Can you use it to prevent “Negative SEO”?

Disavow is a very helpful tool. For example if you mistakenly built links to your website that kinda suck, you can tell Google via Search Console “we don’t want you to value these links anymore.” 

Which is great, mistakes can be undone. 

It is also super useful for Negative SEO. 

For example if a competigin site wants to try and give you a link building penalty such as peginune. They can send a bunch of crappy links to your site with exact match anchor text. 

You can combat this issue by telling Google “don’t value these links, we didn’t build them.”

It’s also useful for bots. Some people build weird websites that randomly spammy weird links to your websites. If it gets out of control you can “disavow” them. 

NoFollow Links vs DoFollow Links

This one requires a little bit of coding knowledge, thankfully it’s pretty easy. 

The concept is pretty simple, if you set the link to ‘nofollow’ it means the Google bots will NOT FOLLOW to the next website. 

Generally speaking DoFollow links are better, they allow the power of one website to transfer to another website. 

Meaning, if I link to your website with a ‘nofollow’ link the link power will not transfer to your website. If i Link with a ‘dofollow’ link it will be more powerful. I’m showing Google that I trust your website enough to send a ‘dofollow’ link. Therefore it is a trust signal. 

Are NoFollow Links always bad?

No. Actually in some cases they are quite effective. In more competitive markets you may want to work them into your link strategy. For example if your site will not rank any higher and you notice all competing sites have nofollow links, you can match their ratico of nofollow to dofollow backlinks. 

Some of them are also quite powerful. For example Wikipedia only has nofollow backlinks. Yet it is still pretty powerful. 

Where you get in trouble is if it’s the only type of link building you do. For example, “comment links” the links when you comment on someone’s blog post used to be super effective, not so much anymore. 

Final Thoughts

Link building is a very powerful SEO strategy. However if you don’t learn the ins and outs of this skill you’ll get your site penalized. 
Be careful and we suggest you study a lot of sites before you get started. Or you can check our our SEO training courses.

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