How to get quality backlinks without stress – A BRIEF HISTORY
Quality Backlinks have always had some bearing on how well a site ranked in search engine result pages (SERPs). However, in the past, the algorithms were not designed to take into account people trying to cheat the system by loading up on backlinks from sites that had nothing but links on them, no content of any real relevance. These sites quickly became known as “link farms” and were used by webmasters to increase the ranking of their multiple sites.
In addition to this practice, webmasters often created one web page specifically to house reciprocal links called a links page. It was used by people building reciprocal links to better leverage their site in search engine results but provided no real content. Sometimes, reciprocal links were even exchange between sites that had no direct relevance to each other too. So, in a links page you might find a link to a toy site when the website hosting the link had to do with the elderly. It obviously made no sense to reward this type of behind the scenes ranking manipulations!
Google was one of the first major search engines to start looking at how to reward good quality links that had relevance and added content to a site instead of rewarding savvy, but somewhat unscrupulous practices of cheating the search engine results with backroom deals and black hat tricks. They kept using backlinks as a determinant of reputation, but also strengthened the algorithm to look for specific quality links and penalizing link farms and other black hat maneuvers.
CODING YOUR HTML
First off, you will want to understand the basics of building a link and then we will explain how these links are analyzed to determine what is a quality backlink and what might cause you problems with the search engine.
To build an HTML link to any site, the code uses an anchor text link. An example of this is the following:
<a href=http://www.yoururl.com/ target=”_blank”>description of url</a>
Here the URL address www.yoururl.com is hidden in an anchor tag and some words describing the url will be viewed by the surfer instead. These descriptive words, which are coded where you see “description of url,” are what is defined as anchor text.
This HTML code is used whether you are coding a link to someone else’s page or they are coding a backlink to you. So, while your domain name may be very descriptive of your business it may not even be viewed by a reader until after the anchor text is clicked upon, if even then. Yet, anchor text is becoming more and more relevant to how a search engine ranks your backlinks.
WHAT MAKES A QUALITY BACKLINK
Now, that you understand how a backlink is coded and some of the history behind why the search engine ranking algorithms were changed, you are in a better position to see how your website might be analyzed for quality links. Obviously, you don’t want to add your link to websites that are link farms as this will now penalize, rather than enhance your search engine ranking.
And, you know that search engine optimization is interested in the relevance of your site compared to the content of your site. Understanding this makes it easier to understand that when your backlinks are analyzed, they aren’t just done so based on their isolated coding, they are done with respect to the environment too. This environment includes, the page rank of the site that is linking to you, your own website’s content, and the page environment and content that the backlink springs from.
- PageRank (PR)
The best types of quality backlinks come from sites that have a high page rank in Google’s search engine. Page rank ranges on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest page rank. This is a measure of the referral site’s reputation and will give the search engine an idea of how reliable this source is about giving out links that are not relevant or within their own content stream. If you don’t know a site’s PageRank (PR), you can download the Google toolbar and it will tell you what it is. It takes time to develop page rank and you should try to link to sites with a slightly higher page rank than your own, thus building up your own site’s reputation.
- Website Content Matching
Ideally, you would want to get a backlink from a site that not only has a higher page rank than you do, but also that has something to do with the content of your site. If your site is about dating, you may want to be included in a site that
reviews dating sites. If you just get a backlink from someone who is selling Bibles, it’s likely to be ignored as a good quality backlink.
- Page Positioning
A link that shows up near the top of the referrer’s page is worth more than one at the bottom. This may seem odd, but you have to remember that paid links are often placed nearer the bottom or out of the way of the relevant content.
Paid text links are now not considered good quality links by Google, but how that algorithm is determined, it’s anyone’s guess. They appear to make page positioning an indicator of whether a text link is paid or not.
- Page Hierarchy
Within any website, there is a directory tree that leads people deeper and deeper into the site. The higher a web page is in the directory structure the more value it has to you as a potential host for your backlink. The home page of a site with good ranking is an excellent place to get quality backlink because this is the prime real estate for websites that everyone is sure to visit.
- Anchor Text
The anchor text used by the linking site is becoming more important. If you have a site that sells shoes and the anchor text that backlinks to you is “pretty wear” then it won’t be as efficient as one that clearly describes your offerings like “quality top-brand shoes.” This effect appears to be evaluated across the board with the more backlinks using quality anchor text, the higher your page ranking in the results pages becomes.
THE TYPES OF BACKLINKS
There are three types of links, even if they’re all coded the same:
- a reciprocal link
- an outbound link
- a one-way inbound link.
In the past, people would join link exchange sites to get reciprocal links. Now, the newer algorithms actually discount
reciprocal links in favor of one-way inbound links. The trick then isn’t just to get an inbound link that will count as a backlink (since a reciprocal link would then qualify), but to get an inbound link that is one-way only.
Good Neighbor/Bad Neighbor
To be clear, the algorithms used to determine good SERPs are not published. The information that is being presented is based on things that people tweaked and then used in a trial and error fashion to try to get good page ranking. If the algorithms were published, it would be a simple matter to fool the search engines and thus they would automatically lose their value.
So, the best way to understand the way the new algorithms work is to think of your site as a piece of real estate. On the Internet, you can buy a piece of real estate in cyberspace and it doesn’t have an address until you have a domain name. This domain name is used to determine some of your page ranking and it also is important in identifying where you live and what you do. However, even if we know that you live at www.myurl.com we still don’t know anything else about you. We’re thinking of doing business with you and maybe the sign on your door (your domain name) tells us what you sell, but it doesn’t really tell us what kind of quality to expect from your business. The first thing we might do then, in this case, is to simply drive by your place of business and see what the neighborhood looks like and speaking to the neighbors.
In cyberspace, your neighbors are the people who backlink to you. Their PageRank is what the search engine already knows about your neighbors. The spider that crawls their sites begins to get an idea of who you are based on what your neighbors are saying about you on their web pages. If they are quality people who are have something to do with the niche your business is in, then they are expected to be expert appraisers of your reputation. After they start talking about you, the way they promote you and what they say will determine whether we end up
thinking your place of business is in a good neighborhood or whether you might be in a less desirable place of town.
THINK QUALITY, NOT VOLUME
Understanding this analogy, you begin to see that it isn’t the number of neighbors you have, but the type of people you cultivate in your inner circle that makes the different. This can be confusing for new webmasters who think that they are given PageRank based on the number of links that come into their site. That’s really not correct. They attain a higher ranking based on the quality of the people they associate with and the neighborhood they frequent. So, a site with fewer backlinks can still beat one with a larger number of backlinks – if those links are the right type of link.
In a way, this can make your job easier. You don’t have to fret about whether you have fifty or five hundred links, as long as you are getting links that are raising your reputation by default. Eventually, those people tell their friends and your reputation begins to grow – and, in the right neighborhood!
WHAT ABOUT TRAFFIC?
You might be wondering how that affects your traffic. With less backlinks, you’d expect to get less traffic. Again, if you get listed higher in the SERPs then you will cultivate larger streams of traffic from there. And, if you are only being listed on link farms, odds are people are trying to get away from your pages, not trying to go deeper into your site. While search engines might be programmed algorithms, people are not. It only takes a few minutes for them to form their own idea of exactly what reputation your site has, especially if they get directed there from an obvious link farm.
BACKLINKS AND SEARCH ENGINES
With all this talk about Google, you might think it’s the only major search engine around. Actually, there are various search engines around, but Google with its Adwords campaign of advertising is the most influential one for advertisers. Many advertisers and website owners make significant income from Adwords. When such a company threatens to ban you, it isn’t just about losing a few backlinks, it can also mean the loss of significant revenue from Adwords, which is a pay-per-click scheme.
There is a whole culture built around Google’s search engine policies with some practices being labeled “black hat” for evil marketing practices that allow people to pay their way into a top search engine ranking and “white hat” practices that are deemed more natural estimates of a site’s reputation. In the grand scheme of things, there are many gray areas, and “gray hat” practices that can be allowed even though they may be commercially motivated and that’s hard for any search engine to spot.
However, Google does try to keep people from buying their way into top rankings as this would make their search engine ineffective and help them to lose market share. Then, someone else might be cleverer in delivering search engine pages that match a higher level of integrity in search matching that isn’t influenced by commercial interests. That’s why when Google decides to penalize people for tricks (whether black or white hat) that help them to place better in SERPs, there are many cries of dismay when the rules change. They mean serious business and won’t be upset if you lose your livelihood in order for them to keep their business alive.
However, no matter what rules Google puts in place, Yahoo! and MSN are their own separate search engines. Their rules may be different. And, the myriad of other smaller search engines too may not be following the same standards that Google tries to enforce on the Internet. So, despite the fact that Google is a major player
right now, it doesn’t mean they will forever dominate the Internet search engine business.
Try to follow Google’s rules as best as you can without alienating potentially other profitable ways to do business on the web such as gray or white hat tricks of the trade. Google might penalize your for a paid backlink or review, while Yahoo! and MSN couldn’t care less. They are just one player in a very large, and dynamic, environment that is constantly changing. Who knows if Google will be there tomorrow or not? Hopefully, your focus is on keeping yourself alive on the Internet and making sure your business is healthy while not tripping any live wires out there that other Internet entities rig for their benefit.