If you are interested in digital marketing, and especially in search engine optimisation, you have probably already come across the term ‘backlink’ and are trying to find out more. Continue reading to learn more about what is backlinking, is backlinking still important, and how many backlinks do you need to rank a website effectively.
Are you an owner, a manager or a key decision maker at business or an organisation interested in backlinks as a way to ranking higher on Google, Bing or other search engines? Get in touch with us at Resurge Digital now, we are a leading Brisbane digital marketing agency, delivering SEO Brisbane business owners trust for the real world results and measurable outcomes. Call us on 1300 659 035, e-mail [email protected] or enquire online to get started.
What is Backlinking – A To the Point Explanation
Links from other websites, pointing to yours, are referred to as ‘backlinks’. ‘Backlinking’ then is the act of creating backlinks to your website from other websites or soliciting backlinks to your website from the owners or administrators of other websites. The term ‘backlinking’ can also refer to the very existence of a backlink – i.e. any valid (not broken), existing ‘backlink’ is ‘backlinking’ to something.
What is Backlinking in More Detail
Creating Links to Your Website Yourself as Backlinking
Certain websites such as business directories and personal online profiles to name only two examples, will allow you to include links pointing anywhere on the web including your own site. You can create backlinks on websites like these by registering an account and creating a listing or a profile and including a link to your personal or business website. However, most websites on the web, do not provide any such functionality.
Soliciting Links to Your Website from Other Website Owners as Backlinking
On websites that do not allow you to create backlinks yourself, you may still be able to get backlinks by negotiating with their owners or administrators, with some caveats. For one, link schemes of this kind are against Google’s guidelines. Their advice is to, rather than actively soliciting backlinking, “Get noticed by other sites: Have your site mentioned in appropriate places online. See if you can get mentioned on your local news sites or in any other appropriate resources.”. We think it is rather unrealistic to expect that, for example, a sole trader or a small franchise owner will get a mention on even the local news. The second caveat is that you will likely have to incentivise, in our experience if people can make money on something, they will try to do just that. If you ask a website owner for a backlink, expect having to reciprocate or pay for the benefit.
Instead, we do think that creating backlinks to your site using online profiles and business directories is a more realistic approach to backlink acquisition while still staying reasonably within Google’s guidelines – any savvy business owner is liable to want to have as broad a reach as applicable to their activities. There are types of websites where any online presence-focused business owner can be realistically expected to list their business to increase its exposure without being penalised for it.
Is Backlinking Still Important?
The search engine optimisation landscape and its best practices have changed significantly over just the last few years, and they continue to evolve with search engine operators regularly releasing updates to their ranking algorithms. You may now be wondering, is backlinking still important to page one rankings?
When Google was just starting out as a search engine, its PageRank algorithm treated backlinks in a way similar to how referencing in academic papers works – if a page or a website is frequently referenced by other pages or websites, it must be noteworthy. In a gross oversimplification, PageRank itself was also a numerical score that Google could assign to a URL (a web page). Pages with higher PageRank would rank higher than pages with low PageRank. Backlinks from pages with a PageRank higher than that of your pages were treated as ‘votes of authority’ for the quality of your website and its content. In real world terms, if a professional expert (an analogue for a website with a higher PageRank than yours) were to back your opinion on a given topic (an analogue for backlinking to your page), it is a vote of authority for the correctness and relevance of whatever it is you are saying (an analogue for your website or page). Since in early days, Google was not particularly good at working out the relevance of the pages in its index on its own, it outsourced this duty to third parties through PageRank, in the way described above. However, as a key factor for ranking pages, PageRank could be manipulated and abused. It is highly likely the reason, we say ‘likely’ because Google rarely if at all discloses any actionable information on how it ranks pages on the web, why Google now has significantly more ranking factors involved in working out where on Google Search a page should appear for any given query, than just the number of backlinks pointing to it. This does diminish the importance of backlinks to some degree, but it does not make them unimportant.
While this is not what we do here at Resurge Digital, as we provide a much more comprehensive solution for improving your rankings on Google, many ‘old-hat’ search engine optimisation professionals continue to hold onto backlinking as the ‘silver bullet’ for improving website rankings. While their advice is not completely incorrect, it fails to account for the ongoing evolution of the algorithms used by Google to rank web pages. While backlinking still has some importance, the de-facto relevance of the content of your pages to a given keyword for which you want to rank, far outweighs it.
How Many Backlinks Do You Need to Rank?
Ok, now that you know that backlinking still carries some weight, you may be wondering how many backlinks do you need to rank? The ‘clever’ answer is ‘a lot less than you think’. The more realistic advice is to first fix your website and its content before working on acquiring backlinks. You might just find that your pages have naturally acquired the required number of backlinks and started ranking on page one or in the top three of Google Search Results Pages without any extra backlinking work at all. If you are not an experienced search engine optimisation professional, do err on the side of caution and definitely stay within the guidelines to avoid getting completely delisted from Google by a manual penalty. You certainly do need some external, inbound links pointing to your site, but as long as that number is not zero, you are in a good starting position. There is no set number requirement, and “more than your competitors” is also not the correct answer – we ourselves have far fewer backlinks than many of the competitors we outrank on Google. This shows that backlinking is not the key factor for ranking higher on Google that it is often made out to be.
What To Do?
The backlinking situation is confusing and opaque to general public. To get backlinks right, lean on the help of an experienced expert who knows and can demonstrate what it takes to get your website to where it should be on Google, Bing or other, smaller search engines.