We often hear about back links in terms of SEO services and how important they are in achieving good rankings in search engines. But what is a backlink? This article is written for the average man or woman on the street and I will try not use jargon that is too complicated in an effort for you to understand what it is and how it can assist in achieving higher rankings in the search engines.
A backlink is basically a link from another website to yours. It means that someone found your website or content valuable and thought it would be of value to their web site if they linked from their site to yours. They probably thought their visitors would find value in their site if they linked to other sites of similar quality content. So how does it help in achieving higher search engine results? Well Google, or any other search engine, trust the general public to do the assessments for him, or her. You see Google is a computer, a bot, or a fully automated system. All Google can do is count the words on your site, see how many there are that are the same and then index your site in a certain category, or more, and decide that your site is more about shoes, than socks, because it contains the word shoes more often than socks. It cannot, and probably never will be able to, decide if what you have written is good, bad or ugly. Google relies on users or readers of your content to decide if it is valuable or not. So in a perfect world, if you find someone’s site valuable you will place a link from your site to theirs.
These links can take many forms. They can either be a direct link placed on the site to yours, or they can be a link from a social web site to yours. So you may read an article on a site that you found entertaining, enlightening or educational and wish to share it with your Facebook followers. So you click the link at the bottom of the article to do so and walla, a link is created on Facebook’s site, under your profile, to that content that you shared. Likewise you may make use of one of the many bookmarking sites to bookmark that site you found valuable so that you could go back there easily by logging into your profile on the bookmarking site and finding your bookmark. In doing so you create a backlink from that bookmarking site to the site you found valuable. Walla, another backlink to the site has been created. The author of the original piece of content may also write another article that is similar to the original, or makes reference to the original, and in his or her second piece of content links it to the original. Walla another backlink is created. The author may also be a guest blogger on someone else’s site and in return for quality content he may be allowed to link that article to his site.
Now there are two broad types of backlinks. Do follow and no follow backlinks. A webmaster can decide that a link placed on the site they control can either be a no follow or do follow. Simply put a do follow link will tell Google, when he is crawling that site, that that link should be considered, whereas a no follow link tells Google that that link should not be considered for SEO purposes. The former of course will transfer value to the site that it is linked too, but the latter will not. So it stands to reason that the more links you have pointing to your site, the better. But be careful because Google also looks to see how valuable the site is that is linking to yours and weights your value based on that too. So it is pointless having millions of low value links pointing to your site as opposed to fewer more valuable sites pointing to yours. Also Google looks for natural patterns. So if all the links pointing to your site are do follow links, then it is not natural because in the natural world you will of course get at least one no follow link. So mix it up in your SEO efforts.
The subject is a lot more involved than I have outlined here, but hopefully you have grasped the basic idea of a backlink. Further through this blog you will find more detailed articles on backlinks and how they can help in achieving higher rankings.