Digital Marketing

What Are Backlinks And How Do They Affect SEO?

September 04, 2019Justin Radomski

A search engine optimization (SEO) strategy is a non-negotiable asset for businesses today. Regardless of what industry you’re in, the internet is the first place today’s consumer turns when they want to connect with a business. They might not even know exactly what they’re looking for, but that’s when Google comes along and helps them out by placing relevant websites in their search results. Without SEO, you miss out on your chance to make your way into the most visible search engine results pages (SERPs). Backlinks are a critical factor when it comes to SEO. In this blog, we’ll explain what they are, why they matter, and how to achieve them.

The challenging part of SEO is that it’s never static. There are constantly small shifts taking place – like Google switching up their algorithm literally hundreds of times a year. Then every so often, a major algorithm change will come along and really mix things up. When you start thinking about SEO for your business, it’s important to look at all the components of a successful strategy, especially the ones that are tried and true for improving your Google ranking – like backlinks.

What Are Backlinks?

Backlinks, also referred to as inbound links, are links that essentially lead an Internet user from one website to another. These links are often strategically placed throughout content in a way that encourages further exploration. If another reputable site links to your site in their content, or on any of their web pages, this counts as a backlink and it’s one of the most important methods of increasing visibility for your business.

The ability to create links between sites is one of the things that makes the internet so engaging. Most of us have been guilty of falling into a rabbit hole when spending time online, and it’s almost always a few good backlinks that get the journey started. Backlinks keep Internet users engaged longer and contribute to richer user experience. This is only the beginning of all the reasons why backlinks are so important to a successful SEO strategy.

Why Backlinks Matter to SEO

Backlinks take the whole, tangled mess of the Internet and help shape it into something that’s cohesively interconnected. When another site links to yours, it’s like they’re giving you their vote of confidence. After all, why would they tarnish their own reputation by linking to a site that wasn’t as equally awesome as theirs?

It isn’t just your audience that’s noticing a favorable nod in your direction. Search engines are also picking up on it. Search engines, like Google, pick up on these signals and weigh your newfound credibility into their algorithm. Google looks very favorably on sites that can establish their credibility and authenticity while instilling trust. Backlinks help you achieve all of this, and they almost always have a positive effect on your Google ranking.

Notice the words “almost always” there. Google isn’t just looking for any backlink to your site. They’re paying attention to where backlinks are coming from and if there’s any degree of relevance between your site and the one that linked to you. For instance, if you’re an automotive repair shop and you receive a link from a reputable auto parts distributor, that’s a very good thing.

If you decide to take the approach that any link is a good link and manage to get backlinks from businesses that aren’t even remotely connected to your industry, or lack in the reputation department, then you can trust that Google will give you a bit of a side-eye and penalize you for your shady efforts.

The word SEO in font that looks like the Google logo.

Backlinks also affect SEO in less direct ways. For instance, the amount of traffic you have moving toward your site, along with how long that traffic lingers, factors into your Google ranking. Quality backlinks can cause a surge of traffic in your direction and encourage longer visits if they come from a relevant source. Backlinks also serve as a “roadmap” that makes it easier for Google to find and crawl your site. You’re just one of literally billions of websites on the internet. Backlinks are little roads that lead Google right to you.

The Role of Content in a Backlink Strategy

As we’ve already mentioned, quality matters when it comes to backlinks. The thing to remember is that Google isn’t human. It might seem like it sometimes, but at the end of the day, Google is nothing more than an algorithm that picks up on cues to guide them in placing your website in search engine results. Still, that algorithm is going to look at the ranking factors of the site that linked to you, and the quality of that site matters significantly.

This means that some backlinks are simply more valuable than others. Even in the event of no-follow links, the fact that you were mentioned on a high-quality, that higher-ranking site is enough to give you a nice search engine boost. There are many approaches you can take to leveling up your backlink strategy. Some are more subtle than others, but all work as long as they’re white hat practices. Of the various link building tactics, a focus on content marketing is arguably one of the most valuable.

If you want other sites to link to you, then you need to give them a reason to. You might mention them in a blog you write, but if that blog doesn’t provide the type of relevant value they’re committed to delivering to their audience, there’s still a chance they’ll have no interest in repaying you in kind with a backlink. From a content creation perspective, you really need to narrow in on what makes content engaging and shareable.

Blogging related cartoon referring to various forms of content to get backlinks,

Quick Tips for Content Generations

Visual Content

Visual content is engaging and it captures attention much more easily than a long, scrolling page of text. Each time someone shares your visual content, you get a backlink. Think along the lines of infographics, diagrams, and other types of powerful images.

Make Lists

Let’s say you’ve created a monster length, super in-depth article on something that’s important to consumers in your industry. You’ve already provided them with some serious value (a great thing for SEO), but you’ve also taken up a chunk of their time and energy. Consider the investment they’ve already made at this point. Do you really want to risk wearing them out or overstimulating them by linking to another equally lengthy, in-depth piece?

Probably not, which is why list posts are so popular for link building. List posts are short, easy to digest and get the point across succinctly. They’re also fun and easily shareable, so make sure to include a few of these in your content strategy.

Get Smart

Do you have some unique insights or original research in a certain topic area? This is the type of content that easily earns backlinks. We’re not talking about a list of common statistics that you can find virtually anywhere on the internet, but something that offers unique value.

You don’t have to go big with this either. Some new information, survey results, or statistical data about your community can be a very effective backlink strategy for local SEO.

Authority Guides

Do you specialize in one area of expertise, or have a perspective that provides unique value to your audience? This is where you’re going to find opportunities to produce in-depth authority guides that not only establish your authority and provide value for your target audience but also make for attractive content to link to from other authority type articles.

For instance, a well-reputed local spa might do an in-depth piece on various types of beauty treatments, ranging from natural treatments to surgical options. It’s quite likely they would be interested in linking to a more in-depth guide on a specific treatment offered by a local medical aesthetician.

The Significance of Negative Backlinks

Just as there are great ways to build backlinks that contribute positively to your SEO, there’s also a darker side of backlinking that creates problems for search engine visibility and can tank your optimization efforts. These strategies are generally referred to as “black hat’ practices, and they tend to float in the realm of the unethical.

For instance, buying backlinks rather than building them through credibility and outreach. Most people also don’t look to buy just one or two backlinks, but masses of them. Trust that suddenly having hundreds of new backlinks to your site is going to send up serious red flags in the Google algorithm.

There are other unethical ways of generating backlinks, like buying multiple domains and linking them all together in an architecture that eventually points back to your website. Whatever unethical backlink strategy you can think of, it’s a guarantee that someone else has thought of it first. Google is like the parent who has seen it all and has eyes in the back of their head. You’re not going to pull anything over on them, so it’s best to stick to ethical link building strategies rather than wasting your time and energy on any strategy that seems too good to be true.

Building Your Digital Presence with a Strategic Approach to SEO

Backlink building is just one part of an effective SEO strategy. When you’re ready to watch your business grow online, we’re the digital marketing agency that knows exactly how to achieve the results you’re looking for. Contact Double Up Digital and speak directly to one of our digital marketing experts about the next step of creating an effective SEO strategy for your business today.

Justin Radomski

Through his passion for web development and design, Justin executes the creative vision of all Double Up Digital projects. Motivated by perfection, Justin ensures that all design and development products exceed client expectations and constantly challenge the industry standards of design accomplishment. In his spare time, Justin can be found taking pictures that are truly out of this world.