Search engine optimisation (SEO) is about more than having a good set of keywords on your website. Backlinks are an absolutely vital way of letting the search engines know about your site, thus affecting your search engine rankings and sadly it’s something that many website owners are unaware of.
Backlinks, often referred to as inbound links, are links from another website back to yours. For example, having my website address (URL) on this blog (see blogroll to the left) is providing an inbound link back to my own website at katproductions (as is this link). The search engines use a website’s backlinks as one indication of its’ popularity and credibility which ultimately affects that website’s search engine ranking.
Many factors determine the value of backlinks to your website search engine ranking but the best backlinks come from other established websites that are relevant to your own industry and credible themselves. And it also helps if the page that your weblink is on has a good ‘PageRank‘.
“PageRank is a link analysis algorithm, named after Larry Page, used by the Google Internet search engine that assigns a numerical weighting…” to each webpage, it is what Google uses to determine the importance of your webpages. Wikipedia
The theory goes that having your backlink on a page with a high PageRank will give that link to your website a higher weighted value therefore helping push up your search engine rankings for that page. However, if that highly PageRanked page has many backlinks on it to other websites it can effectively dilute its value, almost like it has to share out the value of its PageRank amongst all the links on its’ page. You can find out more about this here and here as it can get fairly complicated.
All we need to know is that another website’s PageRank can add value to your inbound link.
If you want to find out what the PageRank’s are for the pages on your site either install the Google PageRank toolbar onto your browser or try this tool, Whats my PageRank, I can’t be sure exactly how accurate it is but for the sites I tested it seemed accurate enough.
How do I find out how many backlinks my website has?
Most search engines provide a method for determining the number of backlinks that your website has. For instance on Google, try typing link:websitename.co.uk into the search box. Google seems to show much less backlinks than another search like Yahoo. Try Yahoo’s Site Explorer by typing your web address, http://www.webname.co.uk into the field at the top, then click on the Explore URL button. This seems to show the largest number of backlinks back to your site.
If you’ve installed Google’s PageRank toolbar and click on the PageRank icon while on any webpage, then select BackLinks from the drop down menu, it will show you Google’s list of backlinks for that page.
Another nice little online tool is Backlink Watch. This tells you how many backlinks your site has, what the anchor text is on each backlink, and how many other external links (to other pages or websites) there are on that particular webpage. Speaking of anchor text, this is the text that the link is behind, the most commonly used anchor text for a link is ‘click here’. If you do a search for the words ‘click here’ it will show you all the websites that use this anchor text. It doesn’t mean anything to anyone but shows you the power of having keyword driven anchor text. So for example, if possible rather than have someone put ‘click here for katproductions’, see if it can be ‘click here for web design services from katproductions’. That way your backlink is working hardest for you.
It’s true you can pay to have backlinks created for your website. Although, I would be wary about anyone offering to get your business hundreds of backlinks in a short period of time. The worst case scenario is that your web address ends up on hundreds of purpose built ‘link farms’ that the search engines don’t like and potentially your website could be penalised for, that is to have your search engine rankings severly compromised or worse still totally removed.
However, in saying that there are many good search engine optimisation companies around who will create a backlinking strategy for your business and who have dedicated staff finding suitable and valuable backlinks for your website. It seems that the search engines value a more organic growth of backlinks and are likely to be suspicious if your backlinks increase hugely and suddenly overnight.
How do I get backlinks to my site?
First and most importantly make sure your website has quality content that people want to link to. After all there is no point going to all this trouble just to have people leave as soon as they arrive!
Then to get backlinks I suggest using a variety of sources. First make sure that you’ve submitted yourself to the Google and Yahoo search engines. Then do a couple of searches to find some credible website directories like DMOZ, Thomson Local and so on. Many of these will allow you to register your business free of charge. Then try putting some of your keywords/key phrases into a search engine and see which websites your competitors are listed on or even try your competitors’s web address using the ‘link’ techniques mentioned above. Find out whether you should be or can be listed on these as well. Or it may be that your business works with other similar or complimentary businesses and there may be opportunities to have your web address on their websites. Though beware of having too many reciprocal links, sometimes they can end up effectively cancelling each out out.
These days it is quite common practice to use social networking type websites to help with your backlinking. For example, submitting online articles, a Facebook Business Page, a business blog, a Twitter account or a social bookmarking account, like Digg or Delicious, will allow you to create a profile about yourself and/or your business thus providing the link back to your business website. And providing that you actually make use of these accounts, it can be an extremely successful way of telling the search engines that you are most definitely in business! Plus there are many many other benefits in utilising these as well – but that’s another blog post!
In addition to having your own accounts with social networking sites, it is also very useful from a backlinking point of view to read other related blogs, facebook pages, twitter accounts, forums and so forth and post comments on these. As well as this adding another backlink for your website, and providing you post geniune comments (and not blatant hard-sell ‘come to my website’ type messages) you will also better your own online credibility within your industry, and you might even have a bit of fun or learn something new doing so.
It is a win-win situation.