Building backlinks is an essential method for improving your search engine ranking. It allows Google to judge the authority of your site, much akin to character references. Over the years, Google has evolved in how it judges each individual backlink, and even parsed them out by type. Here we’ll examine the basics of backlinks to help better understand how your methods may be steered in your SEO efforts.
What They Are
A backlink is an incoming hyperlink from one web page to another site. If another site references yours using a link to your site, Google crawls this link and takes note of the reference. If the link is a Follow link, Google will credit your site with some weight of authority in search results positioning. This weight is influenced by the referring website’s authority, so that more authoritative sites effectively provide more valuable backlinks than less authoritative sites.
Take for example Forbes.com. The site is considered highly authoritative by search engines so that a backlink from the site carries more SEO weight than a backlink from the average website. Note that the distinction is qualitative and search engines do not reveal how much of an effect, or the relative effect, that authoritative backlinks provide when compared to those from less authoritative sources.
When search engines began crediting sites for gaining backlinks, nefarious and opportunistic site owners sought to take advantage of this system. Posting links on message boards became rampant in efforts to increase backlinks on authoritative sites. Site owners would edit Wikipedia articles to reference and cite their own site for the backlinks. The whole system became compromised and spam-filled. The solution was the creation of No Follow links, differing from the standard Follow link.
Follow links are the crawled and credited backlinks. These are the valuable links that build your authority for the purposes of SEO. They are created when the referencing site owner includes a hyperlink to your website without altering it with language to prevent search engines from crawling it.
No Follow Links
No Follow links are backlinks that are edited by the referencing website, either manually or automatically, communicating to search engines that the link shall not provide a boost to the linked website. They are created by adding the No Follow HTML tag:
<a href=”http://www.website.com/” rel=”nofollow”>Link Text</a>
Many sites that allow users to make posts or references implement an automated tool that ties this tag to all site links in an effort to reduce spam. If you post a link on a facebook thread for instance, the tag will be auto-applied resulting in a No Follow link.
Benefits of No Follow Links
Even though No Follow links don’t provide SEO value, they still produce referral traffic. And sites that apply the No Follow link tend to command large audiences, so continue to take advantage of forums and threads to establish your authority even if there is no SEO value to be gained. Just be sure to do it in a non-spammy way.
How to Monitor your Site’s Backlinks
Example of Majestic SEO report on Forbes.com
There are a number of ways to monitor your site’s backlinks. Majestic SEO will provide a limited view and analysis of your backlinks for free. You can also link your site with Google Search Console and then use SEMrush to pull a robust report.
Building backlinks is one of the many ways to improve your site rank on search result pages. Backlink efforts alone will not make you a top-ranking site in your field; a comprehensive program is necessary. To learn more about the various efforts that go into producing a high performing website, get in touch or read about how we’ve done it for our clients below.