EMERGING PHOTOGRAPHERS

What are Backlinks?

Harrison Jacobs



In last week’s post, we talked about PageRank. Now that you know what PageRank is, it’s time to figure out how to get that ranking up. The key (among many) is backlinks.

What are backlinks?

Backlinks are links that direct web surfers to your website. They are also commonly known as inbound links because they send web traffic into your site. Anytime you are mentioned on another website and linked to is an example of a backlink. Google uses backlinks to determine the popularity and importance of a website. However, backlinks are not the only factor that determines your PageRank. Google’s algorithm is highly guarded and incredibly complex to prevent people from gaming the system.

Back in the day, Google’s algorithm and their screening process for what constituted a quality link was much simpler. Because of this, search engine optimizers and webmasters gamed the system by purchasing large amounts of bogus backlinks, spamming other websites in the comments or forum sections, or creating “link farms” (pages whose sole purpose is to provide backlinks to other websites). While this lead to huge boosts in PageRank and search result rankings at the time, Google caught up. They altered their algorithm and their screening process to make it far harder to game. Now, you have to play by Google’s rules. So skip the shortcuts and false promises of the optimizers and get your ranking up the hard way. By creating great content and building quality links.

What makes a quality backlink?

Google (and other search engines) emphasize quality over quantity. It doesn’t do much good to have a thousand backlinks from empty blog pages. That doesn’t mean that you need to have a backlink from CNN either. Instead, you want backlinks from popular webpages with great content that are active with your target audience. Is it a webpage that you or your target audience would like to frequent? Is it updated often with fresh content? Does it have a thriving community of readers or users? These are the types of questions you want to answer before trying to backlink to a website.

In addition, a quality backlink has to be relevant to your webpage. Given that your website is focused on photography, it does not make sense to get a backlink from a car racing website unless you photograph cars or car races. Having an irrelevant backlink on your site may be not only useless but actually hurtful to your search rankings. Search engines will see these irrelevant inbound links and then consider your own site less relevant.

How do I get backlinks?

There are a number of strategies for getting backlinks to your site. Many of them are short-sighted and will only result in a temporary boost in your rankings. The best strategy is a long-term effort. This is directly from Google on what they think are “best practices for organic link building.”

“If your site is rather new and still unknown, a good marketing technique is to get involved in the community around your topic. Interact and contribute on forums and blogs. Just keep in mind to contribute in a positive way, rather than spamming or soliciting for your site. Just building a reputation can drive people to your site. And they will keep on visiting it and linking to it. If you offer long-lasting, unique and compelling content -- something that lets your expertise shine -- people will want to recommend it to others. Great content can serve this purpose as much as providing useful tools.”

Here are some helpful tools to get you started:

Follow the link to HostGator’s blog post, “Beginner’s Guide to Building Quality Backlinks.” The article has four great techniques that are exactly the types of strategies that Google is looking for. From the types of posts that will get people to click to writing guest articles for other photographers’ blogs, they’ve got you covered.

Webconfs.com is a great resource for webmasters looking to up their SEO game. They’ve got some great tools, like this Domain Stats Tool, which will give you all the basic information you need to know about your site. Included in the stats are your Google PageRank, the number of backlinks currently to your site, and social media information.

Another great tool is their Backlink Builder Tool. The tool lets you put in specific keywords or themes and will then search the web for sites that are likely to add your link to theirs. This is a good way to start a list of potential websites that you want to contact.

Once you got some backlinks up, be sure to check out the quality of your backlinks by using Small SEO's Backlink Checker. It will give you insight into the relevance, PageRank, and Anchor Text (what text surfers have to click to get to your site) of your backlinks.

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