Backlinks are a key part of Google’s algorithm, and an essential aspect of SEO.
Google places weight on the number, and types of websites that are linking to yours to indicate how popular, and relevant your site is to certain search queries. This affects how you’ll appear in search results. A link from another website to yours is called a ‘backlink’, and your ‘backlink profile’ is a complete portfolio of all the sites on the web that are doing so.
If sites linking to yours are high-quality, ‘earned’ links that genuinely cite, or feature your brand in an editorial context, search engines take this as a sign that your site is useful, trustworthy, and above all, of value to a particular audience. A good off-site SEO strategy seeks to build these types of links.
Backlink analysis has come a long way from the dark days of SEO, where it was all about the sheer volume of links pointing to your site, and how you utilised anchor texts. Anchor text is the clickable text that appears as a hyperlink, and sends a signal to Google that you’re optimising for that phrase. Since Google’s goal is always to reward links that act as proper citations (initially, Google’s algorithm gauged links as genuine citations, as within a university textbook), this practice was quickly recognised as manipulative, and so you can’t really use optimised anchor texts any more. Links need to look and feel natural, and either mention your brand name or website address, or a more obvious ‘click here’.
These are the type of links a good off-site SEO strategy seeks to build. Now, it’s all about the quality of the content your link appears in, and the site on which the content is placed.
Ideally, we’d like to see an even spread of linking domains versus links — too many links from one site is not good practice, and could result in a Google penalty. We carefully scrutinise every site linking to you, to understand the value they’re giving, and gauging whether it’s valuable and relevant. But it’s not always so cut-and-dry: a link that is over-optimised could still be providing you some kind of value. Here, we’d need to make a judgement call on whether we think Google will punish the link in future — which is where an expert eye comes in handy.
If you’d like help understanding the backlink profile of your site, please get in touch.