In light of recent changes, such as Google’s Penguin, Panda and now “Pigeon” updates, and the 2013 algorithm Hummingbird, so many people are asking?
Do backlinks still work for SEO?
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.
They’ve worked for Search Engine Optimization in the past, they work in the present, and will continue to work for SEO in the future.
But, whether backlinks work for you, or against you is an entirely different matter.
If your approach is “more the better” and you set out to acquire as many backlinks as you can, or you cut corners and buy backlinks instead of earning them, then it would be safe to say you’ll have backlinks working against you.
However, if you earn the right types of backlinks to your site, then these valuable virtual endorsements by another website of your own, will work for you extremely well.
So what makes a valuable backlink?
The first attribute is relevancy. If you have a cookery website, links to your site from another cookery, house, and home or food related websites are far more valuable to you than links from unrelated websites. The search engines want to understand that your website is a trusted site within its category, and links to your site from theme related websites help the search engines determine that.
This is not to say that if you have an automotive blog link to your cookery website it is a bad thing, however, a large volume of links to your site are from unrelated websites is suspect and will damage your chances of success.
This second attribute is recency. Simply put, recently acquired links have more weight in the search engine’s rank determining algorithms than old links. The search engines are looking to rank website’s that are relevant right now, and if you’ve had few (or no) links from other websites for some time, then this may indicate that your site’s content is outdated.
This is one reason why you shouldn’t stop SEO for a prolonged period of time because soon your results will decline.
The authority of the web pages linking to you is another important factor. Web pages considered to be trustworthy by the search engines will pass more “link juice” to your website. Google have a system called Page Rank which measures the trustworthiness of a web page on a scale of PR0 to PR10.
The higher the Page Rank value of the linking page, the greater the benefit that link has to your website.
There are further measures used by SEO exponents to grade a page’s authority, such as the Page Authority and Domain Authority metrics used by tools such as Moz and AHRefs. These metrics are calculated in a similar way; the more trusted, relevant websites linking to a page, the more Page Authority will be passed to it.
To a high degree of accuracy, search engines like Google can determine between a link in an editorial content piece and a link placed via other means. Search engine technicians work tirelessly to better understand and identify the context in which a backlink is placed.
A “sponsored” link, one by which one party exchanges money, services or gifts in exchange for a backlink pointing to their site, should not (and does not) hold the same value as a link placed editorially. Inside an article or blog post, a 3rd party website is cited when the content creator believes that website to be relevant or valuable to his/her readers.
Genuine editorial backlinks indicate an endorsement by one website of another. That brings me to the fifth attribute:
The best type of backlink is the one you do not expect.
Whilst I don’t recommend you sit back and wait for people to link to you, the backlinks you obtain by surprise will be your highest value backlinks.
Because a link you don’t know is coming is the purest of all backlinks.
When another website owner discovers your content and finds it so interesting or useful that he wants his/her readers to find your content too, then that is the highest endorsement you can get. Needless to say, if you acquire many links like this, your search engine rank will do well.
The “endorsement” by one website of another via a backlink is still the best indication search engines have to determine a site’s authority. However don’t be fooled that you can go out and build backlinks easily and get results with Search Engine Optimization.
Search engines are better equipped than ever to determine the difference between genuine links containing the 5 attributes just described and backlinks built just for SEO.
What other attributes do you consider to be important in back links? Are there others you would add to this list?