abstract image of connectivity from backlinks

It's been an accepted fact in the SEO world that backlinks (links back to your website from other sites) are a good measure of a website's credibility. Google's algorithms determine if lots of other websites link back to yours, your website must have good information. And websites with good information rank well. Makes sense.

So what are the best ways to go about getting backlinks to your website?

There are two main ways of getting backlinks to your site:

  1. Set up links on other sites yourself.
    This can be done through your social media efforts, guest blogging or posts and comments on other websites, or
  2. Writing content on your site that's so helpful and compelling, people find it and link to it themselves.

Google thinks option 2 is much better. Of course, writing content that's so helpful and informative that people find it and link to it is a time-consuming process. Since option 1 is the quickest way to get backlinks to your website, that's the route most people take.

However, in the video below, you'll hear Google Webmaster John Mueller (the video is set to start playing at the 55:40 mark), describe how some types of link building might actually hurt your SEO. He says creating links on other sites yourself is something you shouldn't spend time on, because it's really not the "right way" to get backlinks.

Google's Penguin algorithm update was, in part, about qualifying backlinks.

Because SEO professionals have always been trying to take advantage of Google's algorithms, and backlinks are an important ranking factor, backlink schemes proliferated. In 2013, in an effort to prevent websites from benefiting from creating their own backlinks, Google release the Penguin update. The Penguin algorithm determined how links originated, and gave SEO benefits to backlinks legitimately created on other sites, and potentially penalized websites that created their own. 

The Penguin algorithm especially attempted to penalize websites, who put backlinks to their own sites, on what were called "content farms." Content farms are websites that let anyone post any type of content, not matter how poorly-written. These sites usually contained low quality content, un-curated, and aggregated from other websites. The content farm websites existed solely to help other websites benefit from the all-important backlinks, in the hopes they'd appear higher in search results. Google considered this cheating, and didn't want their search results to list low quality websites.

How to check what other websites currently link to yours.

There's a website that shows you exactly how many other websites are linking to yours, and what those websites are. You should check it out because it's an interesting exercise.

Go to ahrefs "Backlink Checker" here, put in your domain name and click the orange button.

screenshot of ahrefs website backlinks checker

Below is an overview of the results of backlinks to our website (way more than we ever thought). It lists the "Referring domains" (the websites that have links back to your site), as well other information.

screenshot of number of backlinks from sevell website

The words you use in your links matter.

This is true whether the links are on other websites going back to yours, or even within your own website.

Non-SEO folks who create links on a website, most often use the words "Click here" to link to another page in their own site, or to their site from another site. Google doesn't like that for three reasons:

  1. It's a giveaway the person who is doing the writing and linking probably isn't an SEO-professional,
  2. Historically, the words "Click here" were used to link websites that weren't legitimate sites (with low Domain Authority), and
  3. The words "Click here" don't reference what the link is going to, and search engines want to know that. Why? To make sure the words in the link go to a page that relates to the link.

Here's an example, which is taken from earlier in this blog. When we were referring to ahrefs (above), the link text said Go to ahrefs "Backlink Checker" here, and the domain name the text link goes to is: ahrefs.com/backlink-checker, which matches the words in our text link. SO someone clicking a link with the words "backlink checker" in it, know what to expect when they click that link.

Google can connect the dots, and knows when the words in the linking text match the site the link goes to. Learn about the different types of anchor text here.

We hope this information is helpful when you're writing for your website. You'll also start to understand that writing for a website takes a certain level of understanding of how to write for the web. Learn why writing content for your own website might not be the best idea here. Hiring a professional writer, well-versed in SEO, will go a long way to helping your website rank well in search results.

Google Webmaster John Mueller talks about the wrong way to get backlinks