The Nonsense of Backlinks

Don't fall for this backlink hooey

Hooey is another word for nonsense. Prepare to wear out your thesaurus while reading this thesis. The nonsense of using backlinks to increase site traffic must be exposed. Too many well-meaning bloggers, hubbers, writers, composers, and scribes fall prey to absurd advice. Better to waste your time looking up synonyms for the word nonsense rather than randomly harvesting ineffective backlinks.

What is a backlink?

Assume you have a web page filled with soaring purple prose. It's funny, insightful, inspiring, and entertaining; everything Congress is not. No one reads it because no one except your parents knows it exists. It's lost in the billions of bytes populating the Internet. Your parents can only click on your ads so many times before Google turns off your AdSense account and you must go scrounging for another social security number. Anyway, that's a topic for another article.

You have this wonderful page that needs traffic. Theoretically you should be able to coerce Google to index your site and then fall in love with it. Google will provide you traffic by serving up your site when Internet surfers use their famous search engine. Some say Google falls in love deeper and quicker if your site has copious backlinks. Of course, that's mostly nonsense. We will explain.

A backlink represents a totally different web site that contains a link pointing to your page. Typical backlink sources are Twitter, Squidoo, Blogspot.com, and trillions of helpful fee-for-service organizations that will happily edit their sites to link back to your epic page. Googling the term "backlinks" results in "about 11,900,000" hits. A bunch, I'd say. By contrast, "baseball" results in 140,000,000 hits. Statistically, backlinking is 8.5% as important as baseball. That doesn't support our thesis but is it nonetheless interesting if you happen to be an aficionado of applied statistics.

Why doesn't a backlink matter?

Backlinks matter.

Hey! Didn't the title of this article assert that backlinks are nonsense?

OK, OK. Backlinks matter sometimes. Now that we have a wimpy middle of the road revised thesis, let's examine both sides of the backlink coin. Remember, one side is nonsense and the other side represents Google AsSense nirvana. It's backlink babble vs the kind of Internet riches that we can only read about.

OK, why do backlinks matter?

Google cares about some backlinks because they represent a measuring device that cannot be controlled by you. You can't add a link from IBM.com to your page. If IBM.com does link to your site, then Google assumes that IBM.com sees some perceived value in your site. Somehow IBM.com has been convinced to vote for your page.

This type of backlink matters because it increases Page Rank. Naturally we are begging the question "What's Page Rank?" Read about that here, but promise to finish this article when you're finished.

A backlink is a vote

Backlinking is analogous to voting. A site that backlinks to you is telling Google that your page is worthy of consideration and merits a higher Page Rank. If you can coerce a site with a high Page Rank to vote for your page by backlinking to it, you stand to reap great rewards in cyberspace unless that site has already voted for too many other sites.

The highest Page Rank is 10. IBM.com has a Page Rank of 8. HubPages.com comes in at 6. The scale is exponential, like the Richter Scale. A Page Rank of 2 is 10 times better then a Page Rank of 1. The Holy Grail of backlinking would be to have the only backlink from a site with a Page Rank of 10. That kind of endorsement would let Google know that you have a wonderful web page deserving of high praise by their search engine. Of course, you may as well ask Madonna to put on a concert while wearing a Snuggie. It ain't gonna happen.

Backlinks dilute

The value of any given backlink is a function of Page Rank and number of backlinks. A site that includes hundreds, thousands, or millions of backlinks has greatly reduced the value of each individual backlink. Your page may be the happy beneficiary of such a backlink, but a fat lot of good it will do you; the thing will be so diluted as to be virtually meaningless in Google calculations.

Don't take my word for it

Here's your homework:


http://infolab.stanford.edu/~backrub/google.html

This is the original published definition of Google. Download it, read it, annotate it, internalize it, own it. Authors Sergey Brin and Larry Page thank you for your interest. I'm going easy on you; this is the short version of the paper.

Larry refers to a backlink as a citation. One wonders what he thinks about the nonsense that has been generated from his original paper. It's doubtful he foresaw any of the antics.

Extra Credit:


Here's the original formula for calculating Page Rank:

PR(A) = (1-d) + d (PR(T1)/C(T1) + ... + PR(Tn)/C(Tn))

Figure out a way to exploit it, then get back to me. I'll only take 10%.

Backlinking nonsense is not the fault of Google. Don't blame the Google-ites.
Backlinking nonsense is not the fault of Google. Don't blame the Google-ites.

Caveat Emptor

No one person truly knows how Google ranks pages or how Google serves up search results. Keywords, backlinks, Page Ranks, Time and Temperature, PAC 10 football standings, and multidimensional hypercubes of eigenvectors probably all play a part. The pressure to cut through backlink nonsense in order to develop a tiny useful iota of information that exploits Google search results has proven enormous. What works today might not work tomorrow. Today's success story may actually impede progress tomorrow. Google constantly refines algorithms in order to provide their customers (you) with quality search results. Of course, 'quality search results' is completely arbitrary.

Google is publicly traded, therefore they face pressure from investors to generate revenue. Does that pressure play a part in how results are calculated? Let's make that another homework assignment, OK? Get back to me.

Dofollow Backlinks

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Comments 37 comments

Stephen Govoni profile image

Stephen Govoni 4 years ago from Coastal Massachusetts

Very interesting. Fun to read too. Thanks for this.


Grant's World profile image

Grant's World 4 years ago from Canada

Things or hubs that make you go hmmmmm!

Now I don't know what to do about backlinking. I am thinking though that I am glad I haven't spent a ton of time doing so.


glmclendon profile image

glmclendon 4 years ago

Very good, very heavy. Good read.

Stay Well


eolikes profile image

eolikes 4 years ago from Bangladesh

good article. Thanks for sharing. Voted up


LucidDreams profile image

LucidDreams 4 years ago from St Petersburg, Florida

That's an entertaining hub! I really never have read such an elaborate explanation of backlinks and whether they help or not.

I am glad I found your pages. I see that I could enjoy reading your articles in the future.


ddlax profile image

ddlax 4 years ago from Earth

i would only say that backlinks are important and you can't ignore them in this age


Sophia Angelique 4 years ago

Well, thankfully, I have always been too lazy to put on backlinks. I rely on Google to find my content, and sometimes, it does. :)


Jean Bakula profile image

Jean Bakula 4 years ago from New Jersey

Hi,

Thanks for the good explanation of backlinks. I have visited many sites people claim give them traffic, and there isn't even anywhere to link or write unless you wrote the original article on that site yourself. And now nobody can do that, in March of last year the no duplicate content rule went into effect. I haven't had any good traffic from backlinks, only a few hits.


manthy profile image

manthy 4 years ago from Alabama,USA

Well done - I have 3 sites with pr of 4 but have no content relavant to this post I will give you a link to this hub from my profile page if you'd like or I can write an article relavant to this post and we will trade.


jean2011 profile image

jean2011 5 years ago from Canada

Great article and witly written!


Alexander Mark profile image

Alexander Mark 5 years ago from beautiful, rainy, green Portland, Oregon

Okay, those barely computer animated videos with the Stephen Hawkings voice drive me absolutely insane. The abnormally long arms on the girl freaked me out even more. However, your hub was absolutely fantastic!

Everytime I have read an explanation of backlinking, the author assumes that you would naturally have other websites or blogs from which to backlink to your favorite blog or website. Because this makes no sense whatsoever (I must backlink to get views, the originating backlink site must have a lot of views for the backlink to work), I never assumed that it was so - I have some iota of common sense.

Now I can finally go to my grave happy because 1) I understand backlinking! What a simple concept and 2) I don't need to worry much about it unless IBM offers me a lucrative backlinking deal.

Thank you, thank you, thank you nicomp, you are my hero! I'm not being entirely sarcastic either.


Fossillady profile image

Fossillady 5 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

I've wondered about this whole idea of backlinking and checked into it, but it seemed futile to me when I went to one of the sites and saw how many thousands of backlinks already existed. It was so confusing and decided to let the quality of my work stand for itself. I see others who responded to your article agree! Thank you for sharing your knowledge and in a humorous way!


Pcunix profile image

Pcunix 6 years ago from SE MA

Well, LSI is likely part of it. Google can also pick up a LOT of info because so many of us use Analytics - that also tells THEM how visitors see our pages and interact with them. They may not need backlinks very much.


nicomp profile image

nicomp 6 years ago from Ohio, USA Author

@Pcunix : If PR is de-emphasized, something else will take it's place. The metric may have a new name, but SEO companies need something to hang on to. PR as originally defined by Brin and Page went away a long time ago anyway. They did not account for link farms and other slick tricks devised by third parties looking to make a quick buck.


Pcunix profile image

Pcunix 6 years ago from SE MA

And, as Google has told us that PR is of lessening importance and PR is just backlinks, are not they telling us that links are lessening in importance?


Alison Graham profile image

Alison Graham 6 years ago from UK

Thanks for an interesting, entertaining and thought-provoking article.


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 6 years ago from Australia

hi nicomp, there appears to have been a glitch in HP, my comment I left 4 hours ago is not showing in my Hubtivity so I am leaving you this comment in case you are wondering who left you the comment :-)


 6 years ago

nicomp I find this an interesting Hub and well explained to boot. One thing that seems to be very important is the 'relevancy' of the backlink to the webpage in question. Hence the importance that the bot puts into the anchor text. ie the anchor text in the link should relate to the topic of the linked page?


Springboard profile image

Springboard 6 years ago from Wisconsin

It stands to reason that any time you try and force something, the less likely it is that effort will produce any fruits. Not that I have anything against backlinking, nor do I dispute the effectiveness of the concept on its merits, but it sort of like the argument we make when someone goes overboard in a conversation about themselves. We generally laugh and ask, "who are you trying to convince?" If the material was really good, wouldn't it get backlinks on its own?

I'm no HP expert, I haven't been here near long enough to make such a claim. I'm not an Internet or Google expert either, despite my many years participating. But here's my little take on it all.

The only thing that will truly attract anyONE or any MACHINE to your site, your page, your work, is absolutely good quality content that people will be attracted to all on their own. Fate does have a hand in this as much as it had a hand in Stephen King getting that first book on the shelves. In his own case, he focused on the writing and let it speak for itself. The equivalent back in the day may have been his putting hundreds of ads in hundreds of newspapers saying "hey read this." He could have spent a lot of time and energy, and even money, placing those ads. Instead he wrote, and wrote some more, and he wrote well, and the eventual reality was that it, the writing, spoke for itself, and he now sells millions of copies of his books each and every year.


Hub Llama profile image

Hub Llama 6 years ago from Denver, CO

Hah! I've read info about backlinks a million times, but never has anyone so clearly explained the futility of chasing a single backlink from a PR 10 site. I can see Madonna doing Material Girl in a snuggie now :)


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia

I love your writing style! And, of course, the info is very useful, too.


betherann profile image

betherann 6 years ago from Montana

I agree with RTalloni's comment -- this seems to be a much-needed honest discussion of backlinks. I always thought the whole notion sounded too goo to be true. "Join our backlinking site and quadruple your profits in 3.2 hours!" Yeah, okay. I think I'll focus on quality writing for now.

Thanks for the info and opinions!


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 6 years ago from the short journey

Well now, while I think this is finally an honest appraisal of backlinks, I still have more questions than answers...not that this is your fault...maybe I need grad school.

Thanks for info, entertainment, and inspiration (aka, homework).


nicomp profile image

nicomp 6 years ago from Ohio, USA Author

@TnFlash: Thanks for writing. The volume of verbiage endorsing high volumes of backlinks is overwhelming. It's actually very simple: if something is easy to get, it probably has little relative value. Google knows that voting for yourself should not be used to pump up your Page Rank.

Too bad this bogus system can't be applied to presidential elections. The person who votes for them self the most gets the job. Most people understand that analogy.


TnFlash profile image

TnFlash 6 years ago from Tampa, Florida

Great Article! I enjoyed your perspective on backlinking. I agree with you about having tons of backlinks dilutes the whole purpose of backlinking. There are bunches of article distribution services that will post your article on thousands of sites and get you thousands of backlinks. That sounds great but what PR/quality are these thousands of backlinks. My belief is simplify the process. I go for quality before quantity. I put backlinks on sites ONLY if they have a PR equal to or higher than HubPages. Thanks again for a great article. I enjoy reading your work!


Flightkeeper profile image

Flightkeeper 6 years ago from The East Coast

You've made backlinks a little clearer for me. After your hub, it's almost not worth the time to do backlinks if they're so diluted from various social networks.


psychicdog.net profile image

psychicdog.net 6 years ago

Interesting qualifications re backlinks. I used to think you could get somewhere reading SEO stuff but I give up actively seeking the key. Still, the curiousity never seems to leave you!


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 6 years ago from St. Louis

Ah, statistics. I love statistics. I am not a friend to formulas or equations though. It looks cool and I wish I knew what it meant. That being said, thanks for the great information. I believed that backlinks were sooooooooo important. Interesting to learn that primarily, they are a crock. Well written and well done. I wish I had time to do the homework you assigned.


nicomp profile image

nicomp 6 years ago from Ohio, USA Author

@CMHypno: In general, I'd suggest backlinking for the purpose of pointing people to your site, not pumping up your Page Rank. Digg, Twitter, StumbleUpon, and social networking sites like Facebook might bring in some traffic, which is never a bad thing.


CMHypno profile image

CMHypno 6 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

To backlink or not, that is the question! Every time I think I'm beginning to understand this stuff, more information appears! Fascinating Hub.


nicomp profile image

nicomp 6 years ago from Ohio, USA Author

@Aya Katz: Diluted votes in popular elections is a good thing. The impact of the radical behavior of fringe elements is reduced.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks

Great explanation, Nicomp. I love the prhase "backlinks dilute". Now can you explain to the people how votes also dilute in the non-virtual world? Can you write a formula explaining how your vote in a local or national election is diluted every time a new citizen is added to the voting pool?


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 6 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

I am still trying to become techie savvy, but I think I am losing the battle


nicomp profile image

nicomp 6 years ago from Ohio, USA Author

@cally2: It will remain a mystery as long as Google is in charge. Search Engine Optimization is a moneymaker for somebody, but be careful who you believe.


nicomp profile image

nicomp 6 years ago from Ohio, USA Author

@jiberish: Thank you for your kind words. I studied this stuff in grad school where I was fortunate enough to have a professor who does a lot of research in the field.


jiberish profile image

jiberish 6 years ago from florida

It's either too early, or I'm just not computer/internet savvy enough to understand all the technical stuff. I'm lucky I can publish a Hub. I have to give people like you a lot of credit. Thanks.


cally2 profile image

cally2 6 years ago from Paraparaumu, New Zealand

An interesting take on the whole backlinks idea. I have wondered about it because my blog is getting more page views (with no backlinks) compared to some of my hubpages which I link to from my blog and from facebook, and other publishing sites. I think I'll just have to put it all down to the great mysteries of the universe, like why is dyslexia so hard to spell and where does that single sock go in the laundry. I not as clever as google's algothingummies. I'm not going to wear myself out trying to work it out.

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