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The Truth About Backlinks Guide

Updated on September 8, 2011

How to Use Backlinks

It is important that you learn how to use Backlinks effectively, and not get caught up in the hype.
It is important that you learn how to use Backlinks effectively, and not get caught up in the hype.

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Introduction to Backlinks

Backlinks have long been an important tool in any Search Engine Optimization toolkit. They help increase your visibility on the Internet, they increase the value of your webpage, and they increase your SERPS (Search Engine Ranking Positions).

However with the rise of No Follow links, and increasingly complex search engine ranking algorithms, it is the duty of SEO specialists to analyze how important specific types of backlinks are in today's society, and how to use backlinks effectively.

After all, while creating backlinks wont harm our websites, it can take up a fair chunk of time which could be spent creating new content. Let's face it, the more content you have, the more Advertising space you have, and the more Organic Search Engine (OSE) Keywords you will have.

One of the most important aspects of any backlink campaign is to remember that Backlinks are only a part of SEM (Search Engine Marketing) and that other factors can affect how you rank.

When you are looking at backlinks you have to remember that PR (Page Rank) is only part of the algorythm, you should look at the trustworthyness of the link, is the site high quality, is it not spam filled, is it related? Google looks at many more factors than jsut the number of links to determine the value or 'Trust' of a page.

You can find more information about Google page rank on my article, the Importance of Page Rank.

A Rough Guide to the Do Follow Backlinks Required for Page Rank

It can sometimes be hard to decypher the pagerank minefield. Fortunately the above graph can show you how many do follow backlinks you need to get a certain page rank.
It can sometimes be hard to decypher the pagerank minefield. Fortunately the above graph can show you how many do follow backlinks you need to get a certain page rank.

Example of a Normal (Do Follow) Link

<a href="">Freelance Writing Advice</a>

Example of a No Follow Link

<a href="" rel="nofollow">Freelance Writing Advice</a>

What Type of Backlinks are There?

There are two major attributes that can be attached to backlinks (Though there are a huge amount of actual attributes which can be used). When learning how to backlink effectively it is vitally important that you learn the difference between these two types of links.

I have included two examples to the right, one of these shows your normal 'Do Follow' link, the other is a 'No Follow' link.  As you can see, a Do Follow link has no attribute to calss it as Do Follow, it is naturally a do follow link.  However with the relationship attribute 'no-follow' the link will no longer be crawled by search engines.

Do Follow Backlinks

Do Follow Backlinks are any link which does not have the no-follow attribute attached to it, there is no actual 'do-follow' attribute tag that will be placed on a link! When backlinking, you should aim to get Do Follow Links!

  • Do Follow Links are used by all search engines to Rank and Crawl a website.
  • Do Follow Links will raise your Page Rank.
  • Do Follow Links will pass 'Trust'
  • Do Follow Links can still be low value if they are on a spam filled website.
  • Do Follow Links are much harder to find.

No Follow Backlinks

No Follow backlinks are links to your website which have the 'no-follow' attribute attached. These are not used for Ranking (including Page Ranks) by any of the major search engines, and only Yahoo will crawl no-follow backlinks. That does mean that Google will not ever find your website through a no-follow link.

  • No Follow Links are ignored by most search engines.
  • No Follow Links will not help your website appear in Bing or Google.
  • No Follow Links are crawled by Yahoo, but are not indexed by Yahoo, Nor are the used for Ranking by Yahoo.
  • Most social bookmarking tools give No Follow links.

How to Get Do Follow Links (The way that works)

Many people come in to SEO and try to make money online thinking it will be quick and easy. Nothing could be further from the Truth, and this applies to all aspects of SEO, including backlinking.

While it may be tempting to backlink by placing a few social bookmarking hits, you have to remember these links are no-follow, and low value. This means they directly provide no PR value, nor do they help your website get crawled faster. Indirectly they can help, which I will discuss in the next section.

You can get free Do Follow Links on some web directories, but these are by their very nature Low Value, since they comprise of nothing but outgoing links. This makes them useful for getting your site crawled, but not much good for actual PR and SERPs purposes.

To really get some high value, quality traffic, which will increase clicks, PR, and SERPs, there is only really one thing you can do, and that is build a link network. To do this you need to create several pages on sites where you can gain traffic, PR and give yourself do follow links. There are several Do Follow websites out there where you can submit articles, of course the simplest (But most expensive solution) is to build your own website!

Each of these websites allows you to create free do follow backlinks, and on sites such as Hubpages you can get a high page rank, good quality backlink.

If you are willing to spend a little bit of cash, it is often advisable to buy some server space and a domain, so you can easily build up, promote, and back link from your very own website.

Social Bookmarking, is it any good?

Social bookmarking is a fairly recent development, and when it first came out, with copious do follow links, it was a Godsend. Nowadays however, Social Bookmarking links are nearly no-follow, which means with the exception of a few social bookmarking services, you will not gain any PR or SERPs benefit.

The Social Bookmarking services which are Do Follow, Mr Wong is the only one that comes to mind, unfortunately have a pretty low PR, giving a low value to your social bookmarking submission. They do however help Google, and other search engines, crawl your page faster.

If that was not enough negative news for you on social bookmarking, the traffic which comes from social bookmarking is generally poor conversion, often less than 1%. This means little in the way of clicks or sales will come from Social bookmarking websites.

Despite this rather negative take on social bookmarking, it does have some pretty good indirect benefits

  • The Digg Effect - You won't get it often, but the Digg effect can snowball to give your website thousands of additional visitors in a matter of hours! Sure, the conversion rate may be low, but it is there, so you should get a nice little boost to your earnings and clicks!
  • With social bookmarking you may find that it actually increases your do-follow, organic backlinks. This means that people find your website on a social bookmarking tool such as StumbleUpon, and then decide to link to it from their own website. This is increasingly common if you get the Digg Effect on one of your articles!

Social Media Backlinks

Social Media toosl such as Facebook or Twitter do not directly pass link trust or page rank. However both Google and Bing do use Twitter and Facebook to build a linkscape. What is interesting about this form of backlinking is that the search engines look at author authority. For instance, Bill Gates tweeting about your tech site would be amazing, your next door neighbor tweeting about your site will probably not do very much at all.

One more thing to remember is that the search engines can only look at publicly available data on Facebook, so make sure your business profiles are open for people to see!

Directory Submissions

Directory submissions are probably one of the oldest forms of back links.  They are easy, sometimes free, and often Do Follow. Unfortuantely they rarely carry much value and are increasingly Becoming no-follow.

The good news is that submitting your link to a link directory will not hurt, infact even teh low quality ones will still help your website get crawled faster, not to mention give it a tiny little PR boost.

The bad news is that unless you manage to get accepted in to one of the elite directories such as DMOZ, Googles very own web directory, then you willl have to sign up to a LOT of web directories to see any real PR or SERps improvement.

Cash to Spend?

If you have a bit of cash to spend you can always buy links off of related websites. This can be as simple as messaging a few website owners, or hiring someone to build the links for you.

Either way, when buying links, check a few things

  • The PR of the website
  • How often the site is updates
  • The number of links on each page (If the website is full of link, avoid!)
  • The traffic to the website.

Avoid Overzealous Link Building Techniques/Websites

While link building can be a great way to improve the SERPs of your website, you can go too far.  Matt Cutts, the public voice of the Google programming team has voiced on several occasions how paid links are often found, and reciprocal link building to unrelated websites can often leave a website with lower search engine rankings, or even a banishment to the suplimentary Google results (Somewhere you do not want to be!)

So lets go through each of the link building techniques, and tell you what you need to avoid.

Reciprocal Links

Avoid creating hundreds of reciprocal links, and even more importantly do not create links from your website to another on completely unrelated subjects

Buy and Sell Links

Again, keep the links related when buying or selling links. Matt Cutts has mentioned on several occasions how the Google algorithms have some extremely advanced techniques to discover if a link has been bought or not.  Both websites which sell large amounts of links, and websites that buy large amounts  links can be penalized for this!

At a recent conference two self proclaimed SEO specialists were complaining how they have had websites dropped from Googles rankings for no aparent reason.  It took Matt Cutts less than five minutes to discover that not only had they been buying links, but they had been buying links from the same provider.  If a person can discover this, so can the Google Algorithm. 

How to Check Your Backlinks

Checking for valid backlinks is not as easy as it once was. Yahoo shows all teh links to your website, no-follow or otherwise (Even if it does not count them)

Google's Link: command has been changed to show only a proportional representation of a websites backlinks to prevent what amounts to commercial espionage.

After re-reading a lot of trustworthy sources on the internet, and spending some time watching Matt Cutts video blogs, I have found that Google Webmaster Tools is the most accurate way to check Backlinks to your website.

The downside is that you can only use Webmaster tools on your own website, not sites such as Hubpages, in these cases you may have to use values such as Link: on Google, and Yahoo Site Explorer to give you an approximation of back links to your website.

A quick warning here, you can buy simplistic tools online to check backlinks (Generally sold,inaccurately as SEO Expert software), my advice would be to find free software that does the same thing (There are some fantastic Firefox and Chrome Extensions which will do this).  Also, be aware that these will only check the Google Link: command and Yahoo Site Search, both of which, as stated here, are fairly unreliable!

Conclusion to Backlinking

Backlinking is a great way to get your website known, and an essential part of the SERPS algorithm on websites such as Google. However it is important to backlink RIGHT, it takes time and effort to backlink correctly, to acheive good SEO. If you try to rush this, or use short cut tactics such as no follow social bookmarking, you will not see the same benefits as if you had used a Do Follow site, and submitted quality content.

The truth of the matter is though, that the best links to have are the ones which Google tell you that you should have, organic, natural, backlinks. backlinks that are from people who are genuinely interest in your website and want to share it with others. These backlinks are the hardest to get, but by far the most valuable!

As with everything in life, SEO is not as easy as it looks, and you will have to put a lot of work in. Nevertheless, If you work hard, you can use backlinks for success!


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