Firstly, let’s just start out by briefly touching on exactly what a backlink is.

Backlinks are known as several different things – “backlink” (of course!), “inbound link”, “incoming link”, or even “refering link” – but in the most basic terms, a backlink is a link which points at your website, and is on a different website.

Example:

site1.com links to site2.com, site2 has a backlink from site 1.

site2.com links to another page on site2.com, this is NOT a backlink, this is an internal link.

So, that’s a backlink – but what’s so important about them?

Well, quite simply, inbound links to your website are one of the most important ranking factors when it comes to your position in Google – in fact, it has been confirmed by a spokesperson for Google that backlinks are right up there in the top 3 ranking factors – that’s HUGE!

In Google’s eyes, when it sees that someone elses website has linked to yours, it sees it as a vote of trust, if someone is linking to your website, then it must have some value to that person, and it must be trustworthy, right? (In Google’s eyes, this is the case, obviously that’s not actually true!).

Ok so Google isn’t quite that simplistic – it will weigh up each link and look at how valuable the webpage containing the link is, and pass on “juice” based on the quality, the better the quality, the more link juice is passed – in turn, giving you better rankings.

For that reason, 1000 spammy/poor quality links to your website will not help your rankings at all – quite the opposite, they may well hinder/get your site penalised, however, even 1 high quality link from a well trusted website could boost your ranks a surprising amount.

So, how does Google analyse your inbound links and apply weight based on them? Google checks a number of factors;

i) The number of links you have pointing at your website, and in turn how many different websites link to your website, 1 link from 10 individual websites is likely going to be more valuable than 50 links from 2 – 3 websites, so keep that in mind if you decide to acquire any backlinks.

ii) How highly ranked the websites linking to you are, and how authorative they are, poor quality websites linking to yours will not perform well.

iii) Sites relevant to yours will provide more value than sites in a completely different industry – if you are selling duvets, a website related to beds will give you a better boost than a website selling dog food – relevant, quality links are best.

iv) Google takes into account the anchor text – our article on Keyword Best Practices touches on this, and outlines how over optimisation can negatively affect your rankings just as easily as well optimised anchor diversity can improve your rankings.

v) Remember, you should not spam your website’s link anywhere, it’s more important to have a few, high quality links than more links of lower quality.

If you’re building links to your website, remember to keep an eye on the quality, the link diversity and the anchor texts, taking your eye off the ball could spell disaster for your site in the long term.