Backlinks, also known as incoming links, inbound links, and inward links, are incoming links to a website or web page.
In basic link terminology, a backlink is any link received by one web page, directory, or top level domain from another web page.
Inbound links were originally important (prior to the emergence of search engines) as a primary means of web navigation;
today, their significance lies in search engine optimization (SEO).
The number of backlinks is one indication of the popularity or importance of that website or page (for example, this is used by Google to determine the PageRank of a webpage).
Outside of SEO, the backlinks of a webpage may be of significant personal, cultural or semantic interest: they indicate who is paying attention to that page.
Search engines often use the number of backlinks that a website has as one of the most important factors for determining that website’s search engine ranking, popularity and importance.
Google’s description of their PageRank system, for instance, notes that Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for page B.
Knowledge of this form of search engine rankings has fueled a portion of the SEO industry commonly termed link-spam, where a company attempts to place as many inbound links as possible to their site regardless of the context of the originating site.
Websites often employ various search engine optimization techniques to increase the number of backlinks pointing to their website.
Some methods are free for use by everyone whereas some methods like link-baiting requires quite a bit of planning and marketing to work.
Some websites stumble upon “link-baiting” naturally; the sites that are the first with a tidbit of ‘breaking news’ about a celebrity are good examples of that.
When “link-bait” happens, many websites will link to the ‘baiting’ website because there is information there that is of extreme interest to a large number of people.
There are several factors that determine the value of a backlink.
Backlinks from authoritative sites on a given topic are highly valuable.
If both sites have content geared toward the keyword topic, the backlink is considered relevant and believed to have a strong influence on the search engine rankings of the webpage granted the backlink.
A backlink represents a favorable ‘editorial vote’ for the receiving webpage from another granting webpage.
Another important factor is the anchor text of the backlink.
Anchor text is the descriptive labeling of the hyperlink as it appears on a webpage.
Search engine bots (i.e., spiders, crawlers, etc.) examine the anchor text to evaluate how relevant it is to the content on a webpage.
Anchor text and webpage content congruency are highly weighted in search engine results page (SERP) rankings of a webpage with respect to any given keyword query by a search engine user.
Increasingly, inbound links are being weighed against link popularity and originating context.
This transition is reducing the notion of one link, one vote in SEO, a trend proponents hope will help curb linkspam as a whole.
When HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) was designed, there was no explicit mechanism in the design to keep track of backlinks in software, as this carried additional logistical and network overhead.
Most Content management systems include features to track backlinks, provided the external site linking in sends a notification to the target site.
Most wiki systems include the capability of determining what pages link internally to any given page, but do not track external links to any given page.
Most commercial search engines provide a mechanism to determine the number of backlinks they have recorded to a particular web page.
For example, Google can be searched using link:yourdomain.com to find the number of pages on the Web pointing to yourdomain.com.
To find link information on Yahoo type linkdomain:http://www.yourdomain.com.
Google only shows a small fraction of the number of links pointing to a site.
It credits many more backlinks than it shows for each website.
Other mechanisms have been developed to track backlinks between disparate webpages controlled by organizations that aren’t associated with each other.
The most notable example of this is Track Backs between blogs.
Backlinks In Marketing
When we think of Internet marketing, the word “backlink” doesn’t automatically come to mind.
In fact, most people who aren’t involved with a website would not even know what a backlink means.
To put it simply, a backlink is any URL link from another website that will take web surfers directly to your website.
So, a backlink is like a business card (in the form of an Internet address) that you gave to someone who then refers other people back to you.
Using this metaphor, one can see that the more backlinks you get the more business you get too.
However, that’s not the sole reason why backlinks are important in Internet marketing.
While a backlink is a type of referral, it also can be a measure of your website’s reputation.
This is why major search engines use backlinks in their search algorithms.
They catalogue the number of backlinks and the strength of the people who are backlinking to your site and use this in their algorithm to determine how well you rank amongst other sites that deal with your website niche.
Using backlinks you can raise the visibility of your site by getting your site highly ranked in the search engine.
This, in turn, will lead to more people visiting your site and thus more business.
As if that weren’t enough, the backlinks are also used to determine the worth of the website should you decide to sell the domain later.
So, backlinks can turn into dollar signs, even if your site happens to be a blog, instead of a full website.
That’s how powerful backlinks are!
NOT ALL BACKLINKS ARE THE SAME
Being the Internet, of course, nothing is as straightforward as it seems.
It’s simplistic to suggest that anything that is a backlink will enhance your site’s value or search engine ranking.
Tech wizards invented the Internet, and many of those geek geniuses ended up in search engine companies.
So, even though a standard HTML URL is easy enough to understand (once you get the hang of it), search engine optimization is quite intricate and often a very secretive business.
After all, if we knew exactly the algorithms that major companies use to rank the sites in their listings, than anyone could fool a search engine and the entire industry would collapse overnight.
BUYING BACKLINKS: PROS AND CONS
Once you understand the dynamics of a sound backlink, you still have to figure out how to persuade the right people to backlink to your site.
You can spend an inordinate amount of time locating sites of similar content to your own and emailing webmasters for reciprocal links, but you will quickly find that you do not get many replies.
The process is also time-consuming.
So, you may find yourself somewhat stymied about how to generate backlinks without having to do too much upfront work.
If you can pay someone to create your site, you may reason, why can’t you pay someone to backlink to your site?
And, the answer is that you can!
There are search engine optimization companies that can help you establish sufficient backlinks to raise your page rank for a minimal expense.
There are risks involved, however, as Google doesn’t like the practice of rigging your site to look good in search engines.
And, since the algorithms are kept secret, you can inadvertently trip a red flag that sends your site automatically to the bottom of the heap if you end up paying to be included in link farm pages.
Despite this risk, many people do use companies to help them change the ranking of their site by buying backlinks.
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