Any business with a website has heard about backlinks, how they can help you move up in search engine results, and why they are necessary. Some companies will spend a lot of time and money to create as many backlinks as they can. According to common knowledge, this sounds like a great strategy as backlinks one of the most concrete ways to secure your position in search engine results.
What Are Backlinks?
Backlinks are a huge part of search engine optimization (SEO). Google, Yahoo!, and Bing all use them as part of their algorithm to help users looking for content to find relevant content fast. Backlinks could be considered bridges that help connect different websites through image links or text links. However, not all bridges are good ones, and some of them can negatively affect your site.
Would you drive over a bridge that is falling apart, broken down or looking sketchy? Well, backlinks are the same way. If the backlink goes to a broken page, doesn’t send users to the right page or looks like it could be a scam, it can affect search engine rankings negatively. That is why it is important to have quality backlinks from reputable websites.
Backlinks built from trustworthy sites will help most of the time unless they are from unrelated websites, nor do backlinks en mass. However, good backlinks from reputable sites do help. Google is one of the most notorious for depending on backlinks and weighing a plethora of variables. In fact, some companies do nothing more than help build Google-safe backlinks that help them stay on the first page of search engine results. These businesses focus on understanding the underlying algorithm and then doing what is necessary to keep companies at the top — for a fee.
Understanding the Algorithm
Google has a secret algorithm that it uses to determine which websites are listed first when a user types in a search term or phrase. For the most part, as long as a site follows good principles, optimizes their content for both user and algorithm, they will rank high.
That all sounds easy enough, but that algorithm is continually changing. For most companies, the consistent changing is more than enough to make them throw in the towel and concede to another company willing to plow through all the rules and regulations, at least until they start losing customers to the higher-ranking firms. However, it is vital to understand the current algorithms no matter how difficult it seems. At times, the changes are almost on top of each other, but again, you have to pay attention to each change and how it affects search engine result listings.
The primary reason Google and other search engine providers are constantly changing their algorithm is that of companies who are willing to exploit issues within the algorithm which give them an unfair advantage. For the typical business, this will not matter, but it could matter if that company used a contractor or employee, and they created backlinks in a grey hat (almost wrong) or blackhat (wholly wrong and deceiving) way.
In the past, creating hundreds upon hundreds of backlinks with absolutely no relevance to a company website would get that company top spot on the search result pages. Of course, the search engine providers started working against this (i.e., the algorithm changes) and now these same backlinks offer no help and sometimes provide contradictory advice to the offending website. People who use these links think more is better. More does not make it better. Creating hundreds of unrelated links will not help a website’s ranking. Google knows this trick and does not reward it. Instead, they make it worth even less, to the point that it does almost nothing.
Since websites that allow these backlinks are so easy to access, Google does not give their ranking much power or trust. If a company uses every one of these easy-to-access websites, they will just be wasting their time and money, and possibly hurting their site in the long run.
Staying In Your Lane
Every website has a niche that it falls into and draws the customers, giving you a base upon which to build. Backlinks are part of this as well. If built on related websites, the backlink will get more weight and trust from search engine providers such as Google. However, creating a backlink on an unrelated niche can incur penalties.
Furthermore, this applies to generalized sites, which may cover more ground but do not attract a dedicated audience. They fail to appeal to the people who matter most and who are most likely to return. Niche websites get return audiences. When the audiences are a match, the results are positive and long-lasting.
Now it is time to put a name to the unrelated links discussed above, i.e., those that do not fit with the content or that appear alongside the same information repeatedly. It looks like paid content, tracks like paid content, and acts like paid content.
Poor Link Optimization
Under-optimization or over-optimization can destroy a site’s ranking. It can go from placing well, getting more than enough people, to dropping multiple pages in an instant with poor optimization. Learning how to control optimization, and building a page around that, is crucial. Poor optimization is one of the worst things for any site. It can take them out of the running for attracting an audience at all.
While ranking shifts after site changes are common and may revert, it is necessary to pay attention to massive drops afterward. If the changes made affect the website negatively, then the changes need to be returned and a new plan engaged.
Backlinks can be powerful tools when optimizing a website to rank highly in search engine results. When correctly used, they can do a lot of good. They are integral to a website’s ranking and performance, bringing in trust and a growing audience. However, poorly put-together backlinks can do just the opposite. They can lose Google’s trust and the audience’s attention (assuming they were able to grab it at all). Learning how to handle these links and use them properly can help in creating a functioning and popular website that ranks higher and attracts a bigger audience.