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The importance of backlinks: What they are and how they help your site. 

When building and developing your website, you are going to be hearing the term SEO bounced around a lot. Short for Search Engine Optimisation, this describes all of the things that help your website's pages rank higher in online searches – helping you to attract more traffic, and ultimately secure more sales. One of the most important aspects of SEO is something called backlinks. If you are not sure what that means, then you're in the right place! Interestingly, backlinks are an important component of SEO that work their magic not on our website, but off it. In addition, they can help you to drive traffic to your website without involving search engines at all. So, let's get stuck into what backlinks are all about.

What are backlinks?

When we talk about a backlink, we are describing a link from a page on one website, directing anyone who clicks on it to a page on another one. When it comes to SEO for your own website, the backlinks in question are going to be links from elsewhere on the internet, that direct to pages on your site. You might also describe your backlinks as incoming links, or inbound links. Meanwhile, the website that they can be found on might describe those links as outgoing links, external links, or outbound links.

Why do backlinks matter?

In terms of SEO, we can use the popular analogy of votes in place of backlinks. Search engines like Google, who are trying to figure out how valuable the content of your website will be to their users, look at backlinks as if they were up-votes in a website value poll. The more votes your page gets, the more favourably it will be ranked – and the better quality each vote is, the more punch it will pack. Fundamentally, if you want to push your brand to the top of search engine results pages, you will make good progress if you can amass a nice collection of backlinks.

Aside from the ranking factor, backlinks can help search engines to discover your web pages faster. They also serve as a brilliant way of generating traffic, simply by creating an opportunity for people to make their way to your website, straight off the page of another.

Are all backlinks created equal?

The short answer is no, they are not! Google, and its peers in the world of search engines, go to great lengths to assess the validity and quality of backlinks. This means that backlinks should be built authentically – there are no sneaky shortcuts that will allow you to generate hundreds of backlinks overnight without Google catching on! In terms of quality, search engines will assess each backlink to decide how much it contributes to the trustworthiness seen in your website. Factors in play here include things like the backlink hosting website's domain authority, its topical relevance, and how old the website featuring a backlink is – older sites tend to be seen as more trustworthy than newer ones.

What's the deal with domain and page authority?

Just as Google weighs up the value of your website when deciding how to rank it, websites that host backlinks also get the once over. Once a website has been fully assessed by the many parameters that search engines examine, it will be given a ranking – otherwise known as its domain authority. In this sense, a popular and trusted website like Yahoo News will almost certainly offer greater domain authority than your brother in law's personal blog. And, following from that, a backlink from Yahoo News will do more for your search engine ranking than a backlink from one of those fishing-trip blogs he likes to post. Similarly, search engines will examine the page that hosts the backlink too – for example, how many incoming backlinks does that page have? The bottom line here is that quality counts in terms of where your backlinks are positioned.

Backlinks within your field.

Alongside authority, search engines also look for relevance. In fact, this may be a factor that tips the scales in the aforementioned example. If, say, your website is in the business of selling gardening tools, and your brother in law has a fantastic blog about gardening that gets tons of traffic, (earning lots of backlinks in kind), then his backlink would be a viable competitor to one from Yahoo News. Search engines like Google are great at identifying the topics that web pages cover, as that is how they deliver the right search engine results when someone is on the hunt for exactly what your business has to offer. By acquiring backlinks from websites and pages that relate topically, you will help your site to climb the search engine ladder.

Diversity is the spice of life.

Lastly, it is handy to know that a gazillion backlinks from one great website are not going to deliver a proportionately gargantuan boost to your search engine ranking. Why? Because search engines like diversity! This means that while your first great backlink from a top-notch website might work wonders, each new backlink from that site will be less valuable than the last. What this means is that it is worth going for a backlink from your brother in law, a feature on Yahoo News, and wherever else a meaningful backlink might be received from. Building a veritable and hard-earned bounty of high-calibre backlinks over time is the best route to establishing a sturdy position at the head of your field when it comes to search engine results. All the while, backlinks will be helping more people find your brand, and spread the word. Happy backlink building!

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