Backlinks are the links that direct traffic to your website from other websites. The number of backlinks you have is an indicator to search engines of the authority or popularity of your website. Search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo will use these links to assess the order in which their search results are displayed. If you website has more high quality backlinks than your competitor, you’re on the right track to ranking higher in the search engine.
Search engines use highly complex algorithms to determine the authority of a website on a given topic. Part of that algorithm is dedicated to analyzing the quality of inbound links. When the backlink comes from a location that is relevant to your website and is an established authority on the topic, it is considered a higher quality backlink and will weigh more in your favor than a link from a website that has nothing to do with your topic. An example of this would be a website that reviews restaurants getting links from restaurants. If that same website about restaurant reviews was linked to by an insurance agency, the link would not weigh as much.
Search Engine Algorithms
Why all the complication? Search engines have one goal: Keep users coming back to use their search engine. How do search engines achieve this goal? They use these complex methods to make sure that the results for any given search are the most relevant to that topic so that their users are satisfied and keep coming back for answers and information.
Of the many methods that are available to webmasters to create backlinks, some methods are encouraged, while others are not. Natural link building occurs when the site content and website is shared throughout the web manually by webmasters. This type of link building has a very specific trend. There are also services such as linkfarms where webmasters can purchase or barter massive lists of links all at once. These activities produce a spike in link generation and can cause your website to be flagged by a search engine and possibly sandboxed or blacklisted (removed temporarily or permanently from the search results altogether, respectively). Once enough data is collected by the search engines on a given site, they can determine quite easily if the backlinks that have been created occurred naturally or otherwise.
Natural Link Building Process
There is another incentive to follow a natural link building process. Quality backlinks will entice visitors to come to your website. With the exposure in the right places on relevant websites, you begin to share traffic loads with other websites and all websites benefit. Rather than one visit going to one website, with a backlink that visitor might visit two or three related websites. With the same principle applying to all three (or more) websites, their traffic has the potential to easily triple. This activity is called reciprocal linking.
Reciprocal linking was a favorite practice among web designers for a long time in helping them build backlinks. Webmasters would swap a small list of links to place on differing websites. The goal was to boost rankings and muscle their way into search engine results with loads and loads of low quality links. Google and other search engines are aware of this, however, and their updates work to discount practices like this to continue to make sure that the results they display in their search engine are relevant.
Quality backlinks play a key role in the Search Engine Optimization of your website. Building quality inbound backlinks should be part of any project plan. First, brainstorm which keywords are the most important or relevant to your website, build a list, and prioritize it. Then use that links when promoting your website around the web!