The following is a guest post from Karin Boode of AutoMarker blog.
A backlink is a link from a website back to your website. Easy enough. Unfortunately, there is a lot more to it than that. In this article I will highlight the most important aspects of backlinking.
First of all, we need to distinguish between 3 types of backlinks.
1. One-way links point to your website, without you linking back to that website in any way, shape or form. These are by far the most valuable links and there are many ways to obtain one-way links.
2. When site A links to site B and site B links back to site A a reciprocal link, or two-way link is established. These are the least valuable of the links, since they are often seen as a marketing technique rather than a sign of quality content.
A certain amount of reciprocal links should not hurt the authority of your site. However, if there are only reciprocal links or a larger group is all linking back and forth it may hurt the website, as this is leaving a marketing footprint. A better way to approach backlinks between a group of people is as described in point 3.
3. Three-way links are the next best thing to one-way links. When site A links to site B, site B links to site C and site C links to site A a three-way link system is formed. It is significantly more difficult for the search engines to detect the relationships between these sites. It is a more natural looking linking pattern.
Probably the most important factor in link building is knowing how valuable a link is. In order to establish that you must know how authority is passed on to links that appear on any given page.
The higher you rank in the search engines the more authority your website has. Google expresses page authority by means of Page Rank (PR), but since the other search engines are not using PR I will refer to it as authority going forward. High authority and high PR are more or less interchangeable.
If page A links to page B the amount of authority that page B will receive from that link will depend on several things.
If the link to page B is one of 100 other links on page A, it is not going to pass as much authority as it would if it were one of 50, or better yet one of 10. The actual authority Page A possesses is divided by the number of links on the page and each page that is linked to from page A receives the same amount of authority from that link.
If a page A is linking to 10 different pages, page B being one of them, page B will receive 10% of page A’s authority. Hence, in the case of 100 links from Page A to Page B, only 1% of page A’s authority is received by each of the recipients.
The more authority page A has the more authority is passed on to page B. This should also make it clear that linking to a high authority site provides a higher authority backlink, but linking to a low authority website will not harm you. It will simply pass on less authority, but it is authority nonetheless.
If page A has a lot of authority but in a niche other than yours, it still passes authority in pretty much the same way. It is a general misconception that a link to an unrelated topic does not count. This is not true as long as the anchor text that links to that site is related to your website.
When I am creating a link to a completely unrelated, high authority, website, I use my “about me” page. This gives me a high authority backlink, without sending the visitor to a page that is obviously about a completely unrelated topic. (tip: develop your profile page in such a way that it stimulates the visitor to check out the rest of your website).
So, when you are just starting out with a website and you do not have any ranking at all, you should simply build as many links as you can. No reason to be overly critical. Just get as many (preferably one-way) links as you can. Once your authority starts improving, you will be better off being more precise in your linking strategy. Although ignoring low page rank opportunities is never a wise decision.
As a general rule of thumb you need to focus on links from websites that have a higher rank than you do. That does not mean that you should never link to a website with a page rank 0. Just pay attention to detail and the higher your pagerank, the higher the ratio of higher ranked vs lower ranker pages.
The above is an extremely simplified picture of backlinks, but I believe these to be the most important aspects you should know before you start your link building.
It is also worthwhile that other factors also play a role in the determination of Page Rank. Since Google has not been willing to share their exact algorithm with us, it is hard to tell what exactly the parameters are. One I do know is a part of the equation is the age of the domain. Older websites with otherwise the exact same amount and type of backlinks will always have a higher page rank.
I hope this has helps you understand the mechanics of backlinking more. Don’t hesitate to ask any questions you may have. Both Chris and I will be happy to answer them.
Karin Boode is a business consultant. She helps businesses develop an online strategy, with focus on the use of social media. You can read her blog posts on her AutoMarker blog.