Backlinks 101 – SEO’s Off-page Often Ignored Power Ranker

First off a little disclosure this article over laps the Backlinks category of the FAQ.

What Are Backlinks?

Backlinks are links from other sites.  Think of them as votes of affirmation.  Only one vote can come from a domain so for SEO purposes it doesn’t matter if there are 100 or 1 link from the same domain one link is the count you gain.  Subdomains are viewed separately…thats why yourblog.tumblr.com isn’t a tumblr backlink.  Now those other links may increase traffic to your site but in regards to SEO value its one vote.  Some call this metric “Domain Pop” … how many different domains link to a site.  It’s also gotten more complicated as people would host multiple sites on a shared IP.  How many backlinks come from different IPs is “IP Pop.”  It’s common to see a little higher domain pop than ip pop but if its a huge gap its suspect.

The more domains that link to you the more authoritative you must be right?  Well Kinda.  If 1000 domains link to your site you likely are more authoritative than a site that 3 sites link too.  Not all domains or votes or backlinks….are the same.  A link to your site from UltimateSEO.org carries with it the weigh attributed to that site by its backlinks.  People refer to this as “link juice” basically the backlinks coming in to a site fuel the backlinks leaving a site.

Link juice prevents someone of registering 10 new domains and making 10 backlinks to their original site because those ten new sites probably lack link juice from their own backlinks.  Generally said though backlinks increase a site’s domain athority or citation flow.  Different companies refer to the authority of a site differently.  Beyond DA and CF there is also LIS but I have found DA to be the best singular indicator of a sites worth.

You can see a site’s backlinks from many indexes, most are paid.  Ultimate SEO recommends Monitor Backlinks if you want a tool that is really good at backlinks.  UltimateSEO received nothing for that endorsement.  The endorsement or vote …. as you see it’s a backlink.

What Kinds Of Backlinks Are There?

No-Follow vs Do-Follow Backlinks

No-Follow vs Do-Follow Backlinks

Beyond saying Good and Bad there are actually a couple to be aware of “follow” or “do-follow” and “nofollow.”  They get their names by the instruction they give search engine crawlers…no follow links mean don’t follow this to that site.  In theory a regular link is a follow link and serves as the backlink you ultimately want.

Some reason folks went a little crazy and no-followed everything … even internal links.  No-follows were meant to combat link building schemes such as blog comments.  While its fine to have no follow links to your site there should be a limited mixture of them in relation to your actual do-follow links.  No-follow links are still indexed and I feel strongly have some SEO value still even if its just to drive traffic to your site.  In the end you want do-follow links because they come as full fledged votes for your site, where as no-follows are more or less saying “here is this link to a sight I don’t want to be associated with necessarily.”

It’s that distance that makes “no-follows” a poor source of SEO efforts and its why you should use them sparingly in internal links.  Why would you send a signal to Google that you don’t stand behind an internal link to yourself?  Some try to hold onto all the link juice coming in and no-follow” every external link, this is a poor practice and its been shown that linking your content to relevant good external content helps you.

No-Follow Internal Links…Just Don’t

I rarely use no-follow links, I kinda think they system there is broken so I just follow them all.  Sometime ago people started no-following everything and lead their link juice to specific pages they wanted to rank.  Since this was a misuse of the no-follow Google changed how it handled no-follows, it doesn’t keep the juice in your site or on a page it just disappears.  No-follows take the same amount of link juice as a regular link but no one gets it.  Pointless then right?  We’ll debate that more another day.

What Is Anchor Text?

Anchor text is the “keyword” of a backlink.  Ultimate SEO for example is anchor text for the link https://ultimateseo.org which that link had no anchor text.  Anchor text defines the backlink vote.  If enough people make a link to your site like “Miserable Failure” it will teach Google that the target of that link is a miserable failure.  This happen to George W Bush’s White House biography page long ago and is called a “Google Bomb”.  It’s that old saying…if you say something often enough it can become true.

How Many Do I Need?

A lot.  You need as many as you can get from as many places as you can get them.  Just keep in mind that a backlink from my personal site isn’t as powerful as a backlink from the CDC.gov website …. they have the authority.  Thats also why .edu and .gov backlinks are especially coveted.

Backlinks

Backlinks

A quick rule of thumb to determine how many you need is to simply Google the keyword you are attempting to rank for….lets say “cool music from the 60s.” I get pastemagazine.com leading the pack.  According the SEMrush.com that site has 2.7 million backlinks coming from 36,700 domains on 44,300 IP addresses.  So roughly keep that your target if you want to rank #1 for “cool music from the 60s.”

How Do I Get Backlinks?

Many ways….the Gods honest truth is to do it the obvious way …. by having content worth linking too.  If you want a page to rank at the top you need a site thats fast, optimized on page, has relevant … awesome content … and people will backlink to you.  Over years and years and years and you’ll need to keep that content better than everyone else’s … thats not super realistic though.  Sometimes the best content is on page 2 and it’ll stay there…I often Google something and skip the first things just cause they are often just the most SEOed things.  BUT most people by far pick the first result, then the second and so on.

What Are Some Popular Link Building Techniques?

So you need to prime the pump and simulate organic growth and popularity and now you’re in a link building scheme.  Some are looked down upon more than others but make no mistake any attempt to gain backlinks is a link building scheme.  Press Releases, Guest Blogging, Commenting in Forums, making profiles on other sites, link swapping, selling or buying links and finally PBNs.  PBNs are private blog networks where you make zombie sites that link to your important site … but considering that the example above had 37,000 domains linking to it how effective is a network of say 200 sites?  Well surprisingly effective…and thats why Google hunts PBNs like Buffy the vampire slayer.

Thats our Backlinks 101…I’ll talk more about some of these concepts in future posts.

Ultimate SEO”Ultimate SEO”

What Is Domain Authority Why Should I Care?

Domain Authority is in my opinion the single greatest indicator of a sites ability to compete organically for search traffic.  It is a great question and its simply complex.  Keep in mind Domain Authority or DA as we shall refer to it pretty much here on is the single best number to predict ranking ability and we know that the top 3 positions consume over half of all searches so it can be directly attached to traffic.

A few disclaimers: Domain Authority is not a Google creation it is from Moz.com and it is their educated guess at how Google see’s your authority.  But it is not Google’s so remember that.  Secondly I am going to go over this in a higher level and use some half truths for simplicity.  If you want the whole truth just read the articles or Google the topics discussed for greater detail.  Finally, most of what I will show you are other people’s guesses as to what goes into Moz’s Domain Authority which again is a guess about Google’s metric on a site.  Google doesn’t tell us exactly and they shouldn’t, Moz doesn’t tell us either because they want you to pay for it.  Moz isn’t the only one guessing, a lot of folks guess and some include Majestic’s Citation Factor and Trust FactorSEOProfiler has it’s LIS.  For simplicity and since I’m the one running this show we’ll focus for now on Domain Authority by Moz.

Now it’s a simple number from 1 to 100 but it isn’t like a ladder with even steps, as you climb the steps get bigger and it takes more to gain a level.  So from DA 1 lets say you gain 5 backlinks and two are from sites that have a decent DA 40 and Moz bumps your score up to a DA 3.  If you gain 5 more links to your site and they also have similar metrics as the last bunch you might assume you’re set to have a DA 6, but you get surprised when it is reported as a 4.  Another set of 5 and it stays a 4.  DA levels are harder to improve the higher you get your site.

What Determines Domain Authority?

Links?

Domain authority is the best metric because it provides us with a single number but its based on some rather key and diverse factors.  Yes, it is backlinks but its so much more than that…but it is largely backlinks or incoming links from other domains.  These serve as citations, they’re references from other entities that acknowledge publicly that this site they are link too, yours is authoritative.  Coupled with “anchor text” or the words that make up a link that aren’t the address they can define a site.  More on that towards the end.  This is anchor text it has a link but the anchor text serves as the vanity description of the content at the other end of the link.  The link comes from another site to yours and depending upon that site’s authority the link is more or less powerful than another.

domain-authorityWe’ll talk in greater depth about SEO Backlinks but for now let’s just understand that backlinks are votes from other sites.  Not all backlinks are created equal.  The more backlinks the more authority, and one vote per site.  So 800 links from another site you own are not worth 25 from 25 sites.

In the graphic to the left links are the blue AND red slices of the pie and together they make up 49%.  The next biggest element is SOCIAL MEDIA MENTIONS.  I do that in all caps because I’ve always included social media as an element of reports I offer in client proposals and I get told often they don’t care about all that.  I just sit back and scribble down that they don’t know what they don’t know yet.

Social Media Mentions

Sure you need an account and you need followers but to get those followers you need to post regularly.  Five or Six times randomly during the year isn’t regular.  Thats why so many people feel social media doesn’t matter because they were unable to tap into the great interest on Facebook in their widgets.   News flash no one is really going to be interested in your widget but you and a handful of individuals.  Thats why your messages need to have more than just “buy our widget.”  If you are a church for instance a weekly devotional or prayer list is better than telling people to come on Sunday week after week.  The biggest mistake is not including a link to your site in your post.  While there may be a link off of your profile page to your site your message can be repeated by others and each repeat or share is from their profile. It may mention you and likely link back to your profile but that is still one link to your site.  Include a link.

social media mention with link

Domain Age Matters And It Should

So you’re going out there and you found a domain name thats available and you want to outrank your competition in a month.  SEOs laugh out loud around the globe…Highly unlikely, it’s partly you lack street cred.  I’d love to rank number one in the keyword Louisville SEO but I don’t.  I’m the 89.8th result.  MatthewLeffler.com is 352 days old as I am writing this.  The top result for Louisville SEO is 9 years and 207 days old.  Indirectly they’ve got 9 years worth of content, returning traffic and backlinks than I have and so they are given a bonus for that longevity.  Partly to prevent searchers from getting a completely different result every time a new domain picks a keyword.   Its easier though as you age, the difference between 5 yrs and 9 years is trivial and the distance between 1 day and 1 year is a stretch.  Sometimes buying an existing domain thats relevant to your business will give you a way around this, but you’re at the mercy of what is for sale and like a foster kid you don’t know about it’s past.

Brand Search Volume

Nobody said SEO was fair

Sometimes in SEO it feels like you’re swimming with Joan Crawford.  This one I feel is a bit much … brand search volume is how often people are looking for you.  Well isn’t that impossible until they know about me and the reason they don’t know about me is because you have me on page 4?  Couldn’t brand search volume arguably be covered in social media mentions and backlinks?  We’ll now that we got those out of the way, nobody ever said life was fair, Tina.

I’ve decided that I’ll figure out a way to sneak a reference to a favorite movie of mine into every post from here on.

But I digress, so your brand search volume does make sense to be included because people searching for Coca Cola do not want to see Pepsi.  I’m from deep Coke territory and even Taco Bell has stopped asking if I want a Pepsi.  So has Google it appears.

Incidentally I would suspect that local plays into this heavily.  Google knows where the searches are coming from so they understand the foot print of your business.  Which is why Googling the best landscaper in town is different in each town.  Food for thought if you build a regional powerhouse and expand into a new city.

Domain Authority Case Study – Project No Wire Hangers

Sorry I wont make this all about that movie but we all know …. NO Wire Hangers.  For our purposes hangers are domains and they can be wire or wooden.  Depending on the hanger or domain your attempts to rank for a keyword will be affected, like the clothes you hang on them.  I’ll show you several domains stats that I have built completely alone over several months.  It hasn’t been a dedicated effort so these numbers could have been better but the effort has been the same.  Some are older than others some are the same age. We’ll dissect these domains and metrics extensively.

Matt’s Project Hangers

URL Moz DA Moz PA MozRank External Links
seandelahanty.com 29 / 100 27 / 100 2.70 112
cloud502.com 28 / 100 24 / 100 2.40 134
votelouisville.com 23 / 100 19 / 100 1.90 4
matthewleffler.com 23 / 100 23 / 100 2.30 112
data502.com 22 / 100 21 / 100 2.10 12
matt2.info 20 / 100 16 / 100 1.60 51
seandelahanty.org 18 / 100 19 / 100 1.90 36
forbrent.com 16 / 100 11 / 100 1.10 0
countyattorney.info 14 / 100 10 / 100 1.00 0
seodata.cloud 12 / 100 16 / 100 1.60 11
chriscoffman.rocks 8 / 100 6 / 100 0.60 4

Feel free to look into them and make some assumptions.  You may find tools that I have discussed previously useful in “auditing” the domains.  Much like a Sciencetologist audits a person with toys and wild claims so does your SEO and look we have just about as many acronyms.  Now go and let your Thetan figure out where the keywords were in the graph.  Spoiler … anchor text that you had no control over … officially.  Here is a further reading on the power of anchor text…in 2004 “Miserable Failure” was George W. Bush’s Whitehouse biography page and no one optimized it for that.

Miserable Failure

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