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What are backlinks and why are they so important?

Backlinks from other websites are not only how people will find your website, they also play the single most important element in how your site is ranked on the search engine results pages (SERPS).

When you think about the number of backlinks and their importance to page rank, it does make sense:

When you type in a search phrase, the search engine wants to bring you the most important and relevant website first.

Sites which have lots of useful information become destination sites, they are booked marked, linked and indexed by many other sites.

How to get backlinks

How to get backlinks #1: Content

The more useful information, tools and resources your site has, the more likely it is to be used as reference and to linked by other sites.

Don't just think of your website as a brochure for your business, think of it as a public resource.

For example, if you had a B&B in Leyburn your website would cover 10 pages at most. Because the site is so small, and the information so restrictive, it is unlikely to get much interest.

However, if you think of it as a resource you could include a local weather report, have a section on dining out, have a section about places of interest, local walks with downloadable maps, a history page, wildlife page, local landmarks …

All of a sudden your site has broadened its appeal to search engines on many levels, has a content that people are likely to link to, and provides really useful for your potential customers.

How to get backlinks #2: Directories

Before search engines took pride of place, directories were the key source of finding information.

Directories are still important area of your link building programme, regardless of the content of your site.

It is a slow and painful process, finding the relevant category and submitting your site's details by hand, but it provides useful opportunity for marketing your site and generating links.

Some directories do not require a reciprocal link, so it is something you could do yourself and a decent list can be found on my links page.

Others require a link back from your site, so they are only something your web developer could do.

Beware of link farms: Many sites out there try a shortcut to make a few dollars. You know the deal: “Get a thousand links of $15.00.”

On the web – as in life – if it seems too good to be true, it most probably is.

These farms try spamming the search engines. In the short term they can really boost your rankings, but once the search engines find out, your site will disappear, permanently.

How to get backlink #3: Reciprocal links

Reciprocal links are another method to generate quality links. This is a more carefully targeted approach aimed at other websites that are relevant and related to your business from your customer's point of view.

Take the example of the B&B in Leyburn.

On its own, it is unlikely people would want to link to you. But what if you had a page on Dining out in Leyburn? You could then detail the restaurants in the area, give them complementary descriptions and place links to their sites.

Then you are in a far better position to write them and ask for a reciprocal link in return.

It's a time consuming process, but can pay real dividends.

How to get backlink #4: Lateral links

It's all about getting out there and getting your site noticed.

I've covered some of the standard procedures , but sometimes it pays to think laterally.

For example, the B&B in Leyburn has a 60 second video clip showing its rooms, facilities and views.

You could register on YouTube. YouTube gives you a page of your own and a link. Your video also has a link, and so as it in turn is fed out to all the different categories builds more links.

.. with a little bit of thought it's possible to get your site linked by dozens of top quality, high traffic sites, such as Wikipedia, W3C and Amazon.

How backlinks are rated

It's not just simply a case of how many backlinks you have, it's also a case of the quality of those backlinks.

All the search engines have complex algorithms for rating a link, but there are some common features:

Backlink Site Popularity

The most important factor is how popular the site is that has your link. If it's from a site with zero traffic it's not going to be worth much. A good way to check is Page Rank, a tool for analysing this, if you don't have it in your tool bar is included in the right hand column.

Backlink Page Level

Backlinks on the Home page are rated higher than a link buried deep inside a site.

Backlink Context

A backlink on its own is valued more highly than one on a page with hundreds of others.

Backlink Positioning

Where the backlink appears on the page is also relevant. The closer to the top of the page, the more weight is given.

How to measure backlinks to your site

Each search engine has its own method of revealing what links it has on record pointing to your site.

This is a really useful tool, not only to see what links your site has, but also for weighing up the competition.

Just use the following syntax, and key in your domain name for the top three search engines:

Google backlinks–

Yahoo backlinks

MSN backlinks


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