Then you want backlinks! | HTML Bonuses

Soon after creating a website, most people realize that it’s only because they’ve built the best site ever known to mankindthe traffic did not come flocking to the pages!

If you ask for advice on what to do to get more traffic, there are several answers that will usually be given. The first should be to apply SEO best practices to the fantastic content on your site, then give the search engines some time. Unfortunately, a more common response will be to suggest building as many backlinks as possible.

What are backlinks?

Backlinks are simply links from other websites to your site. Backlinks are an important part of SEO, but they are only one of many key elements. Having lots of backlinks is like having lots of friends. The more friends you have, the more popular you seem.

Although the concept of backlinks is simple, there are actually a number of details about them that are important to understand. Just as friends can contribute to your personal success, backlinks can be one of the key factors in a successful SEO strategy. Unfortunately, like having the wrong friends, they can also be toxic to your SEO if you have the wrong ones or in the case of backlinks they are poorly implemented.

Here a link, there a link, everywhere a backlink…

Many years ago it was believed that it was important to get as many backlinks as possible. It was thought that the site with the most backlinks would be considered the most popular. As such, there were companies that could be hired to get you links from sites around the world. This was easy for these companies using directory sites, link farms, discussion forums and article commenting. In many cases, these links would be spammed to sites anywhere and everywhere.

Over time, the way backlinks are handled has changed. Just as different friends can influence your reputation, different factors regarding where a link is placed can impact its value to your site’s reputation. For example, some sites were ranked as higher quality because they had higher traffic. Just as being friends with a popular person can have a positive impact on your reputation, a backlink from sites ranked as having high traffic or with lots of their own links could be considered to have a stronger impact on your site. Going to these popular sites was considered a good decision…

But then the search engine algorithms changed.

The result of one of the earlier changes to the way search engines treated backlinks from sites that had a bad reputation. It could be link farms (a site that is mostly a bunch of links), directory sites that were mostly a bunch of links with no content. It can also be sites with low quality content, pornography, or minimal content with lots of ads. These sites were considered low quality and could be considered toxic. Regardless of their traffic, they could damage your site’s reputation.

Not only were changes made to push backlinks from sites that had substance, but additional changes were made to check the relevance of linked sites. Backlinks to your sites should come from sites whose content is related to the content or topic of your site.

The wickedness of backlinks

The rules for backlinks will continue to evolve. The general rule is that a link to your site should only be added to another site if it is relevant to that site’s readers. If the site is linked, you shouldn’t have to do any of the following, which can be flagged as bad backlinking practices. Simply put, here are the things you should avoid doing when building backlinks:

Commercial links

Trade links are bad. Just as you need to be careful about what sites link to you, you need to be equally careful about the sites you link to. Links to unrelated or low quality sites can also be bad for your site.

Pay for a backlink

If you pay for a backlink or pay to be listed on an exchange, you may be penalized. The payment can include commercial links as mentioned in the previous point, or it can be money, services or anything of value.

Create an excessive amount of links

Having a lot of links from a site can also be flagged as unusual. For example, spamming forums or comments can have a negative impact. Forum signatures may result in excessive linking from the forum site. Note that some forum sites, such as StackOverflow, are higher quality and therefore may provide a positive backlink (assuming it’s not marked as nofollow).

Adding links to footers and headers

Links in the footers and headers of a site are a form of excessive linking.

Use automated link generation tools

Although there are automated tools that can help you build links, these can be identified as poor quality links.

Implementing Text Ad Links

Ads are exactly that – ads. Using ads to link to your site can drive traffic due to clicks, but these ads also risk being considered very low-quality content that could be flagged as toxic. The result can be lower search engine rankings.

Having poor quality directory or bookmark listings

Although it may seem great to be listed and linked in directories, if the quality of the directory or bookmarking site is not great, it can hurt your SEO rankings. It should be noted that some directory sites are of higher quality, such as DMoz.

Allow Widget Lists

The same way directories and bookmark sites can be bad; widgets that contain a bunch of links can also be bad news for SEO.

Use native content / advertorials only to build links

One of the most popular ways to get links today is to create a link marketing article and then pay a site to post it.

Hide links

Whether on a low-quality or high-quality site, you should never hide links in a web page’s HTML, CSS, JavaScript, or other markup. Trying to hide a link will often fail.

Keep broken backlinks

If third-party sites link to pages that don’t exist on your site, they’re likely to get a 404 error. These 404 (missing page) errors are also related to backlinking, and you should work to fix them as well.

Prevent a backlink from harming your site…

You may be thinking that if you run all of the above link types, there won’t be many links left for your site. This is not the case. Plus, you can actually allow links from other sites, as well as some of the links above, while avoiding a lot of the risk. You can do this by asking the linking site to tag the link so that it doesn’t impact SEO rankings. This reporting is done by adding the use of the ‘rel’ tag in the link. For example, if you linked to HTMLGoodies, but didn’t want the link to cause damage, you could add rel=’nofollow’ as shown:


By adding rel=’no tracking’ you are telling search engines to ignore the link. If there are toxic sites linked to yours, you can check the site to see if a “nofollow” is included with the link. If so, it shouldn’t hurt you. Likewise, if a good site links to you and adds the “nofollow” to the link, chances are you won’t get any SEO value from the link.

So what’s left to get backlinks?

This article has talked about a multitude of things to avoid when building backlinks. While backlinks are important, there seems to be very little that can be done to build good backlinks. The reality is that it’s hard to get backlinks unless you do the most important SEO step – creating great content.

If you create great content, people will be more likely to link to it and access it from their own sites. All SEO strategies, including backlinking, should start with quality content. In a future article, I will cover tools that can be used to find backlinks as well as qualify them.

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