Your goal is to attract visitors to your website. Visitors find your website largely through inquiring upon search engines, such as Google and Bing. A search engine will rank the entries that result from the search according to the criteria programmed into its software. What, you may ask, are these criteria, and how do I exploit them to achieve a good result?
The easiest-to-understand criterion is paid advertising – you pay the search engine big bucks, you get on Page One of the search results. This is also by far the most expensive method to achieve a high ranking.
What do you do if you don’t have money to shovel into the gaping maw of paid ranking? The answer is that you employ the techniques of search engine optimization (SEO) – enhanced visibility of a website due to organic (i.e. unpaid) search results. For SEO to work, its practitioners (confusingly also referred to as SEOs – search engine optimizers) must thoroughly understand those search engine ranking criteria we just mentioned. One of the top criteria used by search engines to rank search results is to count backlinks.
Backlinks are hyperlinks from other websites to your website. From your website’s perspective, they are incoming links. If you think of backlinks as votes, higher incoming backlink-counts “elect” your website to a high search ranking. Well, sort of. Actually, it’s not just a question of the number of inbound links you have – otherwise, everyone would simply arrange to flood their websites with inbound links (“linkspam”). Search engines are too sophisticated to fall for this ploy. The key to a successful backlink strategy is the quality of the backlinks.
What are high-quality backlinks? They must be structured to quietly pass through the filters installed in search engine software. Characteristics of these under the radar links are:
1) They are stealthy. Quality backlinks don’t draw attention to themselves. They reside comfortably in the milieu of the surrounding content. Ideally, the only way you know that you’ve just read a backlink is its physical appearance – underlined and blue. In all other ways, the backlink wording that houses the hypertext link (known as the anchor text) is completely appropriate to the context of the topic.
2) They originate from authoritative websites. This is somewhat subjective, but for various reasons, certain websites are considered authoritative by search engines, and thus receive high search rankings. Authoritative websites publish well-regarded content on specific topics. The nice thing about outbound links from authoritative websites is that they disproportionately influence search engine ranking algorithms. In effect, they infuse the target website with some of their own mojo.
3) Links are worth more if there is only one outbound link per page.
In summary, a few high quality links are worth more than a blizzard of linkspam. Armed with this information, you now have a basis for evaluating different SEO strategies and choosing one that is more likely to be effective.