This guide will explain how and why backlinks work.
Backlinks do work when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO) and getting to the top of the search results pages (SERPs). They are necessary if you want to move anywhere on the search engine rankings and gain organic search traffic.
However, not all backlinks provide link authority. For example, if your domain has no relevance to the linking sites, then you'll more likely lose your current ranking position than move any higher. Website backlinks need to be relevant, diverse, and high-quality in origin in order to work.
How Backlinks Work
Having high-quality backlinks pointing toward your web pages guarantees a place in the top-ranking spots of Google and other search engines. A backlink is merely a hyperlink provided from one website to another, but they hold a lot of power in terms of SEO.
In terms of how backlinks work, it's easiest to think of them as how web pages review one another. Webmasters can add external links to pages that they feel add value to their own site. This way, they are effectively conveying that they believe the other website to be a trustworthy source of information.
If you gain a backlink from a trustworthy site with high domain authority, it can help boost your website in many ways. Not only does it send you organic traffic, but it also convinces Google of your worth.
Google bots are constantly crawling the internet to index new pages and increase the rankings of established ones. These bots will visit your web page whenever they come across a new backlink pointing toward it. So, to get Google to pay any heed to your SEO, you need to acquire backlinks that it'll easily come across, i.e., backlinks on popular sites.
If a Google bot deems the backlink to be justified - as in, providing value, reflecting the anchor text, and generally being a well-presented source of information - then it will grant you higher link equity.
With greater link equity, you can overtake your competitors. If you've got a higher number of backlinks than all your competitors, then you can reach the top of the web page results!
When do Backlinks Work?
In terms of how long it takes for high-quality links to move your site up the rankings, it can take anywhere between a matter of weeks and a year - sometimes even longer! Even when you gain links from the most authoritative websites, it can take a while before you see the fruits of your labor.
If you're ranking for particularly competitive keywords, you can expect only minor movements over the first year.
But still, you've got to have faith in your backlinking strategy. Particularly if your backlink profile fulfills the following criteria:
- The backlink is not from a spam site - Not all backlinks are beneficial, particularly when it comes to spammy sites. Spam sites include gambling and pharmaceutical websites. When one of these sites link to your domain, Google may think you're a spam site, too.
- The backlinks bring you lots of referral traffic - You can check the level of organic traffic a backlink is providing you on Google Analytics.
- The backlink arrives from a relevant source - The best backlinks are embedded in relevant content. Anything that comes from an irrelevant site could be harmful to your site. The anchor text should also contain a target keyword.
When do Backlinks Not Work?
It would be wrong to say that all backlinks work. You could put your maximum effort into a link-building campaign, but wind up with little-to-no backlink power to show for it. Why do some backlinks grant you ranking power, while others keep you bogged in the same position? There could be down to several reasons, including the following:
You have a lack of link diversity
You should aim to make your link profile appear as natural as possible. Even though you are employing link-building strategies, you need to make your links as evenly mixed as possible. This way, your link portfolio still has the appearance of coming about naturally, rather than being forced together by a link-building strategy.
For one, you should have a good dofollow and nofollow link ratio. If 95% of your links are dofollow, and only 5% are nofollow, search engines will get suspicious about your domain. However, if you have a more balanced ratio of 70% dofollow links and 30% nofollow links, then Google will believe that no link-building strategy has taken place.
For this reason, you need to check your link diversity often and remove links as necessary. It could be the reason why you're not ranking.
You have lots of backlinks but few referring domains
If the entirety of your backlink profile can be traced back to only one or two websites, you're unlikely to receive any ranking power. Quality backlinks are key, but these links need to originate from various sources. The more links you have coming from a single website, the worse it is for your SEO.
Referring domains is another ranking factor that search engines take into account. This figure reflects how many individual websites are pointing toward your content, regardless of how many backlinks each of these sites provide. If your referring domain count is low, your ranking power will be reflectively low.
You can check for referring domains on Google Search Console.
Your backlinks have no topical relevance
When judging the value of a backlink, search engines will consider several factors, relevancy being one of them. Not only is attaining relevant backlinks essential for pulling in your target audience, but they also provide some page context for Google before visiting your site.
Without any relevance, search engines won't know how to interpret your page and won't be able to grant you any ranking power.
You've created keyword cannibalization
Keyword cannibalization occurs when you have two (or sometimes more) pages that are ranking for the same keywords. This is bad for SEO purposes as search engines are unsure which page to rank or may even interpret it as duplicate content. This can prevent your entire website from ranking altogether.
If you have backlinks that are pointing toward pages affected by keyword cannibalization, it is unlikely that either will gain any ranking power from the links.
You have no internal links
Connecting the individual pages of your website via internal links can help search engines understand your domain. It also allows for link equity to be divided between your pages, which helps optimize your entire website.
Without internal links, only a select few pages of your site gain power, while other pages are neglected. If you're wondering why your product/services pages aren't receiving any ranking power, it could be because you haven't provided any internal links to them from your resource pages.
You have weak anchor text
Anchor text is another factor that Google bots consider when determining the value and relevance of a page. Prime anchor text should include a keyword that your page ranks for or a word/selection of words that is directly relevant to your content.
Anchor texts can either consist of a long-tail keyword, generic keyword, branded keyword, keyword partial match, or an exact match keyword. To boost your rankings, you need to make sure you create anchor text diversity. Meaning that you have both branded keywords and long-tail keywords linked to your pages.
If your backlink keyword selection is weak and uninformative, then your backlinks will likely provide you with no ranking power.
You've valued quantity over quality
Although attaining a wide range of backlinks is important, it's only the quality backlinks that are going to take you to the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs). As we've stated, incoming links need to be relevant to your content. But, to ensure that they make any real impact on your site, the linking site needs to have high domain authority (DA).
The problem with attaining inbound links from high-ranking sites is they're a lot harder to secure than links from low-ranking sites.
To give your website a boost, get Link City to perform a link audit and find you relevant niche edits and guest blogging spots that will guarantee you long-term ranking power.
Backlinks do work - you just need to know how to properly get them and remain patient for their link power to come into effect. Make sure to check your backlink profile periodically to make sure it only consists of authoritative links from other websites in your niche. Also, be prepared to disavow any spammy links pointing toward your content.
It can sometimes take well over a year for a backlink to have full effect. Refer to this article to make sure you're attracting the right kinds of backlinks in the meantime.