One area of SEO that we constantly work on is backlinks. A backlink or “link” for short, is clickable text on a website that links back to your website. We get countless questions on backlinks and the value of links in the search engines today.
For nearly 20 years Google has used backlinks as a ranking signal for keyword searches. Even laymen with little SEO knowledge now know that backlinks are the key to ranking in Google. Though this is common knowledge, what most people don’t know is that backlinks in the eyes of Google changed significantly in late 2013.
Our team discovered what Google changed after 3 weeks of reverse engineering and testing. Though we cannot reveal all of the information we gleaned from our tests, the entire world of SEO and backlinks was flipped upside-down when Google made this change. We hope to dispel some myths about backlinks and we also hope to give you an idea of what a good backlink is today and how bad backlinks can harm your domain permanently.
Important Things to Remember About Backlinks:
- Not all backlinks are good
- Too many backlinks can be problematic
- Anchor text is important
- Site quality and content is paramount
- Spammy backlink tactics cause harm
Not All Backlinks Are Good
Surprise! Not all backlinks are good! Most SEO service companies still regard all backlinks as good. That’s because for a long time Google did relatively nothing about spammy backlinks and, in fact, often rewarded the spammiest link-builders. That is no longer true.
In fact, Google has found a way to catch spammy link builders and it is punishing those sites using spammy tactics. Backlinks have been treated as a positive ranking signal for so long that relatively few companies have evaluated how Google has changed its ranking scheme.
Most SEO companies have never questioned the status quo of backlinks. Today we would estimate that 90% of SEO companies have not changed their backlinking tactics. If you are working with a company that has not kept up with the changes in Google, you will be surprised to find your site plummeting in the search results.
Too Many Backlinks Can Be Problematic
Too many backlinks can be a problem. Google is no longer concerned about how many backlinks you have. It’s difficult to explain this to some SEOs because they cannot fathom that Google would make such a drastic change. However, through our research, we have discovered that Google wants to see quality over quantity and if there are too many links built in an unnatural way Google will catch you and penalize your site. Our team proved this in late 2013 with our research.
Anchor Text is Important
The anchor text for your backlinks is also extremely important. Constantly bombarding sites with the same anchor text will not help you. Google wants to see natural links being built for real people. Any attempt to fool the search engines will be frowned upon. It isn’t worth the risk.
Site Quality & Content is Paramount
Google wants to see links coming from high-quality sites that are associated with the outbound link given. Therefore, if you have a link from a completely unrelated site, it won’t be as valuable as a link from a related site. For example, if you are a carpet cleaning company and you are getting links from an internet forum about celebrities, something would seem fishy to the search engines. And rightly so! Why would a forum discussing celebrities want to link to your carpet cleaning company? It doesn’t make sense to users and it won’t make sense to the search engines either.
Spammy Backlink Tactics Cause Harm
The bottom line is that spammy backlink tactics can cause real harm to your domain. The longer you allow the spammy techniques to continue, the more work you will have to get those spammy links removed. If you notice that your current SEO service is building spammy backlinks, you should notify them immediately and discontinue service. These tactics will harm your rankings!
Because Google made a change in its algorithm to penalize spammy backlink techniques, it also released a tool for webmasters to “disavow” spammy links. However, Google’s disavow tool is intended as a last resort for webmasters that cannot get the spammy links removed manually. The process to remove spammy links is lengthy and time-consuming. Therefore, the process is also expensive.