Links are the roads that connect sites to each other, across the Net highway. Links move traffic through a site. Links move traffic from one site to another.
Most people understand the general way a link works — you click it and you’re taken to a new page (or another part of the same page). Sometimes that new page is on your domain and sometimes it’s on someone else’s domain.
If you’re a website owner, you should care about links… and there is a special type of link that matters a little bit more than the rest… it’s called a backlink. What is a backlink? It’s a link that comes from another site to yours. An inbound link (or incoming link).
Why are they so important? Because search engines use the number of backlinks to a particular website to help determine its importance (backlinks are part of a search engine’s overall tally to try to determine popularity, relevance, importance, etc.). The more backlinks, the more “relevant” a website.
But more relevant for what? A lot of folks miss this part of the backlink equation. The text in which the link appears (aka “anchor text”) is very important. In other words, the words that comprise the hyperlink matter. For example, someone might link to a website by having the website URL text be the link (i.e. http://www.jlbworks.com). Or, someone might link to a website by using the company’s name (i.e. JLB, LLC). Those are very basic ways of linking.
So back to the question above… the more links, the more relevant a site… but relevant for what? For the content on the site. Folks click on a link because they are looking for information. If a link to a web page uses keywords or descriptive phrases relating to content on the site being linked to (stay with me), then the link itself is determined to have greater weight. Greater than if the link is “just” a URL or a company name. Make sense?
So, the more descriptive and accurate the words in the link, the more weight the search engines will give to the site being linked to. The key, of course, is that the link words actually pertain to content on the web page being linked to. So, the higher the correlation between the text in the link and the text on the page being linked to, the stronger the link and the more weight the search engine results page (serp) receives. (example: web design … or graphic design … or copywriting). For more about SERPs, click here.
If you want to get a general sense of what pages link to your website, you can go to Google and type links:yourdomain.com. It’s definitely not a flawless or comprehensive view by any means, but it should give you a sense of what’s out there, linking to your site. If you want a more detailed accounting, then consult with a professional SEO consultant (like JLB). Or, if you’re the DIY type, you can check out Google’s “starter guide.” (sweet diggitty!)