Friday, June 19, 2009

What Is A Backlink?

If somebody likes your article, they'll probably bookmark it If they really like your article, they'll tell others about it.

For instance, further down this article, I'm going to tell you about my favorite marketing guru, Seth Godin, and in that section, I will provide a link to his blog. That link is called a "backlink." Not long after I post this, bots from Google or other search engines, will crawl through this site and they will make note of that backlink.

The backlink info will go into Google's databases, and next time Google reviews page rankings, it will use backlink data as a part of how it figures out how important Mr. Godin's blog is to the universe. (Google, btw, doesn't review page rankings every day. There are certain things they run every three months, and other things ever six months. That's one reason your SEO efforts don't often have an immediate effect, and also why sometimes you will get a sudden bump.)

Backlinks aren't all there is to deciding pagerank, but they are pretty important. The thing to remember, though, is that Google doesn't just judge number of backlinks - they put particular emphasis on quality and relevance. This is why it is not a good idea to try to cheat the system. Google is really good at spotting these cheats these days.

Now... how does Google judge the quality and relevance of my backlink to Seth Godin?

Well, I'm pretty darned sure that this blog, since it is brand new, has a ranking of zero. I'm not going to do him much good based on my reputation. If Seth posted a link to MY blog, he could do me a lot of good, even if it were a junk link. He's a best selling author with millions of subscribers. He's a marketing guy, and they made an action figure of him, for goodness sakes! But he's not going to link to me unless I say or do something really "remarkable" (which is on of his buzzwords and the real reason he is being mentioned later on here). And that's part of why his backlinks mean something.

But my backlink does mean something based on other factors. This page is a "quality" page, in that it has an actual post, and it's a long and thorough one. This isn't just a bunch of links. And the text of this post not only talks about Seth himself, but the main subject of this post is related to the main subject of his blog - which is marketing and word-of-mouth.

So my backlink may not have a high rank, but it is high quality.

Which brings me to Seth Godin himself. One of his major precepts is that shortcut marketing is dead. You can no longer buy people's attention. The key to marketing, he says, is the Purple Cow. A purple cow is something that gets your attention to the point that you feel like remarking on it to someone else. In otherwords, it's something "remarkable."

The most important thing you can do to get backlinks is to write an article that is so interesting or so useful or so perfect for their needs, that they feel like telling others about it. For an eHow article, people are most likely to remark on an article that made their day. Maybe it helped them resolve a probelm, or maybe it just showed them how some task they were dreading wasn't so hard to do. Maybe it finally explained something that had been frustrating them for years.

If you're going to make someone's day, your title and keywords have to not only match your subject, your article has to truly pay off on those keywords. The people looking for you have to be able to find you, and they won't if you warp your title to include keywords that have a higher CPC but doesn't really draw the same audience as the article should. If you attract a higher paying audience who isn't really looking for what you have to say, they WON'T backlink to you.

You get the most leverage by creating content that will attract the people most likely to say something about your article.

Later I will post about ways you can sew a few backlinks of your own.

The Backlinks Series:
What is a Backlink?
Backlinks - blogging
Backlinks - signature files
Backlinks - commenting

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