A backlink is a link back to your site. A link means that a site is embedding the url (your page address) into one of it’s pages, so that readers can click through from that site to yours. Example
Internal and External Backlinks
Backlinks are often described as either “internal backlinks” or “external backlinks”. The difference between the two is that an internal backlink is a link from one part of a specific domain (website) to another part of that same site. Example
An external backlink is a link that comes from a separate website. Generally when people are talking about how to get backlinks, they are speaking about external backlinks.
Backlinks are valued for two reasons. They transfer visitors from one page to another, and they transfer influence called PageRank. Visitors are transferred when they click a link on one page of a site and are taken to another. Influence is transferred through a system often likened to voting, but “transfer” is probably not the right word to use, as it leads to a common misconception:
A page on a site will never lose or leak PageRank to another. In other words, you have a certain amount of votes based on your own PageRank, when you cast those votes, your own PageRank is not lowered.
PageRank is used by search engines to determine the importance of a particular page of a site (not the entire site). Backlinks are sought after largely because they can raise the PageRank of the page being linked to, which results in increased rankings by the search engines for that page. This makes it more likely that the page will be found by users on Google or other search engines.
So, basically, the more backlinks a page on your site has, the higher that page will rank in the search engines and the more traffic you will receive from user’s searching for terms or phrases that are contained within it.
Dofollow and Nofollow
To further complicate things, backlinks can also be “dofollow” or “nofollow”. This was created to provide the ability to link without passing on “votes”.
Let’s say you wanted to write a blog post about a company or site you were highly critical of, and you included a link for your visitors, you’d actually be promoting this site by “voting” and boosting it’s PageRank. Nofollow provides an option to create a link for your visitors to click, but not make an endorsement of the destination. What were initially just called backlinks then began to be referred to as “dofollow backlinks”.
Nofollow is an attribute placed on the link in html (the stuff “under the hood” when it comes to websites, that you normally do not see). If you know how to work with html yourself, you can add this attribute onto your links. But don’t worry if you don’t, because in most cases this isn’t something you need to worry about.
If you’re wondering what this has to do with you, it’s important for the following reason: In their pursuit of backlinks, people often do not take into account that most blogs and even many profiles they sign up with to add links to, make these links nofollow automatically.
In other words, not being able to distinguish nofollow from dofollow links can have you spending time trying to promote your site in places where it won’t gain any PageRank. There’s some debate about the value of nofollow backlinks, but what we do know is that Google claims they are not used in any way to calculate PageRank, unlike their dofollow cousins.
When discussing backlinks as a way to increase ranking in the search engines and traffic, generally, people are referring to external dofollow backlinks.
How Do You Know Which Sites Have Dofollow Links?
So, you know that what you need for your site is primarily external dofollow backlinks, but how do you know which sites have dofollow links?
Use a plugin called SEOQuake. It’s completely free, and very popular. It has an option to put a line (called a strike-through) over links that are nofollow. This allows you to easily identify if you’re going to get a dofollow link from a forum, profile, blog or anything else.
How Do I Check My Backlinks?
If you’re wondering how you find out exactly how many backlinks you have, most people use Yahoo! Site Explorer, because it updates more regularly and is more comprehensive than Google. You can, if you prefer, check backlinks in Google’s search engine quickly by typing pasting the url to the page you’d like to check and adding link: in front. For example link:hubapges.com will show a list of all the sites that link to HubPages.
If you’ve installed SEOQuake, you can see your backlinks even easier, as the plugin can be configured to display a link to them quite easily.
Which Backlinks Are the Best?
The best backlinks are dofollow external backlinks from a page that has high PageRank. Any backlinks will still provide you some benefit, but those particular backlinks should be your focus.
Note: Despite popular confusion to the contrary, backlinks from pages on .edu or .gov domains do not have a higher influence on PageRank. The type of domain or popularity of the site is irrelevant to PageRank calculations.
What Do You Think?
Do you believe Google’s claim that nofollow backlinks have no bearing on PageRank?
What is your backlink strategy?