What do backlinks do for my website?
Backlinks are, and have always been, one of the biggest indicators to the search engines that your website is popular. The more inbound links a webpage receives, the more the search engines think that you are an authority on the content of your webpage.
Its not just about quantity of links anymore though, links are only considered as an indicator if they are from a “authority” website in the first place. So your backlinks will count more when they are from websites that the search engines already deem an authority.
Good quality links, are one of the major factors in the way that the search engines rank you for a particular phrase in the search results.
I have backlinks, but still do not rank for my main keyphrase
Backlinks, however, are not the only factor that the search engines take into consideration when ranking you. The links that point back to you have to match the content of your website. And the content of your website has to be a unique authority on the search phrase.
There may be many reasons why you are not ranking in the search results but lets look through some of the common mistakes that people make when building their website.
Your website is being blocked by yourself!
Yikes, you say. How can this be? It is very easy to make a mistake when creating a robots.txt file for example, or placing a meta tag without knowing what it actually does.
If you need to generate a robotos.txt file, then you can use an online resource to create it for you - http://www.robotsgenerator.com/ . Google search console also has a robots.txt tester, so you can make sure there are no errors in your file that could be making the search engines ignore you.
The image above is from https://yoast.com/wordpress-robots-txt-example/ where you can find more info.
A simple line in the code of your webpage could block all or anyone of the search engines individually.
< meta name="robots" content="noindex">
Or to be block a particular search engine
< meta name="googlebot" content="noindex">
This simple line of code can be the cause of your website not being listed at all in any search.
Fortunately they are easy to fix, as all you have to do is remove the meta tag, or fix your robots file. The search engine robotos will then come by again and start to index your site.
Problems with the content of your website
Have you written enough text for the webpage you are promoting? Your potential customers will want to see that you are an expert in your field. And, the search engines will want to know that you are authoritative about your subject. So writing lots of unique text helps to show your customers that you know your stuff, and the search engines will rank you better.
Writing your text around your main keyphrase also has to correlate to the meta tags coded in your webpage. Basically you want to give a good experience to the user that has come from the search engine. This sends a positive signal to the search engine letting them know they have done their job well. In return they will reward you with better SEO value for that keyphrase.
When a user does a search, they see the search listings, and each result will display at least 3 things from your website.
- The page TITLE
- The meta description
- The URL
It is very good practice to have your main keyphrase in all 3 of the above.
When the user clicks through to your website, they expect to see the correct information correlating to the search results. So a clear heading for the page (a H1 tag) with similar wording to the search results will help the user feel relaxed in knowing that they have found the correct information. They are then much more likely to spend time on your webpage, and also click though to other pages.
This lowers your overall bounce rate and raises the time people spend on your site, both of which are ranking signals.
Poor Quality Backlinks
So you have gone out and bought lots of cheap backlinks without knowing what you are doing. Or, you have employed an SEO agency that do not put much effort in to working for you.
Bad news! You may have been penalized by the search engines, and ranked very low for any of your key words used in these links.
Your backlinks should come from quality sources, and be manually placed by the user. The content where the link is placed should be relevant to your own content and in the same niche. The webpage that links to you, should have a good backlink profile, so they can pass on quality SEO value and trust to your webpage.
If you find that you have been penalized by the search engines, then there are ways to go about removing the penalty. One of them is to gather a list of all the “bad” links, and submit it as a disavow list. The search engines will then eventually remove all reference between you and the linking sources.
It may be just a case of the links being poor quality however, and you have not been penalized. The links may not be harming your website at all, but they also will not be giving you any benefit in terms of SEO.
Before you start building backlinks
After making sure that your website if constructed correctly, there are no bad links pointing at your site, and your content is well written and unique. Now there are some technical areas of web design that should be considered, to make sure your website is constructed in a way that the search engines can read all your content, navigate through your entire website, and so index you efficiently in their search results.
Web Design Considerations
From an SEO point of view, the search engines know they are doing a good job and proving the right info to their users when:
- The user does not go back and try other sites for the info after using your site.
- Spends some time on your website, and finds it easy to get the info he/she wants, no matter what device or screen size they have.
So the design of a website has to allow for all users and display information to them in an easy to take in fashion. The website should be viewable on any type of device, browser and size of screen. Having a responsive design is now a key element to every website.
Your website should load fast for your customer. So any elements that are large should be loaded after the webpage has rendered on the screen. So make sure that the core info of the page is laid out in a nice way, and then load other graphics and scripts after this. This way on a slow connection the user can get on with reading the information on your page, then when the other elements load, it will enhance the experience.
File names & URL structure
As stated above, having your keywords in your URL is good for a number of reasons. It helps the user to understand what info he is about to see when he lands on your webpage. And, it helps with SEO in ranking your webpage for your keyphrase.
So, your URL either includes the name of the HTML page or it has been htaccess altered to show something more user/keyword friendly. But it is also important to name other files that show on your website with keyword rich names.
Images are indexed by the search engines for image search, so naming your image with words that both describe the image and have your keywords is going to help bring traffic to your site. With images, you can also add extra data like ALT tags. An ALT tag is meant for screen readers, so that the reader can understand what the image is. This is a great place to take advantrage and write what the image is about for the user and to add keywords for the search engines too.
Meta Data & Page Title
This is one of the most effective things you can do “on-page” to optimize the way your website is ranked in the search results. Your page TITLE should be 50 to 60 characters in length. It should contain your main keyphrase at the beginning of the TITLE. It should read well to the user, however do not keyword stuff it. You can repeat a word in here once but no more.
Your meta description is what you use to sell your page to the user. It is displayed, along with the page TITLE, in the search results. It should explain to the user what the content of your page is about, and entice them to click through. Your meta description should be 150 to 160 words in length.
Once your website is technically sound, and all on-site SEO has been completed, then and only then should you start link building. Making sure that the groundwork has been done correctly is paramount in any SEO campaign. The user after all, has to have a good experience when they arrive at your website, or they are simply not going to buy your product or service.
Hope you found this guide helpful :)