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Improve Your SEO Skills: A Guide to Understanding Backlinks

backlinks text on chalkboard

There are some schools of thought that contend that backlinks are irrelevant these days. Despite the confusion over their use, backlinks are just as important as they were when Google’s Panda and Penguin were terrorizing black-hatters in the early 2000-teens.

Backlinks are still just as important, but in a very different way and they no longer require Jedi-level SEO skills to master them.

How Google Used To Treat Backlinks

Firstly, let’s not forget that Google may have lit the fire, but others were burning it just as bright. Back in the earlier days of SEO (Search Engine Optimization), right up to late 2013, Google was:

• counting how many backlinks your web pages had
• measuring which websites they came from
• judging your website by which links it gave out.

Google was doing this, and so was every other search engine from Ask to Yahoo.

As a result, backlinks became so valuable that soccer websites were selling them for 600 Euros during the soccer World Cup. Not only would certain backlinks rank up your web page, but they would also elevate your entire website with an almost halo effect.

Many assumed that maleficence on one page would have the opposite effect, but it never seemed consistent. After all, a lot of spammy websites were still getting through even after the Penguin update.

How Does Google Treat Backlinks Now?

Thanks to the Hummingbird update (2013), its subsequent iterations, and Penguin 7 (2016), Google:

• doesn’t count your backlinks
• doesn’t judge your website as a whole
• regards a no-follow link as powerless as a followed backlink.

The problem is that some people read a paragraph similar to this and start to think that backlinks are useless. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Here are the ways that Google handles your backlinks. Hopefully, you will see why not only are backlinks important but that backlinks from guest posts are as important as ever.

Getting Your Pages Indexed and Crawled More Often

The first and most obvious benefit is that your web pages will be crawled and indexed more often. When Google crawls the linked website, it follows the link to your website and crawls your site too. Each time the other website is crawled, your website is crawled too.

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If there is a no-follow link directed at your website, then the link is still followed and your web pages are crawled. Google uses its discretion as to if it indexes what it sees on your website. That is why you can still buy quality backlink services where no-follow links are sold alongside followed links (if no-follow links are what you require).

Show the Search Engines You Can Draw Traffic From Numerous Sources

The Hummingbird update prioritizes popularity and the user experience for SERPS. Drawing traffic from just one location suggests that you have a direct hand in where the traffic comes from, even if that traffic is coming from Google itself. If you are receiving traffic from numerous sources, Google assumes that your website is popular and starts ranking it up in the search engines as a result.

Google monitors where you get your traffic from using a wide variety of means from harvesting data from Chrome users, to using your own search console account. Traffic from numerous sources means almost anywhere is valid. This means even affiliate advertising will help you rank up the search engine results.

Nevertheless, the most varied sources of traffic that you have a hand in controlling are links from other websites, which makes things like backlinks from guest posts, comment sections, and forums very useful.

Improve Your SEO Skills Because More Traffic Means More Popularity

Let’s say you are drawing traffic from Google, search bots, apps, etc., with the use of traditional or over the top SEO. That is fine, but the more traffic you have suggests your website is more popular.

Even if you only gain a small trickle of traffic from each backlink, it still adds traffic. This helps elevate you above websites that are paying social media affiliate fees or are posting paid ads to draw traffic to their site.

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Benefits From Other Search Engines, Apps, Crawlers, and Spiders Still Apply

As hinted at earlier, Google may have changed the way it works slightly, but others have not. Even though Bing (and by association Yahoo) have access to enough big data, Bing is still using traditional SEO, and so are many apps, online crawlers, etc.

This means that backlinks still matter in the traditional sense to these platforms. This is especially true when you remember that some web crawlers/spiders use links to discover websites/products/services. All these elements come together to send more traffic to your website, which again makes it appear more popular so that Google ranks it up the search engine results.

Does Page Authority Still Matter?

If we are only referring to page authority as Google defines it and not the page authority metrics that websites such as Moz created themselves, then things like website authority and page authority do not matter at all…with just one proviso.

The Google update Penguin 7 still doesn’t want you linking from link farms (if they still exist). Consequently, Google may still punish you if it appears that you are getting links from websites that Google refuses to index.

Low-quality websites are crawled by Google but Google decides they shouldn’t be on their search engine results. If you have backlinks from banned websites, then their effect on your website’s SEO will be negligible.

Backlinks From Websites And Guest Posts Are Important

Other than the many benefits listed in this article, backlinks from websites and guest posts are important because they are the very last determining factor that you have direct control over.

You may have control over your on-page SEO, and you may be able to stimulate interest over social media, but backlinks are ever-present reminders to the search engines that your website is popular and is still drawing traffic from numerous sources.

If you want to keep on upping your SEO know-how, be sure to bookmark our blog.