Just how important are backlinks?

We’re often asked by clients about the value of getting good backlinks to their site and our advice doesn’t change. For your site to succeed you need good backlinks, but there seems to be some misunderstanding about what constitutes a good backlink.

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A while ago we came across a really good article called ‘The Anatomy of a Hyperlink’ by Dr. Michael Haley, in which he explains all about internal and external links. Now rather than try to recreate the article here we originally provided a link to it (the post has since been removed).

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So why did we do that?

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Well, when the article was written we decided to ask a question at the bottom of the post about the value of no follow links. The essence was, if we link from our site out to someone else’s site, is it better to have them as ‘follow’ or ‘no follow’ links?

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Now the difference between the two types is essentially whether you let Google pass any of your page reputation and rank onto the receiving page or not. By default all links are ‘follow’ unless you specifically put a rel=“nofollow” value into your HTML code.

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The reply was very useful as it said that using normal ‘follow’ links are actually a benefit to a website in helping it rank.

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So where is all this going? Well, when we did an analysis recently of our backlink profile we found the link from http://drhaley.com was in there as a ‘no follow’ link. But the interesting part is that whilst we have three links from this page two of them are ‘no follow’ and one of them is a ‘follow’ link. Despite this the search engines are still picking up the link and attributing some value to our site because of it.

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The reason? Quite simple really, it’s a relevant and contextual backlink. We’re an SEO firm and we work on backlinks every day. Google knows that SEO firms would be interested in backlinks and the fact that we have commented on, and received a reply from an article about backlinks means that we are engaging with the wider community.

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If this link was on a blog about molluscs for example, even if it was a ‘follow’ link there would be no real value to us. We really have nothing to do with molluscs and Google knows this.

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Now not every link back to your site will be relevant and contextual; after all you can’t control what people say about you on the web nor indeed how they choose to link to your site. But by linking out from your site to sites that are relevant, and getting a link back (like the one’s we’ve given Dr Haley in this article), you can improve both your backlink profile and your website ranking. And if your site moves up because you’re sharing the love then that can’t be a bad thing, can it?