If you’re just getting started with SEO, you’re likely to hear a lot about “backlinks,” “external and internal links,” or “link building.” After all, backlinks are an important SEO ranking factor for SEO success, but as a newbie, you may be wondering: what are backlinks? SEO changes all the time — do backlinks still matter? Well, wonder no more. Say hello to your definitive guide to backlinks and their significance in SEO. 

“What does mean relevancy?”, – you may ask. Let’s imagine that you have blog about website building tips, but you have found an authoritative site about makeup trends. According to Google, this source won`t be a perfect one for you, because high authority sites should be closely related to yours. In other cases, it won’t work. The same thing goes for the content around which your link is inserted.
There’s no way to speed up the process. To encourage your PageRank to grow, keep making quality content that others will want to link to. You may also consider participating regularly in social media communities to get the word out about the new content you are creating. (Social media participation itself won’t help your PageRank but it will help other humans know your content exists, which can help inspire an increase in natural inbound linking.)
After finding websites that have good metrics, you have to make sure the website is related to your site. For each competitor backlink, try to understand how your competitor got that link. If it was a guest article, send a request to become a contributor as well. If it was a product review by a blogger, contact the writer and offer them a good deal in exchange for a similar review.
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Matt, this is an excellent summary. I finally got around to reading “The Search” by John Battelle and it was very enlightening to understand much of the academia behind what led to the creation of Backrub.. er Google.Looking at how many times the project was almost shutdown due to bandwidth consumption (> 50% of what the university could offer at times) as well as webmasters being concerned that their pages would be stolen and recreated. It’s so interesting to see that issues we see today are some of the same ones that Larry and Sergey were dealing with back then. As always, thanks for the great read Matt!
Before I start this, I am using the term ‘PageRank’ as a general term fully knowing that this is not a simple issue and ‘PageRank’ and the way it is calculated (and the other numerous methods Google use) are multidimensional and complex. However, if you use PageRank to imply ‘weight’ it make it a lot simpler. Also, ‘PageRank sculpting’ (in my view) is meant to mean ‘passing weight you can control’. Now… on with the comment!
On another note, I would like to express my contempt for Google and its so called terms of service regarding the legitimate acquisition of links. why should it care if links are paid for or not? Thanks to the invention of pagerank, it is Google itself that has cancelled out reciprocal linking and has stopped people giving out links due to fear of them losing pagerank, and blogs and forums are worthless thanks to the nofollow trick. so it is now impossible to get decent links organically, without having to pay for them, and those who do give out free links are considered fools. Google has brought this dilemma on itself, and yet it seems like punishing us for trying to get links other than freely! Face facts, no one is going to link to someone without getting a link in return! google has invented pagerank which is like a currency, and so people expect to be paid for links, as giving out links devalues their pagerank and so compensation is now required. It is forcing people to use underhand methods to get links, mostly the ‘paid’ variety.
A disadvantage of digital advertising is the large amount of competing goods and services that are also using the same digital marketing strategies. For example, when someone searches for a specific product from a specific company online, if a similar company uses targeted advertising online then they can appear on the customer's home page, allowing the customer to look at alternative options for a cheaper price or better quality of the same product or a quicker way of finding what they want online.

Search engines use complex mathematical algorithms to guess which websites a user seeks. In this diagram, if each bubble represents a website, programs sometimes called spiders examine which sites link to which other sites, with arrows representing these links. Websites getting more inbound links, or stronger links, are presumed to be more important and what the user is searching for. In this example, since website B is the recipient of numerous inbound links, it ranks more highly in a web search. And the links "carry through", such that website C, even though it only has one inbound link, has an inbound link from a highly popular site (B) while site E does not. Note: Percentages are rounded.


It doesn’t mean than you have to advertise on these social media platforms. It means that they belong to that pyramid which will function better thanks to their support. Just secure them and decide which of them will suit your goal better. For example, you can choose Instagram because its audience is the most suitable for mobile devices and bits of advice of their exploitation distribution.
Our SEO professionals are all well-respected thought leaders in the space and have decades of combined experience and include the following credentials: Search Engine Workshop Certification, Google Analytics and Yahoo Certifications, PMP Certification, UNIX Certification, Computer Engineering degrees and MBA’s. Our SEO team members are acclaimed SEO speakers and bloggers. IMI’s SEO team members have been keynote presenters at Pubcon, SMX, SEMCon, Etail, and many more influential conferences.
I would like to know how Google is handling relevancy with so many websites now jumping on the “no follow” wagon? Seems like just about every major website has no follow links, so with the Panda updates this year what’s happening to all that lost link power? Seem’s like this tactic will stagnate the growth of up-and-coming websites on the internet to me. Am I right here?
This is the argument that quickly emerged about blog comments recently. Say I have an article on a blog with 5 links in the editorial copy — some of those links leading back to other content within the blog that I hope to do well. Then I get 35 comments on the article, with each comment having a link back to the commenters’ sites. That’s 40 links in all. Let’s say this particular page has $20 in PageRank to spend. Each link gets 50 cents.
Also, I’ve never found that page rank scultping worked. It might have for smaller sites that have a simple structure to follow. but in case of CMS’s handling a large number of pages and dynamic websites, its not practical to have an intricate graph of how your page rank flows. I mean, even if you did, wouldn’t it be easy and clever if you just leave some thumb rules (like always nofollowing an external link) and leave it to Google for the rest ? Rather ocus on the content ?

And my vital question about Amazon affiliate links. I think many people also wonder about it as well. I have several blogs where I solely write unique content reviews about several Amazon products, nothing more. As you know, all these links are full of tags, affiliate IDs whatsoever (bad in SEO terms). Should I nofollow them all or leave as they are?
There is much discussion in these last few months about reciprocal linking. In the last Google update, reciprocal links were one of the targets of the search engine's latest filter. Many webmasters had agreed upon reciprocal link exchanges, in order to boost their site's rankings with the sheer number of inbound links. In a link exchange, one webmaster places a link on his website that points to another webmasters website, and vice versa. Many of these links were simply not relevant, and were just discounted. So while the irrelevant inbound link was ignored, the outbound links still got counted, diluting the relevancy score of many websites. This caused a great many websites to drop off the Google map.
Wow Brian…I’ve been making and promoting websites full-time since 2006 and just when I thought I’ve seen it all, here you are introducing me to all these innovative ways of getting backlinks that I wasn’t aware of before. I never subscribe to newsletters, but yours is just too good to say no to! Thanks very much for this information. Off to read your other posts now…
Business address listings on Google, Yelp, LinkedIn, Facebook, Yellow Pages, and elsewhere count as backlinks. Perhaps more importantly, they also go a long ways towards helping customers find your business! There are many, many such sites. A good way to approach this once you've gotten the biggies out of the way - Google should be your first priority - is to make a point of setting up a couple new citation profiles every week or so. Search around for updated lists of reputable business listing sites, and use it as a checklist.
Something a lot of people seem to have overlooked was hinted at in Greg Boser’s comment above. Greg identified that there is a major (and unfair) disparity with how authority sites such as Wikipedia disrupt the linkscape by run-of-site nofollows. Once Wikipedia implemented the no-follows, previously high-value links from Wikipedia were rendered worthless making the site less of a target for spammers. Increasingly large sites are following suit in order to cleanse their own pages of spam.
When you comment on a blog post, you are usually allowed to include a link back to your website. This is often abused by spammers and can become a negative link building tool. But if you post genuine comments on high-quality blog posts, there can be some value in sharing links, as it can drive traffic to your site and increase the visibility of your brand.

Before Sharpe ever came into close proximity with the internet marketing field, he was a construction worker. Needing a way to make ends meet, like millions of other people around the world, he turned to a field that could hopefully pay the bills. But try as he might, he was never able to actually get ahead. Until one day, when Sharpe discovered the amount of money being made online by internet marketers, his entire mindset changed.


Meanwhile, the link spam began. People chasing higher PageRank scores began dropping links wherever they could, including into blog posts and forums. Eventually, it became such an issue that demands were raised that Google itself should do something about it. Google did in 2005, getting behind the nofollow tag, a way to prevent links from passing along PageRank credit.
“Google itself solely decides how much PageRank will flow to each and every link on a particular page. In general, the more links on a page, the less PageRank each link gets. Google might decide some links don’t deserve credit and give them no PageRank. The use of nofollow doesn’t ‘conserve’ PageRank for other links; it simply prevents those links from getting any PageRank that Google otherwise might have given them.”
As they noted in their paper, pages stuffed fulled of useless keywords “often wash out any results that a user is interested in.” While we often complain when we run into spammy pages today, the issue was far worse then. In their paper they state that, “as of November 1997, only one of the top four commercial search engines finds itself (returns its own search page in response to its name in the top ten results).” That’s incredibly difficult to imagine happening now. Imagine searching for the word “Google” in that search engine, and not have it pull up www.google.com in the first page of results. And yet, that’s how bad it was 20 years ago.
DisabledGO, an information provider for people with disabilities in the UK and Ireland, hired Agency51 to implement an SEO migration strategy to move DisabledGO from an old platform to a new one. By applying 301 redirects to old URLS, transferring metadata, setting up Google webmaster tools, and creating a new sitemap, Agency 51 was able to successfully transfer DisabledGO to a new platform while keeping their previous SEO power alive. Additionally, they were able to boost visitor numbers by 21% year over year, and the site restructuring allowed DisabledGO to rank higher than competitors. Their case study is available on SingleGrain.com.
Given that “only a tiny percentage of links on the Web use nofollow”, why don’t we just get back to focusing on humans and drop nofollow? It has failed, and given that all it ever was was a tool to manipulate Pagerank, it was bound to do so. Has Google done any tests on its search quality taking nofollow into account vs. not taking it into account, I wonder?
The numbers didn’t quite sit right with me because there didn’t seem to be enough juicy inbound links to the winning page. Then I noticed that two key links were missing from the 10 node chart with the PageRank metrics on it when compared to the previous chart without the metrics. The two missing links are the two coming from node 2 to node 1. Suddenly it all made sense again and it was obvious why that page won. 

We have to remember that Google’s $ model+bots to scour the web have to tow the same line so they can optimize their own pocketbook, balancing a free and open resource – ie. the www, all while taking money from the natural competition that arises from their market share. On the one side, its all about appearing fair and the other, to drive competitive output.
Private corporations use Internet marketing techniques to reach new customers by providing easy-to-access information about their products. The most important element is a website that informs the audience about the company and its products, but many corporations also integrate interactive elements like social networking sites and email newsletters.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the visibility of a website or webpage on a search engine results page (SERP) so as to make a company’s website more discoverable (i.e., on the first page/s), thereby driving traffic and sales. Tedious, involving technical and business decisions, and not guaranteeing results—it nonetheless provides lasting benefits.

Backlink is a link one website gets from another website. Backlinks make a huge impact on a website’s prominence in search engine results. This is why they are considered very useful for improving a website’s SEO ranking. Search engines calculate rankings using multiple factors to display search results. No one knows for sure how much weight search engines give to backlinks when listing results, however what we do know for certain is that they are very important.


Although online marketing creates many opportunities for businesses to grow their presence via the Internet and build their audiences, there are also inherent challenges with these methods of marketing. First, the marketing can become impersonal, due to the virtual nature of message and content delivery to a desired audience. Marketers must inform their strategy for online marketing with a strong understanding of their customer’s needs and preferences. Techniques like surveys, user testing, and in-person conversations can be used for this purpose. 

I like that you said you let PageRank flow freely throughout your site. I think that’s good and I’ve steered many friends and clients to using WordPress for their website for this very reason. With WordPress, it seems obvious that each piece of content has an actual home (perma links) and so it would seem logical that Google and other search engines will figure out that structure pretty easily.
An aesthetically pleasing and informational website is an excellent anchor that can easily connect to other platforms like social networking pages and app downloads. It's also relatively simple to set up a blog within the website that uses well-written content with “keywords” an Internet user is likely to use when searching for a topic. For example, a company that wants to market its new sugar-free energy drink could create a blog that publishes one article per week that uses terms like “energy drink,” “sugar-free,” and “low-calorie” to attract users to the product website.
nofollow is beyond a joke now. There is so much confusion (especially when other engines’ treatment is factored in), I don’t know how you expect a regular publisher to keep up. The expectation seems to have shifted from “Do it for humans and all else will follow” to “Hang on our every word, do what we say, if we change our minds then change everything” and nofollow lead the way. I could give other examples of this attitude (e.g. “We don’t follow JavaScript links so it’s ‘safe’ to use those for paid links”), but nofollow is surely the worst.

Hi Dean! Thanks for the ideas! They are awesome! However, I have a serious doubt about the Scholarship link. I’ve checked a few of those .edu sites.. and now that so many people have followed your tips… those .edu sites have TONS of links to niche sites… even if the link comes from a high DA site.. don’t you think it might be weird in the eyes of google? I don’t know if it might be dangerous to have a link from the same page with hundreds of low quality sites (not all of them, but some for sure).. what do you think? Thanks!


And if you really want to know what are the most important, relevant pages to get links from, forget PageRank. Think search rank. Search for the words you’d like to rank for. See what pages come up tops in Google. Those are the most important and relevant pages you want to seek links from. That’s because Google is explicitly telling you that on the topic you searched for, these are the best.
6. Measurement and analysis. You won’t get far in SEO unless you know how to measure your results, interpret those results, and use your analysis to make meaningful changes to your approach. The best tool for the job is still Google Analytics, especially if you’re new to the game. Spend some time experimenting with different metrics and reports, and read up on Analytics knowledge base articles. There’s a deep world to dive into.

Google has a very large team of search quality raters that evaluate the quality of search results, that gets fed into a machine learning algorithm. Google’s search quality rater guidelines provide plenty of detail and examples of what Google class as high or low quality content and websites, and their emphasis on wanting to reward sites that clearly show their expertise, authority and trust (EAT).
Current search engine optimization focuses on techniques such as making sure that each web page has appropriate title tags and that the content is not "thin" or low-quality. High-quality content is original, authoritative, factual, grammatically correct, and engaging to users. Poorly edited articles with spelling and grammatical errors will be demoted by search engines.
Organic SEO's flip-side offers up a paid method for marketing on search engines like Google. SEM provides an avenue for displaying ads through networks such as Google's Adwords and other paid search platforms that exist across the web throughout social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and even video sites like YouTube, which, invariably, is the world's second largest search engine.
Content is king. Your content needs to be written so that it provides value to your audience. It should be a mix of long and short posts on your blog or website. You should not try to “keyphrase stuff” (mentioning a keyphrase over and over again to try and attract search engines) as this gets penalized by search engines now. However, your text should contain the most important keyphrases at least once and ideally two to three times—ideally, it should appear in your title. However, readability and value are much more important than keyword positioning today.
Heading tags. Always use H tags to optimize your content layout. Try and use variations on your keyphrases in some headings, too. Don’t repeat keyphrases in headings unless it’s absolutely necessary. (This doesn’t stop you from needing to repeat the keyphrase in the body of your content). H tags are HTML codes – you can find a link to HTML codes and how to use them at the end of this section.

Assume a small universe of four web pages: A, B, C and D. Links from a page to itself, or multiple outbound links from one single page to another single page, are ignored. PageRank is initialized to the same value for all pages. In the original form of PageRank, the sum of PageRank over all pages was the total number of pages on the web at that time, so each page in this example would have an initial value of 1. However, later versions of PageRank, and the remainder of this section, assume a probability distribution between 0 and 1. Hence the initial value for each page in this example is 0.25.
In my experience this means (the key words are “not the most effective way”) a page not scored by Google (“e.g. my private link” – password protected, disallowed via robots.txt and/or noindex meta robots) whether using or not using rel=”nofollow” attribute in ‘links to’ is not factored into anything… because it can’t factor in something it isn’t allowed. 

But this leads to a question — if my husband wants to do a roundup of every Wagner Ring Cycle on DVD, that’s about 8 Amazon links on the page, all bleeding PR away from his substantive insights. If he, instead, wants to do a roundup of every Ring Cycle on CD, that’s about two dozen items worth discussing. The page would be very handy for users, and would involve considerably more effort on his part… but no good deed goes unpunished, and in the eyes of Google the page would be devalued by more than two thirds.
In my experience this means (the key words are “not the most effective way”) a page not scored by Google (“e.g. my private link” – password protected, disallowed via robots.txt and/or noindex meta robots) whether using or not using rel=”nofollow” attribute in ‘links to’ is not factored into anything… because it can’t factor in something it isn’t allowed.
Page rank is an assessment of the authority and value of a website in Google’s algorithm. You can find plug-in tools for your browser or online tools (see the references section for links to some of these) to check the page rank of any given site. You can also check your own website’s page rank. The higher the page rank, the more likely it is that your SEO efforts are succeeding.
NOTE: You may be curious what your site’s or your competitor’s PR score is. But Google no longer reveals the PageRank score for websites. It used to display at the top of web browsers right in the Google Toolbar, but no more. And PR data is no longer available to developers through APIs, either. Even though it’s now hidden from public view, however, PageRank remains an important ingredient in Google’s secret ranking algorithms. 

Make sure your backlinks appear to be natural. Don’t ask webmasters to link back to your pages with a specific anchor text since this can haphazardly result in a pattern that may get noticed by search engines and cause you to get a linking penalty, a la Penguin. Also, don’t do anything shady or unnatural to create backlinks, like asking a site to put a link in the footer of every page on their site.
In an effort to manually control the flow of PageRank among pages within a website, many webmasters practice what is known as PageRank Sculpting[65]—which is the act of strategically placing the nofollow attribute on certain internal links of a website in order to funnel PageRank towards those pages the webmaster deemed most important. This tactic has been used since the inception of the nofollow attribute, but may no longer be effective since Google announced that blocking PageRank transfer with nofollow does not redirect that PageRank to other links.[66]
Thanks Matt for the informative post. However I do have some questions regarding blog comments. Let say a blog post of mine have PR 10, the page has 10 links, 3 of them are my internal link to my other related post, the other 7 links are external links from blog comment. Based on your explanation, even the 7 external links are nofollow, my 3 internal link will only get 1 PR each which is still the same if the 7 external link is dofollow. Therefore there is no point of adding nofollow for the sake of keeping the PR flow within your own links. Is this correct?
There’s a lot of frustration being vented in this comments section. It is one thing to be opaque – which Google seems to be masterly at – but quite another to misdirect, which is what No Follow has turned out to be. All of us who produce content always put our readers first, but we also have to be sensible as far as on page SEO is concerned. All Google are doing with this kind of thing is to progressively direct webmasters towards optimizing for other, more reliable and transparent, ways of generating traffic (and no, that doesn’t necessarily mean Adwords, although that may be part of the intent).
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