One thing that came up when looking at SEO is backlinks. We all want them because it improves our likelyhood of Google upping our ranking. So I thought I would explain how backlinks work, and why they matter.

Being a developer, I never really cared about backlinks until I started this SEO series. My first thought is PGP key's, it's all about trust.

The idea behind backlinks is, the more you have, the more you can be trusted. This is the same principal as PGP keys. PGP keys encrypt and sign files and messages. If you had been sent a file that had been encrypted, and you weren't sure who encrypted it, would you open it?

That same file encrypted with someones key who had been trusted by lots of people, or a large trustworthy company, would that change things? PGP keys let you sign someone else's key, and that adds credence to their key. So the more people that sign your key, the more trustwoerth your key is.

Backlinks have a similar premisis, it's based on trust. If you have no backlinks, the content could be spammy or not correct. Google wants to see that other websites trust the information on your site enough to give you a link.

Moz have a system for ranking domains, they call it Domain Authority. Ahref's calls it Domain Rating. This ranking is how reputable the website as a whole is.

Let's take a look at my ranking in Ahref's first.

My website on Ahref's. Showing my rank on their system, my URL rating (12), my domain rating (1.7), the amount of pages linking to my site (355) and the amount of websites that link to my site (30).

As you can see, my site, been fairly new, has a low ranking. I don't have a high DR, so me linking to someone else's website wouldn't pass much trust to them. The UR is better, it's quite high for a new domain. This shows that a link from my homepage would be more valuable.

A lot factors into a DR however one of the biggest things is backlinks. I have 355 backlinks according to Ahref's, these pass on 'link juice' or trust. Without these links, it would be more than likely my DR would be 0. This is because no one would be adding credibility.

Unfortunately however things get a little complicated from here as links can also be 'nofollow'. Adding rel=nofollow to a link means that the link is not trusted, taking away that credibility. nofollow links aren't completely useless, they just don't contribute as much towards your rating.

A screenshot on how many dofollow links are linking to my site.

So if I dig a little deeper, I only have 243 dofollow at the moment. But 242 are from the same website (I have a link in the footer on manchesterfutsal.com). I also have a link from a local business directory. So right now, I only have 2 referring domains with dofollow links. Google will see this as been an untrustworthy site until I get more referring domains. (So if anyone wants to link to me it would be much appreciated 😀)

Like PGP keys, 2 websites trust me, one local business directory and a Futsal website. So these 2 sites will pass trust onto my site and make it more credible. As more and more backlinks are gathered, the more trust ia given to the site. These need to come from varying sources too, and in turn, these sites need to have trust. There are some ways they stop people gaming the system: I couldn't setup 10 websites that link to one and watch my DR shoot up because Google will see this as spam. It also looks at domains, IP addresses and even C blocks. So you can't host lots of websites and have them all link to each other. (In theory anyway, there's some debate around this) It also looks at the link text to understand why it's linking to the site.

It's not just about the count of backlinks either. For instance, my blog aims at being a blog for technical people and marketers. So this website having backlinks from a cheese supplier isn't going to be as valuable as a link from another website in the same space. This isn't to say it has no value at all, it's just that the link will have less relevance.

Backlinks aren't just links from other websites, but links to yourself too. Make sure you have plenty of links to your own pages as this builds your backlink profile too. This is because you're passing link juice from one page to another.

The saying:

With great power comes great responsibility

Comes to mind. This is because your site is also going to pass link juice to who your linking to. So linking to a spammy site may hurt you too unless you use nofollow.

The biggest contributing factor to your SEO is your backlink profile. So putting work into your profile is a definate must. There's LOTS of ways to do this, some are better than others. There's lots of debate around this subject and grey and black hat ways of getting them. The way I'm I got some are from previous clients, local business directorys and using social media.

Have you guys got any further ideas on backlinks? Or have a theory of your own on easy ways to get backlinks? Leave them in the comments below.