Close-up of large shiny welded metal chain links over white background

When it comes to creating a high quality SEO program that is going to get the results you want, it’s important to understand the role that backlinks play in how websites rank. There probably is no other ranking factor that has so many myths swirling around it or is so misunderstood. Contrary to the belief of many, backlinks aren’t dead. In fact, you could even make the argument that excellent backlinks are stronger and more important than ever when it comes to getting your websites to the top of the search engines like Bing, Google, and Yahoo!

The first thing to understand is that backlinks still matter, and they still matter a lot! In fact, it’s easy to make the argument that backlinks are actually more important than they were back in the old days of backlink spamming and building entire blog networks. The key is that nowadays, not every backlink will do. There are rules, and you had better follow them!

Rule 1: Avoid Bad Backlinks

This is the first step to managing the proper use of backlinks in your search engine optimization efforts. The problem in fully understanding backlinks is that not only can the right ones drastically help your SEO efforts to rank near the top of the page, but bad backlinks can cause you to absolutely crash and burn. This means that your first step is avoiding bad backlinks like the plague.

Google is especially harsh on keyword anchored backlinks, backlinks from unrelated websites, or anything that looks remotely bought or unnatural. The reason for this is simple: because it was the easiest way in the past to abuse the system. They have no problem with banishing any website from their rankings that has any suspicious backlink activity at all.

This is why it’s critical to avoid bad backlinks, which includes (but isn’t limited to):

  • Keyword anchored backlinks
  • Backlinks from article directories or blogs with scraped content
  • Backlinks from backlink pyramid schemes
  • Backlinks from adult sites, hate sites, or other controversial websites
  • Backlinks from websites not related to your site or even remotely connected to the same field

In addition to this, you will also want to become familiar with Google’s “Disavow tool,” as well. If someone spams you with bad backlinks or runs negative SEO on you, this tool allows you to see the backlinks Google sees linking to you, and refuse the “juice” or “credit” from any of those links. This is a critical tool to understand to make sure your results are only clean backlinks.

Rule 2: Have a Brand Name or Website Name to Market

Keyword backlinks aren’t good in today’s SEO world, which means you need a brand or a name for people to link to you with. The name of a business, a blog name, or even your own name can all be appropriate ways to get a good backlink that Google sees as appropriate. Their tools have become so good they don’t need keyword anchors anymore to know what a website is about.

This is where you need to think of your website as a brand. If you’re building a website for a business, that’s easy. Your brand is the name of the business. If you’re building a blog then your brand is the name of the blog. These are the backlinks you want because they look natural, pass Google’s automatic tests, and will help your website rank more highly for the content on the site itself!

Rule 3: Go for the High-Quality Few

The right type of backlinks are an enormously strong factor in getting your website to shoot up the search engine rankings. The key here isn’t going for high numbers of weak backlinks like in “the old days” of SEO, but you want just a very few high-quality backlinks because it doesn’t take much at all to shoot onto the first page in most categories.

A good backlink is one that is from a related field that focuses on your brand and comes from a website that is an authority in your field or a related one. You’ll often hear these referred to as contextual backlinks.

If you follow this simple three step formula of avoiding all bad backlinks, branding your website, and getting a very few high-quality backlinks then you will be amazed at results you see as your website (or websites) shoot up the rankings.