There are a lot of mysterious factors that help you come up first in the Google search results. In the SEO field, there is a lot of terminology, and it can sometimes feel like the results of a Google search are decided in an epic battle being held between forces of good and evil. On one side you have men in shining white helmets crafting fields of great content as far as the eye can see, and on the other, you have men in black hats wielding cans full of spam on the other.
Well, today we’ll demystify a few of these concepts to help you get a better idea of what you’re dealing with in terms of how your backlink profile affects your search engine rankings.
What Is A Backlink Profile?
Your backlink profile is the compilation of all of the links that point to your site. It can even be links that are on your site pointing to other pages. The ones you need to be more concerned with are the ones coming from other sites. It could be a picture, a URL hyperlink, or a video or a button- anything you can click to end up somewhere on your site counts.
Digital marketers focus on checking backlinks to help gauge how your site may be reflected in Google’s search results. It is not the only piece of the puzzle; your site architecture and content are important, as is the social traffic on and around your site.
How To Check Your Backlink Profile
In order to pull up the list of backlinks to your domain, you can use a backlink checker. There are several websites out there that will do it for free, or if you would like more metrics and data, there are also ones you can subscribe to for a fee.
A good backlink profile is all about moderation these days. Sure, we’d like to all have nothing but authoritative links from the most popular sites in the land- but those are hard to come by, and it would look a bit weird if you just had a few links from them and nothing else to balance it out. Having a diverse backlink profile shows Google that you are striving and working your way up the ladder. You should aim to get mentions from the best places, but don’t discriminate other quality sources, or you’ll never build up your reputation enough to snag one of those coveted links.
What Makes Up a Well-Balanced Profile
I’ll break it down into a couple main categories:
- Types Of Pages Your Links Come From
- Anchor Text Of The Links On Those Pages
- Domain Authority (Or Choose Your Favorite Authority Score Here)
What Kind Of Sites Do Your Links Come From?
Where your links come from does matter. In the old days of search engines, you could just get a link from any site, and you would rank better for your keywords, but Google has gotten much smarter over the years, and this is no longer the case. The site does not have to be the most authoritative site in its niche, but it should be a real site that looks like it is made for real people. If there is social interaction, lots of comments on the posts, and easy to find contact information, you are probably on the right track. Some sites are made just to try and trick Google into thinking they are providing real information and do not really cater to real people.
What Does Your Anchor Text Look Like?
Anchor text is the word or words that are attached in your link. For example, when you see: homemade apple pies, the words “homemade apple pies” are considered to be the anchor text. There are a few different types of these as well:
- Branded Anchor Text
- Long-Tail Anchor Text
- Exact Match Anchor Text
Branded anchor text is any group of words that mentions your company name or site url. It can have a keyword or location attached to it as well, such as “True Green Lawn Specialist” or “Newman’s Fig Farm In Fargo.”
Long-tail anchor text is an attempt to become more specialized and accurate with searches by using more description in your text. For example, when searching for a pair of shoes, “blue size 9 running shoes with custom insoles” is long-tail and “shoes” is considered exact match. It is easier to rank for a longer string of terms as well since there will be less competition. It is also more relevant and Google is really pushing relevance these days.
Exact match anchor text is when you use the most broad terms and keywords without added descriptive words or branded text to go along with it. “Shoes,” “Cars,” and “LCD Screen TV” are all considered exact match. Google does not want you to have too many of these links to any given page. One or two is fine, as long as you have a lot of branded and long-tail links already established. Being as relevant and specific as possible is the goal.
Having a healthy mix of keywords and descriptors in your anchor text is the goal. Having most of those links come from the first two categories, branded and long-tail, is even better. When you use long-tail keywords it is important to make sure they are going to the most relevant page on your site as well, not just all pointing to the homepage.
What Is The Authority Score Of Your Backlinks?
Moz has come up with great authority scoring metrics for grading a site and its pages. Moz’s two trust factors to pay attention to are:
- Domain Authority – The score of the entire domain and all its pages as a whole, based on MozRank, and MozTrust
- Page Authority – The score of an individual page on a given site
Google has pagerank as well, but it doesn’t seem to be updated as much anymore, so other metrics are more reliable. It is good to have links from quality sites that are relevant to your niche. But if a site is just starting out and looks legit, then it is still a good target, and could be a good place for you to get in on the ground floor.
In the grand scheme of things, there are many different factors for ranking well in a major search engine like Google. Quality content, well laid out on-site architecture, site load speed, social interaction, and many others. Your backlink profile used to be more important, but new metrics have helped balance out the landscape. This does not mean that it will disappear from the factors any time soon.
Tate Handy is an Outreach Manager at Digital Third Coast, a SEO Company based in Chicago. He helps clients get placements on top tier publications to help improve reach. You can find Tate on Google+. Connect with Digital Third Coast on Google+.