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What are Backlinks and Why Do I Need Them?

June 2, 2016 | Nikki Bisel

what are backlinks?
We have said it before, but it bears repeating, that we at Seafoam Media are search engine optimization nerds and proud of it. As a St. Louis SEO company we deal with the ups and downs of search engine optimization, keywords, backlinks, and Google. We talk about backlinks and Google so much that we sometimes sound like a broken record.  So today we offer our thoughts on backlinks and their value for SEO. First things first, what are backlinks?

What are backlinks?

The short answer is relatively simple, backlinks are the relationships amongst pages on the internet, according to the marketing too, Majestic. Moz has an even more straightforward solution, offering that backlinks are simply a link from another website that points back to yours. So what's the big deal? In much the same way many companies cultivate relationships in their industry and community for reputation building, referrals, and awareness; backlinks offers a way for a business to leverage online relationships into brand awareness and web traffic. This, in and of itself, is a valuable tool in any company's arsenal. After all, relationship building is vital to a company's success both online and off. But backlinks offer more than just a relationship with another website and its users. Well, targeted backlinks are a critical indicator of a website's authority and reputability.
Before Google was, well... Google, it was known as BackRub. It was called this because their program analyzed the websites backlinks to understand what the site was about, how important it was, and what other sites it related to. While the technology has obviously advanced from its humble beginnings, backlinks are still a key piece in how it ranks websites on its search engine. Google looks at backlinks as an indicator of a site's authority of the web. In theory, sites with lots of backlinks, or people pointing to them, will rank higher than those with fewer.  Backlinks on their own, however, are not enough. Now that algorithm has become much smarter, and Google can determine which backlinks are based on legitimate "relationships" and which are just a spammy attempt to trick the search engine.
Google has cautioned people against trying to garner as many backlinks as they can, simply for the sake of ranking. Rather, Google would prefer to offer users excellent and relevant search results. Google's Matt Cutts offers the following insight.

As you can see, content is crucial to Google, and they are trying to tweak their program to reflect informative content as well as relevant linking. Google has gone so far as to penalize sites that have a myriad of backlinks from sites that are completely unrelated to their area of expertise. What does that mean for the average business owner trying to make their way in the world of SEO? Well, that is still relatively simple. It is better to create online relationships, rather than just random links. For example, if you are the owner of a pet grooming business backlinks from related industries like veterinarians and pet sitters are far more helpful than a link from a dry cleaner. A pet blogger writing about pet grooming tips would be far more relevant than a spammy directory listing with no discernible authority or credibility.Related industries aren't the only answer, though.  Businesses build relationships within their community, and Google understands such relationships. So, for example, a St. Louis SEO company like Seafoam may garner links from businesses that we have worked with or charitable organizations that we have helped. Backlinks that highlight a legitimate relationship or ancillary industry or topic would all be considered beneficial to Google. In short, backlinks are important t increase a site's presence on the search engine.  Just like networking in the real world is important, digital networking through backlinks cannot be ignored.
It has been a while since we have tortured delighted you with an SEO Song and we know you are patiently waiting for us to drop our next rhyme. So, don't worry a new Seafoam rap all about backlinks is coming your way next week.

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