Ah, the perfect backlink. Something online marketers all want, and we want as many as we can get, thank you very much.
The question is, what is the perfect backlink? Is there even such a thing?
Well, according to a new patent granted to Google, the answer is yes.
If you’d like to read the patent, you can download it:Â Google_Patent_US7716225 (warning, its a pretty difficult read)
Alternatively, you can read on and I’ll point out some of the key take aways so that you can put the lessons to use right away.
Before I get to the key points and conclusion however, we need to go back in history to something called The Reasonable Surfer Model.
Basically, what Sergey and Larry came up with in their original patent was to answer this simple question: whatÂ would a Ê»normalÊ¼ person browsing this particular page click on to leave the page and moveÂ forward to another page on the web?
Understanding what aÂ reasonableÂ surfer would do (click) on any given page is at the heart of understanding how Google will rank a given backlink.
To ensure you understand this simple concept, lets look at some basic ideas.
Font Size and Other Attributes
If a user is on a page, the link that they are most likely to click is the link that Google will see as the most valuable (reasonable surfer). So, if there are two links on a page and one is at the top while the other one is at the bottom, all else being equal, the surfer is more likely to click the top link.
If the link is in a larger font size or is bold or italic, then it would be more likely to be clicked. If it is in a smaller size, they it would be less likely to be clicked. If it is in a contrasting color, it would be more likely to be clicked than if it is not.
In other words, make your links stand out.
There has been much discussion about the importance of using your keywords in the anchor text, and this new patent has some pretty interesting additional points. Here’s an excerpt:
As you can see, not only is it important to use your keywords, but its is also very important that the anchor text relate to the other words around the anchor text, and for the anchor text to have a relatively low commercial intent.
Page Attributes and Immediately Surrounding Text
We already know that getting links from a page that is related to our topic is important (in other words, a page about kittens should not have links to a page about cars). We now can see that Google goes down a level further. They actually go down to the paragraph level.
But first, here’s the important piece about the page in general:
As if this isn’t enough on its own, here’s the critical part: the words that surround the actual link are also very important.
If you think about it from a user perspective then it makes sense to have a link which isÂ relevant to the conversation, and not one which has nothing to do with the paragraph theyÊ¼reÂ reading. (think kittens and cars again)
This concept is briefly outlined in the patent:
So, what this means is that you need to ensure that the anchor text of the link that you place on a page is relevant to the words that surround the link.
The Internet is stuffed full of images. Not all of them are relevant. A “buy now” button, for example, has nothing to do with the content that is on the page, and so it is not important for SEO.
An image of a porsche 356 is relevant however, and so it should have a file name like “porsched356.jpg” and the title and alt tags should also be named appropriately. Â In addition, the target page URL should also have porsche356 in it.
Google also gives priority to the image’s aspect ratio. A larger image, is more likely to be clicked by our rational surfer, as opposed to an image that is 1 x 1 pixels. An image that small would never be seen, much less clicked.
Link Position on the Page
This is one of the major things which is outlined, and one of the big reasons why commentÂ links, forum links, and footer / sidebar links are so devalued by Google when it comes toÂ ranking and passing PR to the link.
To understand this, think about the rational surfer once more. If he is visited a page about our porsche 356 and reading comments, what is the likelyhood that he’s going to click the backlink on a comment? How about zilch. That is why comment backlinks aren’t worth much.
As we’ll discuss later,Â these low PR links are worth something, however, and you do need to have them, but if you are on a PR7 blog posting comments and thinking that you are getting PR7 backlinks, think again.
LetÊ¼s again look at what Google says about link positioning, and here they have someÂ pretty clear hints about where the best place to have your link:
Although the above excerpt is more of a hint than an actual Ê»best place to put your linkÊ¼Â statement, the next bit from the patent is very clear about the situation:
So, when you put all those pieces of the puzzle together you can draw these assumptions:
- The best place to have a link is in the main body of the page, above the fold whenÂ viewed on an 800×600 screen
- If the link is in a list, then the higher up the list the better (as this has a higher probabilityÂ of being clicked on by the reasonable surfer)
Analyzing User Behavior
Regarding backlinks on a page, Google stores not onlyÂ the information weÊ¼ve talked aboutÂ so far (font, anchor text, etc.), but the Big G also stores information for how the userÂ interacts with each and every link.
They store how many links are on a page, what the position of those links is, where they lead to, how many times, they get clicked. This all boils down to Google creating a score for each link on the page.
Here’s an example:
LetÊ¼s say that there are 3 links on a page.
- When the page is viewed the surfer clicks on Link #1.
- Google records this as a positive interaction for Link #1, but it also records it as aÂ negative interaction for Link #2 and Link #3 because they weÊ¼re not clicked.
- Also, if a surfer views the page and no links are clicked then all 3 links are scored negatively.
- Google over time builds up a profile for each link based on these positive and negativeÂ interactions.
This is a BIG thing that people donÊ¼t usually think about!
Think of it this way, if there are a bunch of links on the page and yours never gets clicked, it is going to be scored negatively by Google! That is why so many comment backlinks are worthless.
By putting Ê»rel=nofollowÊ¼ into a backlink you are effectively telling Google that youÊ¼re not 100%Â sure about this link, and please donÊ¼t pass on any PR to that link.
Because of this, many an SEO consultant will say that no_follow links are completely worthless.
This is totally wrong!
All links have some value (unless they come from a spammy link farm) and are counted. What is important to undersand however, is that these low value links don’t pass any PR from the page they are on to the target page.
This brings me to a key point that you need to understand.
If at this point you are thinking that only high PR links are worth getting, you’d be wrong. Why is that?
Consider the following: if a website has only high PR links, is that natural? Don’t you think that a site that had really good content (attractive to the reasonable surfer) it would have both high PR backlinks and low PR backlinks? Of course it would!
Having all of one and none of the other isn’t natural and Google can detect this in a heartbeat. That is why you need to get a broad range of backlinks. It must look natural in order to pass Google’s bullshit filter.
The perfect backlink should be:
- In the main page body, and not in a sidebar, footer or blog comments.
- It needs to be close to the top of the page, above the fold when viewed on an 800×600Â screen.
- The link needs to look like a link and stand out from the text around it.
- The link needs to be slightly larger than the surrounding text, and either bold orÂ italicized (or something different enough to make it stand out).
- The anchor text of the link needs to contain the keywords youÊ¼re targeting, and not haveÂ an overly commercial intent.
- The anchor text needs to be related to the topic / theme of the page the link is on.
- The words surrounding the link need to be related to the anchor text.
- The target URL needs to be related to the same topic / theme as the page the link is on.
- The target URL needs to be on a separate host to the page the link is on.
- The page the link is on needs to have as little other outbound links on as possible toÂ reduce negative scoring.
So those are the headlines on the perfect backlink, but there are some important things youÂ need to understand when planning out your backlinks and your backlink strategy…
- You should to have a wide variety of lower quality links (PR0, nofollow, comments, forums,Â other web 2.0 sites, article directories etc.) to make things look natural.
- You should to have a good diversity in the linking structure, so 40 links from 40 differentÂ sites related to your niche is a wider variety of people giving you a Ê»voteÊ¼ than getting 6Â links from 1 high PR site in your niche, which is only 1 Ê»voteÊ¼.
- The higher PR backlinks are what ultimately separates you from your competitors, butÂ keep in mind the need for the lower-level links to keep things looking natural.
- Backlinking is an ongoing task and needs to be done regularly. Google likes Ê»freshnessÊ¼Â and if you go and create 300 backlinks in a week then youÊ¼ll see an initial bump, butÂ after that your page will drop down the SERPs because the link building has stopped.Â ItÊ¼s better to do a slower approach over a longer time to get the longer term benefit.
- Always remember that thereÊ¼s two purposes for the backlink, one is to get the searchÂ engineÊ¼s interested, and the other is to get the people who are going to read the contentÂ to click the link
So Where Can I Get My Perfect Backlink?
Let me begin by saying that all those automated article marketing systems alone will not be enough – but they are still very useful.
I also use a wonderful tool called SocialAdr to automate my social bookmarking. This saves me a ton of time.
Actually, truth be told, my virtual assistant (VA) runs all these tools for me, so for me getting a ton of lower quality backlinks is extremely easy to do. And, in case you are wondering, I found my VA on oDesk.
There is also the promotional module inside Market Samurai to help you findÂ places which are related to the keywords youÊ¼re targeting to go and get some backlinks.
To get the really good links, however, you are going to have to do a bit more work.
First, you need to get Google to tell you which pages it thinks are already related to the page you want to link to. Thankfully, this is pretty easy to do.
Just go to Google and typeÂ in Ê»related:Ê¼ followed by the URL of your page. Google willÂ then very kindly give you all the pages that it has indexed which it thinks are relevant to yourÂ page, and crucially, they rank those pages in order of importance.
Once you’ve done that startÂ you should write a really good article and then approach other sites inÂ your niche and ask for a Ê»guest blog postÊ¼.
If you just approach a complete stranger with “hey, can I post to your blog?” what do you think the answer will be? Not likely, in most cases.
So, a better strategy is going to be to build a relationship with your target blog owners over time. Become part of their community. Comment on posts, and get to know them while they get to know you. Then at some point in the not too distant future, you’ll be able to say, “hi Joe, I noticed that you posted a really great article on porsche 356s yesterday and I have an article that I think your readers might like. Would you like to see it?”
This latter approach is much more likely to work, don’t you think?
So, with all that said, I hope that my post has provided you with some real value. I’d like to thank Ed and Dan over at the challenge for doing all the hard core research that enabled be to summarize it for you here in this post. If you aren’t familiar with the challenge, you should definitely check it out as it is the best free learning tool I’ve found yet.Â They also have a membership site called The Immediate Edge that goes well beyond what is covered in the challenge, so if you aren’t newbie, but still looking for more proven ideas an strategies, you’ll want to give The Immediate Edge a look.
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