Links are still the backbone of Google’s algorithms, which determine where your site ranks in Google’s SERPs (search engine results pages). This is why having quality links pointing to your site can help you gain more visitors organically versus relying on paid efforts.
A backlink, also known as an inbound link or just a link, is an incoming link from another website or page that directs or points back to your own site or page. Unfortunately, too many bad backlinks can get your site in big trouble with Google in the form of a penalty. It can be hard to know what constitutes a good link versus a link that could spell trouble for your site. Google is the final judge of your backlinks and you have to play by their rules.
Today, we break down what natural backlinks are, why you need them, and how to gain them while staying within Google’s guidelines. Before we discuss natural backlinks, it’s a good idea to explain how links have evolved over the years. Here’s a brief history of links:
Wild West Times (pre 2012): This was a wild time for SEO, when nearly any tactic was fair game and Google didn’t enforce many of their regulations. Only the most flagrant of practices would get you penalized by Google. Reciprocal linking, directories, link farms and three-way linking were just some of the tactics used with reckless abandon and they worked.
Companies charged money to provide a link from their low ranking site, and people would pay for these types of links. It also was very common for sites to have a “reciprocal links” page where they would make trades with other sites for links. These linking relationships provided very little value to Google and searchers, so Google eventually stepped up their enforcement and changed their algorithms to provide a better search experience. Google’s biggest weapon in the battle against bad backlinks came in the form of the Penguin Algorithm in April of 2012.