What Are Backlinks and How Do Different Types Affect Rankings?

Using search engine optimization strategies to improve pagerank or domain authority has always been a very complex and sometimes very challenging task. However, over the last several years it has become more challenging than ever before. Not only do you have to effectively compete with all the websites that are targeting the same audience as you, you must also ensure your SEO strategies align with Google’s rapidly changing SEO guidelines and best practices, which sometimes dramatically change almost overnight.

Achieving success and maintaining a high ranking in the search engines is often too difficult even for SEO professionals, not to mention business owners that already have too much to do and not enough hours in the day. This is why it’s so crucial to understand each part of your overall SEO strategy and ensure it is designed to maximize results. Backlinks are one of the most important factors in how your website is ranked by the search engine algorithms, perhaps even the most important factor in some cases.

What Are Backlinks?

Backlinks, also known as inbound links, are hyperlinks on a web page other than your own that provide a direct link to a page on your website. Backlinks from websites other than your own to a page that is part of your domain have a large influence on how the search engine algorithms evaluate pagerank and domain authority, which ultimately translate to where your site is listed in the search engine results page, also known as SERP.

Several years ago, using backlinks to improve the rank of your website was much easier because the search engines primarily only evaluated the number of backlinks to your website without taking much else into account. Today, things are much different. In fact, actually having too many backlinks from low-quality websites or sites that are not relevant to your website topic can result in your site being penalized and given a lower ranking.

When designing an effective backlinking strategy, it’s important to remember that the number of backlinks to your website is not the most important factor anymore. Quality and relevance of the website or web page containing the backlink are the most crucial element in an effective SEO backlinking strategy. The higher quality and more relevant the website containing the backlink to your site is, the more value the search engines will assign to it.

The bottom line is the algorithms view each backlink as a referral. If a referral (backlink) is provided by a quality website with high-quality and relevant content then you get more value assigned. If the referral is provided by a site with a low ranking and poor content with little relevance then it may hurt your ranking.

However, before you rush into finding or compiling a list of highly ranked websites with relevant content, there are other considerations involved in backlinking strategy as well. Backlink type makes a difference in the equation as does the type of domain the backlink comes from.

What Are The Types of Backlinks?

Now that we have covered the question what are backlinks, you should know the two basic types of backlinks, do follow and no follow. A no follow backlink does not offer your website any value in terms of improving your SEO standing with the search engines. In fact, they offer zero value. The search engine bots do recognize the link but if it is classified as a no follow backlink then as the name implies they do not follow it.

On the other hand, do follow backlinks do offer SEO value provided they come from a quality source as discussed above. The key takeaway to remember is the only backlinks that will offer you “link juice” or a boost in your SEO are the ones classified as do follow.

Domain Extensions .Com, .Org, .Net, .Edu and .Gov and Backlinks

Domain extensions and how they relate to the value of a backlink has been a highly debated topic for years, and continues to be. However, while the issue is not as clear cut as we all would probably like, there are some factors from both a logical and technical SEO standpoint that most certainly do matter.

As we discussed above, the quality of a website (the referral source) where a backlink comes from is paramount in determining how much SEO value your site is likely to receive. In the early days of the internet .com extensions ruled supreme and were the preferred domain extension for many reasons. However, as time passed and the marketplace generally became a bit more crowded, internet entrepreneurs expanded from primarily using the .com extension into also utilizing .org and .net extensions as well.

What are backlinks with domain extensions .com, .org, and .net likely to offer in terms of SEO value? First, these domain extensions are the most common and make up a large portion of the overall domain names. There are other less valuable extensions available in the mix as well, but the three mentioned above are the dominant extensions in the marketplace. There is certainly nothing wrong with having a backlink from a high-quality .com, .net or .org domain but there is no inherent advantage either.

Powerful Link Juice from .Edu Domain Extensions

The most powerful backlink “juice” or SEO boost is likely to come from a high-quality and relevant .edu or .gov domain. .Gov domains typically do have more value than many other domain extension types simply because they are often large government websites that are considered “authorities”. The vast amount of content you normally find on these sites give them an edge, and therefore, a backlink from a .gov website can have additional value. However, government type websites do have their downsides as well.

It’s not uncommon to find duplicate content on .gov websites, and many times, plenty of it. This is because much of the content may come straight out of a regulations manual or law book and because the site is not privately owned, the content is simply copied and pasted onto several sources where needed. While it’s true .gov websites generally rank well in the overall search engine rankings, a backlink on the wrong page or placed in the wrong area with duplicate content may end up offering little or no value on a long-term basis.

This is why backlinks from .edu domains are considered by many as the “Holy Grail” of backlinks. They are very difficult to get but .edu sites typically rank extremely high and even one backlink can offer a powerful SEO boost for your website. Additionally, these sites are typically well maintained because they are run by academic organizations that care about both the success of their business and the quality of their content. This means not only do .edu backlinks sometimes offer dynamic SEO benefits but they are able to maintain the quality of their site over the long-term, which means you continue to receive powerful link juice for years to come.

Get the .Edu Backlink Edge on Your Competitors Today!

This is an especially important aspect of backlinking strategy to understand when you are first discovering what are backlinks and understanding the types of backlinks involved. When choosing the types of domains to target in your backlinking SEO strategy, .edu domains generally offer a far superior return on your investment because they continue to give your website an SEO boost that is sustained month after month and year after year.

Pagerank, content quality, domain authority and relevance are all obviously key factors for a successful backlinking strategy. However, specifically targeting and investing in high-quality .edu domains for your backlinks can give you a significant edge on your competitors and position your business website for sustained growth for years to come.

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