Links are everywhere online. When you read a Wikipedia page, you see dozens. But how many links out there on the internet link back to your website? The answer may matter more than you think.
Links matter. You should care about them because they can help with search engine optimization, and SEO matters because the farther up the search engine results page that your business is, the more customers you’ll get. In our modern world of mobile devices and local search, no businesses can afford to ignore SEO — and, as we’ll soon see, that means that businesses need to care about links.
How search engines use links
It’s extremely important to rank well with major search engines (especially Google, which is the most popular). And that is why you should pay attention to links.
Links are valuable tools for search engines. Search engines find websites by following those links — it’s not humans who do it, but rather search engine “web spiders,” which are programs that go from link to link and catalog pages. The spiders reach lots of things on each page, but they have long paid particular attention to the links, which are their doors to other pages.
Links are full of information that search engines crave. The volume of links can tell search engines that they’re looking at a site that lots of people respect (or, at least, are interested in), and the words in the links can indicate the subjects covered on the page.
Search engine algorithms were (and still are) secret and had lots of factors to consider, of course. But links were very important in the early days of search engines.
The once and future kings of SEO
Of course, links can be abused. In the early days of search engines, webmasters loved to trade links with other sites. This you-scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours approach improved the SEO of both sites in the swap — until the folks at the search engines realized what was happening. The people at Google and other search engines would prefer that their results pages be perfectly impartial and fair. That’s impossible, of course, but the people who work for search engine companies do their best to approximate fairness by keeping algorithms secret and countering obvious SEO methods. So they downplayed the importance of links and went after obvious and shady link-swapping schemes, manually penalizing sites that they felt were gaming their algorithms. In some ways, Google tries to “kill” SEO — or, at least, the type of SEO that it doesn’t like.
But links never really went away. Search engines don’t really work without links. So while the people behind Google’s algorithm and the people behind Bing’s algorithm might try to counter obvious link-based schemes, links remain extremely important to a site’s ranking.
In fact, in some ways links can make everyone happy, explain the reputable SEO experts at Search Atlas. Legitimate, organic links — the sort that you don’t ask for, but that just start appearing as other webmasters and bloggers start linking to the quality content on your site — are things that indicate quality, and that’s just what search engine algorithms use them to evaluate. So when your site gets lots of great organic links and rises up the results page, you and Google are both happy.
When you invest in SEO, build great content, and work with professionals who know how to use links properly, you can improve your business. Care about links, and hire the people who know what to do with them!