Backlinks: SEO’s boosters

  • Your mission: to get to the top of a search engine results page (SERP).
  • The objective of search engines: to obtain the most relevant search results possible.

All the algorithms created by the search engines go in this direction by wanting to identify the really good sites on the one hand and penalise those who use methods to try to fool the search engine on the other.

Some important definitions

PageRank is an index from Google’s algorithm that gives information about the popularity of a web page (not a website). The number of links pointing to a given page is the main criteria used to indicate its popularity. These links are called backlinks. We also speak of “outgoing link” when we place ourselves from the point of view of the page offering the link and of “incoming link” for the page to which the link points.

The more backlinks a page has, the more popular it is and therefore the better its indexation on search engines. However, it is not only a question of having a large number of backlinks, because it is necessary to aim for quality backlinks which are characterised by several criteria, some of which will be seen below. Indeed, in recent years, search engines have implemented filters in their algorithms to fight against “abusive referencing” which consists, for example, in creating several sites that point to each other or in exchanging links between sites without any real motivation other than improving natural referencing.

Thereafter, we will rather talk about the diffusion of the “value of a page” without necessarily talking about PageRank because it is not only this value that is diffused. We sometimes talk about “link juice” which is the total benefit that the link will bring according to the value of the page itself, but also certain criteria concerning the link as we will see later (PageRank, anchor, position, number of links, authority of the page…).

One last very important clarification: for a link to bring value to your page, it must be in “dofollow” and not in “nofollow”. These parameters are indicated in the html code of the page (a link is in dofollow by default). For example, links in blog comments or on forums are often nofollow to avoid spam.

Criteria for good backlinks

So let’s say you want a backlink from page A to your page B. Here are some things to consider about page A of site A:

The quality and relevance of the source

We must take into account the quality of site A as a whole but also of page A itself. The notoriety of page A characterised by its PageRank. The higher its PageRank, the higher the PageRank of your page B to which the link points. This does not mean that we should neglect backlinks on pages of sites whose reputation is not important. First of all, it remains a backlink and therefore a source of increase in your PageRank, however small it may be, but above all it will appear more natural. Why should only the big sites talk about you?

N.B : PageRank is not really measurable nowadays, there was a toolbar provided by google which gave this value, but it is not updated since several years. Even if some will tell you that talking about PageRank is obsolete, the principle is still relevant. You can replace the word PageRank by page awareness.

The quality and trustworthiness of the site A. The more recognized the site is in its field, the more trust search engines will place in the link. This is sometimes referred to as TrustRank. There are also other measures such as the domain authority introduced by

MOZ which describes the value of a site rather than a page.

Another important point is the thematic proximity of site A to your site. If the referring site has no connection with your site, the impact of the link on your referencing will be much less important. Why would the Louvre Museum site quote a site selling socks? Yes, you can always find a reason… But you know what I mean.

Focus on links

The number of other outgoing links on page A is important. Indeed, if there are too many outgoing links, each of them will have less “weight”, they will bring less value. It is as if the value of the page was divided between all the links, and therefore between all the pages to which they point. It can be understood in this way: if a page only cites your site, it probably has a lot of merit. If I write an article listing the best restaurants in Lyon, it won’t have the same impact as if I wrote an article about just one of them.

There is some uncertainty as to whether PageRank splitting (and not scattering) concerns both dofollow and nofollow links. Since 2009, a communication from Google’s Matt Cutts suggested that nofollow links were indeed taken into account in the PageRank split. One of the reasons for this was to avoid “PageRank sculpting”, which consists of trying to direct search engines towards the pages that you want to put forward the most.

Indeed, if nofollow links were not taken into account in this division of values, then the fact of distributing its links with more nofollow than dofollow would leave more weight to the dofollow links which themselves spread value to the target page. We could therefore have “avoided wasting” PageRank (and this is what was done before) by having the possibility of displaying several links while preserving the weight only for the pages whose referencing we want to improve. A small diagram to illustrate:

To simplify, in this example, we assume that the PageRank of pages 2 to 4 only comes from the backlinks of page 1 and that each of these links is placed in the body of the page.

In fact, depending on the position of the links, and even on how they are highlighted on the page, they can have a different weight: a link in the footer of a page, for example, will have less weight than a link in bold placed in the body of an article, which itself will probably have less weight than a link placed in a title.

In September 2015, it was the turn of Andrey Lipattsev, another Google employee, to sow doubt by implying that nofollow links were not taken into account in the division of values… Google’s communications, like some of their instructions concerning SEO, are sometimes ambiguous and subject to various interpretations. In fact, if you do some research on whether a nofollow backlink improves the SEO of a page or not, you will see a lot of divergence between SEO specialists.

Another thing to take into account concerning the proportion nofollow/dofollow of your backlinks: to remain natural the ideal is to keep a balance between nofollow and dofollow links. Do not try to do only dofollow.

The clickable text of a link, called the “anchor” of the link, is also important. For example, the anchor of the link in the text “SEO agency” is “SEO”. The keywords used for this text are taken into account by the search engines in the transmission of value. Since 2012, Google has updated its algorithm under the name of Penguin with the main objective of penalising the abusive use of optimised anchors, i.e. with a lot of keywords on all backlinks. To avoid being penalised, you need to vary the anchors of backlinks pointing to the same page.

What you need to remember

  •  A dofollow link transmits value from page A to page B, but you should not only have this type of link pointing to your site, you should also have nofollow links.
  •  The higher the PageRank of the page, the higher the PageRank it will give you.
  •  A backlink is more relevant if it comes from a site with the same theme as yours.
  •  It’s necessary to vary the sources and forms of backlinks (different PageRank, anchors, positions on the page …) it seems more natural.
  •  More links there are on page A, the less value the link to page B will transmit.
  •  The anchors of incoming links should be varied.
  •  The value transmitted also depends on its position on page A and its presentation: a link in bold in the text of an article will be better than in the footer of the page.

You should also know that a backlink will be better if it does not give the impression that it is the subject of an exchange of links, i.e. that site B does not backlink to a page on site A.

Finally, you should know that a good SEO when he sees a page where he can make a backlink he puts a backlink. The bad referrer when he sees a page where he can make a backlink he puts a backlink.

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