Inbound links are something you hear about a lot if you read almost anything about search engine optimisation. Everyone assumes that you know what they’re talking about when they mention inbound links but what if that’s not the case for you? Just what are inbound links? How can you get more of the things? And are all inbound links equal or are some of them more equal than others?
An inbound link is any link that is pointing towards a page your website from a different page. Sometimes they are also called backlinks, inlinks or inward links.
Checking inbound links
- Google simply don’t report all the backlinks they know about.
- Yahoo report a decent quantity of inlinks but won’t show you all the ones they’re aware of. Their Site Explorer tool will only show you the first thousand links.
- Bing will let you search in much the same way as Google do.
The ways of keeping track of your inbound links aren’t not particularly accurate for a number of reasons:
- As mentioned earlier, Google deliberately under-report the number of backlinks.
- Yahoo and Bing (obviously) aren’t Google, so you can’t be positive that the results they show are the same ones that their major competitor is aware of.
- It takes time to track down and process links so there’s always a time lag between a backlink being created and it being found and acted on by the different search engines.
There are all sorts of opinions flying around about the importance of inbound links but the general rule is that they count towards the importance of your web pages.
Which brings us on to whether all links are created equal.
The general consensus is that this isn’t the case. But that’s where the consensus stops.
Some people will tell you that they think links from educational (.edu) and government (.gov) sites are more important than common-or-garden sites such as .com.
Others will tell you that isn’t the case.
Without access to the inner workings of the search algorithms, it’s speculation as to which view is correct. But this brings us on to the next part of the equation:
The importance of the home page of the site the link comes from.
Google gives every page a “score”, some of which is based on inbound links. There is a very rough – and very out of date – approximation of this on their tool bar, called Page Rank.
Some webmasters obsess about this figure but, truth be told, the publicly available figure is very close to sticking your finger in the air to see which way the wind is blowing.
That said, it’s as good an approximation as we’re going to get.
The page rank (the real one, not the fiction shown in the toolbar) of a page affects the power of the links it points to. Each link passes on some of this “link juice” to the recipient site.
If you were lucky enough to get a link from the main page of the BBC or CNN, this would be a lot more powerful for your site than a link from your aunt’s blog with photos of your childhood holidays.
The importance, or otherwise, of each of the pages on your website is judged at least in part by the company of the sites that link to it.
Getting more inbound links is one of those internet things that needs constant attention.
You may be lucky enough to get links just by asking for them but it’s more likely that you’ll have to give something in return: an article, a video, etc.
You have to keep on top of these links, always creating more, as they disappear over time. Whether that’s with site redesigns, domains not being renewed or regular computer glitches.