Forward links are links that point from the target website, the website which a business or professional is trying to promote, to a third party website. Search engines will take note of the sites that a target site points to and, when the links are legitimate, will consider the target site as relevant to the same topic as the site at the end of the link. This is why it can be advantageous to link to well respected websites within a niche – but this should be done with caution, as the target website doesn’t want to promote a direct competitor.
Backlinks are links from a third party website that point back to a target website. Because of the way that search engines are designed to rank websites, backlinks can be very valuable to a website’s chances of climbing search engine page ranks. The more backlinks that exist on the web that point back to a target website, the more relevant to a given topic the search engine will perceive the target site to be. Interestingly, the reason for this is academic.
In the world of academic publishing, published papers that are cited the most are considered more scholarly than those that are cited least. Since most people wouldn’t cite a paper or link to a site unless they thought there would be something worth referencing, this philosophy makes sense. Not all backlinks, however, are created equal, which means that some backlinking strategies can actually hurt a website’s rank on search engines.
Link Tactics to Avoid
Link circling is an agreement between several sites to link to each other in a circle or some other type of pattern. So, site 1 would link to site 2, which would link to site 3, which links back to site 1. While clever, search engines can detect link circles and don’t usually favor the sites involved.
While linking to respected niche websites can do a target website good, linking to a website which has been removed can make readers and search engines alike think that the site is poorly maintained and/or out of date. Links on a target website should remain active and all broken links should be repaired or removed. When a search engine perceives a website as out of date, it will usually suppress it.
Finally, link listing should be avoided. This goes for forward link lists and backlink lists. Target websites should not include pages that are primarily links, nor should a business or professional pay for a site’s link to appear on a third party’s link list. Search engines usually don’t favor link lists because they have been over abused by spammers. Some social networks, however, do not discriminate against link lists, but owners of target websites should not expect their link listing efforts to help them climb to the top of a search engine result pages any time soon.
For the most accurate advice on the best linking strategy for a particular website, businesses and professionals should partner with a professional online and search engine marketing team. The smaller the team, the better, as the service provided will be much more customized and responsive than any large agency could hope to offer.