(Or: something funny happened on the way to getting a backlink)
Backlinks are one of the core weapons in anyone’s SEO arsenal. Like so many webmasters, website owners or search marketing specialists, I have never been a big fan of acquiring backlinks. It’s a genuinely painful process for the most part. And it gets harder all the time to get legitimate backlinks from other sites. They want money (I don’t do this; I’m rightfully scared of Google whacks), they think you should link back to them (nope, same reason). Or you comment or participate in a site that nofollows your link or doesn’t allow the link to be active (I’m looking at you, Yahoo Answers).
Recently I answered a question on a forum by pointing the questioner to a site I work for, adding an html link. You know, those things the Web is supposed to be made of? Oddly, the forum’s owners allow links to be active, no questions, no nofollow, no problem. The backlink probably helped the ranking of my client’s site a little… but what else happened was a bit unusual. The link referred scads of traffic to the client’s site. As in, noticeable amounts. In fact, nearly as much as the site currently gets from Google for generic search terms.
….But then again that’s what good backlinks are supposed to be really about. I mean, right? If a link is relevant to the rest of the content on the page and useful to the page’s visitors it ought to improve the rank of the page linked to. Right? Yet, I doubt that this is accounted for in Google’s algorithm. A link is either nofollowed or followed and that’s probably as sophisticated as Google gets. I’m speculating but with good reason.
Anyway, what’s sadly surprising is that I’m surprised.
How did we get here, I wonder? How did we get to the point where a backlink that actually directs traffic is noteworthy and out of the ordinary? Why do some sites refuse to allow links that ought to drive web traffic (yep, you again, Yahoo Answers). Is it all Google’s fault for over-determining links and not coming up with a way of better grading them algorithmically?
But anyway, for now, I’m happy that my client is getting so much traffic from a legitimate link to their site.
Do you honestly think Google grades links algorithmically in terms of how effective they are at driving traffic to the target site? Incorporating things like bounce rate, time on (target) site, etc? How much weight do you think they put on any of those variables versus plain old, easy-to-understand follow vs. nofollow?
*Off topic: but some people who I don’t agree with think that links are bad. (This is a whole other argument, of course.)