What are backlinks?

What are backlinks?

Understand the basics of backlinks and why obtaining high-quality backlinks is so important.

What are backlinks?

Understand the basics of backlinks and why obtaining high-quality backlinks is so important.

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Written by
Nick Babich
Nick Babich
Nick Babich
Nick Babich

Backlinks are links from a page on one website to a page on another website.

Backlinks are called "inbound links" because they invite visitors from an external website back to yours. Obtaining backlinks is one of the essential parts of search engine optimization (SEO) because high-quality backlinks can help to increase a site's visibility in search results.

Why backlinks are important  

When a user searches for something online, one of the most critical factors that impacts how a website’s search engine ranking are backlinks.  

Search engines like Google consider backlinks a measure of user interest in a particular page. Backlinks play a vital role in Google's search results ranking algorithm, PageRank. According to their guide on creating Google-friendly sites: "Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for page B." 

Low-quality and high-quality backlinks

The more backlinks the page has, the higher ranking it should have in search results, right? Not exactly. The quantity of links does not always lead to quality. Having a ton of backlinks to your website is not enough to get a higher search ranking. You’ll also need to consider the quality of the links. 

There are two types of backlinks—high-quality and low-quality backlinks. A single high-quality link on a credible website like the New York Times can be more powerful than hundreds of low-quality links. Additionally, low-quality links can bring more harm than good. Links on low-authority, spammy websites can lead to lower search positions in Google and other search engines. 

Here are a few essential properties that high-quality links share:

1. High-quality backlinks are placed on credible websites

When evaluating the website, search engines consider Domain Authority (the relevance for a specific subject area or industry). The higher the Domain Authority is, the more authoritative a website is. The more authority a website has, the more value the backlinks on this site have.

2. High-quality backlinks come from-topically related websites

When the search engines evaluate the backlinks to a particular website, they also consider how related the link is to this website. Search engines give more weight to backlinks placed on the page of the same topic as a target page. The backlink is considered highly relevant if both sites have content geared toward the same topic. 

Let's assume you build a website about a healthy lifestyle. Topically-related websites for your website will be websites about healthy food, sports, fitness, and well-being. As a result, search engines will put more weight on the links from these websites. 

If you have two credible websites, site A and site B, that have the same Domain Authority and link to your content, but only site A is related to your business, the link featured on website A will have more weight in search engine results than website B.

3. High-quality backlinks have relevant anchor text  

Anchor text is text that users click to navigate to another page. Search engines examine the anchor text to evaluate its relevance to the content on a target webpage. Anchor text should include relevant keywords that give visitors a clear idea of what they will see when they click on the link. That's why it's better to avoid generic anchor texts such as "Read more" because it doesn't say much to visitors. In comparison, "Best healthy diets" clearly signals visitors to what they will see when they click the link.

A quick tip: Ideally, anchor text should include keywords that describe your business. It should be the keywords potential customers type into search engines when searching for your business or solutions/services your business offers. 

4. High-quality backlinks are “dofollow” 

A backlink that search engines can follow are called “dofollow” links. However, sometimes site owners may want to add a "nofollow" attribute to links. This attribute tells search engines not to use the link for page ranking. Backlinks with a "nofollow" attribute work the same for site visitors, but Google and other search engines won't pass any value from one site to another.

How to earn backlinks

The process of obtaining backlinks is known as link building, and should be a part of your off-page strategy. Link building takes time and effort — you need to convince other people that they should link to your website. But it's possible to make the process less painful with the right strategy. Here are a few recommendations for optimizing your efforts.

Create high-quality content 

Content is a primary reason why people visit websites. If you want to organically generate more backlinks, you’ll need to have something on your website worth linking to. This means investing in user research and learning what content your target audience finds valuable. From there, you’ll need to create unique content your target audience is looking for. 

Find trusted and authoritative websites to link to your site

If you want to see your website on the first page of Google, you’ll also need to gain links from trusted and authoritative websites in your industry. 

Start by creating a list of trusted and authoritative websites in your niche and then consider the following:

  • Write guest posts. If a trusted website accepts contributions, submit posts that are relevant to both their and your own target audience. Avoid writing emails where you provide a list of ideas because site owners tend to avoid or ignore such proposals. Reach out to people only when you have a draft ready for review. 
  • Conduct a competitor analysis. Learn how your competitors promote their content to understand where they’re succeeding. Identify where they publish their content, who they collaborate with, and keywords they rank high for that align with your business.. 
  • Join link roundups. Link roundups are articles that are created as a collection of links centered on a specific topic (i.e., "10 Best Web Design Tools" or "15 Powerful Website Builders"). If you see an opportunity to participate in a link roundup on a trustworthy website, reach out to the author of the roundup and ask to include a link to your content in their roundup. To find these opportunities you can simply search your keyword and  the words “link roundup” in Google. 
  • Practice link reclamation. Find mentions of your product/business that don't link to your website and reach the authors with the request to add the link. You can type “<company name>” in Google to find mentions of your product/brand on other websites. 

Create and examine your backlink profile 

Analyzing the performance of backlinks is an essential part of SEO. Not only do you need to create your backlink profile, but you also need to keep track of it over time. 

Tools like Google Analytics or Semrush help you understand which websites are linking to your website. Once you know who links to your website, you can accurately gauge the amount of high-quality versus low-quality backlinks you currently have. 

Within low-quality links, there’s a sub-category known as toxic links. These links come from suspicious sites or websites that break search engine terms of service. These are the types of sites you do not want linking to your site. This is because when Google notices a lot of toxic backlinks, it can penalize your site by lowering your site's ranking. 

Tools like Semrush offer a feature called Backlink Audit. It checks every backlink and finds ones that are toxic. After you identify the toxic backlinks, you can use the Disavow tool to report them to Google so that the search engine will ignore them. 

Invest in high-quality backlinks 

Getting a backlink on high-quality websites will be challenging, but it’s worth doing. Investing in link building is essential to any web business because backlinks create awareness and drive traffic to your website. 

The more high-quality backlinks you will have, the higher your position in search results will be, the more people will see your content, and the more exposure you’ll gain for your brand, product or service. 

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SEO and Webflow: the essential guide

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Last Updated
November 4, 2022