At a glance, backlinks may look like ordinary website links. But if you’re a website owner or marketer, backlinks are pure SEO rocket fuel.
In this article, we'll cover why backlinks matter and the type of backlinks you should focus on.
A backlink is a hyperlink from a different website to your website. They’re also called inbound links or incoming links.
As a quick example, here’s a backlink from miloszkrasinski.com leading to SiteGuru:
High-quality backlinks help search engines like Google find and index the content of web pages. Most importantly, search engines also use backlinks as indicators of high authority.
The more quality backlinks your website has, the higher it will rank on SERPs.
Backlinks are an endorsement from other authoritative websites that says: Yes, that content is reliable. We vouch for it. Rank it up.
The more websites do this, the better results Google can offer its users.
Backlinks are one of Google's top 3 ranking factors for a reason.
If several trustworthy websites link to the same page, search engine crawlers presume that the page contains helpful information for users. So, getting a thumbs up from authoritative websites increases your search visibility and chances of ranking.
The more quality backlinks a page has, the more organic traffic it gets from Google. Both frequency and quality of links can determine a website’s authority, so web crawlers will index backlink-earning sites more often.
If web crawlers index your site more often, you can start showing up in the top spots faster.
Bonus: relevant backlinks bring you more referral traffic.
One of Google's algorithms, PageRank, evaluates backlink quality and quantity. The higher the PageRank of a link, the more authoritative it is.
That evaluation also takes DoFollow and NoFollow links into account:
A DoFollow link isn't really a thing: it's a regular link without a NoFollow attribute. SEOs often call these DoFollow, to distinguish from NoFollow links.
DoFollow backlinks tell search engines to crawl and index them. These links pass on the most value or "link juice" from one web page to another.
Whenever a website gets a DoFollow link, that's an indication for Google to increase the PageRank value to the linked page.
NoFollow backlinks, originally created to fight spam, tell search engines that a link shouldn’t be crawled. These days, they’re also used for sponsored content, in cases where a website was paid to link to the other website.
As a result, it won’t pass any trust between websites and affect SEO.
Right-click anywhere on a webpage and click “View page source”.
You'll see the HTML version of that same page on a different tab.
Next, look for a rel=”nofollow” attribute to the link you want to check.
If you find it, the link is NoFollow. If there’s no rel attribute, it’s a regular DoFollow link.
You need as many links as possible from high-quality websites; it’s a no-brainer. However, the problem occurs when low-authority websites start linking to your pages.
If you only have "spammy" websites linking to yours – or more low-quality links over high-quality ones – the authority of your own website could suffer.
You can check the quality of your backlink profile (the aggregate of all the links pointing to your website) with Ahrefs’ tool.
If your ranking is 60 - 100, that’s great!
For example, Ahrefs’ backlink profile is quite strong:
Link equity is the value of a link (“link juice”). The more link juice, the more value a link passes and the more equity it has.
The anchor text is the clickable text of the backlink. It tells the crawl bots what the link is about, so it should include relevant keywords. Above all else, it determines whether a link is spammy.
For example, if we wanted to link to a blog post about the perfect product page for SEO, we’d use that exact anchor text - “the perfect product page for SEO.”
Backlinks take time to build, so make sure they’re always working as expected. Check the status of your links with the Broken Link Checker for free, and then reach out to have them updated.
Make sure you do this whenever you create redirects or update page URLs!
If you’ve received spammy backlinks, be careful about disavowing them. When you disavow links, you send Google a request to ignore those links to your domain.
While many SEOs recommend disavowing links regularly, disregard that advice. The disavow tool was originally created to deal with structural backlink problems back in the day when website owners participated in link-building schemes.
Today, Google recommends disavowing links only if you receive a manual action in Google Search Console.
Any webmaster worth their salt knows earning backlinks isn't easy. However, there are techniques you can use to build and earn backlinks to your website, including:
- Guest blogging
- Internal link-building
- Creating shareable visuals like infographics
You can’t jump the SEO queue with shady practices.
Previously, webmasters would try to game Google’s algorithm with link farms and dropping links in forums.
However, when Reddit asked whether the "forum link posting" trick still works, Google's John Mueller said it no longer works.
In fact, you could get a manual penalty for using black-hat SEO techniques.
No matter the exaggerated headlines you might come across, backlinks are still vital for SEO success. They drive more eyeballs toward your website while respecting Google's ultimate mission: relevant content delivered fast.