As SEO professionals, we generally have one bad habit; using technical jargon without the client understanding what it means. One of those terms so often misunderstood is “backlinks”.
If you’re not familiar with SEO, you’re probably wondering “what are backlinks exactly?”
In this article, we are going to go through not only what backlinks are and their importance when it comes to a successful SEO strategy but also the different types of links, how to build them and how to check their quality.
So, What Are Backlinks Exactly?
Backlinks can be defined as any incoming link from an external website that points towards a page on your site. They are an important part of search engine optimization because they help Google understand which pages are most relevant for certain queries.
For example, if you search for “best vacuum cleaner”, you will see many results from sites like Amazon or Best Buy, while there might be no results at all from eHow or Wikipedia.
This happens because these websites have been linked by other websites (known as backlinks) that rank higher than them. This means that if someone searches for “best vacuum cleaners”, he/she will find the top-ranked result first. The more backlinks a website has, the better its position will be in the SERPs (search engine results pages).
Why Are Backlinks Important For Your SEO Strategy?
So, backlinks are very important for SEO. But why? Let’s take a look at some examples of why you would want to increase the number of backlinks to your site:
- You want to rank 1 for a specific keyword
- You want to increase traffic to your blog
- You want to improve your brand awareness
- You want to gain authority within your niche
- You want to attract new customers
- You want to improve conversion rates
All of the above are reasons why you need great SEO, and although there are literally hundreds of ranking factors, backlinks play a huge role.
When it comes to rankings, backlinks are used to determine where a particular webpage ranks in the search engine results. For instance, if you want to rank 1 for a specific keyword, you should try to get as many backlinks pointing to that page as possible.
Google understands backlinks as a vote of confidence from well-established sites. Generally speaking, the more websites that link to you, the better you rank.
Another reason why backlinks are important is that they help people discover your content. If you want to rank high in the organic listings, you need to make sure that your content gets found.
Search engines use backlinks as a way to measure how popular a page is. More popular pages get crawled more often than unpopular ones, so gaining links from popular websites can help search engines find your pages and index them faster.
3. Referral traffic
If you want to drive lots of visitors to your site, backlinks are an essential tool. You can use them to direct people to your content, to promote your shareable resources like ebooks, etc. Backlinks can be a powerful way to get referral traffic.
4. Brand awareness
Last, but not least, backlink have the power to improve your company’s brand authority and recognition. Quality links from reputable websites can help you attract new customers and boost conversions. In other words, when people read what others say about you or what you have to offer, they will trust your brand more and become interested in what you do for their business.
Types of Backlinks
Backlinks, like most things in SEO (and life in general), are not “one size fits all“. Ther
High Authority Links
High authority backlinks are what most people think of when they think about buying links. These are the type of links you get from websites like Huffington Post or Business Insider. The advantage of these types of links is that they have a high domain authority, which means that they pass lots of link juice to what you’re trying to promote, while the disadvantage is that they are costly and risky.
Low Authority Links
On the other hand, low authority backlinks can come from a variety of sites you might not realize have high page rank, such as web 2.0s and forum profiles, and what makes these links so effective is that they pass very little link juice, which means that there is very little risk of getting them de-indexed.
Any backlink is like a chain: the more links you have, the stronger it will be. That’s what makes building an effective SEO strategy so important; it allows you to play on your strengths and make what could potentially be an extremely weak link shine. No matter what type of backlinks you’re looking for, what matters the most is what you’re going to do with them once you get them!
The Benefits Of High Authority Backlinks
High authority backlinks can benefit your website in a number of ways. First and foremost, they will help your website climb higher in the search engine rankings. That means more people will be able to find you, which will help boost your website’s visibility and increase traffic.
High authority backlinks can also make a search engine more likely to show you in its results because what it sees is a page that lots of other reputable websites are linking to. That means improved discoverability, which means more people finding what you have to offer and what makes your website unique.
High authority backlinks also make Google more likely to show your page in search results, because what it sees is a page that lots of other reputable websites are linking to. Improve discoverability, which means more people finding what you have to offer and what makes your website unique.
Sponsored or paid links
These links help you climb the rankings a bit faster, but what they don’t do is help your website stand out from what other people are doing. This is what makes building high authority backlinks so important – it allows you to play on your strengths and make what could potentially be a weak link shine.
Nofollow links don’t pass as much as followed links would, but what it does allow you to do is build up a high domain rating and what’s more, it can help you improve your backlink profile. Plus, a nofollow link from a high-authority site with lots of traffic can be just as (if not more so) beneficial than a follow link from a low authority site.
Follow links work almost the same as nofollow, but what they do differently is pass link juice.
When your site is considered an authoritative source, a website will add a follow link to give Google context as to where they got a certain piece of information. For example, if you conduct a survey and another website wants to include the results in a piece of content, they would write “a recent survey showed X” with a link directly to the page on your site.
Toxic Links (Unnatural Links)
This is what most people think of when they hear the word “backlinks.” This type of link is what Google wants you to stay away from. Basically, what it looks for are links that are manipulative or unnatural, which have the potential to harm your website’s rankings. What makes these types of backlinks deceptive is the fact that they look natural, but what they’re doing is damaging what you have going on with Google.
When a search engine notices spammy backlinks in your link profile, what it does is devalue the pages that these links are coming from and what this means for your site is decreased visibility and rankings. And even if they do go up at one point, what will happen is they’ll lose their authority, which means you’ll end up right back where you started.
Plus, since the Google Spam Update in 2021, you’re even likely to end up in a worse position, possibly even risk having your website removed from Google’s index.
What Makes A Good Backlink In The Eyes OF Search Engines?
It is important to remember that not all backlinks are created equal. When it comes down to what makes a good backlink, what you want is one that’s relevant and adds value to your website.
For example, what you don’t want are links coming from websites where the same topic shows up multiple times on different pages or linking out to what seems like every other site online. At the end of the day what you want is a backlink that doesn’t stand out from what everyone else has going on because what it looks like to search engines is an unnatural link.
So what makes a good backlink then?
What search engines look for in quality links are ones coming from websites with great content and top-notch user experience. It’s what makes your link profile look natural and what gives Google what it wants to see.
What you want are links coming from websites where what the page is about matches what your website is all about. And what you don’t want is a link from one site to another or from what happens to be an affiliate link.
In order to avoid what Google might think of as spammy backlinks, you need to look at what it calls ” link schemes .” These schemes are what the search engine has deemed as manipulative and what you want to stay away from.
They can be obvious, such as buying links on a blog site, or they can be sneakier, like participating in what’s called ” comment spam.”
The difference between what Google calls a scheme and what someone else calls a scheme is what can fall in the grey area. For example, what someone might think of as “article marketing,” what Google will call unnatural links.
Okay, Backlinks Are Important. But How Do You Build Them?
There are many strategies that we use on our clients every month, and most of them revolve around manual outreach, earned media (HARO), infographics (visual content designed specifically to gain shares) and public relations (press releases). These are what we call “earned” backlinks because what you are earning are online mentions.
Being a source of information for journalists and being quoted in their content is a great way to not only earn quality backlinks from authoritative websites as part of your link building strategy but also increase brand awareness, referral traffic and E-A-T.
Being presented as an expert in your niche helps to build your digital footprint and improve the authority of both your brand and the people behind it and in turn, your website.
Scouring through sites like HARO (Help A Reporter Out) every day and responding to queries that you can answer with content that adds value to what they’re reporting will help boost your authority in the eyes of journalists and media outlets alike.
It helps contribute not only what we call “intangible” value but what search engines dig: online mentions and quality backlinks from authoritative websites like media companies like CNN or the New York Times.
Infographics are what we call “visual content,” and what it is designed to do what written words alone can’t: break down complex information in a way that’s easy to digest and understand.
At the same time, what makes infographics such effective tools for link building is what they can do when shared properly on social media: drive traffic to your website and at the same time, help spread awareness of your brand.
Just make sure what you include in this visual piece will answer what’s called an “inbound question.” That means what people come looking for online when they stumble upon your infographic should be answered loud and clear.
Securing a press release on a major news publication, such as ABC or NBC can also help to improve your website’s rankings. Digital PR and earned media are some of the most “white-hat” link building strategies you can use.
Broken Link Building
This technique is a great way to grab “low hanging fruit” and find websites that are linking to relevant but broken pages and reach out to the webmaster in order to change those links over to a relevant page on your own website.
What Is The Difference Between Building Links And Buying Links?
There is a big difference between what search engines define as link building and what we call paid links.
If someone is buying links on another site, what that really means (in Google’s eyes) is that there is unnatural backlinks pointing to your website.
However, if you’re earning those mentions and placements through legitimate ways like outreach and content creation, you’re doing what Google calls “link building.”
Is It Possible To Build Too Many Links?
In short, yes. While there are many techniques that are considered “white-hat”, it is about what is right for your website at that time.
What makes a link profile look unnatural in the eyes of search engines is what we call “link velocity” which is the speed of those links being put on those other websites.
For example, something like a skyscraper campaign, or syndicated content that can acquire hundreds of links in a short period can be great for a well-established website. But for a new website with very little traffic, this can be a major red flag to Google and other search engines.
How can I check a website’s backlinks?
Backlink check can be beneficial for any site planning or evaluating links to competitors’ sites. You can find out how many backlinks your sites receive through Google Search Console, but you have to learn more detail to understand the profiles of other sites — and you can do it via Submit.
Using Google Search Console to Understand Your Link Profile
Google Search Console shows what your link profile looks like without revealing your competitors. For more information, visit the Google search page.
Use the left-side menu and you should see “links” at the top of the list.
From here you can see all of your internal and external links, top linked pages and top linked sites.
Using an SEO Tool to Understand Yours and Your Competitor’s Link Profiles
Use an online backlink checker such as Ahref or Semrush to look for links not only on your own site, but for a site that you do not own.
These tools can tell you in-depth information about each link, which can help you to identify unnatural links to your own website.
For example, if you get linked to by a site that looks spammy and you check out its backlink profile, you can see whether the site is likely part of a PBN (Pubic Blog Network). These are the kinds of links you want to avoid and these can be removed via Google Search Console’s disavow tool.
A strong web presence is essential when it comes to SEO. Google has evolved its algorithm to evaluate link quality and not quantity. Therefore, it is important to get professional help when looking to build links to boost SEO.
If you’re looking for help with SEO or Digital PR, contact us today.