If you are new to search engine optimisation (SEO) you will very likely have heard of the term “backlink” it is an essential element of SEO and in this post I explain what exactly they are, how to build them, especially those that boost your traffic to huge heights.
What is a backlink on a website?
A backlink also known as an incoming link or an inbound link is a hyperlink on one website leading to another.
Inbound links can result in higher rankings, quicker indexing of new pages and extra traffic to your website.
Why are backlinks so important?
Backlinks are important for search engine optimisation as they are ranking factors for many of the most used search engines such as Google.
The inbound links from one website to another can be considered as a vote or recommendation.
Incoming links are trust factor and considered as such by Google, but only if they come from trusted domains which too have good backlinks linking to them.
Google base all pages on the web in terms of “pagerank”. There was a time when the pagerank for websites were revealed, however, this resulted excessive spamming and other black hat SEO techniques that webmasters used to rank poor websites with no value prior to Google Panda update in 2011.
SEO’s will argue that pagerank is dead and rightly so for non Google analysis. There are SEO tools like Moz, Ahrefs and Majestic that offer metrics on how authoritative a website is. However, they should only be taken lightly as they are only a metric.
Backlinks pass “link juice”, which is the SEO value of a link from one web page to another. The more authority a backlink has, the more link juice will pass to the webpage which it is linking to.
What is an example of a backlink?
I am going to answer this in several ways. First the basics:
The image below is a simple backlink. Website 1 has a hyperlink that is going to website 2.
The second example is a high quality backlink from an authoritative website.
In this case, website 1 has a number of backlinks from different websites. If they are all linking from relevant niches or from high authority websites like Forbes and/or Lifehack website 1 will be a highly authoritative website.
As a result link juice will be passed on to website 2 and will help the site in terms of its rankings.
The third example is a low quality backlink from a spam website.
In this case, website 1 has backlinks coming from spam comments and spun private blog networks. These type of links will provide no influence what so ever for your website ranking and will likely result in a drop in SERPs and traffic.
The quality of backlinks will also depend on whether the link is a no-follow or a do-follow backlink. Below we show you the difference between the two types of links.
What is a No Follow link?
A no follow link is a backlink from one web page to another that does not pass link juice. No follow links were created to reduce the level of spam on the internet. That is why most blog commenting platforms are set with the nofollow tag to prevent the amount of comment spam and to deter those who continue to engage in this black hat SEO technique.
A no follow link can be created on any page with the following HTML tag:
<a href=”http://www.a-domain.com/” rel=”nofollow”>Link Text</a>
Are all nofollow links bad?
If you have a nofollow link pointing to your website, it may still be fantastic news for your site. Highly authoritative websites like Wikipedia and Forbes nofollow most of their outbound link. As such sites are highly authoritative and trusted by Google, having a link to your website from these sources, will be counted by search engines as a trust factor.
What is a Do Follow link?
A Do Follow backlink therefore, is a link that passes link juice from a web page to another. If a web page has a lot of do follow links coming from lots of other quality websites, then Google recognises that it must be a good web page so it should be ranked higher as a result in search engine positions (SERPs).
How do I get backlinks to my website?
There are many ways to build backlinks, however most strategies are difficult to carry out.
Backlinks can vary from:
- Social media profiles
- Blog comments
- Business listings
- Niche directories
- Niche classified websites
- Resource pages
You can gain quality backlinks if you have quality blog posts on your website that people may link to in order to back up points that they may be making.
Backlink strategies are different for every website as you may have a business website or a niche blog.
Below we will talk about what makes and excellent backlink strategy for businesses who are looking to boost their rankings.
What is a good backlink strategy?
If you are a business it is essential that you start with your foundational backlinks. We will cover “foundational backlinks” in more depth below.
How to build foundational backlinks?
Your foundational links are the first set of backlinks that you will build to your website. The type of links you should build initially should include:
Social Media Backlinks
Firstly, you should look at getting a link on the major social media platforms and setting up a page on each for your business.
Social media websites to set up a page for include:
It is very important that you add as much information about your business on these profiles in the about information sections etc. Mention your customer types you serve, products you offer, services you offer and locations serviced as such details may appear in searches and provide the best opportunity to get as many visitors to your brand pages as possible.
Social media backlinks are generally no follow links, however they will improve your authority and Google will recognise your business as a genuine entity.
Local Business Directories
Next ensure your business is listed in the local business directories. When submitting websites to directories, ensure you use only local directories and not “website directories”.
Most general website directories that publish your listing and a link to your website are considered by Google as spam. Ensure that you only add your website to trusted local directories like:
- Google Maps
Check out this hubspot list for a full list of local business directories and listings websites.
You should also look at adding your website to geo-based directories that may be based in your local area. To find those simply copy and paste the following search strings into a Google search.
- city + directory
- directory + city
How Do I Define Backlink Quality?
One of the simplest ways to check whether the website you are looking to place a link is of good quality is to check whether the site is indexed or not.
You can do this by:
- Doing a Google Search for the name of the site you are thinking of getting a link from
- Put the following search string into Google: site:http://www.websitedomain.com/ – If no results appear it means the site may have been deindexed.
Another way to check whether you should get a link from your website is to check the website yourself and consider whether you trust the site yourself and would you like your business to be associated with the site?
If the site has text that is not human readable, contains annoying popups and spammy looking ads, then you
What links should I avoid?
In the previous section, you would have got a gist of how you define backlink quality. The links you should avoid are as follows:
- General website directories
- Article directories
- Websites that are totally irrelevant to yours
- Private blog networks (PBNs)
- Link farms
- SEO gigs offered on Fiverr and similar micro task job sites
There will be a lot of people who will be disagreeing with me on the PBNs. This is a grey hat seo technique rather than black hat, but it is not white hat either.
Basically what you should not do is buy a guest post from someone who owns a PBN. This is simply setting yourself up for a Google penalty down the line. Such PBN backlinks that you find on websites like Fiverr and seo forums are extremely risky as they generally use spammy content that could raise a red flag by a Google crawler.
What Tools Should I Use For Building Backlinks?
I do not recommend that you use any SEO tools or software that automatically creates backlinks for you.
There are tools that can help you find backlinks that your competitors have. These links can help you reverse engineer inbound links to your own website.
My seo tools of choice include:
Ahrefs, SEMrush and MOZ are useful tools to provide you with information on what websites are linking to your competitors. Ahrefs provides the most details on the quality of the links. The best quality links to your competitors are those that you should work on to get linking to your website.
Backlinks to your website are vital to improving your rankings on SERPs. However, is very important, that you get your on-site seo correct on your website first. Without excellent, engaging and quality content that your visitors find useful and interact with backlinks become meaningless.
Links are part of the puzzle that is SEO. It is a task that should be ongoing for best results.