Everything You Need To Know About Backlinks

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If you’ve spent any time working on your website’s search engine optimization (SEO), you’ve probably heard about backlinks and their importance.

Backlinks are vital for the health and performance of your website. They are an important aspect of search engine optimization (SEO). Backlinks are one signal that search engines use to rank your website. The higher your content ranks in the search engine results, the more eyeballs you get on your website.

If you’re still puzzling over backlinks and the best ways to get them, keep reading, and I’ll fill you in on what you need to know.

The term backlink refers to a link on a website page that points to a website page on another website. 

An image showing a backlink to Semrush in a paragraph of text

For example, in this post pictured above, Erin links to another website where you can learn more about SEO. That’s a backlink for SEMRush because Erin links to them.

An image showing how ConvertKit linked to Erin Flynn in an article on their website

In the image above, ConvertKit links to Erin’s website. That’s a backlink for her because ConvertKit links to Out Of Office Entrepreneur. 

Backlinks are like votes for your website. The more “votes” you have—people linking to your website—the more relevant and authoritative your site appears. This relevance and authority help search engines determine where you appear in search results. 

Let’s say you have two websites that write blog posts on the same topic; both are of equal quality. Site A has 20 backlinks, while Site B has 120 backlinks. All else being equal, Site B will rank higher than Site A because it has more backlinks. 

As with everything related to SEO, this doesn’t always hold true; a site with fewer links often outranks a site with more links. But generally, the more backlinks your site has, the higher your site will rank.

What other benefits come from backlinks?

There are other reasons to work on your backlink profile.

Better search engine optimization (SEO)

Search engines use backlinks to determine how relevant websites are to their search queries. By gaining backlinks, you signal to search engines that your website is relevant. This improves your website’s SEO, making it more likely to rank higher in search results for relevant search queries.

Increased visibility

Frequently, websites that have high domain authority rank high in search results. That means your website is more likely to receive organic search traffic. This is especially useful for websites that do not use paid advertising (e.g., Google ads).

Higher domain authority

Domain Authority (DA) is an artificial metric created by Moz. Ahrefs has a similar metric called Domain Rating (DR). 

​​These metrics give people a general idea of how “popular” your website is. The higher your domain authority, the more reliable your site appears.

Google does not use domain authority or domain rating to rank a website. Your DA has absolutely no bearing on your position in the SERPs. I can show you many examples of sites with a lower DA outranking sites with a high DA.

However, DA can still be a metric you want to track depending on how you monetize your website and the business opportunities you pursue.

For example, some brands want to know the DA of your site as part of their application process when making brand deals.

Building backlinks can help increase your DA to meet a brand’s requirements if working with brands is part of your monetization process.

Are All Backlinks The Same?

The short answer is no; one backlink is not necessarily as good as any other. There are other factors to consider.

Backlinks types: Dofollow or Nofollow?

There are two types of backlinks, dofollow and nofollow.

Dofollow Backlinks

Example of a dofollow backlink.

Image source: Ahrefs

When search engines like Google crawl the internet, they look at the links that point to your domain. 

A dofollow link is one that search engines count as a vote for that website. When a website gives you a dofollow link, they’re saying they trust your information. A dofollow link tells the search engines they’re “voting” for your website. These are the kinds of links you really want.

Nofollow Backlinks

an example of a nofollow backlink

A nofollow link is one that search engines don’t count as a vote. When someone gives you a nofollow link, they’re saying to the search engines, This information that I’m linking to looks credible, but I can’t vouch for this site. The search engines don’t get any signals that your website is valuable or trustworthy. So, there is no “vote” for your website.

to see if a link is dofollow or nofollow right click on it and hit "inspect"

To make a backlink nofollow, the referring website inserts some code that says nofollow. A dofollow link won’t have the nofollow code. You can see if a link is dofollow or nofollow by right-clicking on a link and selecting Inspect.

If there is no code in the highlighred box that says "nofollow" the link is a dofollow link

While it’s generally asserted that nofollow links don’t pass any “votes” to your website, many SEOs believe nofollow links have some relevance. So, don’t discount the slight advantage you might get from obtaining nofollow backlinks.

Are Your Backlinks Coming from Multiple Websites?

You want backlinks from a variety of sources. 

If all of your backlinks come from one website, they won’t have the same weight as links from multiple websites. Once you receive several backlinks from one site, you run into the law of diminishing returns. As you acquire more and more links from one source, they have less impact.

So, your link-building strategy should include ways to build links from different websites.

Who Does the Backlink Come From?

While you want your links coming from multiple websites, you don’t want links from any old website.

Backlinks from authoritative websites, such as The New York Times or Business Insider, will have a lot of value. 

These websites have a lot of trust from search engines. They enjoy a solid reputation, and people usually trust what they publish. So, getting backlinks from them is great for your business.

However, a site can have authority and be well-respected, but a link from them won’t be great for you.

For example, if you have a baking blog and get a backlink from Martha Stewart Living or Good Housekeeping, that’s exciting news. That link is valuable because those high-profile websites are related to your niche.

But if your baking blog gets a link from Automotive News, it isn’t much to get excited about. 

Yes, Automotive News is an authority site in the automotive industry. But the topics they cover aren’t relevant to your business, so a link from them doesn’t build your authority in the baking world even with their high DA. 

You want links from sites that are high-quality, trusted, and relevant to your niche. So always take a quality-over-quantity approach.

The Anchor Text

What is anchor text? Anchor text is the specific text used to create the clickable link to another website or page. 

An image showing paragraphs of text with anchor text

There are two links in the above image. In the first link, the anchor text is intro packet. In the second link, the anchor text is Loom.

Anchor text can help search engines determine the topic and purpose of the page. Anchor text also gives search engines clues about which subjects to associate with you.

An image showing how an article used "Jennifer Ayling" as anchor text

Here’s an example of a publication that quoted me. You’ll see they linked my name, which is nice.

An image showing Jennifer Ayling's bio with the text "content strategist" linked as anchor text

Now, look at my writer bio on Smartblogger. I hyperlinked to my website using the words content strategist. Why? Because content strategist is a term related to what I do. By using that term as my anchor text, I’m signaling to Google that my name and business are related to content marketing. 

Most times, you won’t have any say in the anchor text. You’ve won the backlink lottery if you can get a dofollow backlink where the anchor text is a keyword related to your business niche. Just keep in mind that it rarely happens. But if you can influence the anchor text, do so.

I had no input on the article beyond my quote in my first example. The writer/editor has their own guidelines, and I’m happy to get a dofollow backlink from them. I’m certainly not going to quibble over the anchor text. That’s a good way to get on a journalist’s/writer’s wrong side.

But in the second example, Smart Blogger uses the bio I write. So I can pick the words I want to be hyperlinked. The Smart Blogger editors copy and paste.

How Do You Get Backlinks?

How do you get these backlinks that are so important to your website?

When it comes to getting backlinks, there are two popular ways to do it.

Build links yourself.

Screenshot of the HARO website

Usually, you do this via responding to Help A Reporter Out, and I’ll cover how to use HARO in the next post. But basically, you answer questions for reporters and other writers who quote you in the piece they write. A backlink to your website often accompanies these quotes.

You can also build backlinks via guest posting. I’ll tell you more about that in another post.

Hire someone to build links for you.

Screenshot of the Jolly SEO website

The other option is to hire an agency to build links to your site. 

This can save you time, but they are typically quite expensive for the average solopreneur. These companies have contractors or employees who look for opportunities to build backlinks for you, often through HARO queries or guest posting.

Don’t confuse this approach with paying for backlinks, which is a big no-no. When you hire an agency to build backlinks for you, you’re paying for the time someone else spends doing the work to get your backlinks. You’re not paying for the backlink.

Buying backlinks is when you (or someone representing you) make arrangements with another website. “I’ll pay you $500 to link to my website in your blog post on XYZ.” 

Do not do this! 

Buying backlinks is against Google’s terms of service, and if you’re caught, Google will penalize your website.

Final Thoughts on Building Backlinks for Your Business

There are many benefits to building backlinks to your website. Search engines favor sites that have a lot of backlinks from trustworthy sources. And the social proof that comes from mentions on high-quality sites also helps you build trust and authority with your target audience. 

That’s why it’s important to know how to find high-quality backlinks for your website. Come back next week to learn how you can build valuable backlinks to your website.

Dive Deeper:

Jennifer Ayling

Jennifer Ayling is a certified content marketer and SEO content writer at The Mulberry Pen. She’s been creating digital content since 2008 and is a regular writer for authority sites like Smart Blogger and Xperiencify. 

An avid bookworm, Jennifer reads 100+ books every year. She lives outside St. Louis, MO, with her husband and their two children. The family’s two dogs rule the household.

It’s my mission to show you how to build and market your business without depending on the whims of social media. There are many other marketing assets you can create. I can help.