What is a Backlink? 4 Things You Need to Know

Published: Feb 27, 2020
Last Updated:
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As of June 30, 2019, more than 4.5 million people viewed the more than 1.5 billion websites that exist on the internet. So, if you have a business website or a blog, how do you drive traffic to your particular corner of the web? The answer to that question is through search engine optimization (SEO). One way to optimize your SEO is to cultivate relationships with other websites to generate backlinks.

What is a backlink?

Simply speaking, a backlink on a website is a link to your website from another site. When another website links to you, creating a backlink, the other website is essentially endorsing your site for quality content.

For an example of a backlink, imagine this: you have a travel blog, and you want your readers to be able to navigate to the website of a particular travel service, airline, or hotel chain. You would embed a link to that business's website onto your own website, thus creating a backlink for the other website. If your travel blog is doing well, this can create an influx of traffic for whatever business you have endorsed with a backlink.

Why are backlinks important?

Backlinks are important for SEO. Have you ever wondered why some websites rank higher on search engine platforms like Google, Bing, or Yahoo? There are many reasons for higher rankings, but one factor in determining a website's ranking is the number of relevant backlinks. The more relevant backlinks a website has, the higher the website will rank in the search results on search engines.

Let's look at the above example in a different way: you have a travel service, and someone with a travel blog has used your services. The travel blog is happy with the service you provided and has provided a link to your website in their blog. This link is a backlink for your travel service website, and it can make a difference to the traffic visiting your website. This potential increase in visits can make a difference in your business's profitability.

Keep in mind that the backlink from another website should be relevant in terms of content. For instance, a backlink from an auto repair website to a gardening blog will likely not affect SEO rankings, or the search engine could completely disregard this kind of non-relevant backlink.

Types of Backlinks

There are two main types of backlinks:

  1. "Dofollow" or "follow" links
  2. "Nofollow" links

When a website links to another website, it is by default a "dofollow" link. Its HTML code generally looks like so:

<a href="http://compose.ly">Compose.ly</a>

However, webmasters can add a tag to this code telling search engine web crawlers to ignore a given link when determining SEO rankings. Including this tag, known as a "nofollow" tag, essentially communicates to crawlers that the linked website is not necessarily trustworthy or authoritative. These links appear in this way:

<a rel="nofollow" href="http://shadywebsite.com/">shady website</a>

How do you build backlinks?

The easiest way to build backlinks is to pay someone to generate them for you. However, this doesn't fly by Google's guidelines, which explicitly warn against buying or selling links.

Google warns against participating in link schemes to generate backlinks.

Paying for links is viewed as manipulation of Google's ranking algorithm. How so? Think of links as currency in digital marketing. Some websites naturally receive more backlinks than others because they're inherently worth linking to—perhaps because of incredibly helpful or engaging content. In this way, paying for backlinks is manipulative, as paid links don't necessarily reflect a site's quality or relevance.

In other words, a low-quality site could pay for hundreds of links—but that wouldn't mean its quality is any better.

So how do you build backlinks naturally?

According to Backlinko, you can get high-quality backlinks from authoritative sites in the following ways:

  • Create a “linkable asset” that people will want to link to (blogs, informational graphics, videos, etc.)
  • Ask a blog if you can be included in a link roundup in your field
  • Suggest your website to sites that are linking to outdated websites (aka The Moving Man method)
  • Let websites know about broken links (404 results), putting your own website on their radar
  • Write a guest post and include a link to your website in your bio
  • Submit testimonials and include a link to your website in the testimonial or comment
  • Reclaim links from sites that cite your website without linking to it—ask the site to link to your website instead of just citing it

The Takeaway About Backlinks

Individuals and businesses that want to increase their internet web traffic and SEO rankings should understand and utilize backlinks on their websites. With some research and a little work, building a quality website that is well-regarded and recognized by other websites as authoritative can earn you the backlinks you need to affect your overall search rankings. A bump in your search rankings can mean an increase in visitors to your site and, ideally, more followers for your blog or more paying customers for your business.

This article was written by Compose.ly writer Teresa Street.


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