For the search engine crawlers that traverse the highways of the web, links are the sign posts between pages. Using advanced link analysis, search engines can analyze how pages relate to each other and in what ways. Search engines treat links as an assurance of your sites popularity and authority. This post will explain what backlinks are, how they are important for your site’s SEO, and how to start generating backlinks for your site.

What Are Backlinks and Why Are They Important for SEO?

Before we get into detail about backlinking strategies, let’s define some of the key terminology regarding backlinks.

Backlink Glossary

Anchor text
The visible, clickable text in a hyperlink. Anchor text backlinks are great when trying to rank for keywords.

Backlink
A link from another website to your website.

Dofollow link
The default state of a link. Search engines follow these links, passing link juice to the destination site.

High-quality link
Links from websites that have some or all of the following qualities: trusted, high page rank, relevant, only a few other backlinks on the page. For more on what makes a backlink high-quality, see this post.

Internal link
Links from one page to another within the same domain. The process of adding these links is called internal linking.

Link juice
An informal term for the authority passed when one website links to another. Link juice helps with the ranking of the linked-to page and improves the domain authority. You can stop passing link juice by using nofollow links.

Linking root domain
Another site that links to your website. The total of linking root domains includes only the number of unique root domains linking to your site. Two links from the same website would only be counted as one linking root domain.

Low-quality link
Links that come from unreliable sites such as harvested sites, automated sites, spam sites or adult sites. These links are bad for SEO. Be wary of these if you buy backlinks.

Nofollow link
Search engines do not follow these links and do not pass link juice to the destination site. Nofollow links do not contribute to page ranking. Use nofollow links when linking to an unreliable site or when inserting affiliate links. Links in comments are usually nofollow.

A backlink is simply a link from another website to your website.

How Do Backlinks Help Your SEO?

Before we discuss the advantages of backlinks, you should know that much has changed concerning how backlinks are treated by search engines in recent years. Not so long ago, even low-quality backlinks helped improve a site’s rank. Not so today. Today, an emphasis is placed on backlinks from quality sites and backlinks should be relevant to your site. If for example, you have a site about planning for retirement, and you are creating links from a site about paragliding, these will not help your page rank. Your goal should be getting links from authoritative and relevant sites.

Now, let’s look at why creating backlinks to your site is important:

Improve Organic Ranking

Backlinks help your site rank highly in search engines. If your content is getting lots of backlinks from other sites, search engines view it as being important and will place it higher in search results. Your goal should be to create links to individual posts and pages, not just your homepage.  However, as described above, it is not enough just to have a large number of backlinks. Rather, you need to have a large number of quality inbound links. For more information on what make a high-quality link, see the post:

  • What Are High-Quality Backlinks?

Referral Traffic

This is often overlooked in the pursuit of organic ranking, but the original purpose of linking to a site is to refer interested readers to it. Links that send high amounts of direct click-through traffic not only tend to provide better search engine value for ranking, but also refer valuable traffic to your site. This referral traffic is targeted and often has a lower bounce rate than organic traffic which helps boost your page rank further.

Faster Indexing

In order for your blog posts to be included in the results of a Google search, they need to be included in the Google index. The Google index is similar to an index of a book, which lists all the topics by page number. Instead of topics and pages, the Google index lists all of the web pages that Google is aware of. When Google crawlers visit your site, they detect new and updated pages and update the Google index. Backlinks help search engines discover links to your site and to crawl your site more effectively. Backlinks are particularly useful for new websites because they assist in the faster discovery and indexing of your site.

How to Get Backlinks

There are three ways of acquiring backlinks. In order of least to most valuable, they are:

  1. Self-created
  2. Outreach
  3. Organic Editorial

Self-Created Backlinks

There are infinite opportunities for you to create backlinks through blog comments, guest book signings, forum signatures, user profiles, or question sites such as Yahoo Answers or Quora. In general, search engines assign little value to these types of links, and can even penalize sites with an aggressive self-created backlink strategy. These types of links are often considered spammy and should be used with caution. Also, comment sections in blogs are often nofollow so any links you post there will not help your ranking. Self-created links offer the lowest value, but can still have a positive impact on some sites if used carefully.

Outreach Backlinks

Outreach backlinks are created by contacting other bloggers for links, submitting your site to directories, or paying for listings. How do you persuade other bloggers to include your link? By explaining to them why creating the link is in their best interest. This is easiest if you have a well-established blog with high authority and of course your content must be first rate. Try filling out forms for submissions to website award programs or demonstrating to a university professor why your content should be included on a public syllabus. Submit guest posts to other blogs with links back to your own site and allow guest posts on your blog and ask the guest blogger to link back to their article.

Organic Editorial Backlinks

The backlinks that are really going to boost your ranking are those created organically by webmasters that want to link to your content. Do you want to know the secret to getting organic editorial backlinks to your site? Write great content and market it well. That’s it. If you write great content and let people know it’s there, the backlinks will come.

If you want to know how many backlinks you have, enter your domain in the widget below. Try entering the domains of some of your favorite websites to see how many backlinks they have!

I hope this post has helped you to understand the basics of backlinks and their role in SEO. Now start working on getting backlinks for your blog! If you have any good tactics for generating backlinks, let us know in the comments below.

About The Author

David Borrowdale is the founder and editor of Blog Cogs, a blog about making a living from blogging. Learn more about him here.

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