What Are Backlinks and Why Do They Matter?

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Maybe you’ve gotten an email that went straight to spam asking for a link to one of their recent blog posts, or a service that is offering unlimited traffic for three easy payments of $300. What these shady emails are talking about, is backlinks.

In our last post on the complete guide to optimization, we described the importance of inbound links in your marketing strategy. That article only discusses inbound links, also called backlinks, briefly so it is important to discuss this topic in further depth. As we mentioned in that article, backlinks are vital because their presence showcases to Google that your website is trustworthy and reliable. In fact, backlinks are one of the most influential ranking factors.

What are backlinks though? How do you get more backlinks? Let’s dive in and explore.

What are backlinks?

A backlink (also called an incoming or inbound link) is created when a domain inserts a link on one of its pages to another domain’s webpage. For example, if an online article is posted containing a link to a blog post on your website, that particular webpage of yours has just received a backlink. 

There are two different kinds of backlinks, and the type of backlink will determine if it will affect your SERP (Search Engine Results Page) ranking.

Backlinks with a No-follow tag will be ignored by search engines, and therefore do not contribute to a website’s ranking. These tags are typically attached to a link that leads to an unreliable site. Do-follow links are visible to search engines, and for this reason these links are the type that people aim to get for their websites.

Why do backlinks matter?

Way back in the day Google was invented by grad students as a way to search for and catalogue research papers. Good research papers tended to be cited by a lot of other papers, and 20 years later backlinks are the exact same concept.

A backlink provides important information to both search engines and end users, and they help build your website’s visibility. Simply put, they are signals that other websites are endorsing your content and affirming your website’s authority and popularity.

Backlinks help connect users with multiple resources related to a topic they are researching. When a user views a webpage about a certain subject with a link to your site on it, the user will have the opportunity to visit your website for more relevant information. This is called referral traffic, and it leads to both interest and a low bounce rate among users.  

Search engine bots will discover your website by following backlinks through external websites, which allows them to crawl your website and index it into the SERP accordingly.

Bots will have a much more difficult time finding your site if there are no backlinks to it, and that is why it is so important to make sure your website has them. Backlinks help search engines determine your website’s credibility and relevance in regards to the search query keywords the website is being ranked for.  

What effect do backlinks have on my ranking?

It used to be that the more backlinks your site had, the higher its SERP ranking would be, but search engines have since developed much more complex algorithms. Not all backlinks are created equal, and the quality of the backlink will determine if it will actually contribute to your website’s SEO or not. 

High quality backlinks are from trustworthy websites and are relevant to the content that they link to. If your webpage proves to have many quality backlinks to it, this will show search engines your website has desirable, authoritative content and will consequently lead to a higher ranking on the SERP. 

Low quality backlinks come from shady websites, such as harvested sites, automated sites, and spam sites, and they can end up doing more harm than good for your site. Links from these sites may be deemed “toxic,” and can cause Google to penalize or de-index your website. 

How do I get backlinks?

Since quality backlinks have shown to be a key ingredient to SEO, it is an imperative to create them.

Fortunately, there are many different strategies you can employ to generate backlinks for your website. Creating backlinks can be as simple as adding a link to your site on each of your social media profiles, but the more effective strategies take time and effort. 

Create great content

First and foremost, creating rich and relevant content with actual substance will organically generate backlinks as other web creators use and refer to your information. Ideally, you want to create original content that provides unique knowledge and insights. 

Common things included in popular and helpful content are lists, “how-to” and “why” explanations, visuals such as infographics, and embedded videos. Using these formats will naturally drive backlinks, as people are drawn to easy and aesthetically pleasing methods of information delivery. Alternatively, you can also write posts that are “the ultimate guide” to a certain topic for those who are looking for a more thorough and complete explanation. These posts are several thousand words, and will cover every possible angle of that specified subject. 

Guest blog

Inviting guest bloggers to write a post for your site will create backlinks as well as writing a guest post for another website. This strategy is a great way to establish a connection with a web creator in your field, and you can provide links to each other’s websites in the guest post. This way, you will appeal to someone else’s audience as well as your own with content that is still relevant to your website. 

Reach out to an industry influencer

On a similar note, getting in touch with influencers in your industry can generate backlinks. Letting them know about an article on your website you believe the influencer or their audience would be interested in can lead to a post linking back to your website. Interviewing an influencer and sending them the ensuing post is another way to get them to link back to you. 

Remember: with any out reach keep it authentic and original. Just like you might get plenty of spammy emails requesting a link, your targets do as well. Try writing a post with them in mind and reaching out to share it, or mention them and reach out asking if that was ok – these are more refreshing ways to reach out than the traditional “I wrote this please link to it”.

Going Forward

Like many things in SEO, backlinks can seem pretty complex and intimidating, but when broken down they’re much simpler. Backlinks are links from one website to another, and quality backlinks are essential to have if you want your website to rank high on the SERP. Building the kind of backlinks you want takes time and effort, but it will pay off in improving your site’s SEO.

Give our backlink suggestions a try and watch how they improve your rankings!

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