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what are backlinks

What Are Backlinks? Your Guide to SEO

Understanding the Power of Backlinks for Your Business

Backlinks. You’ve probably heard this term thrown around in SEO discussions, and perhaps even seen it in the monthly Marketing Opportunities report we send you. But what exactly are backlinks, and why should they matter to your business?

What Are Backlinks?

Backlinks, also referred to as “inbound” or “incoming” links, are established when one website links to another. They don’t appear on your site directly but exist on other sites, directing their audience to you. Think of them as votes of confidence from one site to another.

For instance, imagine a culinary website (Website A) that links to a blog post reviewing the best kitchen gadgets (Website B). In this scenario, the kitchen gadget review site gains a vote of confidence or a backlink from the culinary website.

Traditionally, backlinks are blue and underlined, but site owners can customise their appearance. When you hover over a linked word or phrase, your cursor changes from an arrow to a pointer icon. To see where the link will take you, look at the bottom left corner of your browser window, where the destination URL will appear.

Why Do Backlinks Matter?

backlinks SEO

You might wonder why you should care about links from other websites when SEO is primarily about optimising your own site.

Perhaps obviously, the first reason relates to visibility.

For example, an internet user might visit a page about seahorses and find a backlink to a seahorse information site. Clicking on that link could lead them to spend time on the new site, potentially becoming a fan, subscriber, and someone who shares the link with their network. Links facilitate navigation across the web, and the more backlinks a site has, the higher its chances of being discovered by a wider audience.
But perhaps more importantly, backlinks are a key element of SEO

Google and other search engines view backlinks as referrals or endorsements. When reputable sites link to yours, it signals to search engines that your site is trustworthy and valuable. This can significantly boost your rankings in search engine results.

1. Backlinks for Search Engine Crawling and Indexing

Backlinks aren’t just navigational aids for users; search engines like Google employ crawlers, bots, or spiders to traverse the web by following links. This process allows them to discover and index content. Before a search engine can display a webpage in its results, it must first locate it, typically through a link.

2. Backlinks as a Ranking Signal

Search engines not only crawl and index content using links but also use backlinks to assess the relevance and authority of webpages. Each backlink acts like a “vote” indicating the perceived value of the linked page. For instance, if a page about seahorses earns 500 backlinks from various sites while a competitor’s similar page earns only 3, Google is likely to prioritise the page with more backlinks as a superior resource.

3. Backlinks for Competitive Intelligence

Given the significant role of backlinks in search engine rankings, understanding who is linking to your competitors can provide valuable insights. This knowledge helps you identify sources from which to earn links, potentially surpassing your competition.

To effectively leverage backlinks, aim for links from high-quality publications relevant to your niche. For example, if your site focuses on marine life, obtaining backlinks from content discussing habitat preservation for seahorses would be ideal. Conversely, links from unrelated sites, such as online stores or fashion blogs, may not enhance your authority in Google’s eyes and could even be perceived as link spam.

Evaluating your competitors’ backlink profiles allows you to discern between high-quality endorsements and potentially detrimental links. This strategic approach forms a cornerstone of effective SEO practices aimed at establishing your site as an authoritative resource in search engine results.

It’s Not Just About Traffic

While traffic from these links is a bonus, our primary goal with backlinks is to enhance your site’s credibility in the eyes of search engines. The backlink itself can come from various sources, like a business blog seeking your insights as a small business owner. Even if your target audience never sees these links, Google values them if they come from reputable sites.

Quality Over Quantity

It’s crucial to focus on quality backlinks rather than sheer quantity. Avoid the temptation to buy cheap backlinks from services like Fiverr. Instead, aim for links from reputable, relevant websites. This will give you the “SEO juice” needed to boost your domain authority (DA).

Understanding Domain Authority

Domain Authority (DA) is a metric developed by Moz that predicts how well a website will rank on search engine result pages (SERPs). Scored on a scale from 1 to 100, higher scores indicate a greater ability to rank. Key factors influencing DA include the number and quality of backlinks, the variety of linking websites, and the DA of those linking sites.

How Backlinks Boost Your DA

  1. Variety and Quality: A diverse range of backlinks from different reputable websites is more valuable than numerous links from a single source.
  2. Reputation: Links from high DA sites carry more weight.
  3. Engagement: The number of people clicking through and engaging with your site from these links also contributes to your DA.

The more high-quality backlinks you have, the higher your DA, leading to better keyword rankings.

How Do Websites Acquire New Backlinks?

Acquiring backlinks is a crucial aspect of off-site SEO. In fact, backlinks are the most significant off-site ranking factor! There are two primary ways to earn backlinks:

Earn Links Naturally
In an ideal world according to Google, websites would gain authority and trust solely through their content being discovered and shared by others. This organic method of earning backlinks reflects genuine value and relevance.

Link Building
Link building involves the intentional effort to acquire links from other websites. Here are five effective strategies for earning backlinks in 2024:

5 Strategies for Earning Backlinks in 2024

1. Link Outreach

Reach out to website owners or managers and request a link to your content. This direct approach involves cold emailing and pitching the value of your content.

2. Manual Linking

If you have access to multiple websites, you can create backlinks manually. However, use this tactic sparingly. Overusing it, especially across many sites, can lead to penalties from Google due to the 2022 link spam update.

3. Link Swaps

Exchange backlinks with other webmasters. Offering a reciprocal link can make them more willing to link to your content.

4. Paid Backlinks

There are two main types:

Direct Payment: Some site managers will request payment for a backlink.

Link Building Services: You can pay for services that acquire links for you, typically using similar strategies to those listed here.

5. Guest Posts/Blogging

Write high-quality articles for target websites and offer them for free. In return, include a backlink to your site within the article. This mutually beneficial approach enhances both parties’ content and link profiles.

How to Determine if a Backlink is Beneficial

While backlinks are generally valuable, not all backlinks are created equal. Some are highly beneficial, while others can be detrimental. The most valuable backlinks come from reputable websites within your industry or related fields. Understanding what influences the value of a backlink is crucial for effective link building and assessing the health of your backlink profile.

Key Factors That Influence Backlink Value

1. Follow vs. No-Follow Backlinks

  • Website owners can specify whether a link passes link equity (or “link juice”) to the linked site. Follow links pass link equity, making them more desirable. However, no-follow links from high-quality websites can still be beneficial for brand visibility and credibility.
  • Local SEO Insight: Interestingly, in local SEO, both follow and no-follow links from relevant, localised websites are considered equally valuable.

2. Authority of the Linking Domain

  • Backlinks from high-authority domains typically provide more value and link equity than those from low-quality, new, or spammy sites. Avoid backlinks from spammy websites, as they can harm your SEO.

3. Link Relevancy

  • Google assesses the relevance of a backlink to your site’s content. For instance, a link from a gluten-free bakery in California to your hiking gear shop in Colorado is less relevant than a link from a mountain climbing website, thus providing less link equity.

4. Link Location

  • The position of a backlink on a webpage affects its value. Links placed prominently, such as within the main body of a blog post, pass more equity than those tucked away in footers or sidebars.

5. Anchor Text

  • Explanation: Anchor text is the visible, clickable text in a hyperlink. It should be descriptive and relevant. SEO-friendly anchor text passes more equity than generic text. For example, linking to this blog post with the anchor importance of backlinks for SEO is better than using “click here”

    By considering these factors, you can determine whether a backlink is truly helping your SEO efforts. Focusing on acquiring high-quality, relevant backlinks will enhance your website’s authority and improve your search engine rankings.

Good Backlinks Vs Bad Backlinks

Patience Pays Off

Backlinks are a powerful tool in your SEO arsenal. By understanding and leveraging them effectively, you can enhance your website’s credibility, improve your search engine rankings, and drive more organic traffic to your site. Stay patient, stay committed, and you will see the results.

Remember that improving your DA and seeing the benefits of backlinks is a gradual process. As the old Pantene ad said, “It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen.”

Online Strategy Co: Tailored SEO Services and Link Building

How Backlinks Boost Your SEO

At Online Strategy Co, our SEO services are highly personalised and authentically effective. With years of experience across various industries and brands of all sizes, we are committed to driving profitable growth for your organisation.

Discover our transparent and comprehensive approach by contacting us today.

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