What are Backlinks and How Do They Work?

Backlinks are merely a link between two different sites. Backlinks are also known as inbound links as it’s only the site that receives the link where it gets classified as a backlink. 

If someone links to your site or blog, then you have a backlink from them. If you link to another website, then they have a backlink from you. In this post, we’ll discuss how they work, why they’re important for SEO and how to gain backlinks on your own site. 

How do backlinks work? 

Backlinks are an essential component for growing your website and ranking higher. They mean other websites vouch for your content therefore you can develop yourself as reputable. You can view them as a signal to search engines that your content is noteworthy. 

A good backlink comes from a popular and high ranking site with relevant content. High-quality backlinks can be hard to earn but are well worth the work. 

Why are backlinks important?

There is a strong correlation between ranking high and number of backlinks according to Brian Dean of Backlinko research. High-quality backlinks are important for SEO purposes as they can establish your site as this recognizes your content as important. 

The more backlinks your site has the more you’ll be considered knowledgeable in a topic therefore Google will rank you higher. Aside from the total number of referring domains, there are other backlink factors that the search algorithm takes into account. 

  • The quality of the referring domain matters greatly. The more popular the site is linked to the more you will benefit from the backlink.
  • Total backlinks. This number will include multiple backlinks from one domain. So the number of single backlinks rather than the number of domains you are receiving backlinks from
  • Total follow backlinks. You can have no follow backlinks that don’t count towards your overall ranking. Only follow backlinks will count, the ultimate aim is to have more of these. 
  • Number of anchors. Anchor tags are markers on websites that direct the user to a specific area of your post or site. These are useful for content-heavy sites. Anchor tags seem to affect ranking more with popular keywords. 
  • The existence of keywords in an anchor. While this isn’t the most important point, it’s good practice to include in an anchor and can make a slight difference.

How important are backlinks for SEO compared to other ranking factors?

High-quality backlinks can be hard to implement. So are they worth it? In short yes. They are arguably one of the most important factors aside from having relevant high-quality content. Of course, the quality and relevance of your content will come first, but backlinks will be hot on their heels when it comes to ranking well. 

Other good SEO practices like focusing on search intent, using compelling meta tags, mobile optimization, a clean H1-H4 heading structure, and the age of your website still come into play. If you solely focus on backlinks you probably won’t have much luck in ranking highly. But when good quality backlinks and other SEO best practices are used in conjunction with each other you’ll have a strong formula for success. 

How to get more backlinks

So after rambling on about the importance of backlinks, how do you actually gain them? To gain high-quality backlinks from reputable sites can prove challenging but starting small will get you well on the way. 

There are two ways in which this can be approached. One through white-hat methods or two, through black hat methods. 

White-hat methods: Generally speaking, white-hat methods are the correct and ethical way to increase your search ranking. With a focus on long term results through good content, relevant keywords, and relevant backlinks. 

Black-hat methods: These often focus on quickly rising up the rankings, without thinking about the long term consequences. These tactics include keyword stuffing, invisible text, irrelevant backlinks. This is not the correct way to go about SEO and in some cases can lead to your site being de-indexed. 

Let’s take a look at how to build backlinks organically and sustainably. 

  • Add links from your social media sites when relevant. This is an easy place to start, while it might not contribute too much to the quality it will to the total number of backlinks. 
  • Use infographics. Infographics are becoming a very popular form of information receiving. Therefore including a relevant, well designed, infographic in your post. This will likely see other sites link to the graphic. A good infographic is eye-catching and easy to read which will prove popular with readers. 
  • Create ‘how to’ or list blog postsThese contain a lot of information in a concise and easy to read way.  and can be just what someone is looking for. 
  • Source guest posting opportunities where you can write as a guest on other sites, to then link back to your own. Guest posting is an easy and proven way to build backlinks. 
  • Contact those with high rankings or influences in your industry to let them know about a post you wrote that they may be inclined to share.
  • Conduct interviews or write a post about an influencer in your industry. They will undoubtedly want to share and therefore create a backlink. 
  • Competitive backlink research. It can be difficult to know where to start, so by researching your competitors, you’ll get a glimpse of what works for them.  You can search for a competitor’s site, someone who is in the same industry and uses the same keywords as you. You’ll be able to see how they might’ve built their backlinks. 
  • Promote your content. If you don’t have a big following, unfortunately, your content isn’t going to get read without a push. Get yourself out there and share your posts with those likely to share them back.  You can search for websites that run roundups and get in touch to try to get your post on their site. 

Final thoughts

Backlinks are an important part of SEO strategy. As always, it’s still important to focus on good and relevant content but sourcing backlinks will certainly help you on your way up the rankings.

While creating valuable and unique content will generally result in people linking to your content over time, it’s important to be proactive about getting backlinks for your website — through white hat SEO — to help Google to trust your website more. 

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