SEO 101: What is a Backlink?
As you develop your SEO strategy and work toward increasing further visibility for your business or brand, acquiring high-quality backlinks from reputable websites will be helpful. As you explore SEO further, you will see this terminology referenced frequently and may even find yourself asking, “What is a backlink?” or how you can acquire them. Simply put, a backlink is created when another website includes a hyperlink to your site or a page on your website. Sometimes these are also known as incoming links or inbound links, but overall, the most common terminology is backlink.
How Do Backlinks Work?
Although the concept of a backlink is simple, it’s very important in SEO because backlinks reflect that your site is trustworthy or that your business is an authority within its respective niche. High amounts of backlinks to your website will reflect that your content has value and will influence your visibility on search engine result pages or SERPs. Backlinks are a key factor in off-site SEO and the practice of acquiring backlinks from other websites is called link building.
Although a high number of backlinks to your website can reflect that your content has value, not all backlinks are created equal. Ideally, your backlinks should come from websites that are reputable and considered to be an authority because this will provide more value and have a more positive influence on your ranking. If your backlinks come from websites that have a lot of spam, low-quality content, or sites that lack authority then there’s typically less value and benefit from them.
A Brief Exploration of What is a Backlink
In general, there are many different types of backlinks and they all have their respective value. While some backlinks can be very beneficial, others are average, and some should absolutely be avoided. Different types of backlinks will have different levels of influence on your ranking in respective search engines. As a whole, the value of your backlinks are defined by the authority of the site that linked to yours, the on-site link location, and whether a link has do follow or no follow status.
Do follow or no follow status is particularly important because this determines whether search engines should attribute value to the link itself. Ideally, backlinks to your site should be do follow links because this will ensure that the search engines recognize them and attribute a higher value to them. Search engines will skip over or ignore no follow links, attributing lower value when the backlink is provided. This is not to say that no follow links are useless, however, because if a site with heavy traffic provides you with a no follow backlink, you can still gain a lot of site traffic and potential leads from that link even if it has lesser SEO value.
Another consideration is where your backlink is located on the originating site. Links that are located outside of the main content on the site will have less value in comparison to links that are present in those sections. For example, a backlink that is listed in a sidebar or header on a website is a lower-quality backlink in comparison to a backlink that is directly in the content itself, such as a blog post or an article.
Types of Backlinks
A key factor in understanding what is a backlink is broadening your knowledge of the different types of backlinks that exist and which types provide the best SEO value. The best backlinks can be summarized into categories of editorial backlinks, guest post backlinks, business profile backlinks, tool links, and webinar links.
Although editorial backlinks result from other sites and sources linking to your site, guest post backlinks result when you submit a guest post to another website with a backlink to your site within the content. Business profile backlinks are also a very valuable way to establish your authority and further establish your presence online; you can create business profiles in business directories and similar listings and then link back to your website to acquire this type of backlink.
Options such as webinars and tool links are valuable not only for the sake of backlinking but also because they’re a great way to drive more traffic to your website. For example, if you offer a tool or resource for free and it proves to be helpful enough, other sites will link to it and this can grow your audience. The same concept applies to webinars or other instructional presentations that can be uploaded to your website and linked from various sources.
Avoiding Bad Backlinks
As mentioned previously, all backlinks are not equal, and some should definitely be avoided. Although some lower quality backlinks can have the potential to still offer some value, some backlinks can have a detrimental impact on your SEO. These can be categorized as forum links, paid links, too many directory links, and low-quality press release links. While you might think that it would be difficult to decipher whether a link was paid for or not, there are ways of identifying this practice and it can harm your site rank on SERPs.
Moderation is key with certain types of backlinks such as directory links, press release links, and forum links; too many of these links can seem suspicious and can negate the authority of your business if it seems like you’re spamming links to your site without reason.
Understanding the proper practices associated with acquiring backlinks is crucial for your success in off-page SEO. Your new knowledge regarding what is a backlink, different types of backlinks, and how to avoid the worst types of backlinks will enable you to make informed decisions as you develop your SEO strategy. Keep in mind that the overall quality of your links is incredibly important and that it’s better to have a few high-quality links than an exponential number of low-quality links available online.