A backlink is a hyperlink from a third-party website to yours. Google uses backlinks as a ranking signal to measure the validity, relevancy, authority of your site. You may also hear the terms “incoming links” or “inbound links” to describe backlinks.
Generally, the more backlinks you have – and the higher their quality – the further up search results you’ll appear for the target keyword.
So, if you have hundreds of high quality backlinks from popular or “authoritative” websites (such as Forbes or Business Insider), you’ll rank highly – perhaps even page one – for a particular search query.
By contrast, if you have a few backlinks from low-authority sites (or none at all), you’ll get buried.
Quality backlinks play a significant role in SEO and Google ranking.
But it’s important to note as you read this post that backlinking is not all that is required for search engine optimization. There’s a lot more to it than that.
SEO also includes on-page and technical activities too (such as ensuring keywords appear in your page titles and your website loads quickly).
In this blog, we’ll tell you why backlinks are so important and provide a step-by-step guide which will tell you exactly how to build backlinks.
This video is a short summary of the blog post below.
What does a backlink look like?
> We’ve created a link to GOV.UK. the UK’s official Government website.
It’s a backlink from the perspective of the Government because it goes from our blog page to their homepage. Just creating this link will add to GOV.UK’s domain authority and position for various search terms.
Here’s another example of where we’ve linked to Google from one of our blog posts. This is a ‘backlink’ for Google – not that they need it!
A good way to check the quality of a website is to check out its DA (Domain Authority). A metric developed by Moz, DA is not a ranking factor but will support your link building strategy. You can check a website’s DA using the Mozbar extension by Moz.
Fun Facts About Backlinks
Backlinks have a fascinating history that’s worth exploring:
- The University of Washington’s Brian Pinkerton released the first web crawler to index sites in 1994. However, it was so popular that users could only use it at night.
- One of the earliest search engines, AltaVista, began offering link checking when it first released in 1995, allowing webmasters to see where backlinks were coming from.
- In 2007, Wikipedia added a no-follow attribute to all backlinks to other websites on its English-speaking site, meaning that hyperlinks to third-party sites would no longer count towards search engine rankings.
- In 2005, Google changed its policy to reduce blog comment spam, creating a type of link that its web crawlers would automatically ignore called a nofollow link.
- Google’s 2012 Penguin algorithm update changed the SEO world forever. For the first time, the search engine would penalize black-hat link schemes.
- In 2019, user-generated (USG) links became available that allowed webmasters to define the purpose of a link, such as advertising, to distinguish it from an organic link.
Backlinking is a strategy that everyone should actively pursue within their digital marketing strategy for two key reasons:
1. To Improve Rankings
Backlinks are one of Google’s top-ranking factors (alongside engaging content and meta tag keywords).
Google sees them as a “vote of confidence”. Whenever a website links to another, it acts as a signal to Google that it offers users a quality experience.
This is going to become increasingly important as Google introduces its Page Experience update in May 2021. Check out our guide to Google’s new update to make sure you’re prepared.
Recent research suggests that there is a strong positive correlation between the quantity of backlinks a page has and where it ranks on Google. Data suggests that those ranking highest on Google have 3.8x more backlinks than those in positions 2 to 10.
Still not convinced that backlinks are great for SEO?
Well, Moz scientist, Dr. Matthew Peters, recently showed that it is nearly impossible to rank at all without backlinks. Out of 200+ Google ranking factors, backlinking appeared to explain 30% of the positions.
That’s an impressive impact for a single rank-boosting strategy!
Beyond the backlinks themselves, Google also favours the URL anchor text because it reveals the content
Anchor text is the clickable text which contains a HTML hyperlink. Find out more about anchor text here.
As research from Google founder Sergey Brin makes clear, anchor texts often provide more accurate descriptions of pages than the content itself!
Although vital, Google’s Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller recently stated that backlinks were not the most important SEO factor.
They make up around 16% of the total ranking factors that determine a position in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
This is still a massive influence!
Anchor texts often provide more accurate descriptions of pages than the content itself Sergey Brin (Google Founder)
2. To Increase Discoverability
The size of the audience available to discover you via search is growing.
In 2020, there were 7 billion searches per day, up from 5.5 billion in 2016.
In 2021, this number is likely to trend even higher, given the impact of the pandemic and the need to conduct more business online.
The better you rank for your user’s queries, the higher you rank and the better your discoverability.
It’s that simple!
Another way that building backlinks will make your site more discoverable is by increasing the volumes of referral traffic.
Referral Traffic – people coming via backlinks on third-party sites to your pages.
By carefully placing editorial links within posts on other, relevant websites, you’re making it easier for users to find your website.
Overall, you can see why backlinks are necessary: they increase the chance that people will find you.
Earlier we defined SEO backlinks as any inbound link from a third-party website.
There are a variety of backlink types, each of which can be labeled as either nofollow or dofollow links.
Nofollow & Dofollow Links
Building a great backlink strategy requires an understanding of how nofollow and dofollow links work.
The main difference between nofollow and dofollow links is the way that search engines count them.
A dofollow link is a hyperlink to a third-party that adds to your page ranking. A nofollow link is one that does not.
Google, for instance, includes dofollow links as contributing factors in its PageRank system. The more dofollow links a page has from quality domains, the greater its score, and the higher it ranks for the chosen keyword.
Don’t discount nofollow links entirely, though. Check out this post below to see what we mean:
Are NoFollow Links Completely Worthless 🤔❔
The quick answer: NO.
Put yourself in Google’s shoes. It’s your…
While nofollow links don’t provide the same traditional SEO boost as dofollow links, they still generate referral traffic from clicks on third-party sites.
Check out our video explaining exactly why you need to include nofollow links within your SEO strategy:
Also, for those of you wanting to check for nofollow, USG, and sponsored links on any webpage, feel free to use our FATREL tool – an extension for Google Chrome. It looks for the latest rel= tags supported by Google and highlights nofollow links automatically.
As mentioned, there are multiple types of backlinks you can utilize to boost your SEO.
It is good to choose a natural mix of link signals in your link building strategy.
Blogger outreach – sometimes called influencer marketing or guest posting – is the process of securing link mentions from within topical content on other blogs’ websites.
The idea is to reach out to website owners and offer to write some free content or collaborate with them on a subject that their audience finds interesting.
Within the content, you include a non-promotional clickable backlink to your site.
The blogger that you outreach to will be of the same or a related niche, writing similar content. An e-commerce business, for instance, can utilise Blogger Outreach and benefit from non-promotional backlinks placed on product review websites.
We offer a Blogger Outreach Service for SEOs & Agencies, building natural, relevant, in-content backlinks, from 100% real bloggers. Click here to find out more.
Building niche edits is a backlink building strategy that adds new sections within existing content. This added info will contain contextual links.
The benefit of this approach is that existing content may have already built age and authority, increasing the potency of your backlinks.
Creating a niche edit involves looking for an existing article that’s relevant, writing a new piece of informative content with an editorial, non-promotional backlink, and then asking the website owner to insert it.
Check out our Niche Edits service. Just Like Broken Link Building, we place natural, relevant, in-content links on aged posts.
Local Business Citations
A local business citation is any mention of a company’s name, address, or telephone number on websites, social platforms, or directories.
Citations could also include a business description, opening hours, driving directions, taglines, and alternative phone numbers.
Google collects this information and then uses it for ranking purposes. The more consistent and accurate citations a business has on good platforms, the more likely a company is to rank higher in search results.
Accurate citations also help customers discover local businesses, boosting traffic and revenue. This is particularly important for tradespeople, such as electricians, plumbers, landscapers, and painters who can post citations on high-authority directories such as Yellowpages, Yelp, Facebook, and Superpages, whilst ensuring that the information remains consistent.
Save time with our Local Business Citation Service done-for-you. Links are 100% manually submitted with a full submission report.
Press Release Distribution
Press release distribution is the process of circulating news stories, written in the form of a press release.
This content establishes brand authority and updates audiences as well as provides a backlink.
A company might commission a press release to discuss the benefits of a new product which contains a backlink to the product page. The press release will then be distributed to various media outlets, generating backlinks for the business.
Paid distribution of a newsworthy press release often results in organic backlinks being built, making your strategy even more effective.
Did you know that we can get your press releases syndicated across 350+ news outlets & 100,000+ journalists? Find out more about our Press Release Distribution Service here.
Infographic promotion involves creating infographics and then posting them on numerous third-party websites (usually blogs) with an anchor text and link to your chosen webpage.
Infographics are ideal for businesses in complex industries, such as software, higher education, or health and safety. The infographic allows these niches to break down sometimes complex topics into bite-size chunks.
Like press releases, infographics are often engaging and highly shareable, often resulting in more natural, organic backlinks.
Outreach boost republishes existing content on a network of sites, providing credit to the source via a link or canonical tag. It’s often referred to as a content syndication link service.
While it is not suitable for promoting product and service pages, this type of link building is great for getting messages out via blog posts, guides, and newsworthy topics.
Affiliate marketers, for instance, can use the service to republish product reviews across a syndicated network.
Content syndication can be a tricky one, but we’ve got you covered with our Outreach Boost Content Syndication Service. Boost your Guest Posts or Blogger Outreach placements using our Content Syndication strategy.
Multilingual outreach is a link-building technique that focuses specifically on creating domain authority in your target country.
This service is great for supply chain companies, for instance, that want to build their brand value in overseas purchasing markets.
Alongside our Blogger Outreach Service, we also now offer a Multilingual SEO Link Building Service. We can build natural, relevant, in-content links to your website, from 100% real bloggers in local languages.
Once you learn how to get more backlinks, you can increase your sales and bottom line. But how do you do it?
In general, there are three ways to secure backlinks:
- Create original content that other sites will link to.
- Outreach manually, asking relevant site owners to post your content and links.
- Use a backlink service that creates white-hat links on third-party sites.
We’ll take you through each strategy and explain the pros & cons.
Many websites “earn” backlinks by creating high-quality, shareable content that will naturally attract incoming links from other sites, increasing your number of referring domains.
Generally, this is the preferred way to earn backlinks according to Google.
It can be a little tricky to attain backlinks in volume via this method. This isn’t just because it takes time. You could have tremendous content on your site, but whether third-party domains link to you depends on other factors (such as the strength of your brand & content quality).
Let’s say you’re struggling to get backlinks. You could look at designing a fantastically engaging infographic that sits alongside the content.
By publishing sharable content in a creative format, it increases the possibility of your content being seen and picked up organically.
Manual outreach is another strategy you can use to build links. It involves the following steps:
When conducting manual outreach, research is critical. You need to find sites that naturally complement yours and host the kind of content that relates to your brand.
Start by looking for blogs that are an exact match for your keywords on Google searches. Usually, you’ll discover several blogs in your niche.
You can see from this simple search we did below to find fashion blogs, we were met with a lot of great fashion bloggers and even lists of bloggers. This is a great place to start.
Once you have a short-list, look for factors that influence the quality of the backlinks you’ll receive from the site.
Conditions such as the depth and expertise of the existing content, the volume of traffic arriving on the website, domain authority, and relevance to your niche can all make a big difference to the ranking impact of any backlink placement.
Let’s take the first blog from the Fashion search above (sincerelyjules.com) and enter this into Moz’s free domain analysis tool (a tool every SEO needs in their kit).
Here we can see the overall health score of this website and decide whether it’s worth adding to our list of bloggers to outreach to.
Contacting blog owners
When contacting blog owners, be sure to follow the correct etiquette to maximize the chance of placing a link on their site.
We have developed relationships with thousands of bloggers around the world. Here’s our tips:
- Always make your pitches personal (by using the name of the blog owner) and talk about how your content will benefit their audience.
- Try not to rush in immediately by asking for placements. Instead, look for ways that you can provide them with value, such as offering them a product to review for free. If you’re still struggling, you can reach out through blogger outreach networks. Website owners will usually allow you to guest post, so long as the content is relevant to their audience.
- You can also connect with specific bloggers on their social channels and build a rapport that way.
Reviewing and monitoring backlinks
Once you have live placements, the last step is to review and monitor your backlinks.
Many businesses cut and paste all their backlinks into spreadsheets and manually check them one by one every few weeks to make sure that they’re still working.
However, to save time, you can also automate the process using Ahrefs Backlink Checker (there are many other tools but this is our most favored – nothing surprising there!)
Just type the URL into the checker.
Ahrefs will then generate a complete overview of the backlink profile.
You can navigate through the report via the menu on the left and explore a breakdown of the backlink profile.
This information includes the finer details such as showing you when an individual backlink was last checked, the validity of the backlink, the anchor text, and when it was created.
These kinds of tools can seem a little pricey at first, but when it comes to monitoring your website’s backlink health, it’s well worth the investment in the long run.
The last (and probably most efficient) way to conduct link building is to use backlink services.
Here, you order the number of backlinks you want as and when they’re needed, and then the agency will create blog placements using your chosen links and anchor text.
Outsourcing backlinking offers a host of benefits, especially for growing businesses.
Building a large outreach network from scratch is a challenge for smaller agencies, so using established partners is often more cost-efficient. Plus, it also ensures posts adhere to Google’s link building requirements.
As a link building agency, we at FATJOE already have relationships with bloggers from countless niches; everything from cars to survival, beauty, and fashion to business news.
If you’re an agency building links for multiple customers, this makes scaling the number of links built much easier and quicker. If you’re building links as a brand, it saves you the time and resources required to perform manual outreach (trust us, it can take a long time to build a good relationship!).
Also, you don’t have to continually build relationships with new third-parties. That’s all done for you.
AND on top of that, you retain backlinks more easily, thanks to the fact that backlink agencies post on sites that keep blog articles intact long-term, without altering their link policies.
When businesses come to us at FATJOE, we embed relevant links in non-promotional, thematically-relevant posts on high domain authority sites. Our link building services are also suitable for large SEO agencies looking to outsource their content creation activities for their clients.
Keyword & Anchor Text Research
Keyword & Anchor Text Research
Before you start building backlinks, you’ll need to understand is which keywords you want to target and what your anchor text will be.
Keyword research is the process of finding out how your customers and finding your company or its competitors via search.
It involves understanding user search intent, search volumes, and the difficulty of ranking for specific keywords.
Here’s why it’s critical to start here: it makes everything else you do in SEO more efficient.
There are likely many keywords associated with your niche. However, only some of them will be used by visitors who intend to buy from you.
You must research intent-related keywords first. That way, you can rank for terms that best relate to your products and services, increasing the opportunity for conversion.
Considering search volumes can also tell you whether people are using keywords in large enough volumes to add significantly to your traffic. Sometimes a keyword is relevant and indicates intent, but if users search for it only a couple of times per month, then it might not be worth the investment.
Some keywords are more difficult to rank for than others because existing companies have already done a lot of SEO – including backlinking – to push them higher in search results. High-volume, undersubscribed keywords with user intent offer good traffic-generation, but they can be hard to find.
Use on-site keyword tracking
On-site keyword tracking allows you to monitor the ranking position of your pages for specific keywords.
Keyword rank checkers, such as FATRANK, let you see quickly and easily see where you rank for your target keywords.
Once you know where you rank for particular keywords, it is much easier to know which keywords you need to target in your future SEO activities. You might be underperforming on some that highlight an opportunity for ranking on the first page with a bit of work.
Find Seed Keywords & Brainstorm
The next step is to find a “seed” keyword and brainstorm!
Seed keywords are central to keyword research. They are like a pillar from which other related phrases hang.
To save time and energy, we suggest that you use keyword research tools. Simply type in a seed keyword and they’ll generate hundreds, if not thousands of other phrases users associate with it.
The best example is Google Ads Keyword Planner. Just type in your chosen keyword and it’ll show related phrases, including those that don’t contain the original seed.
If you run a dealership, for instance, your seed keywords might be “cars,” “vans,” and “alloy wheels.” All of these are “seeds” because they are core ideas related to the business.
Type these into the Keyword Plan and Google will generate a list of keywords for you to choose from.
In many cases, it helps to also type in your seed keywords and then see what Google suggests.
Ideally, you want to identify keywords that relate to your business.
For instance, if you have a car dealership and type “cars” into Google Search, you’re likely to find relevant keywords such as “cars for sale” and “cars for sale near me” with real intent behind them.
Whereas, you may come across other searches like “cars movie” which aren’t relevant.
Also bear in mind that Google will show you results based on your previous searches and your location.
To sidestep this, make sure that you change your search settings to your target location and sign out of your Google Account.
Alternatively use a ‘Private’ or ‘Incognito’ window which will allow you to browse without your search history coming into play.
A note on choosing keywords: Never lose sight of context & user search intent.
Only choose those keywords which suit the context of your target website or that your users are going to be searching for. This is where a more detailed paid tool such as Ahrefs comes into good use.
Analyze & Shortlist Your Keywords
Once you have your list of keywords, you then need to go through results asking yourself whether there are any specific keywords users are typing in when they want your products or services.
You can plug them into Ahrefs Keyword Explorer to get a sense of their performance.
Be sure to look at average monthly searches. This metric helps work out whether people are using the keyword or not. If they aren’t, then it’s unlikely to generate traffic.
Once you know which keywords to target, it becomes easier to create relevant on-page content and anchor texts for your backlinks.
For a step-by-step guide to keyword research, check out our detailed SEO training guide: How To Do Keyword Research.
When it comes to creating anchor texts for link building, you have several options.
- Exact-match anchors are carbon copies of the title of the original page. So, for instance, if you have a product section called “shoes,” the exact-match anchor would also say “shoes”.
- Partial-match anchors are those that include some variation of the original link page title. So, in the above example, you might have “red shoes” as the anchor.
- Branded anchors are using your business name as the anchor text. So, for FATJOE, the anchor would be “FATJOE”. It’s as simple as that!
You need to use a mixture of all of the above. Using the same anchor text repeatedly can cause trouble according to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
If Google detects the same anchor text pointing to your pages over and over, it might decide to penalize you for creating artificial links.
Take Amazon, for example. If we look at their anchor text profile, we’ll see they have a mixture of URL, Brand, and Natural Anchor keywords which will all benefit their ranking.
So it is also critical to employ natural anchors, such as “learn more”, “see more” and “click here” alongside regular keyword-driven anchors in the correct ratio.
It’s best to adopt a varied approach by linking to a mix of natural anchors. You’ll want to incorporate all the types of anchors above, as well as other generic terms (such as “click here”) and even the raw URL itself.
Building SEO backlinks is usually one of the final steps of search engine optimization, with most marketers choosing to build backlinks after developing their onsite SEO and keyword tracking.
You need to ensure that existing pages can convert.
An effective backlinking strategy involves making sure that your house is in order first.
Building backlinks to low-quality pages may increase traffic, but it will also boost your bounce rate if the content doesn’t offer visitors value.
For instance, a customer landing at an incomplete product page is more likely to exit than investigate the product further. That could increase the bounce rate and reduce the length of time spent on the page – a factor that Google considers when ranking.
Checking For Backlinks
Before you begin creating new backlinks, you should check whether any already exist and where they’re coming from.
This will help you understand the key niches that are already interested in linking to your site. You can then create a duplicated niche to target with your outreach.
It’s also useful to check for any ‘spammy’ backlinks that could be harming your SEO strategy.
Google and will sometimes punish a webpage by reducing its rank if current backlinks appear to come from dubious sources.
But rest assured! Evaluating your current backlinks and resolving issues, is surprisingly easy.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console is a free tool with which you can check for existing referring domains.
To explore your backlink profile, focus on these two reports on Google Search Console:
- External links: Top linked pages & Top linking sites
If you want to delve even deeper into your backlink profile and explore your competitors, we recommend checking out Ahrefs’ Site Explorer tool.
If you’re not sure what Ahrefs is, it’s an amazing tool that can be used to analyze and monitor link profile, keyword rankings, and SEO health.
We use Ahrefs daily to analyze our website, monitor rankings, and research keywords & highly recommend it.
Ahrefs have a variety of useful tools within the dashboard that we will touch upon throughout this article.
You simply need to enter a Domain or URL and click the search icon.
You’ll be taken to the dashboard which will have a menu the same as the image below. You’ll see that we’ve highlighted the main reports you’ll need to analyze your backlink profile.
If you’ve got an established website with a lot of backlinks, this report can seem daunting at first due to the level of detail. We recommend starting with the ‘Referring Domains’ report which will provide a list of all the domains referring back to your website.
The chances are that the same domain is linking to your site numerous times, this is particularly the case with natural links.
Google’s Disavow Tool
If you find a large number of spammy backlinks, Google’s disavow tool lets you remove them manually. However, you should only use this feature if you are an advanced user as it could potentially harm your site’s performance. Google recommends that you only disavow backlinks if you have evidence they are harming your ranking.
There are multiple backlink checker tools besides those mentioned above, including:
These tools automatically list the backlinks to your site and highlight potentially problematic, spammy, or malicious links. They can also give you ideas on how to get more backlinks.
Are you still wondering how to get backlinks? Here are some quick-fire answers to some of the questions discussed so far in this article:
How Does A Backlink Work?
Backlinks are hyperlinks from site A to site B that act as an “upvote” for the receiving site. Google and other search engines interpret a genuine link as an indication of quality, relevance, and authority. The more domains that link, – and the higher their quality – the higher the site will rank. You can view your existing inbound link profile by pasting your URL into a backlink checker.
Do Backlinks Still Work In 2021?
The answer is yes of course! Google still hasn’t found a better way of ranking pages than using inbound links as a signal of relevance and quality. It is still the top-ranking signal for most search engines and the confirmed highest-weight signal for Google.
What Are Examples Of SEO Backlinks?
Backlinks include any hyperlink from one domain to another that search engines use to construct scoring on ranking criteria (including Google’s PageRank). The types of backlinks you create have a big impact on SEO performance. Dofollow backlinks contribute to ranking scores, while nofollow links do not and only provide referral traffic.
Can Backlinks Harm My SEO?
Backlinks received some negative press in the past, some of which continues to this day. Agencies would fabricate links from illegitimate sites to artificially inflate search engine results page (SERPs) rankings. And that led search companies, such as Google, to clamp down to protect users content that didn’t offer genuine value.
Backlinks, however, remain one of the primary ranking signals due to their propensity to add value to the user. The aim of building backlinks is to generate genuine, authority links that provide value to search engine users. That way, you stay within Google’s ‘rules’, protect your brand, and build a more sustainable approach to SEO.
So you have learned that backlinks are created when one website links to another. These links between websites allow users to hop from one page to another, without having to go through the rigmarole of typing the entire URL into the search bar. Backlinks signal the quality of a page to search engines, telling them whether it offers quality or not. And because of this, they remain an essential element of an effective digital marketing strategy in 2021.
There are several methods for acquiring backlinks, including blogger outreach, niche edits, local business citations, press release distributions, infographic promotion, outreach boost, multilingual outreach, and media placements.
While you can use these methods yourself, many brands and agencies outsource the task to backlink agencies. These services build high-quality links at scale and could save you time. What’s more, they offer their expertise, which allows them to navigate the complex SEO landscape and offer the best solution for your enterprise.
If your brand would like to earn more backlinks (or provide them to clients), then FATJOE’s link building services could help. You could get more organic traffic and increase your discoverability.
Did you find this post on how to get backlinks helpful? If so, please share it with the relevant member of your team so that they can learn more about what backlinks are and the best ways of getting them in 2021.