What is a backlink
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“Thanks for your SEO advice, but what is a backlink?”

That’s the first question that comes to many site owners’ minds when they’re first introduced to search engine optimization (SEO) and all that comes with it.

It’s also easy to get confused between inbound links, incoming links, and backlinks and think they’re different, when in actuality they’re all the same. In today’s post, we are going to be talking about everything you’d want to know about backlinks so that you can approach your SEO with confidence.

Let’s begin!

What is a backlink? How does it affect SEO?

First things first, what is a backlink?

The most common definition of a backlink is that it’s a simple link from any website, web page, or web directory (source) on the internet to your site.

Basically, if another website links to your website, that’s a backlink.

A URL mentioned as backlink can be do-follow (which lets Google bots crawl the link) or no-follow (where you instruct the bots to not follow the links). While the former is used most often, the latter is good for linking sponsored or affiliate links.

Backlinks are one of the 200 ranking factors for Google as listed by Brian Dean, the SEO genius. However, be aware that not all backlinks are equal. A good quality backlink is far better than a generic one. A good inbound link is a mention (preferably, a do-follow) that is targeted towards your niche.

For instance, if you create a fashion blog, a good quality backlink will be from popular blogs in the fashion niche.

How to check your site’s backlinks

If you want to see all of your site’s backlinks, you can use a free backlink checker tool like this one from Ahrefs.

All you need to do is enter the URL of a page on your site and the tool will show you all of the backlinks pointing to that page:

What is a backlink: Finding all the backlinks pointing to a URL

Why are backlinks important from Google’s standpoint?

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s move on to why backlinks are important. The Google search engine uses backlinks as signals to improve your site ranking. And while backlinks are one of the many reasons for Google to decide your site’s search engine listing, they have the most effect on site ranking. Some benefits of using backlinks are:

  • Improving organic ranking across all search engines
  • Helping your site to get faster indexing
  • Bringing referral traffic for monetization
  • Boosting overall website traffic
  • Spreading brand awareness and increasing domain authority

What is a quality backlink (and how to get them)

Not all backlinks are created equal. And if you want to sustainably grow your website, you need to get quality backlinks. There are a lot of ways to generate good backlinks, but before we get into that, I’d like to share a bit more about how backlinks work, as well as why you should not use paid backlinks.

Think of paid backlinks as a fitness supplement and SEO as your site’s workout. As with physical exercise for our well-being, your site’s health might improve with paid links.

Now, taking a supplement is not bad for you, provided that you take it regularly and only as needed. However, if you take a lot of supplements or, as the case may be, build a lot of paid backlinks on a new site thinking it will boost ranking, you may do more harm than good.

Similarly, if you build paid links for a few months and then stop, your site will tank soon enough. The reason for this is not just negative SEO, but Google’s hate towards paid links. Buying links will not only cause penalties, but it could also get your site de-crawled from Google.

Back to the working out analogy, some would say that you don’t necessarily need to supplement your body with sketchy supplements. The same goes for your site, and a natural, organic backlink is the way to go (as opposed to a paid one). Yes, in this case you can’t fast-track the process, but you can definitely follow powerful strategies to help your backlinks make an impact.

Here are some strategies to help you generate valuable backlinks:

1. Guest post on popular blogs

Guest posting is something that every serious blogger does at least once. It’s where you publish a post on someone else’s blog in exchange for some links back to your site.

We have an entire guide on guest posting, but one good strategy is to use Google search operators to search for terms such as:

[YOUR_NICHE] blog write for us

[YOUR_NICHE] blogs accepting guest posts

You can then perform an email outreach with a list of a few ideas and a few of your recent posts. Here are some tips for writing good guest post pitches.

2. Create content that attracts backlinks

One of the most underrated techniques is creating high-quality content on your own blog. Creating long-form content is good for attracting backlinks, as well as improving read time and indirectly improving your SEO. Other than long-form content, you can also perform surveys, publish statistical data, and so on.

Basically, make your content so unique and awesome that other people can’t help to link to it.

For example, the hosting survey that we publish at CodeinWP is so unique that it attracts backlinks. Because we collect survey data from thousands of users, it would be tough for another blog to copy this idea.

3. Perform outreach

Creating high-quality content sometimes isn’t enough – you also need to get other people to see that content! To that end, you should try to build relationships with other sites in your niche so that, when you publish a great new piece of content, you can share it with those people (in a non-spammy way) and hopefully get some backlinks.

Backlinks are essential to growing your website

Getting more backlinks is one of the most important strategies to improve your site’s ranking in Google.

However, don’t try to take shortcuts and purchase low-quality directory links, comment links, spam networks, or other cheap link services that promise to boost your site ranking.

Instead, publish high-quality content and build relationships with other sites in your niche to generate natural, high-quality backlinks from related sites.

While backlinks are one important part of SEO, there are also lots of other concepts you should learn to grow your site. Here, we have a lot of guides to help:

Do you still have any questions about what a backlink is? Ask us in the comments!

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