Beginner’s Guide to Backlinks (Backlinks)



Backlinks are one of the most important SEO ranking factors to look out for if you want to increase your website traffic. In fact, in 2016, Google itself confirmed that, along with content, backlinks are one of the two most important signals used to rank websites.

But if you’re new to SEO or running your own business and trying to increase your traffic, you probably don’t know what backlinks are or why they’re so important. Keep reading, and we’ll share everything you need to know.



#1: Recognizing Backlinks and Their Importance in Your Strategy

As the marketing community becomes more aware of SEO techniques, backlinks are becoming more powerful. We create content that adds value to potential customers.

Backlinks effectively amplify content and are a great example of how you can reach your target audience organically.


If you want to succeed in SEO for your site, you need to pay attention to backlinks, as Google and other search engines use them as a way to understand the authority of a page.

Think of them as the reputation of a website on the internet, with a link from website A to website B being seen as a vote that it is a trustworthy source. If five people who didn’t know each other recommended this or that restaurant as the best in your city, you would probably believe that you could eat there because several people would vouch for it.


This is how Google views backlinks as popularity votes for a website or webpage, and there is a strong relationship between those with more links pointing to them and higher rankings.

Any link from someone else’s website to yours (or any other site) is a backlink, but not all links are created equal. Just as you trust a recommendation from someone you respect, search engines trust backlinks from trusted, authoritative sites over ones that are either less trustworthy or unknown.

This trust comes in the form of PageRank, one of Google’s algorithms that evaluates the quality and quantity of backlinks pointing to a page to determine that page’s relative importance and authority score.

#2 Backlink Types

We have already mentioned that backlinks are not the same, and below are the different types of backlinks that you need to know about.

Nofollow Links

Links are like trust votes, but what if you don’t want to vouch for a website but still need to link to it? Nofollowed links use the rel=”nofollow” attribute to inform Google and other search engines they shouldn’t trust PageRanknks use the rel=”nofollow” attribute to inform Google and other search engines they shouldn’t trust PageRank. A backlink without a link looks like this:

is a link that does not exist.

Given that unlinked links don’t pass PageRank, they won’t help you rank higher in the SERPs.

However, in September 2019, Google announced that they were developing the nofollow attribute, stating that “when introducing nofollow, Google will not consider any link marked in this way as a signal for use in search algorithms.” This is no longer the case.All link attributes are treated as hints about which links to consider or exclude from the search.

DoFollow Links

Simply put, the next link is one that passes trust (PageRank) and thus does not have the added nofollow attribute.

Note: There is no “follow” attribute, and “dofollow” backlinks are not a thing.

This backlink looks like this:

a href=””> This is a link-by-link list.

Sometimes you can pay a blogger or influencer to promote some of your content or to post a review of one of your products. If money or a product or service was given in exchange for a link, the rel=”sponsored” attribute should be added to inform Google.

The rel=”sponsored” attribute prevents these links from causing problems for your site.

A sponsored backlink looks like this:

This is a paid advertisement.

UGC Links

UGC (User Content) links are one of the new attributes that will be available in 2019.These are links, similar to blog comments or forum threads. The UGC attribute tells us that the link was posted by the user and not by the webmaster.

The UGC backlink looks like this:

This is a user-generated content link.

Highly authoritative backlinks

Highly authoritative backlinks are those that come from reliable sources, for example, from a newspaper (meaning the search engine will 100% trust the link from the New York Times) or from another authoritative website that has earned trust.

Of course, as mentioned earlier, Google’s way of assessing authority is in their PageRank algorithm, but it’s no longer a public metric as it stopped updating and removing PageRank from its dashboard in 2016.

When evaluating whether a link is quality or not, factors such as credibility and how well the content is shared by the site should be taken into account, as should whether it is of real value to users.

toxic links (unnatural links)

Wrong links can hurt your website’s ability to rank highly and can even negatively affect the ranking you already have. “Bad” links are often referred to as toxic or unnatural links.

Toxic backlinks are links that come from poor-quality or suspicious websites, are in direct violation of the Google Webmaster Guidelines, and exist solely to try to manipulate search engine rankings.

This could mean paid or sponsored links that aren’t nofollowed; links from low-quality directories or bookmarking sites; heavily used footer links; or an unnatural number of links using exact match anchor text.

#3: Why are backlinks important?

Backlinks are an important area of SEO to focus your efforts on. But why? They will help you rank higher in natural search results.

Without quality backlinks pointing to your site, you are missing out on one of the most important ranking factors that helps demonstrate that you are a trusted authority in your industry and therefore deserve to rank at the top for key search phrases.

Useful Information: SEO Practice: 11 Ways to Improve Your Website’s Search Rankings 

The number of backlinks correlates with higher rankings.

In order for links to increase your rankings, you need to make sure you are getting quality links. You want to avoid those that violate the Google Webmaster Guidelines, such as those that fall under the classification intended to manipulate search results.

If you follow the strategies we’ll go over, you won’t have to worry about getting links the right way.

This is one of the ways Google finds new pages.

Search bots use links to find new pages on the Internet—this is one of the main ways to discover, crawl, and index content. A link from a trusted source will help Google index your content faster, which means it should rank faster as well.

Good links increase your credibility.

Good links from reputable and trusted sources will not only help you rank higher in terms of SEO, but they can also increase your credibility as a business.

Think of it this way: Let’s say you’re a tech startup. There is a good chance that not many people know about your business yet. So, if you manage to get press coverage and a link from a reputable source, you will get a serious boost in the credibility of your business.

If you then continue to get authoritative links from major industry publications and recognized experts who talk about you, this will drive traffic to your site. Even if we ignore the value of SEO, the fact that journalists and editors in key publications in your industry choose to link to you is worth its weight in gold.

Backlinks send referral traffic to your page.

When the web first came into existence, links were purely navigational. In their most simplified form, the purpose of links is to take web browsers from page A to page B, not only within the same website but also between different sites.

And while links are now used by Google as a ranking factor, the principle hasn’t changed since good links send very valuable traffic to your page.

If we go back to the example above, then the press can send interested readers to your site. This, in turn, introduces your brand to a new audience that can turn into a buyer.

You’ll also get the option to add this traffic to your remarketing list for paid media targeting to make your referral traffic work a little more effectively.

Don’t discount the potential traffic from links. This is a great way to see if a link is valuable and whether it can drive traffic from your intended target audience.

#4. How to Check Backlinks on Your Website

If you want to plan a link building campaign and take a look at the tactics you can use to earn more good links to your website and want to see how your competitors are doing in terms of links, you need to know how to check backlinks and get an idea of your link profile.

There are a number of different tools that you can use to get a clear picture of both your own link profile and that of your competitors’. You can do this with Google Search Console and SEMrush.




Using the Google Search Console to Understand Your Link Profile

The Google Search Console will give you an idea of what your own link profile looks like, but it won’t give you any information about your competitors. However, this is a free tool, and you definitely need to know what links to your site Google sees.

Even if the information you can get here is a bit limited compared to other tools,

    • First, go to the Google Search Console and sign in. Use the menu on the left to navigate to Legacy Tools and Reports.
    • You should then see an overview of your site’s backlink profile under the “External Links” heading.

You will be able to see not only the number of external links pointing to your site but also the following information:

    • The most popular pages on your site that have the most links
    • Top link sites—the sites that most often link to yours
    • Top link text is the most common link text used for external links.
    • You can also export your site’s external links as a CSV file in the top-right corner.

Using SEMrush to Analyze Your Competitors’ Backlink Profiles

While Google Search Console is a great way to understand some of the elements of your own link profile, if you want to use link understanding to help you build great links and spot the tactics your competitors are using, you will need to use a dedicated tool to help you do just that.

There are several ways SEMrush can help you understand your own link profile as well as your competitors’, all of which can offer valuable information to use in your strategy.

Backlink Analytics

Start by using our Backlink Analytics tool to collect backlink profile data from not only your own domain but also your competitors’ to gain insight into a range of metrics and precise data to help you develop the best strategy.

What information can you really get out of this tool, and how can you use it in your strategy?

Categories of referring domains

Here you can see how the domains that link to the site are classified thematically, which helps you understand what a domain’s actual link profile relevance looks like to determine sectors and targeting opportunities in your own campaigns.

Also See: What Exactly Is Black Hat SEO (Black Hat)?

Anchor text

Understanding the most common link anchor texts used to link back to your domain is a great way to minimize the risk of negative actions associated with toxic link building tactics as well as ensure that your own strategy targets natural link anchor texts.

Referral domains

The number of unique referral domains is strongly associated with higher rankings, and using this as a competitive benchmark will help you determine the true link gap.

Link attributes

Once you understand the difference between “follow,”  “nofollow,”  “sponsor,” and “UGC” links, you can use this understanding to plan a strategy that replicates the successful link profile of those who got ahead of you.


Analyzing competitor backlinks can help you identify opportunities to try and earn a link to your own domain, as well as keep track of who is linking to you and how.

TLD Distribution

Do your links come primarily from your main country where you operate? Are there global opportunities to build links that work for your competitors? Understanding the distribution of TLDs in a link profile is essential to understanding how to develop a broader business strategy.

Similar profiles

Want to dig deeper into your competitors’ link profiles? You can use the “similar profiles” information to see examples of other domains with a similar link profile to top-performing sites and find new opportunities.

Popular Pages

Here you can see which pages have the most links pointing to them and plan how to use that link ratio as part of your own internal linking strategy.

Don’t underestimate the power of competitor analysis. With the right tools, you can create the right links to help you rank higher and grow organically.

#5: Obtaining Backlinks to Your Website

The reality is that there are many different tactics and ways to do this, but some are much more effective and help you build better links than others. 

There is also a common misconception that you always have to pay an agency to help build links, but this is not the case. There are numerous ways to start earning great links on your own.

Don’t miss out—it’s important! What is a black hat? SEO (black hat).

Remember, you should not buy links but earn them. Here are some popular (but relatively easy) ways to earn links to your site:

1. Request that your suppliers post your link.

If you’re selling other people’s products, you’ll find that many of your supplier’s websites have a “where to buy” or “distributors” page with details (and links) for each.

Often, you will find that you are not included in these lists, as they are usually not updated as often as they should be. Find member list pages on your supplier’s websites, and if you are not included, ask to be added.

2. Respond to journalists’ requests.

If there is a request from a journalist that matches your experience, please send a response within the specified time limit, and if your request is used, there is a good chance that you will receive a link too.

Of course, not every introduction to your company is successful and gets a link. Make sure you answer the request in detail so that you can add value to your business, and also make it clear that you expect to receive a link.

3. Contribute a guest post to a trade publication.

Today, guest posting remains a great tactic for getting links and sharing your knowledge and experience gained from relevant industry publications. Let’s say you’re an accountant and want to write guest posts.

You are sure to find relevant websites that are looking for writers that you could submit your guest post ideas to.

Use industry directories for your niche.

Most industries have active directories that recommend and showcase companies in that sector. You will also find that such variants exist for many cities and regions.

Place a detailed description of your company, a logo, an address, a phone number, and a link to the site. These resources frequently allow you to publish company news and promotions, as well as place backlinks.

5. Convert brand mentions into hyperlinks.

Also See: What Exactly Is Black Hat SEO (Black Hat)?

Most companies provide press coverage from time to time, whether it be at a regional, national, or international level. The reason could be a new product or service you’ve launched, a new ranking, or even a charity event. Whatever the reason, it is not uncommon for press mentions to fail to link.

It’s always worth checking with a journalist or editor when you’re mentioned in the press without a link and asking them to add it. While some won’t, others will, and it’s a really easy way to earn some quality links.

6. Become a referenced resource.

If you’ve taken the time to create great content or a great product, you should look for resources like this so they can link to your content as an expert.

Opportunities like this exist across all sectors, and you can take the same approach with great content as well as your core product or service.

7. Disseminate research findings to the press.

Unique research is a surefire way to get press attention for your business, but don’t be fooled that it’s a quick and easy task.

Running a research-based PR campaign using your or third-party data takes time, but it’s worth it. Journalists and publishers love to share research and surveys, and this can be a great way to earn fantastic links if you’re willing to put in the time and effort.

8. Analyze your competitor’s link profile to identify opportunities.

If you’re looking for opportunities to earn links that will help your competitors rank, you can analyze their backlink profile to identify opportunities that you can exploit.

Indeed, you can use the SEMrush backlink building tool to assist you in doing so and discovering the numerous untapped backlink opportunities.

# 6 Busting Backlink Myths

Link building has changed a lot in the last decade, but it’s for the better. However, there are a number of common myths about backlinks, and we want to debunk some of them right now, so that when you encounter them in the future, you will know what tips to follow and what you should do to avoid them.

1. The greater your number of links, the higher your ranking.

It is understood where this statement comes from, but this is not necessarily the case. As we’ve shown, not all links are the same, and one great link from a newspaper or the largest trade publication can be worth hundreds of low-quality links from blog comments to unrelated posts.

Link building is not just a numbers game; you need to earn quality links. However, there is a strong correlation between the number of quality links and higher rankings; don’t fall into the trap of focusing on the numbers alone, as this can lead to tactics that result in low-quality links that harm rather than help your rankings.

2. You don’t have to worry about earning nofollowed links.

This is a common occurrence that is often taken out of context. Historically, unlinked links didn’t affect SEO performance, but in September 2019, Google announced that it was now a hint rather than a directive.

A link that has the nofollow attribute placed in a newspaper that applies automatic nofollow to all external links still carries significant weight. Nofollow links still send traffic to your site and increase your authority.

As long as the links are current and from trusted sources, you shouldn’t discount such a link simply because it’s nofollow.

3. Buying links is a quick way to rank higher.

You should not buy links (or give away free products in exchange for a link), as this is a direct violation of Google’s Webmaster Policies and may result in a negative impact on your rankings or even a fine.

If you are sponsoring content for reasons other than getting a link, you need to use the rel=”sponsored” attribute.

4. Link scoring in Google Tools is the only way to determine a quality link.

Many mistakenly believe that the only way to determine a quality link is to look at the link score in the Google toolbox. This is not true. Google’s John Mueller recently confirmed that Google does not use one of these scores as a ranking factor.

It is simply a metric that is calculated by a set of tools in an attempt to indicate potential authority in the eyes of search engines.

However, if the link belongs to a relevant resource and was posted in a revision, which means it can send targeted traffic, don’t discount it just because it has a lower metric in the tool.

A natural link profile includes links from different sources of different ages and authorities, and it is unnatural and unrealistic to earn links only from high-authority sources.

5. You get a ranking drop if you earn too many links.

There is a longstanding myth that too many links in a short amount of time will cause your site’s ranking to drop.

Consider running a PR campaign that culled hundreds of editorial links from unique publications over the course of a few days. product announcements, research, etc. It’s just the nature of virality, and you certainly won’t be penalized for it.

As long as you’re building quality links, you don’t have to worry about earning too many links in a short amount of time. This myth only applies to those who buy unnatural links.

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