What Is a Backlink & Why Are They Important to Off-Page SEO?

Adam Steele
Feb 26, 2024
what is a backlink

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How do some websites consistently climb to the top of Search? The answer often lies in the power of backlinks. Backlinks are arguably the most potent ranking signal search engines like Google pay attention to.

But here’s a little secret: not all backlinks are created equal.

Dofollows, nofollows, internal, external, natural, and unnatural links. Confused? Don’t be.

In this guide, we’ll

  1. answer the question, “What is a backlink,”
  2. help you understand backlinks in all their diversity,
  3. and explain why some backlinks shoot your website to the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs) while others, well, not so much.

What Is a Backlink?

Suppose a web page on, let’s say, Website A provides a hyperlink to a web page on a third-party website, Website B. That’s a backlink, also known as “inbound links” or “incoming links,” for Website B.

It’s important to note that the terms “inbound links” and “incoming links” refer to links from the perspective of the website receiving the link. In other words, for Website B, these are inbound or incoming links. However, when we talk about backlinks in general or from the perspective of the website giving the link (Website A in this case), we often use the term “external links.”

Backlinks and internal links may look similar—by default, clickable anchor text, underlined and highlighted in blue (they may vary depending on styling choices)—but they serve different purposes. External links or backlinks connect different websites, forming a path between them. On the other hand, internal links are used to guide users from one page to another within the same website.

Learn more: SEO glossary 250+ terms explained.

Why Are Backlinks Important?

So why all the fuss about backlinks? Here’s the lowdown:

Enhances Site Rankings

Backlinks are instrumental in determining your website’s standing in search engine rankings. When your site receives a backlink from another reputable site, search engines interpret this as a nod of approval—a vote of confidence in your content’s quality and relevance. Consequently, the more high-quality backlinks (inbound links from reputable high-authority websites) your site boasts, the more likely it is to rank higher in search engine results.

Source: Danny Grainger Copy

Acts as Pathways for Crawlers

Backlinks act as pathways for search engine crawlers, guiding them from one node (web page) to another. This process allows search engines like Google to discover and index new pages. The more extensive and high-quality your backlink network, the easier it is for crawlers to find your pages, and, as a result, your site becomes more visible.

Boosts Referral Traffic

Backlinks are not just for search engines—they’re also for users. When a reader on another site clicks a backlink leading to your site, you gain referral traffic. The beauty of referral traffic is that it’s often highly targeted. When a reputable site backlinks to your content, it’s because they believe their audience will find value in it. And as a result, users who follow these backlinks are likely to be interested in your content, making them potential high-quality leads or, the most valuable kind of referral traffic, paying customers.

Different Types of Backlinks: What You Should Look Out For

Backlinks come in various types and flavors, each carrying a different level of impact and influence on your website’s ranking. Let’s take a closer look at some of these different types of backlinks.

DoFollow vs. NoFollow Backlinks

DoFollow backlinks are the movers and shakers of SEO. They pass on “link juice” or SEO value from one page to another, telling search engines that the linked content is credible and valuable. This transfer of SEO value can significantly boost the ranking of the web page that’s on the receiving end of the inbound link.

On the other hand, NoFollow backlinks don’t carry the same direct SEO value. They come with a ‘rel=nofollow’ HTML tag that tells search engines not to count the link as an endorsement. However, they are far from useless. NoFollow backlinks can still generate referral traffic, build brand visibility, and lead to more DoFollow backlinks over time. Plus, they add some diversity to your backlink portfolio, and that’s never a bad thing.

Natural vs. Unnatural Backlinks

Lastly, there are natural and unnatural backlinks. Natural backlinks are the gold standard in SEO—they are organically earned when other sites link to your valuable content without any direct action on your part. These backlinks are seen as authentic endorsements of your content by search engines.

Unnatural backlinks, on the other hand, are artificially created. They can sometimes lead to short-term SEO gains, but search engines frown upon these practices, and they may lead to penalties if detected. Maintaining a healthy backlink portfolio is essential. Focusing on earning natural backlinks and removing or disavowing any unnatural ones is considered best practice.

Learn more: toxic backlinks (and how to disavow them).

The Power of High-Quality Backlinks: Why Authority and Relevance Matter

Let’s delve into two key components that search engines value the most about backlinks: authority and relevance.

Authority: The Key to SEO Influence

In the eyes of search engines, all websites aren’t created equal. Some carry more influence, or “authority,” than others. A backlink from a website with high domain authority is a strong endorsement and can significantly boost your website’s ranking. The reasoning is simple—if a highly respected website finds your content valuable enough to link, well, there’s a high likelihood that your content is valuable.

But how is this authority measured? Search engines use complex algorithms, but third-party SEO tools provide metrics like Domain Authority (DA) by Moz or Domain Rating (DR) by Ahrefs that can be used to give you a rough idea of how valuable a backlink is. On a scale of 0-100, these scores estimate how well a website will rank on search engine result pages. The higher the score, the greater the authority and the more SEO value their backlinks hold.

Just remember that DA and DR are metrics devised by Moz and Ahrefs. Google doesn’t use these metrics, so be mindful that while DA and DR are helpful guides, they do not guarantee how Google perceives the value of a third-party website or the backlinks you receive from them.

Relevance: Building Meaningful Connections

Authority alone doesn’t guarantee a powerful backlink. The relevance of the linking website and its content to your own also plays a crucial role.

For example, if your website is about digital marketing, a backlink from a well-respected digital marketing blog, like Hubspot, will carry more weight than a backlink from a high-authority cooking blog, like Recipes.com. Why? Because the digital marketing blog is more relevant to your content, audience, and industry.

This concept of relevance also extends to the link’s anchor text. Anchor text that accurately reflects the linked content can further boost the link’s relevance and, consequently, its SEO value.

Backlink FAQs

Q1: How Do I Create Backlinks?

Answer: Building backlinks has several different approaches, as there are different types of backlinks.

Digital marketing and content marketing experts debate the effectiveness of each, but securing incoming links from reliable, trustworthy sites helps your PageRank. Just make sure to avoid spammy links and only work with webmasters who run legitimate websites.

  1. You can get backlinks on Reddit—this is a good way to get your content out there and seen by more people, but it can be difficult to get traffic from Reddit if you don’t already have an audience to market to.
  2. You can link other websites (or your own blog posts) from relevant and well-known sites in the niche that you’re in.
  3. You can buy backlinks—you can actually buy your own backlinks or pay someone else to link to you.
  4. You can go viral on Twitter and tell people to go check out your website – this is a great way to get people looking at your stuff, but it isn’t always easy, and some people already know about your site and are just looking for something new to enjoy!
  5. Guest blogging quality content on relevant sites and building relationships with site owners is a great way to build your backlink profile and rank better in search engine results.

Q2: What Is a Backlink Strategy?

Answer: A backlink strategy is a set of guidelines that help you to create a plan where you build your link profile by getting quality websites to point to your blog posts or home page.

Some people say that if you want to rank well in the SERPS, then you need one or two links per page from authority link sites. Others say that it’s not about how many links you have but about the quality of the site they came from.

Search engine optimization and SEO strategy depend largely on backlink profile building.

Q3: What Is a Good Quality Backlink?

Answer: A good quality backlink comes from a website that is relevant to your niche and has authority. It comes from a page that your current subscribers or followers would visit regularly.

There are a few things that you need to look for in order to build quality backlinks:

  1. The backlink needs to be natural – do not hire a black hat SEO specialist to build your links, but instead, just make sure that your content is of high quality and attracts the right attention.

Q4: What Is The Best Backlink Checker?

Answer: The most effective backlink checker on the market today is Ahrefs. This tool has an in-depth backlink audit function, where you can see what kind of content needs attention and who the people are linking to your website. It also allows you to export all your data in one place so you can analyze it later.

Q5: What Is Backlink Spam?

Answer: Backlink spam is the practice of creating multiple fake backlinks to try and rank a website higher in Google’s search results, often via paid services.

Q6: What Is Permanent Backlink?

Answer: A permanent backlink is a link from a website that has been around for a long time and is still active. It’s a simple way to tell if a spammer has created the link because they would never be able to get such high-authority sites to link to them.

Q7: What Is A Bad Backlink?

Answer: A bad backlink is a link that has been created by someone trying to game the system. The best way to check for these is by looking for suspicious patterns in your backlinks. For example, if your backlink starts with a lot of links from the same site, then there’s a good chance that this is the result of low-quality link building.

Q8: What Is an Editorial Backlink?

Answer: Editorial backlinks come from journalists or other public relations outlets, such as newspapers, or perhaps influencers in your niche.

Q9: What Is a Quality Backlink?

Answer: A quality backlink is a link from a high-quality site, usually within your niche. If you have a website where you post pictures of dogs, then you should be getting links from other dog sites. You can also gain links simply by having good content that people want to share with others on social media.

Q10: What Is A Backlink Service?

Answer: A backlink service is a service that helps you build high-quality backlinks. A good backlink service will help you to find relevant websites that are interested in linking to yours. They can often assist with guest posting or PR outreach.

Q11: What Is Tiered Link Building?

Answer: Tiered link building is when you create multiple levels of backlinks, like going from a video to a post on your blog and then linking back to the video.

Q12: What Is Reciprocal Link Building?

Answer: Reciprocal links are websites that link to each other because they share a similar topic or provide complementary services. Owners of the websites may find it beneficial to link to each other for visitors’ sake.

Conclusion and Next Steps

Building a robust backlink portfolio can be as challenging as a chess game, requiring significant time and complex strategy.

That’s where Loganix steps in. Our expert team will shoulder the task of backlink building, freeing you to focus on running your business and serving your customers.

So, why wait?

🚀 Contact us at Loganix, and let’s convert your SEO challenges into victories. 🚀

Hand off the toughest tasks in SEO, PPC, and content without compromising quality

Explore Services

Written by Adam Steele on February 26, 2024

COO and Product Director at Loganix. Recovering SEO, now focused on the understanding how Loganix can make the work-lives of SEO and agency folks more enjoyable, and profitable. Writing from beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia.