What Are Backlinks in SEO and Why Do They Matter

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What are backlinks in SEO and why are they important?

What are backlinks in SEO, how do they work, and why do they matter?

Backlinks are among the most frequently used terms in Search Engine Optimization and they play a pivotal role in Google’s algorithm. They can be the determining factor in whether a website makes it or breaks it in search engine results.

So today, we’re breaking down the anatomy of backlinks, their benefits, best practices, and so much more. Let’s get into it.

What Are Backlinks in SEO?

First, let’s answer the biggest question of them all: What are backlinks in SEO?

Backlinks go by many names, including inbound links, one-way links, or incoming links. They are essentially links on one website that point to another website.

Search engines, like Google, view backlinks as a vote of confidence. Put simply, when a website links to another, it vouches for it on a search engine.

That’s why pages with lots of backlinks often rank higher on Google than those without. That’s especially true if the backlinks are from trusted and authoritative sources.

Links vs. Backlinks – What’s the Difference

Links are the glue that holds the web together as they’re what connect individual documents. Internal links are links between pages on the same domain and they help users navigate a website.

On the other hand, external links connect pages that aren’t on the same domain. They cast a wider net and can have more potential intentions, such as:

  • Adding authenticity
  • Providing or citing a source
  • Providing context
  • Supporting a claim

In each case, the external or outbound link provides additional value to the reader. Here, it’s important to note that the link has direction.

When a link is outgoing on a linking webpage, it’s incoming to the target page, which means it’s a backlink to the target page.

Search engines like Google recognize that the backlink in question has value and will reward the target URL. That’s because it will interpret the link fully intentionally and assumes there’s a certain level of editorial assessment.

All that is to say that backlinks that point to your website indicate that your content has value.

Why Do Backlinks in SEO Matter?

Now that we’ve broken down what backlinks in SEO are, let’s discuss their importance and how they can transform a website.

Better Rankings

Google and other search engines consider backlinks as one of the most important signals when it comes to ranking content. That’s because search engines look at both the quality and quantity of the links as votes of confidence and authoritativeness from other sites.

So the more backlinks a website has, the higher it can rank for specific search terms. Now, that isn’t necessarily always the case because rankings depend on a number of factors, not just backlinks.

Better Visibility

Another benefit of having backlinks on a website is that it helps Google find your content more easily, increasing visibility. When a search engine follows a backlink to a new page, it crawls the page to discover all the links on it.

That’s why it’s so important to have a strong, internal linking strategy, meaning that the pages on your own site link to each other. That will allow Google to follow a backlink to your website and new pages within the site because it follows internal links.

Better Referral Traffic

Through referral traffic, backlinks in SEO can provide your website with more visitors. Referral traffic is traffic from people who are visiting your website from another website and they’re not coming from Google. These visitors were referred to you by another source – a source like backlinks.

There are many benefits of referral traffic, including:

  • Improved authority
  • Introduction to new audiences
  • Increased brand awareness
  • Acquiring new qualified leads

Better Domain Authority

Backlinks in SEO can also improve your website’s domain authority. Even though domain authority isn’t a ranking factor for Google, lots of SEO tools use it to help identify ways to improve your strategy. They do so by comparing your domain authority to your competition.

So at the end of the day, the higher a website’s domain authority is, the more likely it is to earn a good spot on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). That’s why we can use domain authority to measure improvement and how well your SEO efforts are working.

Better Brand Awareness

By earning backlinks from authoritative websites that get lots of traffic, you can get your website in front of a new audience. That in turn can improve your overall brand awareness, which leads to more visibility and revenue.

How to Get Backlinks

There are a few different ways you can earn a backlink – naturally, manually, or by self-creating them. The natural way is by having websites come up and share your content, which is ideal, but not really realistic.

Manual backlinks in SEO are earned through link-building activities, which we’ll explain shortly.

Then, there are the self-created links, which are created when a site manager manually adds backlinks to an online directory, blog comment, or forum. With that said, these types of tactics fall into black-hat SEO strategies, which can have a negative impact on your search engine reputation.

Now, let’s take a closer look at the right link-building practices to help your rankings and visibility.

Link Building

A niche specialty of SEO, link building is the process of actively acquiring backlinks. When done right, it can have a dramatic impact on a website’s performance and ROI. At Guru SEO Services, our proven link-building processes and practices can make any website stand out in the digital space.

Creating Content

One of the best ways to earn links is by creating evergreen, engaging, and shareable content. The content has to be informational and establish you as a thought leader. But most importantly, it has to answer the questions that your audience is asking and it should make people want to link to it.

Writing Guest Posts

Guest posting can be very beneficial for all parties involved. Typically, sites will exchange guest posts, providing useful links to each other. In addition to gaining a backlink and content, a website will also gain invaluable exposure.

That said, if you’re considering a guest post, it’s crucial that the partnership actually makes sense. Google also recommends using no-follow links in these instances to clarify that the links aren’t paid for.

Digital PR

When it comes to earning links, you can take it one step further by pitching your content to the press. It’s a practice known as digital PR and it’s an excellent way to get your content in front of a bigger audience.

What Is Backlink Authority?

Google was the first search engine to realize the importance of backlinks in SEO. Back in 1998, they decided to use the revolutionary algorithm, PageRank, which ranked pages based on link popularity. That meant that a page would rank higher if it had more links to it.

The algorithm would not only process the number of links on a page rather the authority of those links. That is to say that not all backlinks were created equal.

So Google’s algorithm will assign an authority value to each page on a site based not only on the quantity but the quality of its incoming links.

In simpler terms, an authority backlink is an in-content backlink from contextually relevant sites that have strong organic traffic. Google trusts websites that have strong organic traffic and they will be the key to your ranking factors.

Types of Backlinks in SEO

Backlinks come in many different forms and types and while some are going to help your ranking, there are those that can hurt it. There are a few variables to help you determine a backlink’s value.

First, you have to look at the recognized authority and quality of the linking site. Then, you have to look into whether the linking site encodes the link with a do-follow status. The last thing to consider is the location of the link on the website.

Editorial Backlinks

The best type of link is the editorial description that contains a link to your site and is embedded inside relevant, high-quality material.

Usually, editorial backlinks are made when your site is featured in a link or roundup or when your content is mentioned as a source of information. They can also be created when a company representative is quoted or interviewed.

To acquire editorial backlinks, you need to create evergreen content that positions you as a thought leader. The content should also be engaging and shareable and be part of a proper SEO strategy.

Guest Blogging Backlinks

Through guest blogging, you can include an editorial backlink to your own site. Established websites can receive great, engaging content from you while you take another step in your SEO strategy.

UGC Backlinks

User-generated content or UGC backlinks let search engines know which content and links were created by customers or users. Examples of UGC links include links found in blog post comments and forum posts. A benefit of these types of links is that it allows webmasters to specify that there’s no need to editorially endorse specific links on their websites.

No-Follow Links

When linking to a site, you are essentially vouching for it, and that’s sometimes not the best idea. A no-follow link doesn’t count in search engine ranking algorithms and links from these sources tend to be in blog comments, paid advertisements, and press releases.

Sponsored/Paid Links

Sponsored links, as the name implies, are links that have been paid for by the company behind them and they can take on a variety of different forms. The best-known type of sponsored link is a Google Ads link.

However, companies can also occasionally purchase links from niche bloggers, industry peers, or other third parties. On the other hand, sponsored links can also come in the form of content.

Link Schemes

Link schemes or spam refers to links that are intended to manipulate Google Search result rankings. Participating in these schemes can result in a penalty from Google, which can have a negative impact on your rankings. If you aren’t sure whether there are any bad links that you should disavow, it’s best to perform a backlink audit.

Link Generation Ideas

Link generation works in a similar way to lead generation because it requires you to reach people with your content. There are many different ways to go about this and what ends up working will depend on many factors. These include the content on the website, the industry itself, and its presentation in the digital world.


Business partnerships can be beneficial in many different contexts, but one of the best benefits is that they can put a business in the spotlight. You can offer your partner feature content or collaborate on promotional activities.

Mentions From Suppliers and Retailers

If you have a successful working relationship with retailers or suppliers, you can leverage that for a link. When collaborating with others, make sure that they’ve included you in their listings section and that there’s a link pointing to you.

Niche Bloggers

No matter your industry, there are bound to be some niche bloggers for it and fostering relationships with them is a great way to give yourself a leg up online. They already have an engaged audience, and if your product or service can benefit them in some way, there is a potential range of benefits from that collaboration.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are backlinks in SEO?

Backlinks are links on one website that point to another website, and search engines view these links as votes of confidence.

What is an anchor text?

An anchor text is a clickable text in a hyperlink and, according to best SEO practices, it has to be relevant to the text you’re linking to. The keywords in an anchor text are just one of the many factors search engines examine to determine a webpage’s topic.

How do backlinks improve SEO?

Backlinks offer better website SEO because they can improve authority and overall rankings. They allow you to rank higher for target keywords in SERPs. Both the quality and the quantity of the links are important factors that contribute to a website’s ranking and visibility.

Can Guru SEO Services do my link-building?

Yes, absolutely. With our link-building services, we can take your business to a new level. We can perform a website audit and create a comprehensive marketing strategy that will make your website stand out.

For more information, get in touch with us or book your free digital marketing assessment! We work with companies of all sizes and our team can manage any and all technical and SEO aspects of your site.

Picture of Jesse Tutt

Jesse Tutt

Jesse has over 16 years of digital marketing experience and is the Founder and CEO of Guru SEO and Web Design Services. Jesse is a international speaker, renowned entrepreneur and web design and SEO expert.