Why Backlinks Play an Important Part in Your SEO Strategy

by Jun 29, 2023Learning Center, SEO

Even if you’re beginning your SEO journey, you’ve probably heard about backlinks. But what exactly is a backlink, and why do backlinks matter?

As an experienced SEO marketing agency, we understand the basics of backlinks for SEO and how they affect your website’s domain authority. We also know that following the best practices for building and monitoring backlinks can improve your search engine rankings and get more organic traffic.

What The Heck Are Backlinks?

Backlinks are links that move you from one website to another. Backlinks are also known as external links or inbound links. So, if a website includes a link to your site anywhere on its page, they’ve given you a backlink.

If you’re scratching your head, that’s okay. Let’s break down backlinks a bit more.

Every page on the internet has its own Uniform Resource Locator (URL). It’s like an address that tells your web browser where to go. You can have an address that is part of another website, such as medium.com/yourname, or a custom address called a domain name that is yours alone. If you own a business, you’ll probably want to register a domain name, such as www.mycompany.com, to make your website address memorable and professional.

Web pages can connect using hyperlinks, commonly referred to as links, that you can click to go from one page to another. Links can be made in navigation menus, within the text of a page, and just about anywhere else on a website. Most websites display linked text in a different color, which may also be underlined. Images can also be linked.

A link from one page to another page on the same website is called an internal link. A link from a website to a different website is called an external link. A link from another website to your website is a backlink.

Backlinks are an essential part of navigating and connecting the web. Typically, websites include backlinks to other sites for one of the following reasons:

  • They are citing a source or statistic
  • They are showing a reader where to learn more about a related topic
  • They are pointing the reader to a product to purchase
  • They connect a reader with relevant resources

When a website links to yours, it’s giving you a vote of confidence. Google and other search engines use backlinks to measure your website’s quality and relevance. The more high-quality backlinks you have, the higher your site will tend to rank in search engine results pages (SERPs).

Backlinks are an essential ranking factor for SEO, so it’s crucial to build a strong network of them over time.

What Makes a Backlink Different Than a Link?

All backlinks are links, but not all links are backlinks. The term backlink describes the relationship between the link and the external website it links to. For example, if Apple links to Microsoft, Microsoft has a backlink from Apple. From Apple‘s perspective, they have created an outbound link to Microsoft. This benefits Microsoft for reasons we will explain in a moment.

Links are only considered backlinks if they connect different domains. For example, if Apple links to a page on its website where they discuss Microsoft, that would be an internal link, not a backlink.

Types of Backlinks

When you embed a link into a webpage, you connect it to relevant text. Anchor text is the term for the words contained within the link, the text you click on to go to the page. Anchor text matters because it tells Google what the link is about. The words around the anchor text also provide context to search engines. Having a natural, diverse backlink profile with many different kinds of anchor text is important.

As you have already gathered, links can be divided into categories based on internal or external links. However, backlinks (external links) can be further divided into categories based on their anchor text. These categories include branded, naked, search-specific, and generic links.

Branded Links

Branded links are website backlinks that include your brand or company name in the anchor text. They are a natural link that increases your brand’s visibility while improving your search engine rankings.

Here are some examples of helpful branded backlinks:

  • You can buy adorable knitted sloth hats for kids and adults at Hattie’s Hat Haven.
  • If you want to brighten up your home with lawn flamingos, Terri’s Tropical Tchotchkes has a wide variety for sale on their website.
  • Awesome Possum provides humane wildlife removal services to homes and businesses in Central Indiana.

Naked Links

A naked link is a plain-text backlink without any anchor text. It’s simply the URL of your site. Naked backlinks are also known as raw anchors and URL anchors. Naked backlinks often come from social media websites and directories but can also originate from regular web pages and blogs.

Here are some examples of naked backlinks:

  • Visit com to find adorable sloth hats.
  • Do you have unwanted attic residents? awesomepossumwildlife.com can humanely relocate them.

Service-Specific Anchors (AKA Money Words)

Service-specific backlinks have anchor text that matches keywords you want to rank for in search engines. Service-specific anchors are also known as exact match anchors.

Here are some examples of contextual service-specific anchors:

  • Hattie’s Hat Haven sells adorable knitted sloth hats for kids and adults.
  • Terri’s Tropical Tchotchkes has a wide variety of lawn flamingos for sale.
  • Awesome Possum provides humane wildlife removal services to homes and businesses in Central Indiana.

Service-specific backlinks are powerful, but you shouldn’t go overboard with them. To maintain a natural backlink profile, having no more than 20-30% service-specific or optimized anchors is best.

Generic Links

Generic links have simple anchor text that isn’t explicitly related to your brand or target keywords. They’re the links you see that say things like “click here,” and they don’t provide much contextual information in the anchor text.

Here are some examples of helpful generic anchor backlinks:

  • Looking for cute knitted sloth hats? Click here.
  • Terri’s Tropical Tchotchkes has a wide variety of lawn flamingos for sale on their website.
  • Awesome Possum provides humane wildlife removal services to homes and businesses in Central Indiana. Learn more about them here.

Generic links can be helpful to your SEO since they still provide you with a link from another website, but they are by far the weakest option.

What Do Backlinks Do For My Website?

Now that you know what backlinks are, let’s dive into why you need them. Some business owners may assume these links benefit them because it will bring more potential customers to their websites. This can be the case in some situations, but it’s not the only reason to build out external links.

Backlinks can enhance your brand’s reputation and credibility. When your website is referenced by reputable sources in your industry, it creates a positive impression and establishes you as an authority. This can lead to improved brand recognition and trust among your target audience, and it helps search engines recognize your brand as well.

Also, backlinks act as pathways that lead search engine crawlers to discover and index your web pages. When your site is linked from various sources, search engines are more likely to crawl and index your pages quickly, ensuring that your content gets visibility in search results sooner.

However, the primary benefit of external links lies in their SEO benefits, pri\marily in terms of your website’s domain authority and search engine relevance.

Backlinks Boost Domain Authority

Backlinks help boost your website’s overall credibility in the eyes of Google and other search engines. The more high-quality backlinks you have from authoritative sources, the higher your site will appear in search engine rankings.

Search engines assign a credibility rating to every website. This value is called domain authority. Websites that have been online for a long time and have many backlinks pointing to them tend to have higher domain authority. So to improve your SERP rankings, you’ll want to get backlinks from websites with high domain authority, which will, in turn, increase your own site’s domain authority.

Backlinks from well-known referring domains with higher traffic and good reputations in their industry will provide a far bigger boost than a small, unknown website. They are telling Google, “The leaders in widget-making think Company X’s widgets are awesome enough to link to, so Company X should be ranked higher in search results.” This all happens through algorithms, so it’s not a perfect process, and there are no guarantees. But in general, getting backlinks from relevant and well-regarded websites will help you in the long run.

Not All Referring Domains Help

Not all domains are created equal. Some referring domains have more authority than others, and some links are more powerful than others.

Regarding backlinks, quality matters over quantity. Building high-quality links from authoritative websites will help you rank higher in the SERPs, but links from poor-quality or spammy websites won’t help and could potentially harm your rankings.

When building backlinks, you want to ensure they come from relevant websites.  If you are a law firm looking to boost your SEO, a backlink from an auto parts website won’t necessarily help your rankings as much as a link from Nolo or Justia would. However, that doesn’t mean you should only build links from legal reference websites. Getting backlinks from websites in adjacent niches, such as websites related your area of practice is OK. In other words, if you practice personal injury law, you could also build links from websites that provide car safety statistics or insurance information.

If you have a small business and primarily focus on local clients, you can also build backlinks from websites in your area, such as the Chamber of Commerce and local directories. This can really boost your local SEO, which is great for location-specific queries like “car injury lawyer near me.” And it’s OK to have some backlinks where just the referring URLs are relevant, such as a news story that mentions your business or industry.

Do-Follow, No-Follow, and Sponsored Links

All links have attributes, or tags, that provide search engines with information about the link’s purpose. The three main link tags are do-follow, no-follow, and sponsored. Here’s what the tags mean:

  • Do-follow is the default status of a link. Search engine algorithms treat these as normal links.
  • No-follow tells search engines that you don’t want to contribute to the domain authority of the linked website. Most social media links are no-follow, as are comments sections, to reduce spam from shady websites trying to boost their rankings.
  • Sponsored tells search engines that the link is a paid placement, such as an advertisement or affiliate link.

Do-follow links are the most beneficial for SEO. However, it’s normal to have some no-follow links, and they can still be valuable if they are on a web page that gets lots of traffic.

How Can I See if My Website Has Backlinks?

If you want to see if your website has backlinks, you can use the backlink checker function of an SEO tool. These tools will show you the number of backlinks pointing to your site and the quality and authority of each link. This is important for understanding how search engines view your website and its ranking power.

Here at InSync Media, we use SEMrush and Ahrefs to evaluate numerous key performance indicators for SEO, including backlinks. We check these backlink reports on a monthly basis to see how many new referring domains a client has gained month over month.

We include backlink building as part of our SEO plan, and we build out backlinks for each of our clients every month. We also track backlinks for each of our client’s competitors so we can make changes to our SEO strategy if needed.

How Can I Improve My Backlinking?

As we’ve discussed, getting backlinks is essential for SEO, but the quality of those backlinks is critical. Luckily, there are many ways for you to improve the backlinks you receive, both organically and through partnering with an SEO agency.

Generate Authoritative Content

If you want people to link to your website, create valuable informational content. You’re an expert in your field, so use your knowledge to write helpful and entertaining informative articles that demonstrate your skills and expertise. These articles will attract more backlinks than simply listing a bunch of products for sale or services you offer on a page.

This article you’re reading right now is an example of informational content. It explains key SEO concepts and shows potential InSync Media customers we know what we’re doing. It also includes some humor to stand out from the 5,000,000,000,000,000 other pages on the internet that explain what a backlink is. Which means you want to link to it, right?

If you aren’t sure where to start on building this content, that’s another place where InSync Media can help. We help our clients establish themselves as authorities on the internet by doing content research and writing informative blog posts each month. We even create brand voice guides for each of our clients so we can capture their personalities or unique humor when writing their content.

Choose Quality Anchor Text

When you’re building backlinks, be sure to choose quality anchor text. Use mostly branded anchors, naked links, and longer phrases related to your content. This will make the links appear more natural and help improve your search rankings.

Be careful to optimize with only a few exact-match anchors. Over-optimizing or using low-quality anchor text can hurt your rankings.

Create Quality Guest Posts

Guest posting is one of the best ways to build backlinks. When you write a guest post on another blog, you can include a link to your website in the content. This gives you a “vote” from that site in Google’s eyes and can help increase your rankings.

Guest posting is more than boosting your site’s authority with a backlink. It’s also a great way to build brand awareness and get more visitors and potential customers. Be sure to give your guest posts the same time and attention to detail as you would an article on your website. If you write a guest post that is genuinely helpful or entertaining, readers will naturally want to click on your link to find out more about your business.

It’s important to be selective about where you guest post. Don’t just publish your posts on any site that will accept them. Instead, focus on finding publications related to your niche, geographic area, and the people your business serves. Look through recently published articles on the site to ensure they are well-written. As your business grows, you’ll be able to attract interest from higher authority websites, perhaps even the top publications in your niche.

Score Backlinks From Older Content

When you’re building backlinks, don’t forget about older content. Many blogs have older articles with links to pages that no longer exist or content that’s still relevant but a bit outdated. You can email the blogger to let them know about the broken link and suggest yours as a replacement. You could also help them update the article in exchange for adding your link. This technique is called broken link building.

As with guest posting, finding the right older pages and websites is key. Before doing outreach, make sure Google has indexed the page and still receives traffic. Check out the overall website to make sure it has recent posts and has yet to be abandoned.

Disavow Toxic Backlinks

Despite your best efforts, you may still have backlinks from poor-quality or spammy websites. These toxic backlinks could hurt your rankings. To prevent this, you can use the Google Search Console’s Disavow Tool to disavow these links and tell Google not to consider them when ranking your website.

In the past couple of years, Google has gotten better at identifying and discounting the impact of toxic backlinks. However, it’s still a good idea to disavow spam such as blog comments. This will help ensure that your website ranks highly and remains safe from any potential penalties for unnatural link-building.

How an SEO Agency Can Help Build Backlinks

Backlinks play a critical role in any brand’s SEO strategy. As you can see, though, there’s a lot of nuance involved with backlinks, not to mention time and energy. This is why you need a strategic partner who knows the ins and outs of SEO, including backlinks.

When you partner with the right SEO agency, building backlinks becomes a lot easier.

InSync Media can do a lot to help small businesses build quality, relevant backlinks that boost search engine performance and domain authority. We have a dedicated content team to produce authoritative content, write guest posts, and find other opportunities to net your business the backlinks it needs to remain competitive in your industry. We are connected with multiple website networks, which means we have a variety of domains to choose from for content placement.

Interested in learning more about how InSync Media can help you win the SEO game and boost your company’s organic online reach? Contact us today to schedule a free discovery call — we’d love to partner with you.


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