What Are Backlinks and How Do They Help My Website?
Are you puzzled by link building, or stumped by backlinks? Not sure why links are so important? We’re here to help. As a leading SEO and link building firm, WebFX has created this informative page to teach you everything you need to know about backlinks and why they are so important.
On this page, you’ll learn what backlinks are, why they are so important, and how they help your website rank better and higher in search engines. We’ll also give you some tips to build your first links from other sites, and the code you need to add links to your site yourself.
We’ll start by telling you what backlinks are.
Video: Backlinks explained
A backlink is, simply put, a link from another website to yours. Backlinks can also be called hyperlinks, incoming links, inbound links, or just links—they all mean the same thing.
In the context of search engine optimization (SEO), a backlink is an important factor in determining how well your pages rank. However, on a larger scale, links can determine how those pages are discovered in the first place.
Why Do I Need Backlinks?
Search engines like Google rely on links for a number of reasons. Putting your website’s SEO and ranking aside for a moment, the “World Wide Web” was named as such for a reason: with its series of pages and websites connected together by links, it really does resemble a web. Links add context, and tell the “spiders” that crawl the Internet that there are more pages to be found through the backlinks that exist there.
Let’s say you have a brand new website. No one links to it, and you don’t submit it to Google, either. How do you expect it to be found? You can’t! However, if someone links to your site, a search engine spider can crawl through that link, discover your site, and index (or make findable) your newly created content. This is one reason that backlinks are so important: without them, search engines won’t know that your content is there, nor will users.
Now let’s return to SEO. Links are an important part of Google’s ranking algorithm. Generally speaking, the more relevant, high quality backlinks you have pointing at your website, the better you will rank in searches for your targeted keywords. So it is desirable to have these kinds of backlinks, because ranking highly can increase your traffic, purchases, conversion rate, and so on.
This doesn’t mean that you should go out and try to acquire links from every powerful-looking website on the Internet. Google’s algorithms are so complex that a link’s relevance will be just as important as its source. So while it may feel good for your pet supplies store to get a link from your friend’s popular marketing blog, it may not help you rank any better.
On March 24 2016, Andrey Lipattsev - a Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google - has officially confirmed what Google’s top three ranking factors are: 1 & 2 (he wouldn’t distinguish between first or second) are backlinks and content, with number 3 being RankBrain.
Even in 2016, with all of Google's contextual search updates, backlinks are one of the most important ranking signals for Google’s algorithm.
How Do I Get Backlinks?
Getting backlinks to your site isn’t always quite as simple as creating content or doing something newsworthy and waiting for the links to roll in. If you are a new company, or are still working on scaling your website traffic, you’ll need to do some work to get backlinks from other sites.
Here are a few easy ways that you can gain links to your site, based on what has worked well for us and our clients in the past:
- Set up Google Alerts for your brand or business name. If you spot a mention of your company on a website that doesn’t include a link, send a friendly email asking for one.
- Pitch a story about something you’ve done recently to your local newspaper. Chances are good that they’re probably looking for an interesting piece of news, and local success stories are always a big hit.
- Find a website or blog looking for guest contributions from industry experts. If you can write authoritatively about the topic in question, send them a pitch. You can include a link to your website in your author bio, or in the body of your contribution, as long as it’s relevant.
- Create an engaging infographic and pitch it to multiple websites. They’ll attribute your website, which can be a powerful backlink if you get the graphic reposted somewhere popular!
- Link someone else first. This might sound backwards, but if you include a link to someone’s content or mention them in one of your own pages or blog posts, they may notice, become aware of you, and later return the favor.
It’s very important to stay up to date with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines when building backlinks. For example, Google recently handed out manual penalties to websites with “unnatural outbound link” profiles. This was a direct follow-up to the warning they had sent out weeks earlier, telling bloggers to disclose free product reviews and nofollow any outbound links regarding the product in question.
This practice of trading a free product for a review has long been utilized by some SEOs, although it's always fallen into a rather gray area of Google’s guidelines. The penalties Google leveraged to those who didn’t heed their warning demonstrate how important it is to keep up with Google news. Penalties can result in total or partial de-indexing of your content, which is detrimental to organic traffic.
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+95% case study ▸ IncreasedConversionRate by
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+60% “We measure our success by how much we WOW our clients.”
Bill Craig WebFX President
How Do I Link to Someone Else?
If you want to backlink someone else, the easiest way to do is through your website’s CMS, or content management system. Chances are good that you use a CMS to manage all the content on your website, including your pages, images, text, and products (if you run an ecommerce store).
Adding a Link With Your CMS
To add a link to another site using a CMS, edit the page where you want to include the link. Type out the text you want to be linked, then use your cursor to highlight it. Look for a tool button that resembles a metal link, like this:
Click the button and you should see a window similar to this one:
Add the URL of the site or specific page you want to link, then click “OK.” The link will be added to your page. You can then add any additional links you want, and save the page when you are finished. Any links you add through your CMS will be visible and clickable to website visitors.
Adding a Link With HTML
If you aren’t using a CMS, you can link to other websites using HTML. Creating a link in HTML is very easy. For example, let’s say you wanted to replicate this link, which points to our homepage. This is the HTML you would use to do so:
<a href=”http://www.webfx.com”>this link</a>
There are a few ways you can modify HTML links that a CMS might do automatically. For example, clicking the “open link in new window” (or, more recently, “new tab”) option in a CMS would change our link above to look like this:
<a href=”http://www.webfx.com” target=”_blank”>this link</a>
... where the blank target attribute forces the clicked link to open in a new window or tab.
You can also add titles and descriptions to links with HTML. If you would like to learn more about how to create links with HTML, this W3 Schools article is a great resource.
Can I Buy Backlinks, Use a Backlink Software, or Try a Backlink Generator to Help My SEO?
Since link building sounds like a lot of work—and it is—and you know that backlinks are important for SEO, you may want to buy backlinks, or use some kind of backlink service to generate and populate these links with software. Is this a good idea?
While we’re all about working smarter, buying backlinks is not what we mean when we talk about marketing automation. There are two important reasons you should do your link building by hand:
- Buying links is a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, and may result in your site being penalized and removed from search engine results
- When you buy links, you never know what kind of quality you’re going to get, which may lead to your website being penalized anyway
Cheap backlinks are usually cheap for a reason, and buying backlinks will get you nowhere fast. Instead of buying your links, you should take the high ground and either set aside the time to create a link building program with a dedicated employee, or hire an experienced SEO firm to build links for you through the use of high quality content assets and outreach.
Trust us: there is no “cheap and easy way” to acquire hundreds of high quality links to your site, unless you happen to have a piece of content go massively viral. If you buy backlinks, you may very well be gambling with the future of your business.
Improve Your Site’s SEO with Link Building Services from WebFX
If you’re convinced that you need help building quality backlinks to your site, or want to learn more about how to build backlinks, we can help. As an experienced SEO firm, WebFX can create a custom link building plan for your company that boosts your presence in search, improves your SEO, and increases your site traffic.
Ready to learn more about the power of backlinks, and how they can help you find more success online? Contact us today for a free quote on our link building services.
Need help building quality backlinks to your website? Call WebFX at 888.449.3239 or contact us online for a free quote on our link building and SEO plans.