What Are Backlinks in SEO?August 15, 2023 2023-08-15 10:35
What Are Backlinks in SEO?
What Are Backlinks in SEO?
Backlinks are important for SEO because of two main reasons:
- Rankings – Generally speaking, the more backlinks your webpages have, the more likely they are to rank for relevant search queries (we confirmed this in a study).
- Discoverability – Search engines revisit popular pages more often than unpopular ones. And they may discover your content faster if you get backlinks from popular pages.
There are two ways to check a website or webpage’s backlinks.
The first method only works for sites that you own. Use the second one to check backlinks to another website or webpage.
Checking backlinks to your website
A basic tool for checking backlinks to your website is the free Google Search Console.
Once signed in, click “Links” on the sidebar. The number below “External links” shows the total number of unique backlinks to the website.
Google Search Console shows limited data in the app (top 1,000 links) and won’t show you some useful SEO metrics you could use to analyze your backlinks. To get more data for free, you can use Ahrefs Webmaster Tools.
Once you set up a project, click on Backlinks in the dashboard.
This will take you to the Backlinks report in the Site Explorer tool. This report will show all your backlinks and relevant backlink data.
Checking backlinks to another website
You can start with a tool like Ahrefs’ free backlink checker.
Just enter a domain or URL, and hit “Check backlinks.”
You’ll see the total number of backlinks and referring domains (links from unique websites), plus the top 100 backlinks.
To see a full list of backlinks to any page or website, use Ahrefs’ Site Explorer.
Not all backlinks are created equal. Here are some of the many attributes that contribute to a backlink’s quality and utility. You can use them to analyze your backlinks and link building opportunities:
- Anchor text
- Follow vs. nofollow
Let’s look at them in more detail.
Backlinks from strong webpages usually transfer more “authority” than weak ones.
We’ve studied page-level authority a few times, and we’ve found a clear relationship between it and organic traffic.
URL Rating (UR) is Ahrefs’ page-level authority metric. It’s scored on a scale from 0 to 100.
That said, backlinks from strong pages don’t always transfer more authority.
The more links there are on the page that links to you, the less authority will be transferred to you because it’s shared between all of those pages (due to the PageRank algorithm).
You can gauge a backlink’s authority by using the UR metric in the Backlinks report in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer. (You can also find it in other Ahrefs tools where relevant.) The higher the UR, the better.
Links from websites on the same topic as yours are deemed to bring more value. Google states this in its “How Search Works” guide:
If other prominent websites on the subject link to the page, that’s a good sign that the information is of high quality.
Say a plumber has backlinks from two pages: one about cats, and one about installing boilers. Relevance in this context means that chances are the latter link is most valuable.
Anchor text refers to the clickable words that form a backlink.
Google says that anchor text influences rankings in its original patent.
Google employs a number of techniques to improve search quality, including page rank, anchor text, and proximity information.
You can see the anchor text of any backlink in Site Explorer’s Backlinks report.
You can also filter for certain words in the anchor text.
Follow vs. nofollow
Nofollow is a link attribute that instructs Google not to follow the link and serves as a hint not to pass authority (as of 2019).
Because nofollow links usually don’t influence rankings, it’s best to prioritize getting followed links.
However, since “nofollow” is only a hint now, pursuing a nofollow link from a relevant high-authority page may still be a good idea.
You can find these types of backlinks using filters in Site Explorer’s Backlinks report.
Because people are more likely to click prominently placed links, some links on webpages likely pass more authority than others.
Bill Slawski talks about this in his analysis of Google’s updated “reasonable surfer” patent:
If a link is in the main content area of a page, uses a font and color that might make it stand out, and uses text that may make it something likely that someone might click upon it, then it could pass along a fair amount of PageRank. On the other hand, if it combines features that make it less likely to be clicked upon, such as being in the footer of a page, in the same color text as the rest of the text on that page, and the same font type, and uses anchor text that doesn’t interest people, it may not pass along a lot of PageRank.
Consider this when pursuing links. If your link will likely end up in the site’s footer or along with 50 other sites in the sidebar, then put your energy into other opportunities.
Something that can help you find backlinks placed in content (as opposed to less prominently placed links) is the “Backlink type” filter in Site Explorer’s Backlinks report.
Because Google ranks pages and not entire websites, it’s best to build links pointing directly to the page that you want to rank.
However, getting links to some page types is harder. For example, getting links to commercial pages is often difficult because people prefer linking to informative content.
To address this, you can use internal links to pass authority from pages that get a lot of links to your important but “boring” pages.
Generally, there are four ways to get more backlinks to your site:
Some websites allow you to add a link either by manually submitting it or requesting to submit it. It’s easy to get a link this way, but it’s not always worth it. They can be low in value in the eyes of Google or even deemed spammy if you overdo it.
One of the most common (and legit) tactics here is to add your website to relevant local directories. They can help you rank for queries with local intent and get your business discovered by customers too.