What is a backlink?
Backlinks are links from one page on one website to another website. If someone links to your page, you have a backlink from there. If you link to another website, they will have a backlink from you.
For example, these words link to YouTube, so they now have a backlink from us.
In this guide you will learn the following:
- Why backlinks are important;
- What makes a good backlink;
- How to check backlinks (to any webpage);
- How to get more backlinks;
Index your backlinks today;
SIDE NOTE. When a page links to another page on the same web page, it is known as an internal backlink.
Why are backlinks important?
Backlinks help with three important things.
Search engines like Google rate backlinks as recommendations. Generally speaking, the more recommendations your websites have, the more likely it is that they will rank for relevant searches.
How do we know? In some cases, we studied link-based ranking factors and always found the same thing: the number of backlinks from unique websites (referring domains) correlates strongly with organic search traffic.
Search engines find new content by revisiting pages they already know to check for new links.
Since search engines visit popular sites more often than unpopular ones, they could discover your content faster if you get backlinks from such sites.
3. Referral traffic
Backlinks exist to point people to useful content. That’s why they’re clickable.
As soon as someone clicks on a link to your website, you will receive referral traffic.
What makes a good backlink?
Not all backlinks are created equal. Here are some of the many characteristics that contribute to the quality and uniqueness of a backlink.
Google values relevant backlinks as more people are likely to click on them. That’s what they talk about in their “reasonable surfer” patent.
What does that actually mean? If a plumber has backlinks from two sites, one about cats and one about installing boilers, chances are the latter is the top rated.
This concept also applies at the domain level.
Readers of plumbing.com are more likely to click on a plumbing website than readers of cats.com.
Authority Backlinks from strong websites usually confer more “authority” than those from weak ones.
Page level authority is something we’ve studied several times and we’ve seen a clear relationship between it and organic traffic.
SIDE NOTE. URL Rating (UR) is Ahrefs’ own authority metric at the page level. The rating scale goes from 0 to 100.
But that does not mean that strong sides transfer more and more authority.
Google’s original patent states that authority is evenly distributed over all outbound links on a web page. This means that if you have backlinks from two sites and one has more outbound links than the other, assuming everything else is the same, the link from the page with fewer outbound links carries more authority.
Are things that simple these days? Probably not. Google has a large number of patents that describe numerous methods of weighting links.
In addition, internal links also add to the authority of a page.
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Backlinks from heavily visited sites will usually bring you more referral traffic than those from less visited ones. That much is obvious. The real question is whether backlinks from highly visited pages have a more positive impact on rankings than those from less visited pages?
We recently tried to answer this question. We took the best-ranking pages for 44,589 non-brand keywords and looked at the organic traffic to the pages that link to them.
We found the following:
Headline: How Rankings Correlate to Backlink Metrics
In summary, it can be said that there is a small but clear correlation between rankings and backlinks from pages with organic search traffic. Nonetheless, the sheer number of backlinks from unique websites (referring domains) and page-level authority seem more important.
The more likely people to click prominently placed links, are likely to give some links on web pages more authority than others.
Bill Slawski talks about this in his analysis of Google’s updated “reasonable surfer” patent.
If a link in the main area of the page has a color and font that makes it stand out, and uses text that someone is likely to want to click, then it could pass a good chunk of it on to PageRank. On the other hand, if it has properties that make it less likely to be clicked, such as placement in the footer, the same text color as the rest of the text on the page, the same font and link text that hardly anyone cares about, then it probably won’t pass on much PageRank.
Bill Slawski, founder of SEO by Sea
Keep this in mind when looking to the left. If your link is likely to end in the footer, or in a sidebar with fifty other pages, put your energy into other options.
Followed backlinks vs noFollowed.
Nofollow backlinks usually don’t affect the rankings of the linked pages — although they can.
Since link building takes time and effort, it is best to prioritize getting follow links. Just don’t be upset if you get a nofollow link. It could still mean some SEO value.
Recommended reading: What is a nofollow link? All you need to know.
The Anchor-Text :
Anchor text refers to the clickable words that make up a backlink.
Google says in their original patent that anchor text affects rankings.
Google uses a variety of technologies to improve search quality, including PageRank, anchor text, and environmental information.
However, when we examined the relationship between anchor texts and rankings at over 385,614 pages, the correlations were weak.
That said, while anchor text matters, it’s not as important as other things.
SIDE NOTE. When building backlinks through outreach campaigns, you usually don’t have much control over the anchor text used on links to your page. That’s a good thing. It helps keep things natural and is also a sign that the links you have obtained are of a certain quality.
How to check backlinks
There are two ways to check a website or the backlinks of a website. The first method only works for websites that you own. Use the second method to check backlinks to other websites.
Check backlinks in the Google Search Console
The Google Search Console gives you data on your organic website traffic and your overall performance. It’s free — just sign up for a free account and verify ownership of your website.
As soon as you are logged in, click “Links” in the sidebar.
The number under “External Links” shows the total number of unique backlinks to the website.
Among them are three reports.
Most Linked Pages: The most linked pages on your website.
Most Linking Pages: The pages with the most backlinks to your website.
Most Linked Text: The most frequently used anchor text on links to your website.
If you’re new to Search Console, start with the most linked page report.
Then click on any URL to see the web pages that link to that specific URL.
Then click on a website to see which of their pages link to that page.
Check backlinks with a third-party backlink checker
To check backlinks to a website you don’t own, you can use a tool like Ahref’s free backlink checker.
Just enter a domain or url and click “Check backlinks”.
You will see the total number of backlinks and referring domains (links from unique websites) as well as the top 100 backlinks.
For each backlink you will see some details including:
- Referring page: The page that links to the target.
- Domain Rating (DR): The strength of the linking website.
- URL Rating (UR): The strength of the linking site.
- Traffic: The total estimated monthly organic search traffic to the linking page.
- Anchor and backlink. The anchor text and the surrounding link text.
- SIDE NOTE. Our free backlink checker only shows one backlink per domain.
- To see the five most used anchor texts, you can check out the “Top 5 Anchors” report.
SIDE NOTE. Our free backlink checker only shows one backlink per domain.
To see the five most used anchor texts, you can check out the “Top 5 Anchors” report.
To see the five most linked sites, you can check the “Top 5 Sites” report.
SIDE NOTE. The top 5 pages report only works if you analyze a domain, but not for a page.
To see a complete list of the backlinks for a page or website, you can use Ahrefs Site Explorer.
How to get more backlinks
There are three ways to get more backlinks: create them, earn them, or build them up.
That’s what it’s about when people discover your content through search engines like Google, social media or word of mouth and decide to link to your page.
In other words, backlinks earned grew organically.
You can improve your chances of earning a backlink by actually creating useful content that people should want to link to.
This describes when you manually add links to your website from other websites.
Examples of this are entries in business directories, leaving blog comments and replying to forum threads.
This means that you will reach out to other site owners, authors, or webmasters and ask them for a link.
For this to work, you need a clear value proposition. This is exactly where link building tactics come into play.
Here are some that have already been tested:
Guest Posts: Offer a blog post for another website.
Link building with broken links: Find relevant, dead links on other sites, then register there and suggest your working link as a replacement.
The Skyscraper Technique: Find relevant content with a variety of links, create something better, and ask everyone who links to the original to link to you instead.
Unlinked mentions: Find unlinked mentions of your brand and ask the author to make that mention clickable.
Learn more about these tactics and more in the video and posts below.
Backlinks are important when it comes to ranking on search engines like Google.
However, that doesn’t mean that all backlinks are equal. Relevance, placement, and other attributes all contribute to the quality and usefulness of a link.
As a rule of thumb, the easier a link is to get, the less valuable it is.
Are you planning to get started with link building? Read our guide for beginners or watch this:
Do you have any questions? Leave a comment or contact me on Facebook.