Backlinks have long been a vital part of Google’s key ranking signal. They’re one of the most powerful ways to drive traffic to your website and boost your off-page SEO performance.
So, what is a backlink and how does it benefit your website rankings? Read our backlinks guide below to learn how to use backlinks for SEO effectively.
What is a Backlink?
A backlink is a link from one website to another. It is also referred to as an ‘inbound link’ or ‘incoming link’ because it represents incoming traffic to your website from a different website. Backlinks aren’t to be confused with internal linking, which are links that point to a page within your own website.
A backlink is found within the written content of a web page and is presented as a clickable hyperlink. The word or phrase that incorporates the hyperlink is known as anchor text. The anchor text tells Google and readers what the linked content is about.
When a website page receives a lot of backlinks from another site, it is an indication of its authoritativeness and popularity.
How Backlinks Affect Your SEO
Pages that earn a high volume of backlinks tend to rank higher on Google and other search engine results pages. This is because, as Moz explains, search engines view backlinks as ‘votes’ from one website to another. If a page on your website receives a lot of backlinks from another website, search engines will interpret it as valuable, important, and popular, allowing it to rank organically.
Additionally, backlinks can strengthen search engines’ perceived association between your website and relevant keywords in the anchor text. For this reason, backlinks are not just a vote of confidence in your website, but a confirmation of what your site claims to be about. Relevance is a crucial part of the search engine agenda.
The process of pursuing and obtaining backlinks to your website is known as link building. Your link building efforts will make a big impact on the overall success of your SEO strategy. The best way to gain quality links is to create quality content that other websites will want to link to. However, you can also gain links by proactively reaching out to businesses that are relevant to your audience; this is known as link outreach.
SEO Best Practices for Backlinks
Backlinks can lose their value when they’re not used in the best way. Here are some of the best practices for using backlinks for SEO.
Target High-Authority Websites
Not all backlinks have equal value; there are good and bad backlinks. Backlinks from high-authority sites have more value than low-authority, unpopular sites. If your website page receives backlinks from trustworthy websites, search engines will view it as desirable, and your ranking will get a boost. Alternately, if the page gets unnatural links from ‘spammy’ websites, the link likely won’t contribute to your SEO performance. In fact, too many unnatural links can result in search engine penalties.
Ensure Your Backlinks are Relevant
The relevance of the backlinks can affect its SEO performance. When you feature a backlink from your website to another, it is important that the website page you’re linking to is relevant to the context of the content. For instance, if the anchor text is referring to ‘fishing supplies,’ and the link connects to a page about surfboards, search engines will view this as irrelevant. Remember that this will confuse users as well as search engines. Incorporating unnatural links will frustrate readers when they click on the hyperlink, which will translate to low page retention.
Make Use of Target Keywords
Using target keywords within your anchor text is a central part of any SEO strategy. Targeted keywords that have quality backlinks can help your page rank higher on search engine results pages; they are generally most effective when featured ‘above the fold’ of the page.
However, as Backlinko warns, it’s important not to overdo it. Stuffing content with too much keyword-rich anchor text can potentially be penalised by search engines.
Create Quality Content
As mentioned earlier, creating link-worthy content will make a huge difference to your link building efforts. Quality content will attract quality links from authoritative websites. So, what counts as ‘quality content’?
Quality content is any content that is valuable to your target audience. The content must be useful, relevant, and resourceful to your website visitors. This may include informative guides, ‘how to’ articles, digestible infographics, and other resourceful tools that will interest your readers. To find out what type of content gains quality links, do some competitive research. The Indexed Pages Report on Semrush is a great tool that can show you what content received the most links on your competitors’ pages.
Robyn has lived in New Zealand for 15 years, after living in Trinidad for most of her childhood. Since arriving in New Zealand, she has travelled most of the country, and has also travelled abroad to North America, Asia and Europe. In her free time, Robyn loves going to the beach, discovering new places to eat, and spending time with family.
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