What Are Backlinks? (+ How To Build Them In 2023)

So, what are backlinks?

In simple words, backlinks are links from a website to a page on another website.
Search engines like Google consider backlinks to be a “vote of confidence” from one site to another. 

As a result, historically, backlinks have formed an integral part of many search engine optimization (SEO) strategies.

But is every backlink a good backlink?
And more importantly, how do you get more high-quality backlinks in 2023?

Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered.
In this article, we’ll explore everything you need to know about backlinks, including why you need them, how to identify a good backlink, the different types of backlinks, and how to build a strong backlink profile.

This Article Contains:

(Click on the links below to jump to a specific section)

Let’s get started.

What Are Backlinks?

Why Are Backlinks Important for SEO?

As we mentioned earlier, if a page on your site links to another site’s page, you’re basically telling Google that you consider that site’s content to be reliable and credible. And if other websites feel the same way about that page or site, they’ll link to it too.

As a result, Google will infer that that specific page has link-worthy content that’s valuable to readers. This, in turn, might lead Google to bump that page’s SEO ranking, increasing its visibility and driving more traffic there.

However, not all backlinks provide the same SEO value, as some backlinks have more authority over others.
More on that later.

Next, we’ll show you a few ways to identify a quality backlink opportunity.

5 Ways to Identify a Good Backlink

Here are five ways to identify a quality backlink:

1. The Referring Page Is Related to Your Industry

A relevant backlink is an inbound link from a site that’s usually related to your industry or niche.

Google values relevant inbound links because they provide value to readers, and readers are more likely to click on them.

For example, let’s imagine that you own a nutrition blog. And on that blog, you have an inbound link from two different pages — one page is about pet insurance, and the other is about Keto meal plans.

Which of those two pages is more valuable?
Definitely the second one.

Links from external websites that are unrelated to your industry can potentially harm your brand and your overall SEO strategy. So, beware of the easy link and keep a close eye on them when they do show up. 

2. The Link Comes From a High-Domain Authority Site

Domain authority is an SEO metric that predicts where a site will rank on a search engine’s SERP.

Generally, an inbound link from authoritative websites transfers more authority or link juice than weaker ones.

Additionally, if you’ve got many backlinks from external websites with super low authority scores, Google might assume that you’re paying for those backlinks.

So before you go ahead and accept any backlink, make sure to research every target site’s domain authority scores.

But how do you determine a site’s domain authority?
Domain authority and page authority scores are found in many powerful SEO and content marketing tools like Moz, Ahrefs, and SEMrush.

For example, Ahrefs has tons of accurate link metrics, and one of them is the Domain Rating metric, which shows you the strength of a target website’s total backlink profile.

ahrefs competitor research

3. The Link Is a “Dofollow” Link

A dofollow link has an HTML link attribute that lets search engine bots follow that link.

Basically, these are the links that are taken into consideration by search engines. 

Dofollow links are crucial for SEO because they pass link authority or link juice from one page to another. Link juice is the value or link equity that a link passes from one page or site to another.

On the other hand, a nofollow backlink has a rel=”nofollow” HTML tag, which tells Google to ignore the link.

Here are some examples of links that usually have no follow tags:

By default, every backlink is a dofollow link and passes link equity from one page to another.

However, if you’re unsure, you can determine if a link is a dofollow or nofollow link by checking the HTML code in your web browser.

To do this, right-click on your browser and click “View page source” or “Inspect Element.”

inspect element on a page

Next, check out the HTML code.

If you see a rel=”nofollow” link attribute, then it’s a nofollow backlink.
If not, the link is a follow link.

checking HTML code to see if a backlink is nofollow or not

Not sure how to analyze backlinks in Ahrefs?
Check out our guide on how to use Ahrefs’ Backlink Checker for link building.

4. Your Target Keyword Appears In The Link’s Anchor Text

In this case, the anchor text is the clickable words of a link.

It’s essential to have relevant anchor texts so that users know what type of content they’re clicking to view.

But is it necessary to have an exact-match anchor text?
Initially, Google was a huge fan of exact-match anchor texts.

However, back in 2012, Google launched the Penguin Algorithm to crackdown on sites using keyword rich anchor text to manipulate their search engine ranking. 

So should you avoid exact-match anchor texts?
According to a recent study by Ahrefs, having an anchor text that contains the exact keyword or phrase you want to rank for impacts your SEO ranking, but to a minimal extent.

ranking positions

The findings show us that having a relevant anchor text is important but not as important as other ranking factors.

In addition, sometimes, you’re not in control over the anchor text used when another site links to yours. However, when you are in control, it’s a good idea to ensure your anchor texts make sense at the very least.

5. The Link Is From a Site That Hasn’t Linked to You Before

If you’ve already secured a few backlinks from a specific site, chances are they’ll link to you again and again.

Great, right?
Not exactly.

According to a search engine correlation study by Backlino, getting multiple links from the same domain has a low ROI.

links single domain vs ROI

So although you are securing more organic backlinks, the problem is that the second, third, and fourth links won’t be as powerful as the first. As a result, it’s crucial to target sites that haven’t linked to you before.

Now that we’ve covered what you should look for, let’s look at what backlinks you need to avoid

4 Types of Backlinks You Should Avoid

Toxic backlinks can harm the credibility of your backlink profile and your overall SEO strategy.

Here are four types of bad links that you should watch out for:

1. Paid Backlinks

Paid link building is when a site pays another domain for a followed backlink.

However, paying for links is actually forbidden by search engines, and Google considers paid link building as an attempt to manipulate Google’s SERP (search engine ranking position). 

Consequently, getting backlinks through link buying can lead to harsh punishments that impact your overall SEO performance.
For example, search engines can deindex your site entirely, resulting in your pages being removed from the search results.

However, paid links aren’t the same as paid advertising.
Paid ads don’t manipulate search results, and they aren’t disguised as something else.

Paid links are usually unnatural links with bad anchor text.

To help Google differentiate between the two, advertisers are encouraged to add a nofollow tag or sponsored tag to links.

2. Spammy Blog Comments

Having tons of spammy comments with backlinks in the comment section of your blog can result in harsh punishments from Google’s algorithm.

Remember, Google doesn’t only punish site owners who buy links. Sites that allow bad links to remain in their backlink profile can face the same consequences.

Google views spammy links as untrustworthy because they’re not part of the main editorial content or placed there by the site’s owner.

However, adding value-based comments in the comment sections of relevant blogs can be an effective link building strategy.

3. Public Link Networks

A public link network is a network that generates tons of low-quality links on a large number of sites that they control.
To get an outbound link, you usually have to pay a fee.

However, as with paid backlinks, search engines don’t only punish the networks; they also punish the backlink site owners.

So, on top of wasting your money and losing that backlink, your site could be deindexed completely.

4. Links From Sites Unrelated to Your Industry

When acquiring backlinks, it’s important to focus on relevant backlinks that make sense for your site.

For example, let’s go back to our hypothetical nutrition blog.

An incoming link on your nutrition blog from a car loans site looks, well, fishy.
However, an incoming link from a healthy recipe page makes perfect sense, adding value for the reader.

On top of that, links from unrelated external websites can confuse search engines.

What do we mean?
Well, if you start using a ton of unrelated keywords in your blog posts, Google might start to match those irrelevant keywords to your brand.

As a result, you might not rank for the keywords that actually matter to your business.

Now, how do you go about getting quality backlinks?

6 Techniques You Can Use to Get More Backlinks

The backlink acquisition strategy you choose depends on your website and the amount of experience you have.

Depending on the stage of your site, you can either create more backlinks, earn them, or build them:

A. Create Them

You can create backlinks by manually adding links to your site from other sites. Here are two ways you can create quality backlinks:

1. Comment on Relevant Blogs 

Commenting on blogs can be an effective backlink strategy if you select the right blogs and add valuable comments.

The goal here is not to just pop your link in the comment section but rather to add value to the post, build a relationship with the blogger, and show that you have valuable industry-related insights.

An effective way to do this is by finding a specific point from the article that you want to comment on.

Next, share your opinion or data and add the link to your webpage naturally.

A good site to do this on is Quora. 
Although you can’t get dofollow links from Quora, leaving your link in the comments can still generate a lot of referral traffic to your site and lead to conversions.

On top of that, If someone thinks that the content or data you’re mentioning in your Quora answers is valuable, they might add an external link to your data via social media or in a blog post. 

2. Participate in Industry Forums

Participating in industry-related forums can help you get more backlinks and referrals to your site.

To do this, simply type “forum + name of your industry or niche” into Google.

Once you find the right forum, you can start discussion threads, post comments on existing threads, and connect with other site owners and industry SEO experts.

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B. Earn Them

Earned backlinks are organic backlinks.

When someone comes across your page via search engines, social media, or other pages and decides to link to your webpage, you’ve earned a backlink. 

Here are two ways you can earn a high quality backlink:

1. Create High-Quality Content That’s Link-Worthy

If you don’t have authoritative content that’s worth linking to, no one will link to you. Here are a few tips for creating great content:

Step 1: Find Topics That Are Relevant to Your Business

To find relevant topic ideas, simply think about what your target audience would type into Google to find your product or service.

For example, as a nutrition blog owner, we would probably target topics like “diet plan,” healthy eating,” or “low calorie meals.”

To get detailed topic ideas, you can use a keyword research and SEO tool like Ahrefs. With Ahrefs’ Keyword Explorer, you can get tons of keyword ideas and suggestions.

Learn more about doing keyword research in Ahrefs.

Step 2: Create The Right Type of Content

Once you’ve got a list of topic ideas, you need to create great content that answers all your readers’ questions about the topic. This is also known as matching search intent.

To do this, simply pop each keyword into Google and check out the top-ranking pages.

For example, we typed in “low calorie meals” into Google, and here are some of the top-ranking results:

google search result for low calorie meals

In this example, you’ll notice that the results are primarily list-based articles that focus on recipes with images. This tells us that searchers are probably looking for low-calorie recipes that they can prepare at home.

Where relevant, you should mention your product or service naturally within the article. For example, delish.com has an internal link to other recipe pages on their site throughout the 50 low-calorie dishes.

low calorie recipes

Step 3: Make Your Content Valuable
To beat your competitors at their own game, you’ll need to make your content stand out.

Here’s how you can make your content stand out against your competitors:

  • Include higher quality images than your competitors
  • Create longer content or more comprehensive content
  • Create a title that’s more interesting than your competitors’
  • Make your title tag and meta description specific and to the point.

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2. Create Infographics

Creating effective infographics can get you a high quality backlink and generate traffic to your site.

Visual data is easy to understand and, more importantly, to share.

To create an infographic, you’ll need to first brainstorm topics.
Once you’ve found a relevant and trending topic, you’ll need to write the relevant content and find statistics to back it up.

Lastly, find a designer who can make your infographic come to life.

And don’t forget to add your logo to your infographics. This is crucial since site owners might download your infographic and add it to their site.

Having your logo on the infographic means that even if you don’t land a backlink, your brand will still get an adequate amount of exposure.

C. Build Them

Link building is about reaching out to other editors and site owners and pitching your awesome content to them.

However, when building backlinks, you need to create a pitch that provides value to the referring webpage.

For example, you could mention that your blog content has a statistic that their page doesn’t cover, or you could point out an outdated fact and pitch your content as a solution.

Here are two effective link building tactics you can try out:

1. Guest Posting

Whether you’re an expert guest blogger or a beginner, this is a backlink strategy that can help you get quality backlinks.

Guest posting, also known as  guest blogging, is when you write blogs for other websites, and in exchange, you can add links to your own site within that blog post.

With this tactic, you can add a quality link wherever you want in the post, including in the author bio at the end.

However, it’s a good idea to place links within the body of the guest post since these links tend to have a higher click-through rate.

2. Broken Link Building

Broken link building involves checking for any broken links (404 pages) that a page might have and then reaching out to the site owner. This backlink strategy is helpful for websites with a ton of ready-made content. 

However, it can also come in handy for sites that are looking for new content ideas.

You can find broken links by using the Check My Links Chrome Extension or backlink monitoring tools, like Ahrefs Backlinks Checker.

best pages by incoming links report in ahrefs

Once you’ve found a broken link, pop the site owner an email to inform them about it.

There are three ways you can benefit from this:

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Are Backlinks Still Worth It?

Backlink acquisition is no easy task.

At times, building backlinks can be a super time-consuming process, and worse, backlinks can suddenly disappear if the referring page is removed.

As a result, the ROI of backlink building can be pretty low.
At the same time, Google’s algorithm is also constantly evolving.

Now, unless your content explores a topic in detail while simultaneously answering reader questions, you probably won’t rank highly for that search query — irrespective of how many backlinks you have.

According to a study from Backlinko, there’s a clear positive correlation between “Content Grade” and Google rankings in both desktop and mobile results.

correlation between content grade and google rankings

Clearly, backlinks are now taking the backseat.

Fortunately, at Startup Voyager, we regularly outrank popular blogs without relying on backlinks!

At Startup Voyager, we understand that SEO isn’t just about having a strong link profile – it’s about creating high quality content that answers every question your customers have.

And according to the Content Marketing Institute, 57% of marketing executives agree that on-page content development is the most effective SEO tactic.

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Key Takeaways

Acquiring backlinks is an essential component of SEO because backlinks show Google that your site has valuable content that should appear at the top of the SERP.

Done the right way, backlinks can boost your search engine ranking and increase referral traffic to your site.

However, without helpful content and an effective content marketing strategy, even the best kinds of backlinks won’t help you ace a search query.

And when it comes to high quality content, it’s best to leave it to the experts.
If you need help with your content marketing strategy, connect with the SEO experts at Startup Voyager.

We can help you create compelling content, implement your SEO strategy, and help you grow your traffic organically! 

About the author

Startup Voyager is a content and SEO agency helping startups in North America and Europe acquire customers with organic traffic. Our founders have appeared in top publications like Entrepreneur, Fast Company, Inc, Huffpost, Lifehacker, etc.

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