What are Backlinks & How to Attract them to Your Website?

  • Last update: 25/10/2023

Benjamin Poirrier

Digital Marketing Expert

6 referring domains sending backlinks to a website

People often confuse backlinks with internal or external links. Internal links connect web pages within the same domain. External links connect a web page from your website to another domain.

This article deals with backlinks, which are the opposite of external links. We will explain their importance and how to earn high-quality backlinks for your domain.

What are Backlinks?

Backlinks are links coming from one web page going out to another domain. SEO experts also call them “inbound links” or “incoming links.”

In simple words, backlinks are votes from a website to a specific page. They inform search engines that this linked page is a good reference for the topic.

We can compare backlinks to expert testimonials. They indicate how popular and trustworthy the web page is. When a domain refers online users to another website, it means the destination page has great content.

what are backlink
The referring domain sends out an external link, which is a backlink to the destination page

Why are Backlinks Important?

As we will see later in this article, getting backlinks is a challenging journey. Before investing time and resources into an outreach strategy, it is necessary to understand why backlinks are important.

There are five main reasons for building and earning backlinks:

  • Backlinks are top-ranking factors
  • Backlinks improve organic search visibility and rankings
  • Backlinks help search engines discover new online pages
  • Backlinks are votes of confidence
  • Backlinks send some referral traffic

Google keeps officially announcing that backlinks remain one of the most prominent criteria in organic search engine ranking. If businesses want their websites to appear on the first page, they must enhance their backlink profile. The page ranking at position #1 on the Google SERP (Search Engine Results Page) often gets the most backlinks.

A high number of quality backlinks is a positive signal for search engines like Google. They understand the website is worthy. Consequently, as search engines’ goal is to deliver the best results to online users, such web pages benefit from a visibility boost.

Besides, the web crawlers that are permanently scouting the internet use those backlinks to discover newly published online pages. As we detailed in our article What is SEO?”, those spiders visit all worldwide sites like in a metro system. The more backlinks, the more connected websites are.

In December 2022, Google released an algorithm update including the E.E.A.T. framework (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness). It increased the impact of backlinks in evaluating the relevance and popularity of web pages.

Putting apart the ranking signals listed above, backlinks also bring some referral traffic. As we will see below, it should not be the main reason for working on the website off-page. It only makes sense if the backlink comes from a website having tons of visitors. However, it is a small bonus that can sometimes be quite significant.

Not all backlinks pass the same value to the destination page. We explain this in the next section.

What is the Structure of Backlinks?

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Backlink structure example

A backlink starts from an external web page. We differentiate these two kinds of backlinks:

  • Naked
  • Anchored

The naked backlink is a raw Uniform Resource Locator (URL) looking like https://your-website.com. It is one of the most common forms of backlinks.

The anchored backlink is a clickable text hyperlink redirecting the user to a destination page. Here is an example of an anchor text redirecting to our blog category page.

There is no preference from search engines between naked or anchored backlinks. Both types pass the same SEO value.

All backlinks follow the same Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) code structure. Here is an example of an anchored backlink:

<a href=”https://your-website.com/”>anchor-text</a>

It is the classic way to code backlinks. It means the “anchor-text” has a hyperlink redirecting the user to a website having this URL: https://your-website.com/

When there is no additional tag attribute, SEO experts call such backlinks a “DoFollow” link. They pass the domain value to the destination web page. As we will see below in this article, they are the most valuable kind of backlinks.

There are three main kinds of Rel attributes which are:

  • Rel=”sponsored”
  • Rel=”ugc”
  • Rel=”nofollow”
  • If no Rel attribute, then the backlink is a DoFollow

As its name says, the first tag relates to the sponsored, advertisement, or paid content links. Website owners must add this Rel attribute if the link is not organic.

The second tag is the acronym for User-Generated Content (UGC). Those are backlinks coming from forums, comment sections, reviews, or any kind of post links.

The NoFollow link means the website owner does not want to associate its domain with the destination page. In other words, the website does not pass any link juice. NoFollow links don’t endorse the web page content.

If we take the HTML code of the previous anchored backlink example and transform this DoFollow into a NoFollow, then it will look like this:

<a href=”https://your-website.com/” rel=”nofollow”>anchor-text</a>

The same applies to Sponsored and UGC backlinks. Remember that if there is no Rel attribute at all, it means the backlink is a DoFollow by default.

What are Good Backlinks?

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Four tips to get high-quality backlinks

Not all backlinks have the same value. As we saw in the previous section, a few of them may not pass any “link juice.” Here is a list of top factors that make good backlinks:

  • Authoritativeness
  • Relevance
  • Website traffic
  • Anchor text
  • Domains variety
  • DoFollow

Backlinks coming from websites that have authority are more desired than random personal blogs. Unfortunately, no one exactly knows how search engines score websites. We can still make estimations from various free and paid tools. Check the domain authority or domain rating to evaluate your backlinks.

If backlinks pointing at your web page are irrelevant, they won’t help rank your domain on search engines. You must check the content topic and language to make sure they are relatable.

Except if the website linking out has a massive number of visitors, backlinks don’t bring significant traffic to the destination page. We should still monitor the website traffic history. If it decreases, there are chances that the backlink value will drop too.

Websites need a balance of naked and anchored backlinks. The anchor text must be diverse and not over-optimized for your keywords. If you sell smartphones, having all backlinks coming from the anchor content “smartphone-model” does not look natural.

As for the anchor texts, receiving many backlinks from unique domains doesn’t send a good signal to search engines and web crawlers. 100 backlinks coming from 100 different websites boost the website rankings more than 100,000 backlinks coming from a unique domain.

DoFollow links have no Rel attribute. They pass more value than other kinds of backlinks (sponsored, UGC, and NoFollow). Make sure you have enough DoFollow backlinks to your website profile.

In case a domain sends you several backlinks, keep in mind that the first one has more weight than the others, for which the value continuously decreases.

How to Check Your Current Backlink Profile?

Before launching any outreach or off-page campaign, brands must proceed with a website audit. During this analysis, businesses can review their backlink profile, spot their weak points, and identify opportunities as well.

Many tools support checking website backlinks. Here are the best ones:

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Checking a backlink profile on the Ahrefs tool

On the Google Search Console, select the tab “Links” which lies just above Settings. On the Ahrefs tool, choose the domains or backlinks pages to have an overview.

Businesses must check many factors to analyze their backlink profile:

  • Total backlinks
  • Total domains
  • Number of backlinks per domain
  • Backlink quality
  • Anchor text
  • Top linked pages

A healthy backlink profile has a high number of quality backlinks coming from various relevant domains. Beware of spammy websites linking out to you or sending tons of backlinks at once.

The anchor texts must be diverse. Brands have little power over them because the website owner sending out the backlink controls the anchor texts. Ideally, there should be a good balance between “keyword-related” and “natural.”

Check out the pages getting the most backlinks on your website. They have the potential to bring you more benefits. Make sure that no domain points are at any 404 status code page on your website. If it happens, it means you are losing the link juice opportunity.

Consider removing toxic backlinks. They may harm your website in the long run. Contact the domain owners and ask them to stop linking to you. If they refuse or keep silent, use the Google Search Console disavow tool to get rid of them.

How to Attract Backlinks?

White hat SEO experts are unanimous on this subject. The best way to attract backlinks is to create value for online users. Delivering useful content to people is the main purpose of search engines like Google. Publishing such content should be yours.

We shortlisted eight top practices to generate beneficial backlinks to your website:

  • Publish “linkable” pages
  • Contact relevant websites
  • Get listed on relevant and niche directories
  • Identify outdated pages having good backlinks
  • Identify pages linking to 404 having good backlinks
  • Consider guest posting
  • Reverse engineer competitor backlinks
  • Claim for backlinks when people mention your brand

To satisfy search engines and online users’ expectations, businesses must create web pages with actionable key takeout information. If the content is good enough to be quoted as a source, website owners will naturally link to those pages. Besides text, consider formats like videos or infographics. Visual content works best to attract backlinks.

By contacting other websites from the same niche, brands can propose relevant sources of information. If the business is geo-located, like a brick-and-mortar shop, local backlinks provide an extra visibility boost.

To help search engines centralize the internet sources, some people created online directories. Those websites list the best domains from their niche. It can be the “Best digital marketing agency in Vietnam.” There are directories for all fields, and they are free.

As the purpose is to publish valuable content, no one wants to link out to outdated pages. If a domain you would like a backlink from is pointing at an old or irrelevant page, you should contact the owner. Ask this person to replace the backlink and link to your web page instead.

The strategy above also works for sources linking out to 404 pages. It is a win-win situation. Ask the website owner to increase its page value by pointing at your updated URL.

Guest posts are articles that you produce yourself and publish on someone else’s website, still following a win-win logic. The other website benefits from top-notch content. Your website gets a backlink in return. This kind of mutual agreement works well in long-term partnerships.

Your competitors are getting backlinks. The websites linking out to them may also be interested in your web pages if they are like your competitors’. It is a good practice to reverse engineer their backlinks and try to attract them.

Popular brands can benefit from easy backlinks. Monitor the internet for content mentioning your company name, products, or services (for example, thanks to Google Alerts). Every time it is the case, if no backlink points at you, then ask for link reclamation.

6 Backlink Myths

Backlinks are a hot-trend topic. There are many misconceptions about them. Based on our experience, Prodima Vietnam would like to list six of the worst backlink myths:

  • Backlinks bring lots of traffic
  • The more backlinks the better
  • Irrelevant backlinks are better than no backlinks at all
  • Purchasing relevant backlinks is okay
  • Google only penalizes link directories’ owners
  • Rel=”nofollow” links are useless

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Many businesses think that backlinks will bring them tons of website traffic. After all, when online users visit a page that links to another, a small percentage of them should land on our domain, right? In real life, marketers do not build backlinks to get extra traffic. It is not a sustainable option. There are many other ways to boost the number of online visitors. Backlinks help improve the website’s ranking and its page authority.

In the 2000s, websites with the most backlinks were winning the online ranking game thanks to the PageRank algorithm. Since the 2010s search engine algorithm updates, it is not the case anymore. The quantity of backlinks remains a signal, but it is not as prevalent as before. Backlink quality became much more important.

Non-related backlinks harm websites. They send a negative signal to search engines. In most cases, domains are better off with no backlink at all than irrelevant ones.

Purchasing backlinks, relevant or not, is never okay. There is no acceptable reason for doing such a thing. Check the link schemes from Google to understand more. All backlinks must be natural and websites must earn them.

Public Link Networks (PLNs) or Private Blog Networks (PBNs) were also a hot trend back in the 2000s. Today, the community considers them as black hat practices, trying to cheat search engine algorithms. PLN and PBN owners get penalties. Backlink buyers are also responsible for this. Google can rank them lower, or even completely de-index their web pages from the search engines.

As we mentioned earlier, DoFollow links pass some value, while NoFollow links are mostly ignored. The rules are not clear about the last ones. From experience, SEO marketers know that search engines still consider NoFollow links as “hints.” NoFollow backlinks may boost the brand if they come from a high authority domain.

Earn Your Backlinks

There are many factors to consider about backlinks. Therefore, businesses should stay open to any outreach opportunities. There is no perfect link. By expecting the best fits or by setting too many constraints, the web pages may not have enough backlinks to rank on search engines.

Earning backlinks is a long and challenging process. As a rule of thumb, the harder to get a backlink, the more valuable it is.

Receiving relevant DoFollow backlinks is great because we get some link juice. On the other hand, sending out DoFollow backlinks to other domains also passes the value to them. You do not want your page value to decrease. Consider adding the Rel attribute for NoFollow.

Contact Prodima Vietnam if you are looking for professional link-building services.