Hyperlinks are everywhere online. But have you ever thought about how they got there?
This guide cuts through the technical jargon to explore how SEO backlinks work, why Google scrutinizes them so closely, and how a thoughtful link-building strategy can boost your online visibility.What is a Backlink?Backlink Definition
A backlink is a link from a page on one website to another. Also called an inbound link, a backlink can bring visitors to your site from anywhere — a news site, a blog, an online directory, or a paid sponsorship.
You can see all the sites that link back to yours if you know how to run a link report in Google Search Console.Why Are Backlinks Important?
Each backlink represents an external vote of confidence in the quality of a page. They:Help search engines determine the value of a page and how to rank it in search results.Send visitors to your page as referral traffic.Help search engines find and index your pages faster.
A website’s backlink portfolio indicates how authoritative other websites consider it. This is why Google factors backlinks into its PageRank algorithm.
However, not all backlinks are good backlinks. Quality backlinks originate from reputable websites and are topically relevant. Natural, topically relevant backlinks build trust and authority.5 Key Benefits of Backlinks
Reviewing your backlink profile, determining the quality of referring domains, and acquiring high-quality links to boost online visibility takes effort, but it’s worth it.1. Improve Ranking in SERPs
Search engines regularly collect information and decide where to rank web pages in search results for any given query. As your pages accumulate more backlinks, their page rank is bumped up — granting them better visibility and moreorganic traffic.2. Help Google Find New Pages
Similar to how you find new websites by clicking links, search engine bots follow outbound links to discover pages they haven’t indexed yet.
The crawling process starts with pages that have previously been indexed, so if you’ve just launched a new page, a backlink on an established site can help Google find it more quickly. 3. Boost Credibility
Search engines take their cues from domains they consider reputable. When a site that’s already earned Google’s stamp of approval sends visitors to your page, a bit of that site’s shine rubs off on yours. These well-earned backlinks are usually a good indicator to Google that the linked pages contain valuable content.4. Deliver Referral Traffic
A backlink from a carefully chosen, relevant site not only boosts traffic but can send qualified leads right to conversion points on your website. Assuming the referring site’s readership is well-matched to yours, you’re bringing legitimate prospects into your sales funnel so the rest of your conversion strategies can kick in.5. Boost ROI of SEO
Link building is part of a comprehensive SEO strategy and serves to support content creation efforts. Even better: backlinks have more longevity than ads or email marketing campaigns. Backlinks tend to remain on the referring domain and continue working for your site long after they’ve been placed.An Example of Backlink ROI
This is a screenshot from a SaaS SEO campaign we ran for a customer.
In December, Victorious implemented a technical audit of the website, increasing search results by 250 positions for a set of thematic keywords. At that point, our customer decided to pause link building for a few months.
Without any page authority signals to complement the on-page optimization, the gain in rankings stalled. At the tail end of January, rankings started to decline.
Google had already determined the site itself to be authoritative, but the algorithm was watching to see if other sites provided a vote of confidence that they also saw the site as trustworthy. Without those backlinks, Google questioned the trustworthiness of the website.
In early February, we got the ok to start building links to target pages. As soon as the incoming links went live, the site started to regain rankings. Google recognized those links as external validation of the website’s authority.
With 16 months of link building, our customer saw:106% increase in overall ranking keywords171% year-over-year growth in organic sessions for targeted landing pages5 to 1 ROI on SEO spending
I’ve seen this happen time and time again.
While Google will reward initial SEO activities with improved search Backlink ranking, if it doesn’t begin to see validation for that ranking in the form of backlinks, a site loses ground in SERPs.How to Get Backlinks
So, how do you land the right backlinks to drive traffic and bolster credibility?Submit Your Site to Directories
Submit your website to high-quality directories focused on your industry or community, especially those focused on providing value to users. Look for niche sites belonging to trade associations, professional organizations, networking groups, and industry leaders.
Steer clear of poor-quality directories that link to random businesses and don’t vet listings. Google might associate these types of sites with link schemes.Ask for Backlinks
Reach out to authority sites directly and request a backlink. You’re more likely to be successful if you can offer something of value in return.Guest blogs: Pitch an idea for an article that’s useful to the site’s readers.Skyscraper technique: Improve upon a currently-linked article and offer yours as an alternative. Make sure your resource is easier to understand or more in-depth to persuade the site to link to yours instead.Link inserts: Look for opportunities to expand on a point in a blog post or article, and suggest they link to your site to provide their readers with more detailed information.Resource page link building: Find an online list of resources your business could fit into and ask to be included.Broken links: Sites may have dead links to expired resources. Suggest a page on your site that fits the bill and ask the site to redirect there instead.Claim unlinked mentions: Is your business mentioned without a link? Ask the site to send readers to your web page and make your brand mention clickable.Earn Your Backlinks
You can also leverage your knowledge and expertise and give sites a reason to give you a backlink.
Create value by providing:High-Quality Content
Offer in-depth, useful content such as blog posts, infographics, and video tutorials. Use keyword research to help you identify the types of content users are searching for.Original Research
Put together surveys, statistics, and case studies that are of interest to your target audience. Real-world data is extremely valuable, can position your brand as an authority, and earns you high-quality backlinks every time someone cites your data.Expert Quotes
Provide journalists with expert insight for their articles. When you sign up for services such as HARO (Help a Reporter Out), you get notifications when media members seek experts to comment on their articles.But Remember, Don’t Buy Backlinks
As you look for linking opportunities, you may find services offering to sell you bulk links for cheap. It seems like an easy way to grab some links, but Google is very strict about attempts to get around their quality algorithms. You can be penalized if you’ve amassed large quantities of backlinks from suspicious sites.Is Building Backlinks Bad?
While buying bulk links is a no-no, developing and implementing a legitimate link building campaign is possible. The best way to get other sites to create high-quality, relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can gain traction by offering value.
The practice of placing links, whether purchased or otherwise, without regard to their value to users is a short-sighted SEO tactic that sacrifices the authority you could be building with high-quality links.
There’s a clear line of differentiation between paying someone for link-building services and making a bulk link purchase from someone on a gig website who offers 1,000 backlinks for $100.
Thoughtfully placing high-quality links on domains that are contextually relevant to yours is labor-intensive, and the price you pay for those services will be a function of their value to grow your topical authority. Learn more about the true cost of SEO and how those investments benefit your bottom line.Need SEO Help?
Let’s talk about how our SEO Services can help your business get the attention it deserves.FAQs About Link BuildingHow long do backlinks take to work?