Some SEO experts say that backlinks (also known as “inbound links,” “incoming links,” or “one-way links”) are the most critical component of search engine optimization — and with good reason. You need backlinks to have any hope of ranking in the top search engine results pages (SERPs).

If you want to maximize your online visibility, boost your web traffic, and grow your business, you’ll want to learn about the role backlinks play in accomplishing these goals.

A group of people learning about the benefits of backlinks for SEO.

What are Backlinks?

If you are looking for ways to improve your SEO, every digital marketing specialist will tell you that backlinks are critical to succeeding in SEO. But what are backlinks, exactly?

Put simply, they are links on one website pointing to another website elsewhere. More specifically, these are live hypertext links—or referrals from other websites—that point back to your website. The more high-quality and relevant sites that link back to yours, the better your chances of moving up in search rankings.

The process of gaining more backlinks is commonly referred to as link building.

Two Aspects of Backlinks: Authority and Diversity

Authority links are links from websites that Google believes have established a substantial degree of trust and authority (think credibility). This “authority” is based on the sites’ age, quality, and size, and receives a Google PageRank (Google PR) score during the indexing process. Bottom line: If a quality website with an excellent reputation (high Google PR) links to your site, that’s a nice SEO boost. And the higher the PR, the more it helps.

The diversity of your backlink profile can also impact your ranking. (Think about it — if 100 percent of your backlinks come from one website and that site is penalized by Google, you will take a significant hit.) So, don’t just concentrate on getting backlinks from a few quality websites. It’s important to ensure your site has helpful links from various relevant sites to diversify and strengthen your link profile.

Try to Gain More Dofollow Links

As a search engine gathers information on your website, one of its priorities is looking for links that actively point back to your site. Ideally, these dofollow links allow search engines to crawl through and index those external sites. The difference between dofollow and nofollow links is that the former will pass on some level of value (i.e., ranking power) to your site, while the latter will not.

It is also worth noting that nofollow links can provide some benefit but should not be depended upon for serious link building. These are typically created by placing trackable keywords or anchor text within links but not directly passing any link juice.

In practice, deciding which kind you should pursue can be tricky — there is not an absolute guideline that applies in every case. But generally speaking, you should focus on gaining do-follow links from sites with high domain authority and audience size.

Focus on Quality Over Quantity

A man demonstrating how backlinks can improve your SEO by holding a tablet with the word "link building" on it.

Building links online is easier than ever, but one common mistake many new marketers make is focusing on sheer quantity instead of quality.

You can get a thousand do-follow links from spammy directories, but that will not boost your website’s rank in Google — in fact, it could very well hurt it.

One of the best ways to build quality backlinks is by writing guest posts for popular blogs. While big numbers might tempt you, link farms will not add any value and have no power to help you rank higher in search engines.

With regard to link-building for SEO purposes, quality is king!

Link Building Strategies

If you are struggling with low search rankings and anemic search traffic, there may be a solution — but you have to learn how to leverage backlink-building strategies.

But before we talk about the available strategies, let’s briefly discuss why they work.

Search engines crawl and index sites daily, using their spider bots to go from site to site within milliseconds of each other — sometimes in groups known as crawlers. When Google sees that another site has linked back to yours via text or banner advertisements, it can make your page more relevant and show it in better search results when people search for similar content on Google.

The question then becomes, “How do I build links?”

The best way is through worthwhile content that people are likely to reference in their articles. There are two primary ways you can go about doing this:

  • Getting yourself guest posts and using authoritative sites like Reddit or LinkedIn as a platform for making your business more visible.
  • Sharing your own, original content across different online communities. While at it, ensure you have those social media pages up — like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and Pinterest.

How to Check Your Links

Once you have implemented your backlinks, you should be able to see them with a backlink check tool. There are various versions available, and some are free. Ahrefs offers a free version here:

Monitor Your Links

Finding a link with a high score is great, but what is more important is how that score changes over time.

If you see that your links are consistently increasing in quality, you are building upon a solid foundation. But if they start dropping, you may want to rethink how you are building your backlink profile, and either work on improving your backlinks or dropping them altogether.

The only way to know which path is right for you is by monitoring those links over time.


Now that you better understand how backlinks work and why they matter, it is time to leverage them. To start earning higher rankings and more traffic through your site, we can help build your backlink profile and assist with other aspects of digital marketing.