What is Backlinking? – All The In’s & Outs

Wanting to improve your SEO and keep hearing the words ‘linking’, ‘link juice’ or ‘backlinking’ and don’t know where to start? Then this is the blog for you! Here we guide you through what backlinking is, what’s considered a ‘good’ link and actions you can take today to build up your backlinks.

So what is backlinking and why is it so important for SEO?

Brian Dean from Backlinko defines ‘what is backlinking’ perfectly in his well-crafted backlinking guide:

Link building is the practice of building one-way hyperlinks (also known as “backlinks”) to a website with the goal of improving search engine visibility. Common link building strategies include content marketing, building useful tools, email outreach, broken link building and public relations.

What’s important to note is that backlinks help build your websites ranking on search engines and cannot be ignored in a good SEO strategy.

Google uses backlinks to tell how many people linked to that page, therefore giving that page more authority. It is no longer just about what is on the page but rather, who is viewing that content and sharing it. Google works this out through their page rank formula.

Google is constantly changing and updating their formula and now doesn’t only look at the quantity of the backlinks but places emphasis on the quality of the backlink. Keep reading to find out what qualifies a ‘good’ link and strategies you can use to start building your backlinks right now!

*Pro Tip* Guest posting is a great way to gather high quality backlinks from authoritative sites but it can take up hours of your time sending pitches with no response. We’ve tried to save you some time here and compiled a list of 500 sites that allow guest blogging, along with the correct link to submit your pitches! Download it here to start guest blogging!

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Good backlinks vs. bad backlinks

what are backlinks

Having many backlinks to your site definitely helps your SEO and ranking BUT backlinking isn’t only about the quantity of backlinks to your site. High-quality backlinks (pages that are linked to you with a high domain authority (DA)) can help you outrank a page that may have many low/ mediocre quality backlinks.

So what factors make a good link?

1. Link Authority

Here Google looks at the authority of the place that the link is coming from. This means the links from higher authority websites and pages will lead to a stronger backlink. Google looks at site authority and page authority when calculating the link authority of a site.

  • Domain Rating (site authority)

Another word for this is ‘domain authority’ and this should help you when determining which sites you want to reach out to in order to gain a backlink. It’s well worth the time taken to gain a backlink from one high authority sites vs. many low quality sites with little to no inbound links. A domain authority is given out of 100.

  • URL Rating (page authority)

Same as domain authority but here the focus is on the specific page that is linking to your site. Links from more authoritative pages pass over more authority to your site.

*Pro Tip* Use Ahref’s website authority checker to find the domain & page authority of the website you want a backlink from.

2. Dofollow vs. nofollow links

Google places more emphasis on links that are ‘dofollow’ links. There is actually no such thing as a ‘dofollow’ link, but rather it is the default state for a link. These links boost your link juice and help your search engine rankings.

 A ‘nofollow tag’ is specially added to your link with a rel=”nofollow” HTML tag. This means that the website linking to you is telling Google that they aren’t endorsing this link and therefore it shouldn’t send PageRank or link juice your way. You get these tags from blog comments, social media links, links in forums, paid links and other popular websites ie. Quora, Medium, Youtube, Wikipedia, Reddit etc. Most of the time these tags don’t help with your ranking, but they can help with bringing you traffic, and there are times that a nofollow can lead to a dofollow link from other popular sites.

*Pro Tip* To see whether or not a link is a nofollow link, highlight the link, right click and select inspect. Here you’ll be able to see the link in the HTML of the page. If it says nofollow after the link then it’s a nofollow tag otherwise the link will be dofollow. You can also use the tool Strike out, to put a line through all nofollow links on a page.

no follow link

3. Anchor text

Anchor text is the clickable text of the link that leads to your backlink. Google uses anchor text as a ranking signal as it expects to find something related to the anchor text on the other side. The more similar text anchor links to your page the better.

Here’s an example of anchor text from our SEO Tips Blog:

anchor text

However, it can look suspicious when the exact match keyword is in the anchor text all the time. An example of this would be if your page ranks for the keyword ‘chicken recipes’ and you have many anchor links with the exact keyword linking to your page. This is not natural as blogs/ users would also partial match keywords to link to your page eg. ‘recipes for chicken dishes’ or just ‘recipes’. So, when linking to your content there should be an even distribution of exact match anchor text links and partial match links.

4. Link relevancy

The relevancy of a link can be attributed to its anchor text as well as the other external links on the page. There is also another factor that Google looks at when ranking for relevancy and that is how the copy/ text surrounding the link is relevant to the link.

Taking the ‘chicken recipes’ page again. If you get a backlink from a high-ranking website about running shoes, Google will see that it isn’t a very relevant link for your site.

When it comes to backlinking you want to obviously gain links from authoritative sites, but they must also be authoritative sites related to your niche/site.

5. Link placement

It may seem that search engines place more authority on links in the main body of the page. This makes logical sense as a link in the main body of a page is more likely to be clicked, as well as more relevant to the surrounding text.

link placement

Other links in the footer or sidebar etc. are still given weight by Google but not as much as in-text links.

Ways to gather more backlinks

There are multiple ways to create backlinks and you will need to use more than one method to create high quality links from authoritative sites. The best ways to gather links is through creating content and marketing that content through email outreach.

- Create Content

what is backlinking

To start building a strong backlink profile you need to take some time to create quality content. This can range from blog posts and guides to creative infographics and images. More often than not, you need to be creating all of these different elements to gather great backlinks.

Popular content to create:

  • Visual assets ie. Infographics and images

Here is a great example of an infographic from Wordstream that is neatly organised, eye-catching and creates value for its user. I downloaded this months ago and am still linking to it now. People love to link to something that looks good and is highly informative in a condensed graphic.

*Pro Tip* Learn how to create beautiful and informative infographics through Visme's Infographic Guide, for a step-by-step guide to planning and designing an infographic that adds value and converts!

  • ‘List’ blog posts

Users love list posts as they usually sum up a large body of information into smaller, digestible tips, techniques, steps, reasons etc. They usually also contain the most important information, so you aren’t having to read through tons of content trying to find something useful. Here’s an example of one of our list posts on remarketing.

  • Complete guides on a topic
guide to seo

This method of backlinking takes a lot of time and effort, but when done right it can bring in a ton of quality backlinks! A complete guide covers ALL the information on a given topic and becomes the go-to resource on that topic. Guides are great as they have all the information in one place in a well-organised post. This means that the complete guide will have organised subheadings/ chapters, informative images/ graphics and relevant links.

The better the guide and content the more authoritative it will become therefore, leading to more backlinks. More backlinks lead to higher rankings and the higher the guide will feature in the search engine results page (SERP). This means more people will link to it and so on.

When searching the keyword ‘SEO guide’ the first organic link that ranks is Moz’s ‘beginners guide to SEO’. This guide is so in-depth that it could be considered an online course, but it’s for free! You want to be creating such valuable content that people think they should be paying for it!

- Email outreach

It’s all good and well to create amazing copy but if no one sees it, what’s the point? Therefore, you need to be reaching out to authority sites to show them your content and potentially get a high-quality backlink in return. But it all depends on that email being opened and replied to. Here are 3 great email outreach ideas to gain backlinks:

  • Guest blogging

One way to receive backlinks is through guest blogging on high authoritative sites. The key is finding the right sites who allow guest blogging, otherwise it can take hours finding the right site.

*Pro Tip* Luckily, we have created a nifty list of sites that allow guest posting here. We also give you some helpful tips about why you should be guest blogging and give a great example of an email script that works well at getting a response for guest posting! Form to download guest blogging lead magnet

  • Shoutouts

Here you are purely letting others know about the content on your own site. Whether it is a new blog post, infographic, guide, you name it. When emailing you want to make the email as personal as possible, mentioning their website, what you may like about it and things you have in common. Then you would obviously slide in a link to your own personal content. Here’s a great example of an email that we use that works well to gather shoutouts:

email outreach

And here are some more outreach email examples from Hubspot.

  • Broken link building

Broken link building is great because you not only get a backlink in the process but you also help out another website. Broken link building is concerned with finding broken links on a site that you would love a backlink from and then letting them know about the broken link and offering one of your links as a great replacement! It’s that easy! This is a great method as you are helping them out before asking for a link, which is a much more likely transaction! Here’s an example of a great broken link building email:

Hi [First Name],

I recently came across [Article Title]

[Mention something specific from their article].

Only problem I found that [give link and surrounding info] lead to a 404 page.

I’m not sure if you’re still updating your post, but I recently created [content description] that could fit in nicely [link to content].

Thanks again for the great content!

Let me know your thoughts and if this helps!


[Your Name]

*Pro Tip* Finding a broken link is just the tip of the ice berg, as you can use that link to find all the pages that link to it and email all of them with your new link! To find broken links download Check My Links. Then you can use Ahrefs paid tool to find all the pages linked to that broken link.

And there you have it all the in’s and out’s of backlinking that you will need to know to get started!

Still unsure if you understand everything about what is backlinking? Is all this backlinking knowledge giving you a bit of a headache, thinking about all the different things you need to do to create backlinks? We know how time consuming and frustrating building backlinks and improving your SEO can be. If you would like us to handle your SEO for you, take a look at our SEO services and chat to us today. If you would like to chat to one of our SEO consultants right now then set up a meeting here.

paula weblab

Paula Clyde is involved in managing the SEO and Google Ads accounts at The Weblab. This means doing anything from writing new blog posts and ads to understanding the data that comes through to be able to tweak and optimize their performance.

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