What Are Backlinks? | HostGator (2022)

Your website is up and you’ve started the hard work of trying to increase your organic traffic.

You’re learning the ropes of SEO and think you have all the on-page work down, but now you face the hardest part: building backlinks.

What Are Backlinks?

A backlink is any link on another website that points back to yours.

Backlinks are one of the most important components of SEO (search engine optimization). Google’s algorithm is carefully designed to try and deliver the most authoritative, valuable results in every search a person does. To do that, the search engine algorithm weighs a number of different ranking factors all meant to help determine how credible each website and webpage are. Using a link building strategy helps to boost your organic marketing efforts and is one of the influencing factors that contributes to your search engine ranking.

Each time another website includes a link to yours, it’s like telling their visitors that there’s something useful on your website. It’s an endorsement of the content on the page. When a lot of websites with authority link to the same page, Google sees that as an indicator that what’s on the page is valuable.

Generally speaking, websites gain authority in the search engine’s eyes by having more backlinks. And the more authority a website has, the more valuable backlinks on that website are for the website being linked to.

For any website owners that care about SEO, backlinks are the main currency of the web. In other words, if you want to improve your SEO, you need to know about backlinks.

9 Types of Backlinks

You know what backlinks are now and you’re ready to go out and get them. As you start to work on your strategy, you may be thinking the more the better, right? Not so fast. Not all backlinks are created equal.

To build backlinks effectively, you need to understand the different types of backlinks and the relative value they have for your brand.

Dofollow Backlinks

When someone adds a link to a webpage, by default, it will be a dofollow link. That means the search engine algorithm will see the link and count it toward the authority it assigns the website. For a link to have any direct value in how the search engine algorithm measures the website, it must be a dofollow link.

(Video) What Are Backlinks and How Do They Work?

Nofollow Backlinks

Many of the backlinks around the web are dofollow, but in some cases, websites opt to tweak their HTML to label a backlink nofollow. This is a simple change that involves placing rel=”nofollow” in front of href in the HTML code.

Why would a website do this? There are three main reasons websites use nofollow links:

  • To combat comment link spam – This is the reason the nofollow attribute was created to begin with. Lots of black-hat link builders were spamming websites with comments meant purely to gain links. By giving websites the option to make all links in the comment section nofollow, websites could avoid inadvertently endorsing spammy websites because of links included in the comments.
  • To alert Google to links they’ve paid for – The other main use of nofollow links is for signaling to Google when a link on your website is from an advertiser who paid for the placement. Since ads are legitimate, but paying for links is against Google’s guidelines, this gives websites a way to continue making money from ads, while staying in Google’s good graces.
  • To avoid having to vet all the links included on the site – Originally, nofollow was meant for the two cases above. But several major websites have opted to make all links on the website nofollow, presumably to save them the trouble of figuring out if every link published on the site is to a high-quality website they’re OK endorsing. For website owners who publish a high quantity of content from a lot of different sources, this is a way to cover their bases when implementing a link building strategy.

Nofollow backlinks can still have value for your website by introducing your site to new visitors and sending organic traffic your way. And some SEO experts are convinced they deliver some SEO value as well. But for anyone working on building backlinks, understanding the distinction between dofollow and nofollow is important.

Directory Backlinks

These are one of the easiest legitimate types of backlinks for businesses, especially local businesses, to get. Directory listings such as those for professional organizations, local Chambers of Commerce, and review sites like Yelp and Google My Business almost always offer the option of including a link to your business website.

What Are Backlinks? | HostGator (2)

You can easily build links by listing your website on legitimate review and directory sites, and joining relevant professional groups that include a directory.

Brand Mention Backlinks

Anytime another website mentions your business, that’s an opportunity for a backlink. Often bloggers that talk about your products, business publications that cover your business news, or third-party websites that mention you in reviews or product roundups will include a link to your website when they mention your brand.

A common link building tactic is to find brand mentions around the web that don’t include a link, and reach out to the website owner to ask them to add one.

Industry Publication Backlinks

These are a valuable type of link that can be earned through PR and guest posting. This includes any link to your website that comes from an online publication in your industry. An example of this would a company that sells gardening supplies earning a link on the Better Homes and Garden website. These are challenging to get, but worth a lot to your website (especially if they’re dofollow).

.Gov and .Edu Backlinks

Backlinks on .gov and .edu website are notable because many SEO experts are convinced they’re worth more on average than .com or .net websites. This isn’t an absolute rule—gaining a link on a .com website with a lot of authority is probably better than a small and largely unknown .edu website. But they’re valuable enough that many SEO consultants put special effort into finding legitimate ways to earn a link on these types of sites.

Blog Backlinks

Between business blogs, personal blogs, media blogs, and entertainment blogs—a lot of the backlinks on the web live on blogs. Blog backlinks are often easier to build than some of the other backlink types we’ve described, but how valuable they are depends a lot on the blog. Any blog that covers topics relevant to your industry and has a high SEO authority is a worthwhile target for building backlinks. Blogs that have few readers and don’t have much of a reputation, or those in completely unrelated industries, aren’t usually worth your time.

(Video) What are Backlinks and Why are They Important?

Some common strategies for building blog backlinks are through guest posting, contacting bloggers to share valuable resources relevant to the topics they cover, or being an expert source for a blog post.

Forum Backlinks

Forums are a popular type of website that allow users online to connect with each other and form a community. There are thousands of forums online that focus on a wide array of topics—from business industries, to product-focused forums, to fan forums about an entertainment property. Because forums are made up of user-generated content—any member can post—it’s easy to create forum posts that include links.

If you’re strategic in how you build forum backlinks, meaning you don’t overdo it and only publish in high-quality forums when you have something useful to add to the conversation, this can be a good link-building tactic. But as with anything that’s easy to do, forum link building is easy to abuse. If you do it badly, you’ll create low-quality links that make your website look worse to the search engines.

Spammy Backlinks

The different types of links described above have different levels of value when it comes to how much they’ll help your website’s SEO. But this is the category that not only won’t help you, it will actively hurt you. Google’s algorithm penalizes websites that have a lot of spammy backlinks pointing to them.

What Are Backlinks? | HostGator (3)

This category includes paid backlinks, links in low-quality or irrelevant directories, and spammy forum or comment links. Basically, if a link is unlikely to deliver traffic back to your website, it’s probably spammy. Google gets better everyday at recognizing which backlinks are built using SEO schemes that are only about gaming the algorithms, so if you don’t want to get penalized, avoid any tactics that feel sleazy.

How Do I Get Backlinks?

Unlike the parts of SEO you can do on your own website, which you have control over, link building requires getting other people to add your link to their sites. That makes it a lot harder.

How to get backlinks in ways that are legitimate and white hat is probably the biggest question in SEO. We mentioned some link building strategies in passing in talking about the different types of backlinks, but there are a number of legitimate techniques a business can use to get relevant backlinks that are both good for SEO and for driving new traffic to your website.

eCommerce businesses can build links by offering free products to bloggers for review, sponsoring industry events, and publishing original research (bloggers love linking to statistics). Local businesses can earn links by working with local charities, hosting local events, and giving out awards. And any website can potentially earn links by creating useful content that’s good enough that other websites want to link to it.

Building backlinks requires creativity, but there are a lot of tactics worth trying that won’t get you blacklisted by Google. Just make sure the links you aim for are actually valuable to your audience and the website you work with.

Backlink FAQs

That covers most of the basics about backlinks, but you may still have questions about how backlinks work. Here are answers to some of the most common questions.

(Video) What Are Backlinks?

Why are backlinks so important?

There are two reasons backlinks are important, even though one of them gets a disproportionate amount of attention:

  • They signal to Google and the other search engines that your website is authoritative and should rank higher in the search results. They’re widely considered one of the most important SEO ranking factors.
  • They help new people learn about your business and drive relevant traffic back to your website.

People spend a lot of time focusing on the first benefit, which definitely matters. But the end goal of SEO is making your website easier to find for the people looking for what you sell. A good link that shows up in a relevant context can help with that part, even before you consider the extra SEO authority it provides.

What is backlink anchor text?

Most of the links you see around the web show up as a few words underlined in blue. To follow the link, you click on the words. Those words are the backlink anchor text.

What Are Backlinks? | HostGator (4)

Google pays attention to the anchor text of your backlinks. Along with the keywords you use on the page, it uses the anchor text to better understand what your page is about. When a backlink on a high-authority website uses the anchor text you want the page to rank for, it’s an SEO jackpot. A link that uses different anchor text than the keyword you’re targeting is still valuable, especially if the wording is related to your target keyword, but it’s not worth quite as much.

What is an example of a backlink?

There are examples of backlinks all across the web. In this blog post alone, you can find two examples of backlinks to other websites in the Nofollow Links section:

  • One to a page on SEO-Hacker.com with the anchor text “several major websites”
  • One to a page on the SEMRush website with the anchor text “some SEO experts”

We are linking to these pages from the HostGator blog, so while these are backlinks for SEO-Hacker and SEMRush, they are actually outbound links on our site.

Quality content often links out to content that in some way supports or expands on the points being made in a piece. That creates opportunities for a more passive type of link building, where by simply creating content of value, you gain links from bloggers who use your content to illustrate their point (as happened in both these examples).

There are also examples in this post of something that’s distinct from a backlink, but looks similar at first glance: internal links. The link with the anchor text “How to get backlinks” in the section on the same topic is a link to another blog post on this website, which makes it an internal link.

Internal links are another important part of SEO, but different from backlinks. They’re valuable because they’re an opportunity to use relevant anchor text to further signal to Google what a page is about, because they help create connections between different pages on your site, and they drive traffic to other parts of your website.

What is a bad backlink?

A bad backlink is any link that comes from a low-authority website, or that signals to Google that you’re using spammy link-building practices. Google doesn’t just pay attention to individual links separately, it also notes when your backlink profile shows a pattern that suggests you’re trying to game the system. Any backlinks that suggest that kind of pattern are bad badlinks.

(Video) Get 600+ Free Backlinks in Minutes! (2022)

Can backlinks hurt your site?

Yep! Many websites have been penalized due to having spammy links. You could incur a Google penalty that essentially blacklists your website. Or you could drop suddenly in the rankings due to an algorithm update that catches more of your low-quality links. Either way, you lose traffic and visibility, and recovering can be difficult. It’s important to only seek out quality, relevant backlinks.

What is a good backlink?

A good backlink is one that comes from a website that has SEO authority and covers topics relevant to your website. SEO tools provide information on how much authority different websites have, so you can tailor your link building efforts to those that are worth it. The best backlinks don’t just deliver SEO authority, they also deliver relevant traffic to your website.

How can I remove backlinks from my website?

If you made the mistake of hiring a black-hat SEO firm in the past and realize that you now have a lot of low-quality backlinks that are hurting your website, you can take steps to disavow them. SEO tools will help you identify the low-quality links out there that are hurting you. Then you can use Google’s disavow links tool to remove them from your backlink profile so Google no longer counts them against you.

Building Backlinks is Hard

If reading up on what backlinks are and how they work has you overwhelmed, don’t worry. You don’t have to do all the work of learning different backlink strategies and executing them all on your own. If you hire the skilled SEO consultants at HostGator, they can use their years of experience to identify the backlink opportunities most valuable to your brand and earn you those links. Contact our team today to learn more.

What Are Backlinks? | HostGator (5)

Kristen Hicks

Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.


What is backlinks in simple words? ›

Links on websites other than your own that go back to a page on your website. Backlinks are also called inbound links because they represent another website's traffic coming to your own site. The quality and quantity of your backlinks can help you rank higher in search engines such as Google and Bing.

What are backlinks example? ›

Backlinks are links from a page on one website to another. If someone links to your site, then you have a backlink from them. If you link to another website, then they have a backlink from you. For example, these words link to YouTube, so they now have a backlink from us.

How much backlinks are enough for a website? ›

The number of backlinks needed goes up at a faster rate than the difficulty ranking. For example, if a keyword has a difficulty of 10 you probably need about 10 backlinks to rank. But if it has a difficulty of 50 you may need 100 backlinks to rank.

What are good backlinks? ›

What Is a Good Backlink? A good backlink is a relevant outbound link to a trusted, authoritative site. Generally, a site is viewed as trustworthy if it has lots of strong backlinks pointing to it. Google views these backlinks as one way to confirm that your site contains helpful, quality content.

Are backlinks Important? ›

Backlinks are important for SEO because they signal to Google that another resource finds your content valuable enough to link to it within their own content. As a website earns additional backlinks, search engines infer that the website possesses valuable content worth ranking well on the SERPs.

How does a backlink work? ›

Backlinks occur when one website links to another website. Also referred to as incoming or inbound links, backlinks make their connection through external websites. These links from outside domains point to pages on your own domain.

What are backlinks in digital marketing? ›

A backlink is a scenario where one page on the internet references a page on your website and includes a clickable link to access that page. For example, this clickable text is a backlink to my personal website. “Backlink” is an umbrella term that includes a whole bunch of other search engine optimization terminology.

How many backlinks should I create per day? ›

25–30 backlinks per day is safe for a new website on average. However, even 500 links per day is safe if they are built naturally through organic exposure like a piece of content going viral, posting about a trending topic, or celebrating a special event for your business.

How many backlinks is too many? ›

10 backlinks per month is safe for a new website on average. However, even 40 to 50 links per month is safe if they are built organically and within the search engine webmaster guidelines. A good strategy is to start with a low number of links and increase the quantity each month.

What does a backlink look like? ›

A backlink is a link (e.g., starts with something like this https://) from one page on a website to another page on a different website.

What does backlinks mean in SEO? ›

A backlink is a link created when one website links to another. Backlinks are also called "inbound links" or "incoming links." Backlinks are important to SEO. Tools: Check your backlinks with Link Explorer.

What are quality backlinks on an SEO? ›

In search engine optimization, a quality backlink refers to a dofollow backlink within the body text of a page on a high-quality website that is relevant to your topic that points to a page on your website. The highest quality backlinks use relevant keywords within the anchor text of the links.

How do I find backlinks to my website? ›

How to find and check backlinks?
  1. Step 1: Navigate to Link Explorer. ...
  2. Step 2: Enter your competitor's URL. ...
  3. Step 3: Navigate to the "Inbound Links" tab. ...
  4. Step 4: Export backlink data into . ...
  5. Step 5: Compile backlink . ...
  6. Step 6: Sort all backlinks by Page Authority. ...
  7. Step 7: Review all linking sites for opportunities.
Aug 10, 2017

How do I get Google backlinks? ›

Use the following steps, and you can create your first Google backlinks by the end of the day.
  1. 1) Set your SEO goal.
  2. 2) Create a list of desired Google backlinks.
  3. 3) Use consistent marketing on your Google backlinks.
  4. 4) Start building the links.
  5. 1) Engage in the comments.
  6. 2) Start a regular publishing schedule.
Apr 7, 2018

What are backlinks in Google? ›

Backlinks (also known as “inbound links”, “incoming links” or “one way links”) are links from one website to a page on another website. Google and other major search engines consider backlinks “votes” for a specific page. Pages with a high number of backlinks tend to have high organic search engine rankings.

Do follow backlinks meaning? ›

Dofollow backlinks (also known as “follow”) are the “original” type of links that pass value (also known as link juice) between web pages. Google uses these links to increase the PageRank value to the linked page. You can think of dofollow links as the best type of link you can get because they provide the most value.

What type of backlinks can be build to a website? ›

When you get down to it, there are only two types of backlinks: dofollow and nofollow. A person reading a web page will never see the difference between a dofollow and a nofollow backlink. The difference is in the source code.

What is manual backlinks? ›

The concept of manual link building has been multiple time reviewed and re-analyzed over time. Putting it simply, a manual link building campaign is a process of actively trying to increase links to a website.

What is a backlink profile? ›

What exactly is a backlink profile? A backlink profile is the quantity, anchors and quality of links pointing to your website. This has a direct bearing on your ranking as Google's search engine crawls through the Internet looking for these links.

How do backlinks affect my rankings? ›

Backlinks are important to SEO because search engines see all of those votes of confidence as evidence that your content is valuable. If lots of sites link back to yours, search engines are more likely to surface your content in search results, improving your ranking for the topics linked to.

How long do backlinks take to work? ›

It takes a few days for a new link to get indexed.

The results indicate that a single backlink takes an average of 10 weeks to push a page a rank higher on Google. If you're fortunate enough to gain several links at once, you have a higher chance of outranking other pages at an exponential rate.

Can you rank in Google without backlinks? ›

So you see, while data says most websites ranking in Google have at least one backlink, this proves that you can actually rank for low and medium-volume keywords without any backlinks at all.

How do I increase the number of backlinks? ›

How to Get High Quality Backlinks in 2022 (7 New Strategies)
  1. Become a Source For Reporters and Bloggers.
  2. Publish “Skyscraper” Content.
  3. Build Links From Outdated Resources.
  4. Use Content Formats Proven To Generate Links.
  5. Publish Ultimate Guides.
  6. Use Branded Strategies and Techniques.
  7. Authority Resource Pages.
Oct 11, 2021

Are backlinks important in 2021? ›

Backlinks remain one of the most powerful SEO tools out there even in 2021. Along with great content, it's a surefire way to improve not only your search rankings but also to boost your conversions.

How can I improve my website ranking? ›

Follow these suggestions to improve your search engine optimization (SEO) and watch your website rise the ranks to the top of search-engine results.
  1. Publish Relevant, Authoritative Content. ...
  2. Update Your Content Regularly. ...
  3. Metadata. ...
  4. Have a link-worthy site. ...
  5. Use alt tags.

How can I create backlinks for free? ›

12 Ways to Get Free Backlinks for Your Business This Month
  1. Analyze Your Current Backlink Profile (The “Second Serving” Technique) ...
  2. Ask Your Friends for Backlinks (the Right Way) ...
  3. Reach Out to Industry Publications and Websites. ...
  4. Repurpose Your Content. ...
  5. Appear as a Guest on Podcasts. ...
  6. Write High-value Comments on Websites.
Jul 4, 2018


1. Should You Buy Backlinks for SEO? We Spent $1,000,000 to Find Out
(Nathan Gotch)
2. What Are Backlinks? How To Get Them In 2022
3. What Are Backlinks And Why Do They Matter
(Tony Peacock - LinkDaddy - Backlinks & Seo Services)
4. What are Backlinks?
5. Backlinks Explained | What Are Backlinks and How Do Work? | The Complete SEO Training Masterclass
(Blogging Helper)
6. What Are Backlinks & How To Get Them
(The Affiliate School)

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