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What are backlinks - and why they are so important for your SEO

Last updated on April 21, 2021


Even though link building as an SEO strategy has changed a lot in recent years, the link profile of your website is still an important ranking factor. And that's exactly why you should look very carefully at your backlinks. In this article you will find out what exactly that means and which quality features play a role in your links.

What are backlinks exactly?

A so-called “backlink” - in German “back reference” - or also called “inbound link” is used when it is an incoming link from another URL. This means that an external link to your website has been set on another website. It doesn't matter whether this backlink links to the main domain or to a subpage.

Nowadays you keep hearing that backlinks are no longer relevant. However, this is utter nonsense. Backlinks are still essential when it comes to search engine ranking. Because Google, Bing and Co. use the backlink profile of each website as an indicator in order to be able to classify them for the ranking.

Simply put, one can say about backlinks: The more high-quality backlinks to your website, the higher it will be ranked by the search engines and the better it will rank in the search results.

Types of backlinks

You should remember the following sentence right at the beginning: Backlink is not always backlink! There are numerous factors that make a good and a bad backlink different from each other. In part, the details of how backlinks are actually rated still remain a secret from Google.

Important to know: There are two different types of backlinks. On the one hand the internal links and on the other hand the external links.

Internal links

An internal link is a backlink that points from a subpage of the same or your own domain to another subpage of this domain.

External links

An external link is a backlink that links from a subpage of another domain to a website or subpage of your own domain.

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Building a backlink

Each link is set in the HTML language and looks like this:

<a href=”https://raidboxes.io/blog/online-marketing/content-ideas/” target=”_blank”>Content Idee</a>

a href: This attribute defines in HTML that it is a link.

“… ” : The URL between the quotation marks is the website that is linked to.

target: This attribute can be used to specify that the link should be opened within a new tab. However, this attribute is not absolutely necessary.

>…<: The text between these two brackets is the so-called anchor text, which is visibly clickable.

Which factors make a good backlink?

As already mentioned at the beginning: Not all backlinks are the same. There are numerous factors that make a good backlink - or by which you can recognize a good backlink. So you should always check where you set a backlink and where your backlinks come from, if you didn't set them.

So that you can see what makes a good backlink, I would like to explain the most important factors to you.

relevance

A good backlink should always be relevant. That means it should come from themed websites. From Google's point of view, backlinks that are “relevant” are preferred.

What does that mean? Let's say you have a soccer website. Now you get two backlinks. One backlink is from a website about sports and the second backlink is from a website about cats.

The backlink, which is relevant, in our case the link from the page on the topic of sport, of course has the higher relevance and is also classified by Google.

authority

The authority or “Domain Authority” (short: DA) is an important factor for Google when it comes to assessing the backlink. The higher the value (0-100) of the “Domain Authority”, the stronger the backlink.

In order to evaluate the authority of a domain, many other factors are used for the evaluation. These include:

  • The age of the domain
  • The number of inbound and outbound links
  • The quality of the backlinks to this page itself (backlinks)

In addition to the “Domain Authority”, there is also the so-called “Site Authority”, which is subject to exactly the same standards as the “Domain Authority”. In this case, the rating simply refers to a single subpage of the respective domain.

naturalness

A very common mistake that is made when setting backlinks is setting unnatural anchor texts too often. In other words, a backlink should be as natural as possible and blend in with the text in which it is integrated. Bare URL links such as “www.bloggiraffe.de” should be avoided. An anchor text such as “self-employed in online business” would be better. Depending on the form in which the word sequence can be incorporated into the running text, you can - and should - vary here of course.

Of course, it always depends on the frequency of the link being set. If the domain is used very “hard” as anchor text and placed numerous times on external pages, there is a risk that Google will classify it as spam. The same applies to always using the same keywords as anchor text. The consequence is then a penalty for the domain. This should be avoided at all costs. For more information on anchor text, I recommend the detailed Anchor Text Guide by Nathan Gotch.

traffic

The more regular traffic a website has that you get a backlink from, the more “link juice” - that is, link power - is passed on to your website. For you, this means that the search engines will classify this reference to your site as being of higher quality than if a website with very little traffic links you.

placement

The correct placement of the backlink is not to be underestimated. The more prominently the backlink is set on a website and refers to your website, the higher its quality is rated.

What does that mean exactly? For example, if the link is in the sidebar or in a footer, it is usually just one of many links. De facto means that it is given less link power. However, if the link is placed relatively high up within an article, it is assigned significantly more relevance.

Content length

In addition to the placement of a backlink, the length of the content in which the link is placed also plays a role. The longer the content, which is already classified as “more relevant” by Google, the higher the relevance of the link within this content.

The main requirement is, of course, that this content is appropriately well written and relevant to the search engines.

SEO and backlinks

As already mentioned in the previous paragraphs, backlinks for search engines like Google and Co. are essential in order to be able to classify the quality of the respective website. It doesn't matter how many backlinks refer to a page, but how good or bad the quality of these backlinks is.

If a website builds up a lot of unnatural backlinks over a short period of time, a so-called “Google penalty” can occur in the worst case. This means that the website is completely excluded from the rankings. You should therefore regularly check which backlinks are being added and react accordingly to "bad" backlinks.

Because it also very often happens that you do not set any backlinks yourself, but someone tries to damage your website. If you find such links, you can have them validated by Google. The “Disavow Links” tool is available for this in the Google Search Console: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/disavow-links-main.

In summary, from an SEO point of view, you should always make sure that backlinks that refer to your page are natural on the one hand and relevant to the topic on the other. The more “trust” a website has that links to your site, the better for you.

The anchor text

Earlier I mentioned the “anchor text” - also known as “anchor text”. This is an extremely important part when it comes to search engine optimization.

This is because, on the one hand, it is the text that visitors see on a website, and on the other hand, this anchor text is also read by the search engines. The anchor text should therefore always be clear and related to the linked page. See also “naturalness”.

Dofollow, Nofollow, Sponsored & UGC Attributes

There are now a total of four link attributes with which a link can be provided: dofollow, nofollow, sponsored and ugc. This allows you to give Google information about the relationship with the linked website. I would like to briefly explain how these so-called rel attribute values ​​differ from one another.

Follow links

The good first. In order to set a dofollow link, you usually don't have to do anything else. If the backlink is not marked as “nofollow”, it is automatically a “follow” link.

With a dofollow link, the Google bot receives the signal to crawl the link, i.e. to follow it. This link has a positive effect on the ranking of the linked website. One often speaks here of the passing on of the “link juice”.

Example:

<a href=”https://bloggiraffe.de/”>Selbstständig im Online-Business</a>

Nofollow links (rel = "nofollow")

With a nofollow link, on the other hand, the Google bot receives the signal not to follow the link any further, i.e. not to crawl it. This means that this backlink has no effect on the link structure of the linked page, as it is not included in the Google rating.

Example:

rel = "nofollow"> Self-employed in online business

Sponsored Links (rel = ”sponsored”)

The sponsored link or this link attribute should be used to identify links that were set on the basis of a consideration, e.g. purchased advertising, links, recommendations or the like.

Example:

rel = "sponsored"> Self-employed in online business

User Generated Content (rel = ”ugc”)

This link attribute should always be used when content is linked that was created by users of the linked page and not by the website operator himself. This is the case, for example, with comments on a blog or forum entries.

Example:

rel = "ugc"> Self-employed in online business

Link Juice (Link Equity)

When the so-called “link power” is passed on, or “link juice” (link equity) is often referred to in English, it means that a certain SEO authority or a certain trust of the page, which the backlink is passed on to the linked website.

The higher this value or this trust, the more influence the backlink has on the search engine ranking of the linked page. Exactly the factors play a decisive role, which I already explained to you under "Which factors make a good backlink?" have explained.

Tips for more backlinks

If you want to actively build backlinks for your website, you have a wide variety of options. I would like to introduce the most popular ones to you below.

Guest articles

The classic way of building backlinks is to publish guest articles on other relevant pages. In other words, you're looking for suitable websites here and asking whether you can write and publish a high-quality article that fits the topic.

The prerequisite is of course that you can also set a backlink in this article to your website. After all, you also offer high-quality content for the readers of the respective page.

Interviews

The procedure for the interviews is similar to the guest articles. Only that you are asking a website operator for an interview, which you then publish on your site. How do you benefit from it now?

Very easily! After the interview has been published on your website, you offer the interviewee to share your interview with himself, for example in the social media channels or maybe even within a short article.

Mention websites

A very simple and mostly effective method is to regularly mention relevant websites in your posts - be it on the website or in the social media channels. This will generate attention and you can hope that the website mentioned will also mention or link you.

Comments

A popular (and sometimes controversial) method is to set backlinks within comments. There are numerous topic-related blogs that allow you to comment on posts. Unfortunately, this feature is often taken advantage of by SEO spammers. If you comment, you should of course not only be out for a backlink, but also read the post seriously and deal with the content. Most website operators immediately recognize generic comments that were written for SEO purposes only and mark them as spam.

How do you act on your comments?

Johannes Mairhofer has summarized more information and tips on managing your comments in WordPress in his blog article on the topic.

Find broken links

You can search for broken links on websites that are relevant to you. Because then you have the opportunity to write to the website operator and ask whether they are interested in exchanging the faulty link and linking to there instead.

For example, you can use the free “Deadline Link Checker” tool for this purpose.

Here you can enter the relevant URL and have it checked for broken links. If you find a link that fits thematically and is actually incorrect, then you should contact the website operator once and suggest your website to be linked.

High quality content

My absolute favorite for generating high quality backlinks is to create high quality content myself. Of course, you have numerous options for this. Be it the creation of a great article, infographics, video and much more.

Of course, you can also use social media effectively for this. Say videos on YouTube, share posts on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Of course, there should always be a link to your website. There are really numerous options available to you here.

For whom are backlinks important?

This question can be answered with one sentence:For everyone who wants to be visible in search engines like Google and Co.!

For all those who run a blog or website for private reasons, it may be irrelevant where they rank in the search engines. However, if you generate income with your website or blog or offer services or products on your site, then good backlinks are indispensable. After all, you want to be found as easily as possible when someone is looking for your product or service.

In the latter case, it is important to build a backlink structure that is as natural and high-quality as possible so that Google classifies your website as relevant as soon as search queries are entered into Google.

Check backlinks yourself

You have two good and free ways to check the backlinks or backlinks to your website yourself. Of course, the Google Search Console is particularly suitable for this purpose. If you have stored your website here, you can see the most linked pages and top referring domains.