What Are Backlinks and Why Are They Important?

What Are Backlinks and Why Are They Important?
Do not index
Do not index
A backlink (also known as an “inbound link” or an “incoming link”) is a link from one website to another. Google and other search engines treat backlinks like digital recommendations, similar to how word-of-mouth referrals work in the real world. The more referrals you have on your website, the more Google perceives it as valuable and reliable.
Here's a backlink from Hubspot pointing to Moz.com:
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Here’s the same backlink in HTML:
<a href="https://moz.com/blog/accidentally-deindex-your-site" target="_blank" 
rel="noopener">accidentally deindex several pages</a>
The href attribute contains the URL being linked to, in this case, a blog on Moz.com.
Backlinks are crucial to SEO for three reasons:
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  • Increased Authority: Backlinks from influential websites enhance your reputation and position you as a go-to resource in your niche.
  • Indexing and crawling: Backlinks also help search engines identify new pages. Their crawlers (or bots) use backlinks to locate new content on a website and map its relationship with other pages.
All this said, backlinks only boost your SEO efforts when they meet certain criteria. In the next section, we’ll explore these criteria and understand their contribution to a backlink’s usefulness and quality.
There are five factors that determine the quality of a backlink. These include:
Domain Authority
Backlinks from authoritative websites transfer more link equity (or authority) to their targets. Why? Because Google already views them as a valuable source of information, and when they link to you, it sees you as valuable too.
Now, Google doesn’t have an official metric to gauge a website’s authority (though it has hinted at a DA-like metric in its algorithm); however, popular SEO tools like Ahrefs and Moz have proprietary metrics like DR (domain ranking) and DA (domain authority) to give you a fair idea.
          Ahref’s DR Ranking for a domain and UR (URL Rating) for page-level authority
Ahref’s DR Ranking for a domain and UR (URL Rating) for page-level authority
Note: Pages with more links transfer less authority through backlinks. That’s because authority gets evenly distributed across links on a page, and when there are too many links, there’s not enough to go round for everyone.
Google considers a relevant link (link from a similar website) more valuable than a slew of unrelated links.
As Google’s John Mueller notes:
“We try to understand what is relevant for a website, how much should we weigh these individual links…the total number of links doesn’t matter at all. Because you could go off and create millions of links across millions of websites if you wanted to, and we could just ignore them all.”
Anchor Text
Anchor text is the clickable portion of a hyperlink that provides "additional context" on the URL it’s pointing to.
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Ideally, you’d want an anchor text to contain the exact “title or heading" or “a description of the destination page.” You’d also want to avoid vague instructions, like “Click Here” and “Learn More,” that lead to a poor user experience.
Type of Backlink
NoFollow links instruct search engines not to follow them or pass any link equity to the destination page. They usually have a “nofollow,” “UGC,” or “sponsored” value in their rel attribute.
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DoFollow links, on the other hand, allow search engines to crawl them and transfer link equity to the destination page. Unless they have a rel attribute, links are usually dofollow links.
Ideally, you’d want to obtain more dofollow links to boost your website’s SEO. However, there’s no harm in adding some nofollow links along the way. They, too, can pass authority if deemed valuable and bring more referral traffic (traffic from backlinks).
Link Placement
A backlink’s position on a webpage also determines its quality. Backlinks in the footer or site-wide header are given less weight, so it’s better not to pursue these opportunities.
Meanwhile, links in the header or paragraph of an article pass a “fair amount” of authority and should be the focus of your link-building strategy.
P.S.: Finding high-quality backlinks for your website can be challenging — which is why, we recommend using Smartlinks — a link-building tool that identifies the most relevant opportunities for your niche based on your target keywords and your traffic, DA and Spam Score preferences.
Technically, there are only two ways to build backlinks to your website. However, by the end of this section, we’ll explore a new, innovative approach that makes link-building a lot easier:
This type of link-building relies on cultivating relationships with other websites. Once you’ve built a rapport with their owners or SEOs, you can ask them to link to your pages. However, to get to that point, you’ll have to employ some of these tactics:
a) Write Guest Posts
Guest posting is the process of writing and publishing your blog on another website in exchange for a backlink. To find such opportunities, you can search queries like:
  • "write for us" + [your niche]
  • “guest post” + [your niche]
  • "submit a guest post" + [your niche]
Or, you can look up prolific bloggers in your niche and see what websites they contribute to.
Here are some guest posts by Ahrefs CMO Tim Soulo. We used the query "author name” + guest post to find them, but you can also try “author name” + guest article or "author name” + contributor.
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Once you’ve identified your target websites, check out their “Write for Us” page – where you'll find contributor guidelines and a form(or an email address) to share your ideas for a guest post.
b) Join Marketing and Link-Building Communities
Marketing groups on Slack, Discord, LinkedIn, and Facebook can be a great source of quality backlinks. However, they’re only helpful if they have:
  • High levels of engagement (daily posts and contributions)
  • A vetting process to filter out spammy websites (sites created to manipulate SERPs)
  • Members from similar niches (for relevant link-building opportunities)
As a starting point, we recommend exploring the communities in this post. They’re some of the best link-building groups on the web and have plenty of resources for beginners and seasoned SEOs.
c) Use the Skyscraper Technique
The Skyscraper Technique involves finding popular content in your niche, creating a better version, and then pitching it to websites linking to the original piece.
Generally, how-to guides, listicles, and infographics work great for the Skyscraper Technique. Targeting these pages will help you build backlinks quickly and easily.
However, you can also find other opportunities using an SEO tool.
For instance, in the image below, we’ve used Ahrefs’ Best by Links report to find pages with the most backlinks on Hubspot.com.
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d) Sign up for HARO
HARO, or Help a Reporter Out, connects journalists with experts who can share helpful resources and information in exchange for a backlink.
To build quality links with HARO, you must register as a source and specify an area of expertise.
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HARO will then send you new queries every day. The number and frequency of these emails would depend on your subscription(you get three emails with media opportunities on the free plan)
We suggest you scan these emails for relevant queries and only share a response if you meet their requirements.
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Also, respond to at least 5-10 queries daily and highlight your professional expertise to increase your chances.
Agencies can turbocharge your link-building process with their dedicated resources while introducing some challenges of their own:
  • Inflated costs: An agency could cost you anywhere between $3,000-$20,000 per month. Depending on your budget and business scale, that could be a great deal or an impractical investment.
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  • Link Quality: With an agency at the helm, you’ll have no control over the quality of your backlinks. You can, however, address this by hiring a niche-specific service that excels at white-hat link building.
Although link-building tactics and agencies can be effective for earning backlinks, they’re not always the best option. This is especially true for websites that either lack the time and resources for traditional link-building or the budget to outsource their requirements.
The good news is that there’s a more efficient way to build backlinks that poses none of these obstacles.
Let’s take a look at how it works:
Step 1 -  You register your website on Smartlinks.ai and upload link-worthy content
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Step 2 -  The platform scans your articles (and their keywords) and fetches relevant opportunities based on your traffic, DA, and Spam Score specifications.
Step 3 - Once the system fetches relevant articles, you select a target website and send an inbound request for a backlink.
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Step 4 - If a target website accepts your request, the system deducts Karma points equal to its DR from your account. On the other hand, if you accept a request from another website, you get Karma points equal to its DR in your account.
And there you have it! A rapid, scalable approach to link-building that’s 100% free.
Don’t take our word for it, though. Give Smartlinks a spin and see if it's the right fit for you.
When building backlinks to your website, avoid anything that resembles a “link scheme.” This includes:
  • Paid Backlinks: Links obtained in exchange for money, goods, or services.
  • PBNs: Private Blog Networks (or PBNs) are networks of websites created solely for building backlinks. Google’s Penguin algorithm is trained to detect this tactic and devalue websites that leverage it.
  • “Excessive” link exchanges: While some level of reciprocal linking ("you link to me, I link to you") may be acceptable, excessive link exchanges aimed solely at link-building can raise red flags.
  • Overusing exact match anchor text: Overusing anchor text that matches the target keyword can seem unnatural and manipulative to search engines.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to backlinks, quality beats quantity. Building connections and crafting helpful content pays off in the long run. Using shortcuts and building spammy links, not so much.
So what would it be?
Looking to build quality links for your SaaS website? Read our SaaS Link-Building Guide for helpful tips, tricks, and strategies.
Or learn how to boost your site’s DA using the Tiered Link-Building Strategy.

Written by

 Divya Mathur
Divya Mathur

Senior Content marketer at Smartlinks.ai and Smarttask.io. Passionate about B2B SaaS and Artificial Intelligence. I’ve been in the content space for over 6 years and have first-hand experience in how On-Page and Off-Page SEO affect a site's traffic. These articles enable me to share my learnings and help you achieve better search results.