The Beginner’s Guide to Backlinks | Squarebird

The Beginner’s Guide to Backlinks

Backlinks have been one of the many pieces in the toolbox of SEO experts and growing online businesses for as long as search engines have crawled and indexed websites. In the past, they were of great importance, but what is the relevance of backlinks now?

To answer that question, the SEO team at Squarebird are here to tell you what backlinks are, how to tell good backlinks from bad, methods to grow your backlink portfolio, and where backlinks sit in the world of SEO and content marketing.

Get in touch today to grow your SEO efforts, even beyond backlinks.

“Like with buying a house, backlinks are all about location, location, location. Having them in a relevant, high authority places will make them have the most value. Businesses don’t have to invest too much in finding places to put backlinks – they tend to come organically, and natural backlinks are usually the best ones.” – Will Shelton, Projects Executive

What are backlinks?

Simply put, backlinks are links on other websites which point back to your own one. Like having your business listed in the Yellow Pages, it’s a way of telling people where to find you and what you’re about.

Is it really that simple? Well, yes and no. While any and all links that point to your site are backlinks, they can be broken down into different categories defined by pieces of code known as attributes.

Attributes tell search engines what type of backlink a given link is, changing the properties and effect of the link on your authority depending on which is assigned. Types of attributes include:

  • Do-follow. Also known more plainly as follow, this type of link can be seen as the most lucrative since it passes on the domain authority of the site its linking from. However, in the case of “toxic backlinks” where the domain is either untrustworthy or unrelated to your business, these types of links could end up harming you in the wrong situation.
  • No-follow. The opposite to follow links, no-follow backlinks don’t send authority from the site they’re on.
  • Paid. This is any link designated as an ad. This can be helpful for tracking your paid traffic versus your organic traffic.
  • User-generated. On forums, comment sections, and other places featuring user-generated content, backlinks will typically be registered as user-generated and have the same properties as a no-follow link. This is useful as it is hard to regulate the context and locations in which these links appear.


The benefits of backlinks

Depending on which type of backlink you have, you can gain benefits like increased page or domain authority and an influx of organic traffic. There are also other benefits that most backlinks offer, including:

  • Easier site discovery by users and search engines
  • New traffic sources to feed people to your website
  • Making more connections
  • Building a greater understanding of your website
  • Increasing awareness of your business for customers on sites of reputable partners
  • Follow links from good, high-quality websites can help improve the ranking of your own

What makes a good backlink?

Determining whether a backlink is high-quality or low-quality depends on a variety of factors. Understanding which your link is will let you know how to categorise it, or whether to expunge it entirely.

To help you find out whether or not your backlinks are good, you can follow the CALF analogy:

  • C – Context. What does the link say, and what’s surrounding it? A good link indicates what the user will see when they click on it – such as a business name, or a sentence about a service. Ensure the link directs users to the most relevant page for the link text.
  • A – Attributes. This is largely about follow vs no-follow. Follow can be good, depending on the source, while no-follow allows you to direct traffic to your site without passing authority. In any case, high-quality backlinks from relevant sources will always be useful.
  • L – Location. There are two places you’ll want links the most – sites with high domain authority, or relevant links on reputable sites. Ideally, all your links would have both of these features. Without either, you’re better off not having the link!
  • F – Frequency. This is how many times a site links to you. For example, on a site where you guest blog, you might have a link on a personal profile and then more on posts you’ve directly written. While more isn’t necessarily better, it can help provide a consistent access point for potential users.


The different ‘hats’ of backlinks

Much as with SEO in general, there are three different ‘hats’ of backlink building: white hat, grey hat, and black hat.

  • White hat backlink building is the standard way businesses do, and should, build their backlinks. This includes outreach to relevant businesses and partners, guest-posting on authoritative websites, and organic links gained through normal business practices.
  • Grey hat is a “middle ground” which involves paying for backlinks. Google prohibits this, and can penalise sites suspected of engaging in this practise. Despite the allure of skipping the link building process and gaining a full portfolio of backlinks overnight, grey hat tactics should be avoided. Quality is vastly more important than quantity, and grey hat tactics will typically result in poor quality, toxic links, which can mean you’ve wasted your money.
  • Black hat tactics should always be avoided as they’re often illegal. They involve injecting links into sites without the owner’s consent, often exploiting backdoors in the site’s code.

If you want a high-quality backlink portfolio you can be proud of, stick to white hat tactics. However, there are plenty of effective methods you can use within that framework to grow the reach of your business.

Get in touch today to capitalise on white hat tactics for your digital marketing.

Link-building tactics to grow your backlink portfolio

Your link-building strategy should take a multi-faceted approach, using different approaches and channels to ensure you have the greatest overall view of prospective clients. The top five ways of building backlinks are:

  1. Asking sites to link back to you. If a related business seems like a good spot for your business to have a link, ask! You never know what might happen, and there are plenty of ways that a link can be mutually beneficial for both businesses.
  2. Add links on other websites. Normally this can only be done if you have access to the site, such as adding a signature in the footer of a website you’ve built. Other ways to do this could be through user-generated content, such as adding links to your website on LinkedIn posts.
  3. Guest posting. Although more involved than other methods, guest posting can be incredibly potent. Since there will be a huge amount of context surrounding the link you add (in the form of the blog you write), it will be easy for both Google and users to see what your business is about before even visiting your site.
  4. Being featured in an article. Much like guest posting, having a link to your site featured on someone else’s article can help direct interested users to your business.
  5. Entering a directory. This is a potentially less effective method as it is user-generated and often lacking in context but is worth considering for directories related to your business as it often doesn’t take much time or effort to build links in this way.

Within this framework, make sure to never pay for mass backlinks. As we’ve discussed already, these harm your business more than help it, so they should be avoided at all costs (or, in this case, you’re avoiding a cost as well!).


How many backlinks should I have?

here is no “one size fits all” for backlink building, just as there is no limit to the amount you should be getting. The real factors for backlink build-rate are size, age, and reputation; the older, bigger, and more reputable the business, the easier they’ll find it to build links and the more they’ll have when compared to newer sites.

Growing organically is always the main solution. Just by engaging in business as usual, you’ll see your backlink portfolio build steadily over time. Always focus on quality over quantity, as bad backlinks from bulk purchases harm your site.

The best links lead to relevant, optimised pages – build yours today with SEO services from Squarebird > 

How do backlinks relate to content marketing and SEO?

The main way that backlinks and content interact is through context.

If you opened a business, you’d want signs around your town telling people where you are. It’s the same online – having descriptive backlinks that accurately show off your business will make it easier for people that want to find you to do so.

By showing what the user should expect to see through literally writing what the page is about as the link text, you can improve you SEO as people and search engines will know exactly what they’re clicking to – reducing bounce rate and improving understanding of your website.

Backlink and content analysis. With backlinks, you can measure where your users are coming from, and where they most often end up. This is great because it can inform your marketing strategy. By putting resources towards successful areas, or shoring up weak points, you’ll be able to expand your catalogue of useful links.


How useful are backlinks?

Overall, backlinks are on the decline. They just aren’t as important as they used to be. More updates to the Google algorithms mean they don’t help with your authority as much.

However, they are still a good way to get traffic – impressing the importance of quality over quantity, informed backlink strategies, and giving context to get people to your site. Being seen where your audience is will help funnel them back to your website.

At the end of the day, having backlinks won’t fix poor content. The only way to do great things with a website is to have quality, informative content that users want to read.

Find out ways we can help improve your website content and marketing efforts > 

Comprehensive SEO support from Squarebird

Now you know everything there is about backlinks! From where you want them, to the ideal context surrounding them. Even though they aren’t the powerful force they once were, by supporting them with other marketing tactics and good foundational SEO, you’ll soon see results.

Get in touch today to find out how Squarebird can help improve and inform your SEO efforts, or read on with some related articles to discover more about what we do!

Find out more about SEO with our guide to local SEO for businesses > 

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