what are backlinks

Simply put, a backlink is simply a link from another site that leads back to yours.

Backlinks are points. It’s an up vote for your site. Not a huge one, but a point nonetheless. The more high regarded the source, the better the point.

Getting your website up the ranks – what is a backlink?

Google takes a look at this link and all the others and analyses the page on your website that they are pointed at. These are judged on a number of criteria.


  • Is the content relevant between the two?
  • Have you linked your web design company to a website that promotes or discusses web design?
  • Is the site that links back to you highly regarded?
  • How much traffic does that website get on a regular basis?
  • Does the content on that site employ shady SEO tactics or not?

A good example of a trusted site that’s well worth a link from would be a news site. Think BBC or The Independent. This is a golden link, because of a few factors:

  • Age – a long standing domain name is great, because Google knows it’s not about to up and go, or suddenly turn into a used car sales website.
  • Lots of incoming and outgoing traffic of topical content.

Pagerank is not the only metric

Only a year or two ago, Pagerank was everything. It was a totalling up by Google of mostly backlink points, and led to higher rankings. Not any more; there are a number of other factors now in play, particularly after the upgrade of December 2014.

  • Social signals – Twitter retweets and likesSite content – is it genuinely useful and relevant?
  • Loading speed of the page.
  • A low bounce rate – visitors are looking at other pages on your site and not ‘bouncing away’ from the initial page.
  • The amount of traffic.

Reciprocal Backlinking

Reciprocal backlinking is two websites pointing at each other – A links B who links back. This is spammy and will get picked up on. A handful of these aren’t going to do you any harm, but a backlink portfolio of them is going to sink your web ship. This used to be a very common tactic that required very little effort.

Follow vs no-follow links

A follow link passes the Google love and ‘points’ to your website. Call it link juice; the vote is there. No-follow links pass none of this – they are the end link in the chain, and pass none of that love over. Now, you’d think that this is a bad thing, but far from it.

  • A popular blog or article is going to get clicked on and traffic will come your way whatever.
  • If all your back links are ‘follow’ it looks hideously managed, cynical and false to Google. You may well be penalised.
  • Leads – a person visiting your site who’s looking for a knowledgeable person (you!) to perform a job doesn’t care about link types.

Variety Of Backlinks

Google wants a natural, organic pattern to your back link strategy. Keep this in mind: are you paying someone to do this for you? Are they ‘spinning articles’, are they generating them in their thousands? Are they mixing things up and using a variety of sources? Do NOT violate webmaster guidelines.

If you’re looking to fix previous mistakes of this nature, get some no-follow links set on these articles. Other than insisting all these links are removed, your only course of action is this, followed by a reconsideration request.


What are backlinks? Backlinks are vital for a website’s ranking success. A variety of different sources and link types is crucial. Don’t rely on any one method. Concentrate on a variety of different backlink methods; be organic and natural. Try everything! If a link’s hard to get, it’s most likely the one you want.

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