Backlinks Defined – What is a Backlink?

by | Backlinks, Glossary, SEO

What is a Link?

You are obviously familiar with website links (or more technically, hyperlinks). You may have even followed a link to this web page.

Every web page has a specific address called a URL (Uniform Resource Locator), and links, such as a line of text, reference these URLs to display the web page content.

Simply put, a link uses a website’s URL to direct a visitor to that location to view content.

To an affiliate marketer, links are not simply links, and sometimes they have specific and important implications when working with websites and online assets. This is the case when dealing with backlinks.

Link Example: This is a link to SirLinksalot.co’s homepage.

What is a Backlink?

Feeling a little confused?

A backlink, or inbound link, is a hyperlink from some other web source (i.e. a referring domain) to your website. It is a link that refers a website visitor to one of your web pages.

The process of linking incoming traffic to your domain generates these valuable tools called backlinks and signals a vote of confidence for your website to search engines like Google.

Your website can receive any number of backlinks from one or more referring domains. Typically, your domain receives backlinks from other sources if they consider your content to be relevant, credible, or useful.

You want your domain to have linkable assets such as relevant blog posts, videos, and pictures that people want to view and are part of why backlinks are important.

Backlink Example: This is a backlink to NickAltimore.com.

Why are Backlinks Important?

Backlinks are important for web page visitors, search engines, and affiliate marketers.

For visitors, they provide a reference to other useful and relevant information about a subject or product of interest. A simple example is a consumer shopping for electronics and clicking on a link to a relevant online retailer.

For search engines, backlinks are used to determine a website’s authority and ranking.

Finally, marketers need high-quality backlinks to improve their web page rankings in search engines and send traffic to their sites.

A strong, high-quality backlink acts as a conduit for passing on authority to your site which will improve your site’s search ranking. The more of these high-quality backlinks that your domain attracts the better, and collectively they form your backlink profile

Check out our article on link building benefits for more information.

The Strength of Backlink Profiles and Ranking Factors

Grow your backlink profile with guest blogging.

As previously mentioned, links are not simply links, and backlinks are not always created equal. A single high-quality backlink can be more valuable than 100 poor-quality backlinks.

Remember, behind every backlink is a referring domain, and that domain may be more or less useful to your site. The criteria that quantify the quality of a link is difficult, but we have several measures for that.

You can view our full article on what makes a quality backlink.

Instead of a single backlink, your domain will most likely have a variety of backlinks called a link profile. This is a list of all the backlinks pointing to your site, and it’s an important factor in how search engines determine the authority of your site.

Just as big, trusted websites have tons of other websites linking to them (each with their own backlink profiles), your website needs to accumulate a strong and diverse set of inbound links that pass their authority to your domain to help it rank higher.

Your link profile should consist of a variety of high-quality backlinks from popular and trusted web sources. Let’s dive a bit deeper into some of the determining factors of high-quality backlinks and how they improve the ranking of your sites.

Trust and Authority – Backlinks are strong if they originate from high-ranking web sources that search engines have determined to have high authority because they are trusted by many people (and websites). This authority gets “passed on” to your domain.

Relevance – A link can be very good for you if it is highly relevant. That means it’s coming from a domain or page that is topically related to your site/page.

Power – While trust and authority deal with the total link profile and trust of an entire domain, power applies the same concept to a single URL on that domain. The better the link profile of a single page, the better the a link coming from it is.

Type of Referring Domain – Some domains are more valuable than others and simply look better to search engines. For example, news domains (which have high authority) tend to link to high-ranking websites because news sites want to link to relevant, high-quality content that show up in search engine results pages. Other types of domains like government and educational institutions are just naturally more authoritative than others, at least to search engines like Google since a random person cannot gain access to them.

Link Diversity and Quantity – A link profile consisting of a wide variety of sources is always better than just a few, all else being equal. This is what’s natural fo real sites, so this is what you should aim for as well. Sites with more backlinks tend to rank higher (assuming they are quality links).

Anchor Text and Keywords – Anchors are the actual words that are highlighted and that you click on when clicking a link. These help search algorithms understand more about what the article being linked to is about. Keyword-rich anchor texts indicate the relevance of your web content, but they must also be used carefully as not to over-optimize your anchor profile.

Backlinks and SEO

Building high-quality link profiles is one of the hardest and most important aspects of SEO.

The process of link building involves acquiring backlinks from the best and most relevant web sources possible.

Because SEO is about increasing the search rankings of web pages and ranking is partly due to what kind of links point to a web page, you can see how there is a crucial relationship between SEO and backlinks.

There are many techniques that SEO specialists utilize in link building, and these techniques are more successful if you understand what search algorithms are looking for. However, there are a few caveats that every marketer needs to know when building links.

Firstly, make sure your backlinks seem natural. Be careful with things like anchor ratios, spammy domains, and how natural your overall link profile is. As building links for the purpose of ranking is technically against Google’s TOS, you have to be sure to abide by backlinking best practices.

Remember, backlinks are an important part of SEO because they build your domain/page authority/relevance which improves the search ranking of your web pages. It is generally understood that the volume and quality of your backlink profile makes a significant difference in how your pages rank with search engines.

Finally, it is important to monitor the health of your backlink profile. Keep track of how many backlinks your domains are accumulating, where they are coming from, and whether the links are healthy and relevant.

Contributing Author: Brian Kihneman

Nicholas Altimore

Nicholas Altimore


Nicholas Altimore is the Founder and Director of SirLinksalot.co. He has an extensive SEO resume that spans agency building, affiliate and e-commerce development, and of course linkbuilding.  He looks forward to bringing SEO's informative resources on how to rank websites world wide.

Nicholas Altimore

Nicholas Altimore


Nicholas Altimore is the Founder and Director of SirLinksalot.co. He has an extensive SEO resume that spans agency building, affiliate and e-commerce development, and of course linkbuilding.  He looks forward to bringing SEO's informative resources on how to rank websites world wide.

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  1. Kasper

    What is your opinion on including backlinks in comments? I know this is kinda spammy but if you did it right, I wonder if it would help at all?

    • Nick Altimore

      It makes sense for a webmaster to be commenting on another persons blog, so we have no problem doing it as well. Main points to consider are that you make things look natural.
      They typically should only link back to a homepage, and be branded, naked, or generic. Also consider about link velocity and what would be natural to your money site. Though they are typically nofollow links they can definitely help diversify your link profile and even add some relevance.

  2. Steve Chen

    do u think there are any backlinking services that are decent on fiverr or seoclerks? have been wanting to try some but im scared of getting penalized via google. thx.

    • Nick Altimore

      There are definitely good vendors on a lot of those networks. The issue is being able to try enough of them without risk of penalty before finding people that do quality work. We always recommend testing products from any new vendor on test sites before putting a money site at risk.

  3. Stacy

    I need to look at my backlink profile, it’s been a while…. it’s something I easily forget about!

  4. L. A. Franc

    I was going to buy a bunch of backlinks but I think I will be patient and get them slowly, I don’t want Google to mark my site as spam, but at the same time, I want my site ranked soon.

    • Chris Tzitzis

      The line between what’s “too fast” and what’s just fine for building links is a little blurry.

      Take into account your site’s current amount of backlinks and base your building off that.

      For example, a site with only 50 RD probably won’t want to start getting 20 links per week. However if you’ve already got 500 RD, you can build a lot quicker.

  5. Kinsley

    There is a lot to SEO, but I would say backlinks are KING for sure. So much to learn still, but I hope to master SEO oneday like you guys 🙂

    • Chris Tzitzis

      Definitely would agree with this – backlinks are king… content is queen 😉

  6. Ryan

    Could having back links from a poor status site harm your site’s ranking in any way?

    • Chris Tzitzis

      They can, however getting links from spammy/low quality sites isn’t as bad as most people think. If your site isn’t brand new with little to no links, it would take a pretty large amount of these toxic links to do any harm in most cases. If it was just as easy as sending a few toxic links to websites to hurt their rankings, it would be way too easy to take competitors down… and Google’s algorithm accounts for this.

  7. Leonard

    Thanks for going more in depth on backlinks, I’ve certainly learned some new things. For those starting out they probably think any backlink is decent.

  8. Eva

    I need to know what the status of my backlink profile even is. I have never looked! 😱 This is just another piece of the puzzle for me to get my SEO in gear!


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