Backlink Types for SEO

by | Backlinks, Guide, SEO

Backlinks are some of the most important (if not the most important) factors in how sites get ranked in search engines like Google.

Every high-ranking web page typically has an assortment of high-quality incoming links, and there is a substantial correlation between the amount of good links a site has pointing to it and its exposure in search engines.

A good way to boost your web page’s rankings is to focus on getting a variety of quality backlinks (known as link diversification). But not all backlinks are created equal, and building an optimal backlink profile will take a concerted effort to plan and execute.

There are many different types of backlinks that can be acquired from a multitude of sources. Learning what types of links exist, how they can be used, and how many you should acquire are necessary tasks for any SEO who takes their job seriously.

Because of this, we’ve put together this exhaustive list of the types of backlinks you can acquire to help boost your rankings. We’ll start with some general link categories before diving into the specific link types.

NoFollow Links

In the 1990’s to early 2000’s people realized that it was easy to create a bunch of backlinks by spamming comments with links on blogs. To curb the gaming of search engines with this technique, developers created the nofollow hyperlink attribute.

Example of the html code for a nofollow link.

This can be added into the HTML code of a hyperlink to indicate that the destination of the link shouldn’t be given any additional weight or ranking by the search engines.

Search Engines like Google claim that nofollow links are ignored by things like Google’s Page Rank, but no one knows for sure.

Nofollow links won’t be worth as much to you as dofollow links, but all of our data shows that sites ranking well in the SERPs have a healthy balance between nofollow/dofollow links (making them essential for appearing natural).

DoFollow Links

Dofollow is the default characteristic of most hyperlinks. A backlink doesn’t need any specific code added for it to be dofollow.

Dofollow links count towards search engine ranking and are thus preferable for link building efforts under most circumstances. But as stated above, remember that it’s natural for a site to have a healthy amount of both dofollow and nofollow links.

Pillow Links

Pillow links are backlinks that add diversity and naturalness to your profile. They don’t really provide raw ranking power unless your site is in a very low-competition niche – they provide insulation for your other link building efforts.

They should be used in the beginning and throughout the ranking process to provide a buffer for your site. There are many types of pillow links including citations, dofollow, social profiles, forum posts, and blog comments.

The various sorts of pillow links are usually free or easy to create for anyone who has the time to do so.

Authority Links

This is a little bit of a confusing term due to it being used differently across the community.

Here, we will be using it to refer to backlinks that provide the raw ranking power, authority, and relevance that can really push a site in the rankings.

Authority links are in contrast to pillow links and are almost always dofollow. Examples of this type of links are guest posts, PBNs, niche edits, and editorial links.

Contextual Links

A contextual link is a link that appears within a paragraph of text rather than on a menu, sidebar, widget, etc. Contextual links have the added benefit of drawing relevance from the information that surrounds them.

Examples of contextual links on our website.

When pursuing authority links, people will generally prefer contextual links over non-contextual links. A curated link is a prime example of a contextual authority backlink.

Guest Posts

A guest post is an agreement between a webmaster and an author where the author publishes an article on the webmaster’s blog – usually in exchange for getting a link on the blog post.

Guest posts can be either paid or free.

Guest posting can produce high-quality backlinks that can do a lot for your rankings as they are generally contextual, relevant, authority links.

One key is to have high quality content that the webmaster will see value in adding to their website.

Read more about finding guest post opportunities and guest blogging best practices to really step up your game.


PBN links are contextual, authority backlinks on the homepage (usually) of a blog owned for the sole purpose of manipulating search engines. These blogs are repurposed domains intended to pass as much power and link juice as possible to their targets.

Old domains with a rich backlink history are repurposed to provide money sites with homepage links that help them rank exponentially.

This link building strategy is seen by search engines as being manipulative because the blogs are designed only to pass power instead of providing useful information to visitors.

Proceed with caution when using this extremely potent ranking tool to avoid any trouble. Resources like our PBN checklist should be read and understood before proceeding.

Niche Edits

Niche edits, or curated links, are contextual links that are inserted into relevant, pre-existing articles. These authority links are very similar to guest posts with a few exceptions:

  • The articles are aged instead of new.
  • The articles may have pre-existing links going to them.
  • You only have control over your link rather than the full content piece.
  • They are generally cheaper than guest posts.

Being slightly different than guest posts due to their age and pre-existing link profiles, niche edits make a good tool to work in alongside your other links for diversity along with the standard mix of authority, relevance, and power that you would expect.

Editorial Links

Editorial links are another type of authority link that can be thought of in the same way as guest posts… but much harder to obtain (and more expensive as well).

Editorial links are backlinks associated with news publishing sites such as Forbes and Entrepreneur. Technically, editorial links come from trustworthy sources with very high authority.

But “editorial” simply means any article that is prepared or commissioned for publication, so editorial links are backlinks from authoritative websites created by writing and publishing relevant content.

Read more: Buy Editorial Links.

Blog Comments

Commenting on blogs is great way to diversify your link profile. However, they don’t necessarily create top-tier backlinks and are considered pillow links.

To get these links, you just comment on a blog post and leave your website in the details. Your link will usually use your name as the anchor text.

Example of a blog comment backlink.

 In the past, it was easy to spam blog comments to rank. As the Google algorithms change to detect spammy content, so do link building tactics. But it’s still perfectly natural for a webmaster to leave blog comments with their website attached to them.

Done sparingly and naturally, blog comment links are a great way to diversify your link and anchor profiles while adding relevance to your link profile.

Social Bookmarks

Social bookmarking sites are popular websites where users store content and share links to web pages. This is a type of pillow link that is very easy and natural to obtain.

Because these sites pool web sources that cover lots of shared interests, they are good platforms for submitting posts about your websites that will interest users.

Also, social bookmarking sites are a great way to get new sites/pages indexed (but can be seen as spammy if overdone).

Check out our huge list of social bookmarking sites for you to get links on.

Article Directories

Article directories used to be a big deal a while ago.

The idea was to write an article with a link and submit it to hundreds of article directories in the hope of publishers pulling it for their content sites.

Eventually, search algorithms began penalizing links associated with article directories and filtering out duplicate content over the web (since low-quality spam articles posted to article directories would proliferate across many locations) and article directories no longer have the credibility they once had.

Reciprocal Links (Link Exchanges)

Link exchanges involve two webmasters (or brands) trading backlinks with each other for mutual benefit.

It’s an agreement that seeks to vouch for each other’s content, show an affiliation between two sites, and offer visitor’s quick access to relevant information.

These can be useful but shouldn’t be overdone, either.

Pay-per-Click Ads (PPC)

This is an advertising model in which you bid for the right to place an ad with keywords in an auction, such as Google Ads.

When those keywords are entered in a search engine, then the highest bids on those keywords will have their ads displayed more prominently in the search results.

Example of a backlink from a PPC campaign.

 These ads technically have backlinks to your site, however they should be thought of very differently from other backlinks and do not carry the same weight.

Directory Links

Directory links are found in web directories which are online lists or catalogs of sites.

They are a good way to add pillow links and spread your brand naturally in specific target markets.

Since its natural for sites in any niche to be found in niche directories, it makes sense to use directory links in a link building campaign to diversify your backlink profile and add naturalness.

Forum Links

Forums are discussion sites where users post messages about various topics in a hierarchical structure. Backlinks from these online forums and message board sites are called forum links.

There are a few types of forum links depending on where they are placed on the site – ie: a profile page, in the signature section of a post, or directly in the main body of the posts throughout the discussion thread.

These links are also very natural to get for businesses, however like blog comments – you don’t want to spam these out. This link building method was also used and abused in the past.

Author Bio Links

Authors sometimes provide a short bio that accompanies their content piece when posting on a publication that is not their own.

The links they add in their profile are called author bio links.

Author of a link in an author bio.

 The links can point to more relevant content or to the homepage of the author’s main site or blog, especially if the author is a subject matter expert and wants to provide more information to the reader.

These links are basically guest posts without the benefit of being contextual (and sometimes will be nofollow). You will prefer guest posts links to not be in author bios when possible.

Social Signals

Social signals are social media metrics that signal popularity and affinity towards specific content. Views, shares, comments, likes and dislikes are examples of social signals on various platforms.

Example of a backlink from social media.

Link building with social signals is about enhancing trust and naturalness as it’s very natural for popular sites to be talked about and linked to from social media sources as well.

Social signals and links from social media are not counted in the same way as regular backlinks are towards your rankings, but they do serve their purpose.

Learn more about social signals here.

Auto-Generated Links

Auto-generated links refers to programs that automatically create backlinks for you across various websites (ex: GSA links).

This is generally though of as a low-quality link building scheme and a very spammy practice.

We do not recommend using this type of link unless you really know what you’re doing with them (chances are if you are reading this article – you don’t) as they will often end up getting sites penalized to where their Google ranking drops dramatically.

Press Releases

Press releases are official statements issued to news outlets that announce important events and share information on particular matters. These articles will have links back to your site.

Press releases can help you build backlinks quickly and naturally. And if news sites and other third-party sites notice your press release and share your links, then more power to you.

We recommend only using natural anchors with press releases – branded, generic, or URL. We also don’t recommend overusing them. These links are usually nofollow anyways, so they are more pillow links than authority links.

Widget and Sidebar Links

WordPress widgets are dynamic elements, or blocks of content, that you can place in the sidebar or footer of your site that allow you to add extra information. Some examples of widget content include posts, image galleries, Facebook like boxes, and links.

Sidebars are the sections on the side of blog posts that contain other links and information.

Examples of sidebar links on our site.

 Widget and sidebar links are generally non-contextual, but they can still do good work for you if they are coming from relevant or authoritative sites/articles.

These links also have the potential to be side-wide links. See the section below for more information.

Blogroll Links

A blogroll is a list of posts that a blogger has published, and a blogroll link is a link that appears in the preview text before it is cut off (unless the blog roll is displaying the full post – then it can be anywhere).

Most websites have blogrolls – simply meaning that they have a list of different articles published on the site. Most of your favorite news sites are examples of blogrolls.

To get a blogroll link, you would need to get a link in a blog post on the site and have the link appear near the beginning of the article as to appear in the preview text (or just anywhere in the article if they display full posts in the blogroll).

Infographics, Slideshows, Audio, and Video Links

Infographics, slideshows, audio and video sites all allow you to upload these various types of content to share with others. An example of a video site is Youtube.

Example of a link from an video site (Youtube).

You can get links on these sites by uploading content to the site (ie: uploading a video to Youtube), and then including a link to your site in the description.

Very popular pieces of content that can go viral and generate a ton of backlinks for you, but they are still useful even if they don’t. These websites are usually very trustworthy, and links from them make great pillow links.

Footer Links

Footer links are site-wide links placed in the footer section of a web page (the bottom).

Footer backlink examples.

These typically appear on every page of the website they are on since the footer is usually universal. This means that getting a footer link on a website could results in thousands of backlinks.

Evidence shows that the law of diminishing returns applies with getting links from domains, so every link past the first will not be worth as much to you.

Footer links are mostly non-contextual.


A redirect is a way to send visitors and search engine bots from one URL to another automatically.

The most common type, a 301 redirect, means the web address and its content has moved permanently to another location. 302 redirects are used for when content needs to be moved temporarily.

With 301 redirects, you can harness the power of the entire backlink profile of one domain or URL and redirect it to the new target.

When you 301 an entire domain to a new domain, you can think of it as sending all the links from the old domain to the new domain.

Site-Wide Links

Site-wide links are placed on most or all of a website’s pages. They can be placed in the header, body, footer, or sidebar of each page.

For example, an ad placed in the footer or a link in the sidebar of each page on the site could generate thousands of backlinks to your site if the linking site is fairly large.

See the above section out footer links for more information on site-wide links.

Resource Pages

Resource pages are web pages that display helpful resource links about a topic, product, or service.

They are meant to provide many additional resources (websites) for visitors to read when trying to learn about a particular topic.

You can generate backlinks from resource pages by reaching out to the webmasters and asking to be included.

Profile Links

This idea for profile links is very simple: create a profile on a website and include a link to one or several of your sites. You can create these profiles on social networking sites (ie: Facebook) as well as forums and other sites.

Example of profile links on Facebook.

For example, when you join a forum site devoted to restoring classic cars and post a link to your restoration garage in your profile page telling about yourself, this is a profile link.

These links are usually nofollow and non-contextual, but they make great pillow links.

Testimonials and Reviews

Businesses use testimonials and reviews to build trust with customers and learn how to improve products.

Testimonials are highly influential, so you can generate traffic by submitting genuine testimonials and reviews to companies (such as business partners or for products you’ve tried) that contain a backlink to your website.

Image Links

Image links are exactly that – images that link back to your site instead of the usual blue anchor text. You click the image to follow the link its target.

An example of image backlinks.

Web 2.0s

Web 2.0s are platforms in which users can create their own mini-web pages (usually for free).

You can think link out to whatever you’d like from your web page on their platform.

To learn more about Web 2.0s, check out our awesome Web 2.0 List or see our free backlinks article.


Citations allow users to list their name, address, and phone number (NAP) along with a website link to a web directory.

These are basically the same as regular niche directories except that they allow or require you to include your NAP.

Example of a site you can build citation links on.

 They make great pillow links for your domains because they’re natural, free, and add niche and location relevance depending on the directory listing.

Many SEOs only use citation links for local websites, however they can be used to pillow affiliate sites just as well.

Backlink Types Wrap-Up

Whew! That was quite the list.

It might be a lot to take in at first, but once you really wrap your head around it all it’s quite simple. Each type of link has it’s own uses as well as being able to benefit your link profiles by adding link diversity.

So whether you’re buying backlinks from a white label link building service or building them yourself, get out there and get to work!

You can also keep learning about the importance of backlinks from our article on how backlinks help with SEO.

If you have any questions, comments, or types of links you think should be added, comment below!

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. Matthew

    Is the nofollow something that gets added manually by the site owner? I’m confused on how nofollow links end up out there.

    • Nick Altimore

      Yes, this is something that a webmaster would dictate.

  2. Leonard

    I managed to get a backlink from an editorial site (it’s a small one, not well known) and it did help my ranking.

    • Chris Tzitzis

      Right on – sites don’t have to be the biggest, most well-known sites to benefit you a ton!

  3. Eva

    So is it safe to say that pillow links WILL help your ranking if your website is extremely niche?

    • Nick Altimore

      Yes, it still makes sense for sites in any niche to want to be found in things like business directories, or spoken about in comments, forums, and things of that nature.

  4. Elizabeth Leanza

    Very well written article explaining the breakdown of link types I was a victim of a bad seo in the I hired in the past that hit my site with a GSA blast with direct match anchors we are recovering from it slowly but its coming around. I look forward as business allows to hiring you guys in the future to do a managed link building campaign!

    • Chris Tzitzis

      Hey Elizabeth –

      Sorry to hear that, and we hope to hear from you in the future!


  5. John Wesley

    Thanks for detailed articles. Recently added about 500 backlinks from subdomain articles. It didn’t make any difference in DR or traffic. Are links from subdomains not counted as good links?

    Is there a way to check whether Google is blocking my site or not?

    • Chris Tzitzis

      Hey John – links from subdomains can be helpful, but generally you want to look at the power of the subdomain rather than the root domain. They are treated differently. As far as Google blocking your site, you can check Google Search Console to see if you have any manual penalties as well as making sure you don’t have your site set to “noindex” or “discourage bots from crawling my site” in your WordPress options.


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