Quick Guide: What are backlinks?

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Quick Guides are a collection of short and brief articles designed to impart information as efficiently as possible. You won’t find in-depth or complex pieces here, just the information that you need to know. 

Within the wild and forever changing world of SEO, there is one thing that still remains king — backlinks. They are — and probably will be forever — the easiest way for Google to deduce how trustworthy and authoritative a website is. 

But how important are they? How do you get them? Are they worth the effort? How expensive are they? Can you get backlinks for free? These are the questions webmasters, brand owners and even many SEOs are still asking in 2020. 

So, without further ado, let’s try and answer a few of those questions. 

SEO and Backlinks: What is a backlink?

Backlinks are links that point (link to) your website from other websites. For a ‘link’ to be a ‘backlink’ it has to send a user from the website they were browsing to a completely different website. 

A link from one page to another on the same website (or domain) is an internal link.

 

Internal Link

Backlink

An internal link is a link between two pages on the same website / domain.

A backlink is a link between two pages on separate websites. 

How important are backlinks in 2020?

Understanding how backlinks work requires knowing about how search engines work — but we guess you wouldn’t be asking this question if you did. So, to keep things brief for now, backlinks are still very important in 2020 — although others may tell you otherwise.

Google believes (in a very, very, general sense) that the amount of backlinks your website has indicates quality; that the more websites that link to your website, the better the content on your website must be, right?

Confused? No problem, just think of backlinks like handshakes. Take this scenario as an example:

1) You walk into a conference hall, head to your stand, and start talking.

2) Over the course of your talk a few people start to congregate around your stand. At the end of your speech they applaud and shake your hand.

3) Due to the large group around your stand, applauding and shaking your hand, other individuals at the conference now start to think: ‘Who is this guy, maybe we should check him out also?’. 

4) Soon, another five come over and check out what you have to say. Enjoying what they hear, at the end of your second talk, they again applaud and shake your hand out of respect, prompting other people to come over. 

5) Thus, it continues. 

Now, replace ‘you’ with your website and the ‘conference’ with the internet and the ‘handshakes’ with backlinks and you’ve pretty much got a working example of how Google applies value to websites. 

Of course, not all backlinks are equal — if your website’s backlinks come primarily  from “bad websites” (what makes a website ‘bad’ is another topic in itself), Google will deduce that your website is of a similar quality. Much like if the only people your stand attracts are criminals… legitimate people are likely to avoid your stand altogether. (Think of ‘criminals’ as porn, Viagra, cialis and spammy websites in this example).

And so to summarise, yes backlinks are still very (if not the most important) aspect of SEO.

How do you get backlinks to your website?

Getting backlinks can seem like an impossible task. But, if you have the money, it can be pretty simple.

Google says that backlinks should be generated organically through creating kick-ass content. Generally this isn’t the case.

Most individuals or organisations who make money from websites will just pay for them. This means approaching a webmaster and asking them to host an article on their website which contains a link to your website. There is a monetary exchange involved in this process.

Google, of course, attempts to penalise any webmaster doing this (and we don’t recommend it, unless of course you’re good at it), but due to the scale of the internet and the amount of link selling that goes on, it’s practically impossible to catch everybody.

Of course, there are other ways which you can naturally generate backlinks: infographics; broken-link hunting; creating high-quality content; PBNs (very naughty). 

The aforementioned tactics take a lot of effort and the allure of simply paying a webmaster to host an article is often too difficult to resist (especially for companies with big budgets in competitive niches). Thus, the majority of backlinks pointing towards affiliate websites will be built.

Black Hat SEO

White Hat SEO

“Black hat” is a term used by SEO professionals to describe the ‘bad’ way of generating backlinks to your site. This includes paying webmasters to host articles (link-building) or creating a network of websites yourself (PBN – ‘Private Blog Network) with the intention of linking to your own sites (money sites). Google doesn’t like this. Google will punish you if they find out.

“White hat” on the other hand is the term to desctibe performing marketing and content activities to generate backlinks, and is the way Google wants you to operate as a webmaster. The way to naturally generate links is to create compelling, informative and high-quality content which users will naturally want to engage with and, hopefully, share.  

And that’s that. Now, go and get yourself some backlinks. 

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