What Are Backlinks And Why Are They So Important? A Short Guide

02 July 2021

Posted in: SEO

SEOs and digital marketers often look at backlinks when reviewing the performance of a website in the SERPs. And rightly so—links remain a key ranking factor, showing search engines that your site is worthy, both of being linked to and of a place in the SERPs.

But what exactly are backlinks, and why do they matter?

I’m Tilly, Campaign Executive at Seeker Digital, and in this blog, I explain just this, showing how and why they are essential to the overall performance and authority of your website. 

What are backlinks? 

Simply put, backlinks (or inbound links) are links from one website to another. 

Backlinks can come from any page on a website, and can come from a variety of sources. These range from simple anchor links within a blog post or landing page, to images or banner ads on a homepage.

Whilst these links are just one of many elements within the SEO sphere, they hold a lot of power, and are one of the top ranking factors for search engines alongside other elements such as page speed and topical authority.

Indeed, a study by Ahrefs found that the more backlinks a page has, the more organic traffic it receives from search engines. And Google’s own Gary Ilyes confirmed this back in 2017, reiterating that links remain one of the most crucial ranking factors.

In short, links are essential as part of your overall SEO strategy.

Why are backlinks important?

Imagine you’re looking for a new car garage. You might ask your friends, colleagues, neighbours, or people on social media for advice about the best local garage. Those that are recommended often have more influence because people trust them and are giving them their vote of approval.

Backlinks work in a similar way. Google and other search engines look at backlinks as ‘votes’ from a site for another specific page/site. A backlink from a site, particularly one with authority, tells Google that this content is valuable, useful, and provides genuine information to the user.

Sites with a good backlink profile, one built with quality and not quantity in mind, are more likely to appear in the SERPs, and tend to have higher organic search rankings. 

Of course, it’s never as easy as simply building a load of links.

Not all links are equal, and one good quality link can provide more value than ten links of low value.

A good backlink profile is rich and diverse, spanning links from niche industry publications, local links (particularly for businesses with a brick and mortar presence), large, authoritative sites with high traffic, as well as smaller websites with less traffic.

While volume is important, relevance and quality are just as crucial too. In fact, there is a whole range of factors to consider when building links: where those links are built, how they appear on the page, the anchor text and annotation text, the speed at which those links are built (link velocity), their relevance to your website and niche—the list is virtually endless.

In short, good link building requires care, tact, planning, and nuance, and this is what Seeker specialises in. We’ve built thousands of links in unique campaigns that are tailored to our client’s specific goals and needs—no two campaigns are the same.

Links and E-A-T

I mentioned above that links help communicate a site’s authority to search engines.

This ties into expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (E-A-T), three standards used by Google’s search quality raters to determine high-quality content.

Backlinks from reputable websites with strong metrics indicate to Google that your website is authoritative. In the same way, backlinks from poor sites with thin content and low metrics show the opposite—so be cautious with where you’re getting your links from.

Relevance is important here too. When you obtain backlinks from relevant websites that complement your niche, that strengthens your site’s authority in Google’s eyes.

Part of the reason for this lies in Google’s Reasonable Surfer model. Replacing the original Random Surfer model, this ensures links with relevant anchor text pass on value to the linked page. This graphic from Moz explains it simply:

Image Moz

Beyond anchor text, it also follows that a link couched in relevant context reinforces that relevant value too.

If you own a restaurant website, for instance, and get links from reputable food review blogs or online cooking publications, that relevant authority is passed onto your site too.

Of course, building links takes time, effort, and no small amount of expertise—but it’s what we do best at Seeker. Learn how you can benefit from our link building services here.

Why showing the value of links matters

Links are one of the most important ranking factors that Google considers.

But for those unfamiliar with links, their worth can be undervalued or oversimplified. Brands can sometimes fail to see the value in link building, particularly when compared to other more tangible services, such as PPC and onpage SEO.

But links matter. If your clients or internal stakeholders don’t understand them, you do them a disservice. They might be reluctant to invest in links which, in turn, will drag down their overall SEO efforts (not to mention make your job as an SEO harder!).

Thankfully, it is possible to communicate the value of links and their successes in a tangible, accessible way. With tools, reports, and clear data, you can help the people that matter understand why links matter.

Let’s say you’re an SEO manager, for instance, and you’re looking to get buy-in from your marketing director to invest in links. Vague talk about coverage or awareness won’t cut it when you’re seeking financial investment in links.

But what will convince them is clear, hard data about the potential of link wins. By using dedicated SEO tools, you can create growth forecasts that clearly outline the expected benefits from your links: conversions, traffic, sales, and so on. This is what gets buy-in, whether it’s internally or from a client: hard data backed by tools.

Fancy finding out how you can show the real value of links to clients or stakeholders within a business?

I’ll be explaining how you can do exactly that in my debut BrightonSEO talk, Love The Way You Link: How To Communicate Link Value To Clients & Stakeholders, on 22nd July. With tips and insights on using tools to celebrate the successes of your links, it’s essential viewing for anyone building links for SEO.

Interested? Get your tickets here.

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