What Are Backlinks in SEO And Why do they matter?

Internal And External Backlinks and their importance for SEO

think of Backlinks as the Juice that runs Google

If you are reading this article, you might have your own website, or manage someone else’s… And have been interested in Backlinks — and wondering: “What are backlinks”, “Why are they important”, and maybe even “How do I get more”.

Backlinks: Simplified

  • External Backlinks are links outside of your domain, which point back to your own domain.

  • Internal Backlinks are links within your site.

  • “NoFollow” backlinks are links that search engine bots are instructed not to follow. Typically easy to obtain links (such as social or forum posts) will be NoFollow.

  • “DoFollow” backlinks are the default setting for most hyperlinks. These are the good links.

  • Anchor Text. This is the link text that sits above the backlink. i.e. Melbourne’s Best Commercial Photographer, should pass on a DoFollow link along with the content that Glenn Hester is a mighty fine photographer.

External Backlinks

Earning external backlinks can take a bit of time. Unfortunately, there is no ‘snap of the fingers’ technique to accumulate genuine external backlinks. You can however pay for them, however, Google frowns upon this practice, despite its effectiveness.

They are valuable for SEO because they essentially represent a ‘vote of confidence’ from an external site, which helps Google confirm your own genuineness (if the link comes from another genuine source of course - more about this later), this means you have to reach out to a website who is happy to represent yours, for example, this could be a customer who had a good experience working with you.

You may be wondering “how many external backlinks do I need?”, and there is no correct answer to this question, however, there are some approaches:

How Can I Measure my Backlinks?

  1. Complete a competitive backlinks analysis - Ahrefs  and Moz can do this.

    a) This will allow you to understand how many backlinks competitors have and provide a rough number to aim for.

  2. Go for quality not quantity

    a) Your ranking will be better off by having less backlinks from other domains that are of better quality- i.e don’t be a link farmer.

  3. Therefore, take #1 with a grain of salt.

    a) Maybe your competitors have a lot of backlinks, but not good ones, however performing an audit with Ahrefs is a great way to find this out (hint: use CTLDs distribution to work out your own and competitors external backlink quality).

There is a rich quantity of information regarding external backlinks, if you want to learn more, moz.com has some fantastic information on the topic (this is an example of an external backlink for Moz).

Alternatively, please complete your details to obtain a free site audit with page authority and backlinks analysis.

Internal backlinks

Internal backlinking does not improve SEO as much as external backlinking, however, they also require a lot less effort on your part. Internal backlinking simply refers to links within your own domain such as linking this blog to ‘Leaning SEO - one Site at a Time’ (this is an example of an internal backlink).

Internal backlinks are less effort, for less return - don’t be expecting miracles to happen by implementing them, however, every little bit counts and you should always be trying to optimise your SEO as best you can.

Much like external backlinking, there is no correct number of internal backlinks you should have per page, however, only link what you believe to be necessary and relevant, don’t go overboard, as this will ultimately reduce a user’s experience, and Google’s.

Are Internal Backlinks worth doing?

Although internal backlinks are not weighted as much for SEO as external backlinks, they improve a page’s ability to get crawled and therefore ranked by Google. By linking internal pages together, you’re letting Google know that the page linked is also important, and therefore it will get a little more ranking authority. Importantly, they also help people flow through your site — so while there’s no ‘hard and fast rule’ about having backlinks on your site, the soft rule is obviously tied to “make it a useful and engaging experience” for your site visitors.

What Is Domain Authority?

Domain authority is a score from 1 - 100, which can be calculated by sites such as Ahrefs or Moz, and predicts how well your website will rank on search engines such as Google. There are several factors which influence your domain authority, one being external backlinks - the greater the quantity of quality external backlinks, the higher your domain authority will be. Sites such as Wikipedia or Google.com are at the top end of the domain authority scale, whereas websites with fewer inbound (external) links are at the lower end.

If you’re wanting to better understand the quality of your backlinks, the key is to understand how domains that link to you break down in terms of their domain authority (you can use Moz for this), the higher the authority of your backlinking domains, the better your quality of backlinks.

For example, let’s say you 10 backlinks to your site. If 9/10 domains backlinking to your website had a domain authority of 10/100, this would, in turn, result in you having a lower domain ranking. By comparison, if the same 9/10 domains backlinking to your website had a domain authority of 30/100, then you would in turn also have a better domain authority.


It’s all about context

It is important to remember that domain authority is a comparative metric, so, if your website has a ‘low’ domain authority, don’t take it to heart - because your competitors probably do as well, as you are being compared to much bigger domains. Use domain authority as a guide, and consider increasing external backlinks to improve your domain authority.

Most important point

Backlinking is one of the most important component of SEO and should never be overlooked.

Although time-consuming — if done right, it will help to improve your websites Google ranking authority and site traffic.