What are Backlinks
Created September 14, 2022
Updated April 11, 2024
16 min read

What Are Backlinks (and How They Affect SEO)

If you’re looking to improve your search engine rankings, at some point you will need to focus on building backlinks to your website. 

They are a great way to improve your website traffic and visibility, because Google and other search engines use backlinks to determine your website’s authority. 

A backlink or return link is a digital marketing term for a regular link that points from another website (referrer website) to your website (referred website).

But in SEO (Search Engine Optimization) terms, the website that “sends” the user to your website “via the link” is also giving authority and relevance to your website.

For example, just a plain simple link would be the info that “Toyota cars are good”, a backlink would be if your neighbor telling you “Hey I got a Toyota car for x years, they are good”.

So, your neighbor in the previous example is giving authority and relevance to the bare information you had before.

Backlinks are important part of any SEO strategy, and they are essential to a successful link building strategy. 

They allow search engines like Google to recognize the authority of your content and rank it higher in its search results pages. 

This improved authority score will ultimately translate into better visibility for your website, leading to more traffic and a better conversion rate.

Backlinks can come from a variety of sources, including social media, blog posts, press releases, online directories, and more.

Building high-quality backlinks in SEO is an art form that requires research, planning, and time. 

To build effective backlinks, web marketers need to understand the interests of their audience as well as the strategies of their competitors. 

They also should be aware of the potential penalties that may result from using malicious or low-quality links.

Link building is the process of establishing relevant links (usually called backlinks) to a website from other (external) websites. 

Link building is not just limited to external links from other websites, internal links (linking two webpages of your own domain) can also give your SEO efforts a boost.

There are different terms for this practice: link building, netlinking or even link weaving, all these mean the same thing, the strategy of creating links.

Here are some of the most popular link building strategies:

  • Content Marketing: Consists of creating quality content in order to naturally receive links to your content.
  • E-mail link pitching: Consists of approaching site managers, in order to offer them links to your site that could be beneficial for their audience.
  • Replacement of broken links: Similar to email outreach, except that you have a specific approach by looking for broken links on other websites, in order to offer them a replacement with content similar to the broken links.
  • Public relations: Consists of getting the media to talk about you or your company, such as journalists, etc.

Link building helps search engines understand what the page contains and whether it is relevant to the user queries, or not. 

If that content turns up to be relevant the search engine gives your website a higher ranking. 

The more high-quality backlinks you have from good domains with good authority sources, the more trust and credibility you will gain with search engines. 

If the White House website places a link to your website it will immediately get more relevant. But if your friend who made his first blog post puts a link to your website, no one will even notice.

Search engines essentially view every backlink to your website as a vote of confidence for the content you have put out.

If a backlinks come from an official source it is automatically more authoritative. Authoritative links usually come from government bodies, official learning/research centers and established media. 

Backlinks from authoritative sources like the White House in the above example, will rank higher than from another site that is not authoritative.

Every time one website links to another website, the receiving website gets more backlinks, the higher their search engine page ranking will be. 

This will help customers to find the site easier when they use keywords related to the business and its products or services.

All backlinks are not created equal, some are better than others. Here are some examples of factors that cause the value of a link to vary.

Remember that:

 “Google only loves you when humans love you.”

If someone puts a link to your website that has nothing to do with your website’s business, the users will come and close down your website immediately and move to the next thing.

This will create a high Bounce rate, that is a rate of people that just come and spent a moment on your website before quitting it (like bouncing of something).

Google will use this to detect that this link has no relevance for humans coming from this URL.

For example, if your site sells online marketing courses, it will make no sense that in your content, you link to a site that sells dog accessories.

Referring Website Traffic

Let’s keep the example of a backlink from the White House website versus an unknown blogger’s new site.

The White House site definitely has more web traffic than the second one, naturally it will drive more visitors to your website if it is in a relevant place.

And, each visit to your website improves your positioning in search engines according to various factors such as time spent by users, actions taken, etc. 

Follow Versus Nofollow

The nofollow links are hypertext links with a rel=”nofollow” tag. 

They’re often used to link to a page where you don’t want to imply any type of endorsement, including authority transfer to another page.

Moreover, these links are not even registered by Google and other search engines as your SEO backlinks. 

So if you have nofollow backlinks to your website, you are not getting much relevance out of them.

However, they still bringing in traffic.

They look like this in HTML mode:

<a href="https://explicitwebsite.com" rel="nofollow">Explicit content</a>

Follow links, on the other hand, are hypertext links without additional ‘rel’ attributes, in other words, a “follow” link tells Google to convey trust and authority to the site it points to.

A “follow” backlink looks like this in HTML code:

<a href="https://oshara.ca">SEO Agency in Montreal</a>

The Anchor Text

The anchor text represents the clickable words that form a backlink.

Google has mentioned that anchor texts are one of the factors allowing them to improve the ranking of a website.

The clickable text in the above example is “SEO Agency in Montreal”

The location of the backlink on your website is very important.

If your website’s backlink is in a prominent place, in an article with good anchor text, it will get more visibility.

If it’s the footer of your website, or in a list with other 100 links then it won’t get the same traffic for you.

So good strategic positioning of backlinks is one of the most important link building strategies..

Authority of a Website

Web page authority (PA) is a score developed by Moz that predicts a specific page’s ranking in search engine results pages. (Moz.com)

The authority of a domain name (DA) or site is a search engine ranking score developed by Moz that predicts the likelihood of a website being ranked in search engine results pages. . (Moz.com)

In both cases, authority scores range from 1 to 100; higher scores corresponding to a higher probability of ranking.

Marketing analysis from moz.com and ahrefs.com shows a correlation between higher authority scores and search engine positions.

However, Google has clearly specified that their search engine does not use this factor to rank a website in search engines. 

This indicator therefore has nothing to do with Google’s algorithm and will not necessarily directly impact your website. 

That said, backlinks from stronger authority pages and domains don’t always transfer more authority.

This does not invalidate the results of the analyzes carried out, and these results are rather understandable, because basically this score makes it possible to compare several sites with each other according to different factors including the ranking on Google itself. 

It is therefore understandable that websites with many backlinks can provide better experience with websites with lesser number of backlinks. 

But these authority scores are good indicators to compare the authority of your website versus that of a competitor.

Types of Backlinks

As explained above, these links are the standard links and indicate to Google that all trust and authority may be transferred to the referred website. 

This is the most common type of link.

As explained above, these links tell Google not to transfer any trust or authority to the referrer, but they bring in visitors.

UGC links are links that have the attribute (rel=”UGC”), which signals to Google that the link is placed in user-generated or customer-generated content. 

This refers to comments, forum posts, or any other place on a website where users can add content.

UGSs are not preferable for organic traffic, but they help Google understand your visitors behavior, which helps your overall visibility and rating. 

UGC links and backlinks look like this:

<a href="https://carclubforum/best-car-thread" rel="ugc">Check out these forum comments.</a>

Sponsored links are used to indicate to Google that it is an affiliation, or advertising partnership.

Google wants to understand the content of your website, and everything associated with it, as best as possible. 

Earlier, the practice was to mark all paid or sponsored links as ‘nofollow’, but in 2019 Google decided to add the attribute (rel=“sponsored”) to allow them to collect more accurate data.

Although these links are still little used and Google still accepts nofollow links for the cause, it is highly recommended to use it to help Google better understand your website.

<a href="https://shoescompany.com" rel="sponsored">Check out these shoes! </a>

Here are some contacts that can give you a backlink:

  • Partners
  • Testimonials
  • Nonprofit organization
  • Bloggers
  • influencers
  • Press
  • Suppliers

In order to obtain quality backlinks, several link-building strategies exist. Here are some tips based on our experience:

How to get Backlinks

Write Relevant Content

This strategy is in my opinion the best way to generate backlinks. 

Even though it is the search engines that rank and decide the position of a website, it is human beings who read and benefit from your content. 

This practice consists of writing content so clear and relevant that it encourages web users who discover your content to share them naturally in their own content. 

It is therefore backlinks obtained organically or naturally.

This tip involves manually adding links to your site from other websites, such as submitting your site to business directories, leaving comments on blogs, or responding to discussion threads.

Email Outreach

Building relationships with other content creators and webmasters can help you get more backlinks.

This approach involves communicating with site owners, webmasters and publishers in order to get backlinks to your site. 

For this to work effectively, you need to be able to clearly and simply explain the importance of your site and the benefit of linking to your content.

One of the easiest ways to find an email address is to use an email finder tool. Just type in the name of a person and/or a website, and the tool will search for the relevant address for you.

This is a tactic that can be classified in a subcategory of email outreach. 

It is indeed about raising awareness by e-mail, with a specific approach. 

You should look for links that no longer work in other websites, in order to offer them a replacement with content similar to the broken links.

Write Guest Posts

This technique consists in proposing to other sites to write content for them. As with email outreach, you may need to use an email finder to find the email addresses of website owners you need to contact. 

Collaborating with other blogs can be beneficial for both parties. In general, sites that allow guest posts help each other out. 

In addition to earning backlinks, you can also benefit from exposure on the partner’s site and be discovered by their audience. 

However, make sure that it is a sensible partnership, which can be useful and beneficial for readers.

The Skyscraper Technique

It involves finding quality relevant content that gets lots of links, creating similar but much better content, and asking those who link to the original version to link to you if they like your content.

Unrelated Mentions

Simply involves searching for unlinked mentions of your brand, then asking the author to make the mention clickable.

Unlinked mentions are a type of online content that can be useful for promoting a brand. 

They are not necessarily tied to the company’s website, but they provide an opportunity to increase visibility and potential customers. 

By finding unrelated mentions of your brand and asking the author to make them clickable, you can increase your reach and grow your audience.

Finding these unrelated mentions can be done by simple searches on social media accounts or even Google Alerts

Once you have identified potential opportunities, you should contact the author and ask them to link to your website or a specific page on your website that is relevant to their message.

Publish Research

This tip is all about pitching your content to the press, so the media will use it. 

For these kinds of articles, you need to make sure you have as much detail as the press might be interested in linking to such an article. 

Good examples are the publication of research, or statistics, of course these must be accompanied by tangible evidence and sources.

This technique consists of analyzing the backlinks of your competitors and trying to get them from the same source. 

Of course, your content must be noticeably better for the referring website to backlink you.

Google Search Console for Your Backinks

Google Search Console is Google’s free tool that gives you insight into your traffic and overall performance. It allows you to see all the backlinks to your website.

Once you are connected, click on “Links” in the left menu.

Google Search Console Links Menu
Google Search Console Links Menu

Then you click on the links, the referring sites, the pages or even the anchor texts in order to have more details on them.

There are many powerful SEO tools that allow you to analyze the backlinks of any URL on the web. Here are a few : 

  • SEMrush Backlink Analytics Tool

1. Once connected, in the left menu click on the ‘Backlink Analytics’ menu 

2. Enter the URL address of the website for which you want to analyze the backlinks

SEMrush Backlink Analytics
SEMrush Backlink Analytics

3. Then click on the “Backlinks” tab in order to view different details 

Backlinks Details
Backlinks details

4. Further down the page you can see the details of the backlinks and export them

Backlinks that go to our website
Backlinks that go to our website
  • Ahrefs Backlink Checker Tool

The Backlink checker tool has a free version to get you started on your website backlinks analysis.

Ahref's Backlink Checker
Ahrefs Backlink Checker

Once you enter the URL of the website you will get results similar to this.

The backlink profile of a link
The backlink profile of a link

There are plenty of other tools important for SEO that allow you to check backlinks such as: 

  • Moz’s Link explorer tool
  • Ubersuggest
  • SEObility

It’s good to get backlinks, but it’s equally important to check and fix toxic backlinks, because Google might think you’re trying to use questionable organic SEO techniques (Black Hat SEO), and this could negatively impact your online positioning.


When it comes to backlink building, you can never do too much. It is important to have a wide range of backlinks to your website. 

Your link building strategy should be a mix of low-quality links, like directory links, and high-quality links like articles, blog posts, news pieces etc. Ultimately, you have to find a balance between the two.

The importance of backlinks in SEO and website ranking can’t be overstated. It is important to remember that each backlink is different, so it is essential to carefully analyze the quality of each link before integrating them into your strategy.

If you would like our SEO professionals to help you with your backlink strategy do not hesitate to contact our team today. We run the best web agency in Montreal and we have over 10 years of experience in marketing.