So, you’ve stumbled upon the term ‘backlink’ and are scratching your head, right? Don’t worry – this guide is all about explaining backlinks in a friendly, easy-to-grasp manner. Whether you’re diving into the digital world for the first time or just need a quick refresher, let’s get you up to speed…

Imagine you’re reading an online article, and suddenly you see a clickable link leading you to a related site. That link? That’s a backlink!

In straightforward terms, a backlink is a link from one website that points to another. Think of it as a digital thumbs-up. If Website A links to Website B, then Website B has received a thumbs-up, or backlink, from Website A.

Now, you might wonder, why do these backlinks matter? In the online world, a backlink is like a nod of approval from one website to another, signifying its worth or relevance. Throughout this guide, we’ll explore the significant impact they have on a website’s SEO, visibility, and reputation. For now, think of backlinks as the bridges that interconnect websites, guiding visitors from one destination to another.

When venturing into website optimisation and SEO, a variety of links come into play. For a clear understanding, it’s essential to distinguish between backlinks and their counterparts: internal and external links.

  • Backlinks (also known as Inbound Links): These are the thumbs-up from one website to another. When another site links to a page on your site, they’re effectively giving you a nod of approval. It’s like saying, “Check out this content; it’s valuable!” to both users and search engines.
  • Internal links: These act as pathways within your website, connecting one page to another. It’s all about guiding the reader seamlessly through your content. Say you’re reading an article here on Blog Chap regarding SEO. Within it, there’s a link directing you to another Blog Chap article, “AI-generated content: Good or Bad for SEO?”. That’s an internal link.
  • External links (also known as outbound links): These are essentially the opposite of backlinks. Instead of other sites linking to you, you’re pointing your readers to other sites. By linking out to credible sources, you’re showcasing the research and reliable references that back up your content.

In the world of backlinks, there are two main types that you’ll encounter: “nofollow” and “dofollow.” Each has its distinct role and impact on your website’s SEO:

By default, all backlinks are ‘dofollow’. These are the main links when it comes to SEO. They pass on “link juice” or SEO value from the referring site to the linked site. Think of them as strong thumbs-up, signalling to search engines like Google that your content is credible and reliable. In simpler terms, it’s like someone pointing towards your shop in a crowded market, saying, “That’s the place to be!”

Then there are ‘nofollow’ backlinks. These links come with a special ‘nofollow’ attribute, instructing search engines not to count them when evaluating links for ranking purposes. Common sources of ‘nofollow’ links include comments on blogs, user profiles, and some social media platforms. While they don’t hand out the sought-after SEO juice, they play an essential role in creating a diverse link profile for your website, making your backlink strategy appear more natural to search engines. Moreover, even if they’re not boosting your SEO directly, they can bring valuable traffic from people who click on them. Think of it as a quiet recommendation to a passerby, subtle but effective.

Not all backlinks are made equal. While some offer significant value and credibility to your site, others might not pack the same punch. So, what defines a good backlink you ask? Well…

  1. Dofollow over nofollow: Dofollow backlinks are like gold stars in SEO. They boost your site’s reputation and help it climb search results. Nofollow links, while they don’t offer the same SEO benefits, add diversity to your link profile. Both have their place, but for sheer impact, Dofollow shines brighter.
  2. Authority of the referring site: Imagine Blog Chap acquires a backlink from a site like Semrush. This single link could potentially have the weight of 1000 backlinks from lesser-known sites. Why? Because of Semrush’s established reputation and the relevance of that link. Think of it as a leading expert in your field giving you a nod – that endorsement holds much more weight. To gauge the authority of sites linking to you, tools like Semrush, Ahrefs, and MOZ offer domain authority checkers. While these metrics can vary slightly between platforms, they can provide valuable insights into a site’s authority. Check out MOZ’s free domain authority checker.
  3. Organic over paid backlinks: Organic backlinks come naturally, typically because the content is seen as valuable or relevant. On the other hand, paid backlinks are, as the name suggests, bought. It’s worth noting that over-reliance on paid strategies can lead to search engine penalties, as they often cross into the territory of Black Hat SEO. Search engines favour natural, organic growth.
  4. Relevance & anchor text: A backlink’s context is important. When another site links to you, the content around that link should be relevant to your page. Moreover, the anchor text (the clickable words that form the link) shouldn’t contain misleading keywords or be overstuffed with phrases. The anchor text should genuinely reflect the content of the linked page, guiding readers seamlessly to related information.
  5. Location of the link: Where your backlink appears on a website can influence its impact. Links embedded in the main content area of a page (as opposed to the footer or sidebar) tend to carry more weight. This positioning signals to search engines that the link is essential and directly relevant to the content.
  6. Diversity of sources: While getting multiple backlinks from a single high-authority domain is beneficial, diversity is just as important. Acquiring backlinks from a range of domains suggests that multiple sources find value in your content, showcasing its wide-reaching appeal and relevance.
  7. Uniqueness of content: If the content linking to you is original, well-researched, and offers unique insights, the backlink can be deemed more valuable. This highlights that trusted and reputable content creators recognise the value in your material, giving search engines another reason to boost your rankings.

In the early days of search engine optimisation, backlinks were considered the golden ticket for a site’s ranking success. One could argue that Google’s very algorithm was fundamentally built around these backlinks. If your site had numerous high-quality sites pointing towards it, you were likely to rank higher in search results.

Just as the internet keeps changing, SEO has moved on too. While backlinks remain important, their dominance as the top-ranking factor isn’t as clear-cut anymore. Google’s Gary Illyes suggests that other factors might be taking precedence:

I think they are important, but I think people overestimate the importance of links. I don’t agree it’s in the top three. It hasn’t been for some time.

Gary Illyes, during an AMA session at Pubcon Pro in Austin

It’s worth noting, however, that this doesn’t diminish the value of backlinks. Many professionals still consider them to be amongst the top ranking factors, if not number one, especially for specific sites and niches.

Backlinks are important for several reasons:

  1. Website authority: Sites with a substantial number of quality backlinks come across as authorities in their field, often receiving better rankings by search engines in return.
  2. Referral traffic: Even beyond the SEO aspect, backlinks serve as pathways for readers to discover new content. If someone is reading an article and finds a link to your site, that’s a direct avenue for potential traffic, leading to better brand visibility and credibility.
  3. Faster indexing: Especially for newer sites, backlinks from well-established websites can aid search engines in discovering and indexing content quicker.
  4. Diverse link profile: Acquiring a variety of backlinks, whether from blogs, articles, or forums, tells search engines that your content has broad relevance.

Backlinks are individual links from one website to another. For example, if Blog Chap has ten links from, those are ten backlinks.

Referring domains, however, refer to the website itself. So, those ten backlinks from They all come from just one referring domain,

In simpler terms, think of backlinks as the individual recommendations or ‘thumbs up’ from one website to another. Referring domains, on the other hand, represent the source of these recommendations — the actual websites they come from. While having many backlinks is beneficial, it’s even better if they come from a variety of different websites. This shows that various sources trust and vouch for your content, suggesting it’s not just popular but also valuable.

Just as there are genuine endorsements or thumbs up, there are also less-than-desirable or even harmful ones. Enter: toxic backlinks. These are links from questionable websites or ones that could harm your site’s search ranking.

A toxic backlink can often originate from:

  • Spammy or irrelevant websites: If you’ve got a backlink from a site selling counterfeit handbags, and your site is about healthy eating, it’s clearly not a relevant or quality link.
  • Link networks: These are groups of websites interlinked for the sole purpose of manipulating rankings. They’re created to manipulate search rankings and don’t offer genuine value to visitors.
  • Websites with thin or duplicate content: Sites that lack meaningful content or just republish others’ materials can be harmful if they link to you.
  • Sites with a suspicious or negative reputation: If you’ve got a link coming from a site known for unethical practices or has been penalised by Google in the past, it might tarnish your reputation by association.

Having a few toxic backlinks is, unfortunately, quite common, especially if your website has been around for a while. The key is to monitor them and take corrective action when necessary, ensuring they don’t harm your SEO efforts.

  1. Create Quality Content: It’s foundational. If your content is valuable, relevant, and shareable, other sites will want to link to it.
  2. Guest Blogging: Offer to write for other blogs in your industry. In your author bio, you often get a chance to include a backlink to your site.
  3. Engage in Relevant Forums and Communities: Being active in industry-specific forums and online communities can provide opportunities for organic backlinks. Just make sure your involvement is genuine, not solely for link-building.
  4. Use Infographics: Visual content like infographics can be easily shared and are a popular way to get backlinks. Share your infographics on social media and infographic directories.
  5. Reach Out: If you have a piece of content that’s highly relevant to another site’s audience, don’t be shy to reach out and suggest they link to it.
  6. Fix Broken Links: Using tools like Ahrefs or Screaming Frog, you can identify broken links on other sites. Reach out to the website owner and suggest your relevant content as a replacement for the broken link.
  7. Collaborate with Influencers: Building relationships with influencers in your industry can lead to them sharing and linking to your content.
  8. Host Webinars: Hosting a webinar on a relevant topic in your industry can be a great way to get backlinks as participants and other sites might link to your webinar page.

By integrating these strategies into your marketing approach, you’ll be on your way to building a robust backlink profile that bolsters your site’s SEO. Remember, always aim for quality over quantity. A few good backlinks can be more impactful than many low-quality ones.

Checking your backlinks is essential to understand who’s linking to your site and gauge the quality of those links. Here’s three different ways to do it:

1. Google search console

  • Go to Google Search Console.
  • Select your property (website).
  • Click on ‘Links’ on the left sidebar.
  • Here, you’ll see both ‘Top linking sites’ and ‘Top linked pages’.

2. Third-party tools

There are numerous SEO tools available that offer detailed backlink analysis. Some of the top ones include:

  • Ahrefs: This tool provides an extensive backlink profile, showing you the total number of backlinks, referring domains, and the domain rating of those sites linking to you.
  • SEMrush: Apart from giving a backlink analysis, SEMrush also offers insights into the anchor text used, top-level domain distribution, and competitor backlink analysis.
  • Moz’s Link Explorer: Moz offers a domain authority metric which can be useful in assessing the quality of sites linking to you.

3. Manual Check

While not as efficient, you can use Google by typing This will show a selection of pages linking to your site, though it’s not exhaustive.

When you’re reviewing your backlinks, keep an eye out for any links that seem out of place or low quality. If you find any questionable links, consider taking action either by requesting the linking site to remove the link or disavowing it through Google Search Console. Remember, it’s the quality, not just the quantity, of backlinks that matters in SEO.

Every website has an online reputation. Just as a CV tells an employer about a candidate’s experience and skills, a backlink profile informs search engines about a site’s credibility. It showcases which websites have linked to yours, acting as a form of endorsement.

A strong backlink profile doesn’t just have a high quantity of links, but they come from respected and relevant sites. It’s like having references from the top professionals in your field, vouching for your expertise. Additionally, diversity in your links indicates a broader appeal of your content, showing that various sources find your site valuable.

The rate at which you gain these backlinks also matters. A steady, organic growth in links suggests that over time, more and more websites find your content valuable enough to link to.

Backlinks have always been a big deal in SEO. In the early days, they were arguably the main ranking factor for Google, helping indicate if a website was legit and relevant. Today, things have changed somewhat, but backlinks still matter a lot.

Now, it’s not just about backlinks. Things like quality content, user experience, and mobile-friendliness matter a lot too. Some experts, like Google’s Gary Illyes, believe backlinks can be overestimated when it comes to ranking factors. But still, they remain an important part of how websites get noticed.

To put it simply, backlinks might not be the dominant force they once were, but they’re still important. They’re a clear sign that your website is trusted and well-regarded online.

Let’s wrap it up

Backlinks have consistently been valuable tools in the world of websites. From the early days of SEO, they served as markers of a website’s trustworthiness. While their specific role might shift with changing algorithms, their core function remains: they endorse a site’s credibility. As things change online, understanding the details and importance of backlinks is important.

So, what exactly is a backlink? Simply put, it’s a link from one website to another, highlighting relevant and quality content. As you develop your online strategy, focus on producing valuable content, establishing real relationships, and obtaining those trustworthy backlinks.