If you want to learn backlink basics, this blog post is for you. We will cover essential terms, FAQs, and the do’s and do n’ts of backlinks.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: love them or hate them, backlinks are crucial to consistent, long-term rankings in Google.

Yet, whenever I mention backlinks on my Instagram, my engagement drops like a brick (LOL). But you are here, and that makes me so excited, so let’s dive into the basics of backlinks!

Before we can get into the basics of backlinks, it’s important that we define a few terms first:

  • Backlink: A link from one website to another, which can improve the linked site’s search engine ranking.
  • Anchor Text: The clickable text in a link, which helps search engines understand the context of the linked page.
  • Do-Follow Link: This is a type of backlink that allows search engines to follow and pass on link equity, boosting the linked site’s SEO. These are the backlinks you want!
  • No-Follow Link: A type of backlink that instructs search engines not to follow the link, preventing the passing of link equity. These are not the backlinks you want!
  • Link Equity: The value and authority passed from one page to another through backlinks, influencing search engine rankings.
  • Domain Authority (DA): A metric that predicts a website’s ability to rank in search engines based on the quality and quantity of backlinks. Aka website authority.
  • Page Authority (PA): A metric that predicts the ranking strength of a single web page based on its backlink profile.
  • Backlink Profile: The overall collection of backlinks pointing to a website, including their quality, quantity, and relevance.
  • Link Building: The process of acquiring backlinks from other websites to improve search engine rankings.
  • Guest Blog Post: A blog post written by someone who is not the owner of the blog. It’s industry standard that when you write a guest blog post for another website, you receive a backlink in return.
  • Disavow Tool (advanced term): A Google Search Console feature that allows webmasters to tell Google to ignore certain backlinks, typically those considered spammy or harmful.
  • Link Farm (advanced term): A group of websites created solely for the purpose of linking to one another, often considered a black hat SEO tactic. I highly recommend avoiding these types of link.

What are backlinks in SEO?

A backlink is when another website links to your website. Google interprets backlinks as a ‘vote of confidence’ in your website. If someone is going out of their way to stop and share something on your website, that indicates it’s valuable content.

Do backlinks really matter?

Yes! Google interprets backlinks as a ‘vote of confidence’ in your website. If someone stops to share something on your website, that indicates it’s valuable content.

Backlinks are one of the most important ranking factors in Google and are part of any comprehensive and well-rounded SEO strategy.

How do beginners get backlinks?

In a perfect world, your website visitors would naturally link to your content. However, this is highly unlikely if you don’t have much traffic to begin with. That’s why other methods, such as guest blog posts, are essential.

With that said, it’s still always a good idea to attract backlinks organically (through the content on your website), because it is much more scalable than buying backlinks and guest blog posting. To get ideas for creating content that attracts backlinks, check out my post, ChatGPT Prompts for Building Backlinks.

I just started my blog, isn’t it too soon to worry about backlinks?

Nope! As long as you have one high-quality blog post that you feel is worth promoting, it’s time to start acquiring backlinks to it. If you need help creating content that is “backlink-worthy”, check out my blog post, ChatGPT Prompts for Building Backlinks. Building links early on will help you start to increase your domain authority, making it easier to rank for keywords more quickly.

How to I determine my domain authority?

To check your domain authority, you can use Ahref’s free tool: Website Authority Checker. To give you an idea of what domain authority rating you should target – the scale is from 0 to 100, with sites like Forbes and The New York Times being DR 90+ sites. My site, for example, hovers around a DR 30-34 at the time of this writing, which is not amazing, but not bad by any means. If you find your website is in the 0-10 range, I can’t stress enough how much I recommend taking some time to get some high quality backlinks.

Are backlinks free?

Yes and no. When someone links to your website voluntarily, it’s completely free and beneficial to you (this is the goal and most scalable way to get backlinks). However, most backlinks, especially those obtained through guest blogging, are not free.

Do you really recommend guest blog posting?

Yes, yes, and yes!

How do I find websites accepting guest blog posts?

Great question! I highly recommend finding backlinks using The Backlink Prospecting Database – which is a listing of thousands of websites accepting guest blog posts across various niches.

How do I pitch guest blog posts?

A successful guest blog post pitch involves demonstrating your expertise and showing how your content will benefit the host site’s audience.

Start with a personalized introduction, then briefly outline your proposed topic and explain why it aligns with their readers’ interests. End with a call to action, inviting them to discuss further or review your previous work to assess your writing quality.

If you want the sneaky templates I use to land guest blog posts, check this out:

Is it illegal to buy backlinks?

No, it is not illegal to buy backlinks, but it is against Google’s guidelines. Purchasing backlinks can lead to penalties from search engines, which can decrease your website’s rankings and reduce visibility.

However, almost every SEO specialist and business that is serious about showing up higher in Google buys backlinks.

How much does a backlink cost?

The cost of backlinks varies widely—from as little as $5 to several thousand dollars—depending primarily on the website’s authority. High-authority sites like The New York Times or Forbes might charge thousands, whereas lower authority sites may only cost between $40 and $50.

Can backlinks hurt your site?

Yes, backlinks can hurt your site if they come from low-quality or spammy sources. Google may penalize your website if it detects manipulative backlink practices, such as buying links or participating in link schemes. Always aim for high-quality, relevant backlinks from reputable websites to avoid this.

Do links from social media websites (including YouTube and Pinterest) to my website help my website authority?

Generally, no. These links are almost always “no-follow” links (see definitions above), meaning they don’t give your website any boost in authority.

How do I tell if a link is a “no-follow” link?

To tell if a link is a “no-follow link,” right-click on the link itself and click “Inspect.” On the right-hand sidebar of your screen, look for the HTML code with the link. If you see rel=”nofollow,” then the link is “no-follow,” and you aren’t getting any boost in your website’s authority.

Here’s an example of a “no-follow” backlink.

Backlink Do’s

1. Prioritize sites in your industry
When building backlinks, focus on getting links from websites within your industry or niche. This relevance helps search engines understand your site’s context and improves its credibility. With that said, there’s still value in acquiring links from websites outside of your industry. For example, you’d never want to turn down a link from a high authority website with tons of traffic like Forbers or The New York Times!

2. Use ChatGPT for content ideas
Using ChatGPT can help generate creative content ideas that are likely to attract backlinks. Fresh and engaging content is more likely to be shared and linked to by other sites. Use ChatGPT to brainstorm topics, titles, and outlines that resonate with your audience.

3. Make sure you’re getting a ‘do follow’ link
A ‘do follow’ link passes link equity to your site, positively impacting your search engine rankings. Always verify that your backlinks are ‘do follow’ to maximize their SEO benefits, especially if you are taking the time to write a guest blog post. The only exception is if the site you are writing for gets a ton of website visitors that are your ideal client – because then it’s just worth the visibility! Also note – you can use browser extensions or SEO tools to check if your link is ‘do follow’ or not. If you want to learn more about this, comment below and I’ll share some more info.

4. Pay attention to anchor text
Anchor text provides context to search engines about the linked content, influencing how it is ranked. Use descriptive and relevant anchor text to improve your site’s SEO. Avoid over-optimization by varying your anchor text and keeping it natural. Types of anchor text to include in your link building strategy:

  • Exact Match: Anchor text that exactly matches the keyword for which the linked page is optimized.
  • Partial Match: Anchor text that includes a variation or part of the target keyword.
  • Branded: Anchor text that uses a brand name as the link text (for example, “Samantha Digital”).
  • Naked URL: The anchor text is the URL itself, like samanthadigital.com.
  • Generic: Common, non-descriptive anchor text such as “click here” or “read more.”
  • LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing): Anchor text that uses synonyms or related terms to the target keyword.
  • Image: Anchor text where the hyperlink is embedded in an image, with the alt text serving as the anchor text.

5. Track the links you acquire
Monitoring your backlink profile helps you understand the effectiveness of your link-building strategies. Use tools like Google Search Console or Ahrefs to keep track of your backlinks. Regularly review and analyze your backlink data to refine your approach.

6. Carefully select target URLs
Choosing the right target URLs for your backlinks ensures that the most relevant and important pages on your site receive link equity. Focus on pages that are crucial for your SEO strategy, such as high-converting landing pages or cornerstone content. This targeted approach enhances the overall impact of your backlinks.

Backlink Don’ts

1. Acquire spammy links
Spammy links from low-quality or irrelevant sites can harm your SEO and lead to penalties from search engines. Always aim for quality over quantity when building backlinks. Avoid link farms and automated link-building tools to maintain a clean backlink profile.

2. Buy links too quickly
Purchasing links in large quantities can raise red flags with Google and result in penalties. Organic link-building is a gradual process that builds credibility over time. Focus on creating valuable content and fostering genuine relationships with other site owners.

3. Republish your existing content
Never do this! Republishing existing content without substantial updates can be seen as duplicate content by search engines, harming your SEO. Instead, focus on creating new, high-quality content or significantly updating older content to add value. Always ensure that any updates are meaningful and provide fresh insights. This is another reason I love to use ChatGPT for creating content for guest blog posts and acquiring backlinks!

Backlinks are a vital component of any effective SEO strategy, providing essential signals to search engines about the relevance and authority of your content. By understanding key terms, following best practices, and avoiding common pitfalls, you can build a robust backlink profile that enhances your site’s visibility and ranking. Remember to prioritize quality over quantity, track your links diligently, and use tools like ChatGPT to keep your content fresh and engaging. Implementing these strategies will help you achieve long-term success in improving your website’s SEO performance.

Happy link building!