A beginner’s guide to backlinks

January 18, 2024

Build better backlinks with our handy link building guide

Backlinks are a crucial part of search engine optimisation (SEO) and improving your website’s visibility and ranking. However, link building can seem overwhelming for beginners who are just learning to enhance their website’s presence online. This article will explain what exactly backlinks are, why they matter for your website, and key things to know about creating and managing backlinks as part of a wider SEO strategy

We’ll cover backlink basics like how to build quality backlinks to your site, discuss the difference between internal and external links, and share our link building techniques. You’ll also learn how backlinks factor into search engine algorithms and results. By the end of this introductory guide, you’ll have a better grasp of backlink fundamentals, and how they impact search traffic to your website in a bid to boost your site’s domain authority and search rankings. 

Understanding backlinks is essential for anyone looking to improve SEO practices and gain organic visitors to your business’s website. Read on to find out more… 

What is a backlink?

First things first then; what exactly is a backlink? To put it simply, a backlink is a link that takes you from one website to another. A backlink refers to any link pointing back to your website from an external page or website. These are also sometimes referred to as ‘inbound links’ or ‘incoming links’ and the process is known in the SEO world as ‘link building’. 

When another site links to a page on your own website, it is essentially sending visitors from its own page(s) to yours. As a website owner, the aim here is to gain quality backlinks from other reputable sites to help boost awareness, drive more traffic, and improve your search engine rankings.

Backlinks are valuable in SEO because search engines – especially Google – factor in the number and quality of links pointing to a webpage when determining its ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs). Websites with more quality backlinks tend to outperform the competition by ranking higher in SERPs for their target keywords or collection of keyword terms.

Gaining legitimate backlinks should be a core part of any website’s SEO strategy. The more sites linking back to your content, the more authority search engines will assign to your domain – this is known as ‘domain authority’. Think of link building like this; relevant, reputable backlinks are like votes of confidence passed onto your website.

Why do websites need backlinks?

Websites need backlinks for the following key reasons:

Increase Search Engine Rankings

Backlinks signal to search engines like Google that a website is credible, authoritative, and worth ranking higher in search results. The more backlinks from reputable sites, the better the chances of appearing on page 1 for target keywords.

Gain More Website Traffic

Websites linking to your content bring new visitors who will likely explore your site by clicking through to other pages. This helps gain more traffic, which in turn creates extra leads and hopefully conversions too.

Increase Brand Awareness and Credibility

Backlinks help people perceive your brand as credible. This is because the business you’re promoting online is ideally being referenced by established, trusted sites in your industry. They boost brand visibility and have the potential to attract much more referral traffic.

Help Outperform Competitors

Consistent link building allows you to outrank competitor websites that don’t have an effective strategy for gaining authoritative links. Your chances of appearing on page 1 on Google are dramatically increased with an effective link building campaign in place. 

Increase Followers on Social

Being talked about on popular websites naturally leads to more social media presence too. Second to hitting your website, people will also explore your social media pages, so make them count!

Well-placed quality backlinks are essential for achieving higher conversions from search traffic, nurturing brand credibility, driving more referrals, and ultimately gaining a competitive edge in your market. An active link building strategy should be part of a business’s wider online marketing strategy. 

How important are backlinks?

Backlinks are extremely important for SEO and improving your website’s search engine rankings. Here’s why they matter so much:

Backlinks Help Establish Authority and Credibility

The more quality websites that link back to yours, the more trusted and authoritative your own site becomes in the eyes of search engines. Google factors backlinks into its algorithm as a way of signaling the trust and influence of your brand.

Backlinks Drive Referral Traffic

Every backlink provides the opportunity to earn referral visitors from the external site if people click on that link pointing back to your website. This adds up to more overall traffic and increased exposure for your online content and/or products.

Backlinks Signal Relevance and Importance

If respected industry websites and resources link to your pages and content, search engines understand your information to be worthwhile and relevant for searchers, therefore are more likely to be prioritised by the likes of Google. 

Backlinks Help Pages Rank Higher in SERPs

Higher quality and quantity backlink profiles correlate strongly with better search engine rankings. Link building is key for improving your SERP (search engine results page) positions for important individual keywords and keyword terms.

Backlinks Help Pages Rank for a Wider Variety of Keywords

The anchor text (this is the clickable text) used in backlinks pointing to your website helps search engines understand all the topics your content covers. This allows individual pages to rank for more related search queries – those that are most important to your brand.

What is the difference between internal and external website links?

There is a big difference between links that you gain externally, compared to the internal links housed within your own website. So as not to cause any confusion, we’ve highlighted the key differences between internal and external website links, below:

Internal Website LinksExternal Website Links
Link to other pages within the same website (on the same domain)Link to different websites outside of your domain
Help visitors navigate around your site and find more of your contentHelp build awareness of your content through associated brands
Increase the chances of pages ranking for specific keywordsBring in what’s known as referral traffic from other websites
Easy to create and add within on-page contentGain backlinks to help with search engine rankings when other sites link to yours
Help keep visitors on your website for longerIncrease trust and authority when well-known websites reference your brand

Gaining a natural combination of internal links connecting your content and backlinks from external, reputable sites pointing back at your domain helps on your journey to overall SEO success. Both types of links are very valuable and should be implemented immediately. 

What is the best way to build a backlink?

Now you understand more about backlinks and their purpose, no doubt you’re ready to get going with your own link building strategy! Let’s get you started by sharing six of the best ways to build quality backlinks as a beginner:

  1. Create Great Content – Your website should serve as a source of information and inspiration for your audience. Get writing, be creative, and then you’re ready to start pushing that content out. 
  2. Guest Blogging – Reach out to other blogs and websites in your industry by suggesting you can contribute guest posts with a link back to your website. Focus on reputable, high-authority sites that are relevant to your brand.
  3. Industry Directories – Create free listings and profiles within relevant online directories and link back to your website. This option has local SEO benefits too. 
  4. Competitor Backlink Analysis – Research where competitors are getting their external links from and recreate valuable link opportunities for your own brand. 
  5. Linkable Asset Creation – Data is your friend! Use what you have to create PR-worthy resources like online tools and graphics, and reach out to publishers with a link.
  6. Social Sharing – Share landing pages on your social networks to help leverage interest in your brand and/or product to help gain valuable backlinks.

How to create a successful backlink strategy 

The rules of successful link building are simple; remember, the focus should always be on earning links from reputable, high-quality, and relevant websites rather than chasing backlink volume, no matter what the brand. Trust us, patience and persistence pay off! Here are some key steps to creating a successful backlink strategy as a beginner:

Identify Link Targets

Research authoritative websites in your industry as well as niche relevant websites that would be logical places for your business to gain backlinks from. Compile a target list spreadsheet made up of bloggers, publications, and web directories.

Produce Link-Worthy Assets

Create resources on your website that other sites would want to naturally link to – for example, detailed content posts, data or statistics reports, online tools (such as calculators), infographics, or other assets that can add value.

Reach Out For External Links

Proactively pitch your content to your target list for inclusion via the likes of guest blogs and resource pages. Aim for natural, relevant link insertions rather than paid advertising links.

Promote Your Content on Social Media  

Distribute and share all the new content you create through your social media channels to gain more awareness and attract visitors who could potentially link to your content.

Monitor and Maintain Links

Use online tools like Google Search Console to monitor incoming links, check they are still active, and identify opportunities to build more links from sites that already link to yours. Maintaining these external links helps maintain the authority of your website.

Build Links Slow and Steady

Unfortunately, there is no shortcut to achieving genuine SEO link building. Focus on slowly gaining a few quality links every month. Search engines can in fact penalise sites that suddenly gain thousands of links overnight, so don’t be tempted to cut corners or be tempted by a bot to do the work for you; Patience and persistence are key.

Does Google care about backlinks?

Yes, Google cares about backlinks – a lot! The number, quality, and relevance of external backlinks pointing to a website or specific webpage are major factors in how Google determines search rankings under its current algorithms:

  • Google uses backlinks as one of the top signals for determining a website’s authority and trustworthiness. Sites with more backlinks from other reputable sites are deemed more authoritative in any given topic area.
  • Google analyses the anchor text (this is the highlighted text) used in backlinks to understand the specific topics and keywords that a target webpage or website covers. This helps Google return that page for relevant searches.
  • The volume of backlinks generally correlates to higher rankings, as it’s commonly understood as a metric of content quality and usefulness to visitors.
  • However, not all backlinks have equal value – Google favours backlinks from highly authoritative websites and domains over lesser-known sites and looks for natural link patterns.
  • Bear in mind that a sudden spike in backlinks or only having links from low-quality sites can actually harm your website rankings rather than help.

How long does it take for backlinks to show up on Google?

There is no exact timeframe for when backlinks show up in Google, but generally, you can expect new backlinks to be indexed and reflected in search results within the following timelines:

Immediate Indexing 

Some backlinks get indexed by Google extremely fast, sometimes in a matter of hours after first being published as live. These tend to be links published on high-authority national-scale sites and established web pages that Google crawls frequently.

1-7 Days Indexing 

For new links on recently published pages, the average indexing time is typically between 1-7 days. Google’s crawlers discover new links through systematic crawling patterns and prioritise those visible on authoritative websites. 

14-30 Days Indexing  

In some cases, it may take up to 30 days (pretty much a month) for Google to fully index and credit the link value of new backlinks pointing to your site, especially if they happen to be published on less authoritative sites. 

Temporary Delays to Indexing

At times Google’s indexing can face delays from issues due to a number of reasons. This may be because there are problems on their end (yes, that can and does happen!), difficulties crawling recently migrated pages, or inaccurate or incomplete webmaster data. Links can sometimes even disappear before reappearing again later on, so make sure you monitor them closely.

In most cases, new quality links start to positively impact rankings within 30 days or less after getting indexed. Focus on continually building new links week after week rather than getting discouraged by any temporary indexing delays. Consistent link building over months and years is the key to long-term ranking improvements.

What types of backlinks should be avoided?

Not all backlinks are good, and knowing which ones to avoid could mean the difference between a successful or unsuccessful link building campaign for your brand. To steer you in the right direction, we’ve listed eight types of backlinks you should avoid: 

  1. Paid Links. As the name suggests, these are links you pay money for – either directly to the website owner or via a third party (such as an agency) in order to link back to your own brand. Google very much frowns upon ‘pay for placement’ type links, so we recommend you keep clear of these.
  2. Spammy Widgets and Badges. Known as ‘widgets’ and ‘badges’, these are small images and stickers that link back to your website to try and build domain authority. Don’t be fooled into thinking these visuals are preferable to genuine organically grown backlinks and as such, should be avoided.
  3. Link Schemes. This happens when a group – or ‘network’ – of websites are all in agreement to link to each other to try manipulating page rankings. An algorithm developed by Google, PageRank measures the importance of individual web pages based on the number of quality backlinks, but link schemes can easily be detected and will be penalised. 
  4. Irrelevant Sites. Although tempting, don’t target websites that have no association or relevance to your brand. For the best SEO PageRank impact, only ever target sites that are relatable to your business and target audiences. 
  5. Low-Quality Sites. Also, think about the quality of the websites you are targeting for backlinks. Always avoid spammy-looking sites and those full of ads with thin content.
  6. Over-Optimised Anchor Text. Give careful consideration to the text for the backlink; having mostly “click here” style links looks overly SEO optimised and is generally not beneficial. Some keyword usage is fine but, mostly, brands use their name in the anchor text.
  7. Competitor Links. Pointing links to competitors may help them outrank you if they don’t reciprocate the gesture, so avoid doing this if you’re not guaranteed backlink coverage in return.
  8. Broken Links. Always fix or remove broken links pointing from your site to avoid damaging user experience. Nobody wants to see a ‘404 page not found’ error message when they do decide to click on a backlink. 

The key here isn’t avoiding links entirely but focusing your efforts on building links slowly from reputable, topical sites your audience naturally uses; think quality over quantity, without using overly manipulative SEO tactics in the process. 

Successful SEO link building for car dealerships

Here at 67 Degrees, we provide leading SEO expertise for car dealerships and businesses working within the automotive sector. A carefully constructed backlink campaign can increase the visibility of your brand, build trust with new customers, and drive more traffic to your website – that’s why we offer completely customised link building solutions tailored to your needs.

Don’t leave the growth of your dealership to chance. Our bespoke link building campaigns can deliver the leads you want while keeping Google happy too, and that’s a big tick in the box where your website is concerned! Get in touch to discuss more. 

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