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What are backlinks?

Posted on April 14th, by Sean P. Fullerton in Blog. 3 comments

What are backlinks?

What are backlinks?Today I’ve decided to answer a question which I regularly get asked by business owners when discussing possible internet marketing strategies….

What are backlinks?

Backlinks, backlinks, backlinks…where to start? First, I suppose, I should define the word according to the gospel that is Wikipedia….”a backlink is any link received by a web node (web page, directory, website, or top level domain) from another web node”.

In other words, a backlink is any reference or link to your site that is found anywhere else on the internet.

Ok, you get it, but what does that have to do with how your site ranks in the search engine?

Well, the best way to explain it is to think of the internet like a load of different groups or categories, and within each group is a big popularity contest. So, for example, the main group/category that I fall under would be “Local Online Marketing” or “Local SEO” and my aim is to become the most “popular” website within each of these categories.

Popularity Contest

Each backlink your site receives is seen as a recommendation from the linking site to yours, therefore the more recommendations your site receives, the more popular you are seen to be. Each recommendation, however, carries different weight depending on which site the endorsement is received from.

If I’m a singer/songwriter and Noel GallagherNoel Gallagher goes on the record to say that I’m the next best thing (definitely not true!), people are going to stop and take notice. However, if Jedwardjedward run a half hour special on prime time tv praising my musical ability, no-one would even bat an eyelid. The same is true for SEO. Get endorsements from highly regarded authoritative sites within your niche and your popularity will increase rapidly.

Types of Backlinks

There are a few different types of backlinks. The main three are Image Links, Contextual Links and Site-Wide Links

Image links are exactly that, images that when clicked on, bring the user to your site. These can be very powerful when utilised correctly. For SEO purposes it’s important that the image has the correct Alt tags and visually it should attract or entice the user to click through to your site.

Contextual links are probably the most powerful in terms of increasing your link popularity. These are links found in the body of an article or document that is related to your niche subject. I should mention that there are actually four different types of contextual links: Informational, Definitional, Referential and Promotional, but that is another post entirely! The reason these links carry so much weight is the Google bot can “read” the surrounding content and determine how relevant the link is to your site plus you can choose the anchor text which holds your link. e.g. <a href=”>Internet Marketing</a> becomes …. Internet Marketing.

Site Wide links are basically links that are placed somewhere on a website that appears on every page of the site e.g. sidebar or footer. These type of links aren’t very highly recommended.

One of the easiest ways to get some quick backlinks is to add your site to a few of the free online directories. A Web Directory is as the name suggests a list of business details with links back to their website. These are especially helpful for getting a new site indexed quickly.

Dofollow / Nofollow?

Another important factor to remember is whether a link is “dofollow” or “nofollow”. First off I should explain that nofollow links became popular to counteract the level of spam commenting on blogs purely for SEO purposes. A nofollow tag can be added to links to prevent Google’s spider from “following” them. This means that the page rank isn’t passed through the link and it will carry very little SEO value. 

There are many other factors that an effective link building campaign needs to take into consideration such as proper canonicalisation of urls, correct use of anchor text, page rank of inbound link, number of outbound links on the page, etc. etc. but I will cover those in another post.

Thank You
Thanks for reading, comments are welcome and if you found it helpful, please share.

SEO & Local Online Marketing Consultant 

SEO, local search marketing consultant & search geek from Donegal, Ireland. Love gadgets, keeping up to date with Google's algorithm changes & all things internet.

3 responses to “What are backlinks?”

  1. Nice Post particularly the local part. How exactly would you go about improving the google ranking for say a local taxi company who obviously aren’t setting out for global domination

    • Thanks, There are many ways to improve your visibility in local search. Check out my post on Google Places ranking factors. One of the biggest factors for a taxi firm is getting yourself listed in all the local directories, maybe do link exchanges with the local pubs and restaurants who might promote your taxi firm in return for you recommending their restaurant to punters.

  2. […] Links  Maintain a good internal link structure and include some contextual internal linking with appropriate anchor text to further help the search engines understand what each page is […]

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