What are backlinks and why do they matter?

Recently, somebody asked me what they could do to increase their domain authority so lots of awesome brands would want to work with them. When I mentioned building backlinks I was met with blank stares and the question, ‘What are backlinks?’.

Backlinks are links that link back to your website. Get it, link-back, back-links?

You see them everywhere, strewn all over blogs and online articles. It might be a little-highlighted word, a word with an underline or just a clickable word. These, when clicked on, takes the user away from the website they were just looking at and to your website, helping to bring in traffic to your site and link it to other, relevant websites around the internet.


What are backlinks?


How do backlinks actually work?

Google sends out lots of tiny bots to check all the websites on the internet and these bots can only travel by the pathways that interlinking websites create. A bit like a train on some tracks, it can only go where there are tracks.

Think of all the different websites in the world as train stations, to get to every single one, there has to be some connection of stations right? You couldn’t get directly from one to the other without some sort of track for the train to follow.

The same applies to Google bots, they can only get to each station if the stations provide tracks to each other. The links between websites are the train tracks, they guide the bots to different sites.

So why are these so-called backlinks worth my time, eh?

Well, they are a handy little tool that Google uses to identify what your site is about and also how helpful and relevant your website is to its users.

If a website has loads of backlinks i.e. other websites linking to it and sending their own audience to that website, then surely all of those websites think it’s a great source of information, right? Otherwise, why would they be sending their own, valuable traffic there?

Google looks at all these links going to your website and looks at the quality of the websites that are linking back to you. If you’ve got lots of really awesome websites linking back to your content, then Google will see those recommendations and go ‘oh, ok, so that site everyone is linking to must be really helpful, so I should suggest it to my users who are searching for that kind of thing’. Then, your site moves up the Google search a little, making its way to the coveted first page.


Why you should make sure your links are from awesome websites

Sticking with the train analogy, bear with me.

Imagine there was never any maintenance on those train tracks and they started to become run down, or they were fitted by dodgy workmen and were therefore not 100% safe to travel on. Would the trains want to use these tracks? Would they want to put their customers at risk like that? Nope, they would not.

Google is the train, delivering all its users to the station they are looking for. If they think a station is unsafe, why would they drop off their customers?

If you are actively trying to build your backlinks by guest posting or doing sponsored posts, make sure the website you are getting the link off has the following:

  • A DA over 25
  • A trust flow over 15
  • Backlinks from trusted and quality domains
  • A clear and consistent focus

So DA and trust flow are your metrics, these are the rating systems that Google uses to determine if a site is any good. You can check the DA of a site by copy and pasting the site’s URL into MOZ DA checker. To check the trust flow, copy and paste the website’s URL into Majestic SEO. The trust flow is a number that tells Google how trustworthy the website is.

Again, use Majestic SEO to take a look at the backlinks, you may only be able to see a few with the free version, but it’ll give you a rough idea. Check for a lot of similar domain names that may be spam or bots, check for sites that are from countries that are not the same as that of the website.

For example, if you are looking at an American website, lots of links from sites ending in .ru, would ring alarm bells.  


How do you get people to give you a backlink without paying loads of monies?!

Simple, get involved in the blogging community and put some effort into contacting publications directly.

If you are sitting and chilling in your home, just posting a blog every week and hoping that someone will miraculously come knocking on your email inbox door, then you’re going to be disappointed.

Be the door to door salesman of your content. Create lists of publications you’d like to get a link from and email them to see if they accept guest posts. A response may be few and far between, but just 2 high-quality links can make a massive difference!

Find Twitter chats to get involved in – these are basically online networking opportunities. You might start chatting with someone that has an amazing blog and you could work together.

For a full list of Twitter chats and times, take a look at my Twitter Chat List!

To use advanced Google search to find publications that accept guest posts in your niche, take a look at my search operator guide!


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