Good backlinks from reputable and trusted sources will not only help you rank higher in terms of SEO, but these backlinks can also increase your credibility as a business. Think of it this way… let’s say you’re a tech start-up, there’s a good chance that not many people know about your business (yet). So, if you manage to gain press coverage and receive a backlink from TechCrunch, you’ll get a considerable boost in credibility due to this site’s authority in the tech space. If you then continue to get links from the BBC, TechRadar and Wired, then this is serious industry authority that is mentioning your business, and helping you become a trustworthy figure for both Google and its users.
In this blog post, we will explain why backlinks remain to be one of the most crucial areas of SEO.
Firstly, what is a backlink?
Backlinks are hyperlinks placed on external resources that point to your website, they can come from any site page but most often from blog posts or articles. The quantity and quality of backlinks that a site has is an indicator of its popularity and authority.
In 2016, Google itself confirmed that, along with content, backlinks are now one of the two most important signals used to rank websites.
A Vote of Confidence
If you want to have a successful website you need to pay attention to areas beyond what is just on your site.
Think of backlinks as the reputation of a website on the internet, with a link from website A pointing to website B being seen as a vote of confidence. When there are enough high-quality backlinks coming to a site, it sends positive signals to search engines, informing Google that the site is valuable.
As another example, if five people who didn’t know each other recommended a restaurant as the best in your city, you would probably believe that it’s a good restaurant. The same concept applies for Google’s search algorithm. If several external site’s point towards yours, it probably means your site contains up-to-date, relevant, and useful information that should be shown to a larger number of users.
Quality of a backlink
A good quality backlink is when your site is linked to by an authoritative domain that search engines trust. This trust is measured by a set of factors, which include:
- Quality metric scores
- Top-level domain structure (TLD) of the URL
- Relevancy of the backlink to your site’s topic-niche
- Age of the backlink
- Site type
In short, an authoritative domain is a resource that both search engine robots and user’s trust.
Which SEO tools can be used to determine this?
Using Majestic’s backlink tool, we can determine a good quality backlink through its Trust Flow and Citation Score, as well as its ability to see the site type e.g. whether a backlink is a directory, or a blog, etc.
SEMrush’s backlink audit tool allows you to determine a domain/backlinks overall trustworthiness and authority as well as its signature Toxicity metric (particularly useful when reviewing a sites backlink profile)
Ahrefs ‘domain rating’ metric is effective in understanding a backlink’s overall authority. Its backlink tool is also great in visualising historic referring domains and backlinks across a specified timeframe.
The impact of backlinks in the SERP landscape
There is no doubt that backlinks have a significant impact on a site’s visibility in Google search, but it’s crucial that we ensure that they are coming from a safe, and respectable source.
Search engines use sophisticated algorithms to determine the level of visibility of a site in the SERP. In the diagram below, each bubble represents a certain website, and a corresponding hyperlink pointing to each other. The more inbound links (or authoritative links) a website receives, the more important it will be perceived by users and search engines.
In this example, since website B is receiving the majority of inbound hyperlinks, it has the greatest visibility (38.4%) in a web search.
Interestingly in 2020, Backlinko and Ahrefs conducted a joint study in which they analysed 11.8 million Google search results and found that pages with a higher backlink count tend to rank higher in Google – indicating a clear correlation between backlinks and higher page rankings.
Source: Backlinko & Ahrefs
The study also found that the #1 SERP has almost 4 times the number of backlinks than pages ranking between positions 2 and 10.
Source: Backlinko & Ahrefs
How can we improve a site’s backlink profile?
As SEOs there’s various actions that we can implement to drive this area forward, including:
Housekeeping: conducting regular audits and check ups of your existing backlinks and referring domains should be a regular SEO habit. Through these checks, we are able to identify any shortcomings or opportunities for the site, for example, the number of suspicious links we would need to disavow, broken links that need fixing, optimisation of anchor text or insights to track the success of our work. There are a plethora of useful actions we can take off the back of a backlink audit. Think of it as a diagnosis, once we understand the issue at hand, we can provide an effective solution.
Creating meaningful content: interesting and useful content never goes out of style. If a business is able to write a blog or article that entices the reader, it will naturally be shared across others. The “quality” of an article usually varies from industry to industry, but in terms of SEO, the requirement is the same – they must make readers want to share content with others. To achieve this, the content must use original data, contain unique information and be published on a thematic and authoritative source.
Outreach: creating high quality content helps you organically earn links from publishers who value your work. But to get even more links, you will also need to connect with other blogs and websites to help them find your content and choose to link to you.
Takeaway → Quality over Quantity
While Google continues to build upon its ever-evolving search algorithm, the quality of backlinks will always remain more important than the number of them. In the early days of SEO, businesses could essentially ‘build’ or pay for an unlimited amount of links through artificial sites to increase rankings and traffic. This is now considered black-hat SEO, which Google penalises sites for.
The emphasis has shifted to the actual quality of a backlink, as opposed to the quantity your site has. All it takes is one quality link from a popular news site/resource to generate as much value as a hundred links from other, less authoritative sources. If Google trusts the website from which you’ve been linked, it’s going to trust that link too.
Gaining backlinks is not easy. Unfortunately, there is no magical way to improve your site’s backlink profile overnight. The only key to success lies in combining the long-term work strategies (building towards E.A.T signals) with the short-term tactics. To better understand the importance of backlinks in SEO, you need to remember that the internet is essentially a huge number of interconnected links. If many sites link to your site, the likelihood that a search robot will find it and index all the information increases. The more high-quality backlinks leading to your site, the more authoritative, relevant, and useful the site appears to Google.
If you’re interested in finding out more about how you can improve your SEO, contact the team here. Or, if you’d like to check out more of our blogs and thought leadership pieces, follow the link here.