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The SEO industry changes at such an extreme pace that every year marketers evolve their strategies and shift their focus. Obtaining backlinks — whether across authoritative sites or in web directories — remains a crucial strategy in SEO. If you are involved in search engine optimization in any way, you know that backlinks are vital to a website’s performance.

What Are Backlinks?

Backlinks occur when one website mentions another website and links back to it. Also referred to as incoming or inbound links, backlinks make their connection through external websites. These links from outside domains point to pages on your own domain. Whenever backlinks occur (particularly quality backlinks), it is like receiving a vote for a webpage. The more votes you get from sites with authority, the more positive an effect on a site’s ranking and search visibility. Site owners need to make sure they follow Google Webmaster Guidelines on links to ensure they attract high quality links that are not part of a link scheme. 

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Why Are Backlinks Important?

Backlinks are important for both search engines and end users. For the search engines, it helps them determine how authoritative and relevant your site is on the topic for which you rank. Furthermore, backlinks to your website are a signal to search engines that other external websites are endorsing your content.

If many sites link to the same webpage or website, search engines can interpret that content is worth linking to, and therefore also worth ranking higher on a SERP (search engine results page). For many years, the quantity of backlinks was an indicator of a page’s popularity. But today, algorithms (like Google's Penguin update) were created to help with other ranking factors; pages are ranked higher in a Google search based more on the quality of the links that they are getting from external sites and less on quantity of those links. In addition, it's been quoted that Google uses more than 200 different ranking factors to evaluate where a web page might appear in the search results. 

Also, backlinks are important for the end user insomuch that backlinks connect searchers with information that is similar to what is being written on the same topic on other resources. An example of this happens when an end user is reading a page that discusses “how child care expenses are driving women out of the workforce.” As they scroll down, they might see a website link with a study on “how the rise in child care costs over the last 25 years affected women’s employment.” In this case, a backlink establishes connection points for information that a searcher may be interested in clicking.

The link appears as a hyperlink with descriptive text known as anchor text. This appears differently than the surrounding text, indicating that there is more information beyond what appears on the page if the searcher chooses to follow the website link. This external link creates a solid experience because it transfers the user directly to additionally desirable information if needed.

Recommended Reading: How to Track Backlink Performance and Identify Backlink Opportunities

How Do You Build Backlinks?

Now that you know that backlinks are important, how do you get other links to your site? What's the best strategy to get website links pointing to and from your site? Link building is critical to the success of any SEO campaign when it comes to ranking organically. Simply having thousands of backlinks or only having links from one website isn’t going to affect your rank position. 

Despite having worked in the past, those strategies are outdated. Today's backlink guidelines revolve around your content and overall authority on a topic, which can be achieved by: 

  • Guest bloggers creating content on your site
  • Original research with insights
  • Building relationships with influencers
  • Write quality blog posts for other sites in your industry
  • Link reclamation

There are also many ways to manage and understand your backlink profile. Majestic, Buzzstream, and Moz offer tools to help you manage URLs and optimize your link profile. seoClarity offers an integration with Majestic, the largest link index database, that integrates link profile management into your entire SEO and digital marketing strategy.   

Conclusion

Getting unique and authoritative links is crucial for higher ranking in the SERPs and improving your SEO. Google's algorithm on evaluation of links evolved in recent years which focused on quality links, not quantity. This created a more challenging process to gain high quality backlinks within your SEO strategy. External links still matter and aren’t obsolete, so start working on a link building strategy to improve your search visibility.