Backlinking: Why and How

By Gittan Alicia | Contributing AOJ Journalist

Backlinking is an important part of building your website and improving search engine optimization (SEO). Done right, backlinking will help your site and boost your rankings by search engines. However, done wrong, backlinking can lower your ranking, or worse, get you blacklisted by a search engine. That is why it is important to understand what exactly backlinking is, why you should backlink, and how you should backlink.

What is Backlinking?

Backlinking is a fairly straightforward term. In essence, it involves the linking between sites. In terms of your site, it is the linking from other sites to your site. Not to be confused with the linking from your site to other sites. Backlinking involves another site including a link to your site or content on your site, and this link is known as a backlink. For example, you write a blog about caterpillars and the stages they go through in transforming into butterflies, then someone named Chris writes an article explaining the life cycle of butterflies and includes a link to your article in his citations. This would be known as a backlink. Backlinks can be either “nofollow” or “dofollow,” which impact your site differently.

“nofollow” Backlinks

A “nofollow” backlink does not give any credit to your site if someone creates a backlink to your site. The tag “rel=’nofollow’” included in an HTML link on a website tells search engine crawlers not to follow the link back to your site, and thus, does not increase your website authority nor ranking. “Nofollow” backlinks neither harm nor benefit your website, but act as a defense for sites who do not wish to risk harming their rankings. Google also uses “nofollow” links to prevent spam sites from ranking higher than other sites and has incorporated “nofollow” links into its algorithm.

“dofollow” Backlinks

A “dofollow” backlink gives credit to your site if someone creates a backlink to your site. These links usually exclude any sort of tag and if the tag “rel=’nofollow’” is excluded from the HTML link, the odds are that the backlink is a “dofollow” and will impact your site rankings. As suggested by the name, “dofollow” backlinks will be followed by search engine crawlers back to your website, and these crawlers will report the data from the backlink back to the search engine, affecting your website rank.

Determining whether a Backlink is “nofollow’ or “dofollow”

To determine if a backlink to your site is a “nofollow” or “dofollow” link there is an easy way to check. First, open up the browser page containing the link to your site. Next, right-click on the link and click inspect.

 Look at the highlighted HTML code that opens up on the side. If the words “rel=’nofollow’” appear, then the backlink to your site is a “nofollow” link and does not affect your site rank. If the words “rel=’nofollow’” do not appear, then the backlink to your site is a “dofollow” link and does affect your site rank.

Why is Backlinking Important?

Backlinking is an important SEO tool that can improve your site’s ranking by search engines. Search engine crawlers look for “dofollow” backlinks from other sites to yours. If the backlinks picked up by the crawlers are high-quality, meaning they come from reliable and authoritative sites that are relevant to your site, your site’s ranking by the search engine increases. However, if the backlinks to your site are from low-quality sites, meaning their unreliable sites with little to no authority and unrelated content, your ranking by the search engine will decrease. The idea of a backlink is to asses how trustworthy your site is and the quality of your site’s content, which is done by looking at other sites that link to your site.

How to Backlink

When you are backlinking for your site, you want to be more concerned about the quality and less concerned about the quantity. This means you will want to check the quality of the sites you want to backlink with and you want to avoid bad backlinks that could lower your ranking. A great free tool for checking the quality of a site you want to backlink with or a site that has backlinked with you is MozBar.

Downloading MozBar

To download MozBar, go to www.moz.com in a chrome browser (note that MozBar has been discontinued for the Firefox browser, although it may be mentioned as an option on the site), then on the top menu bar click free SEO tools and in the menu that appears click on the MozBar link.

If instead of a dropdown menu appearing when you click free SEO tools, a new page opens up, scroll down and click “Try Moz Bar”.

Regardless of which method you had to use, you will be brought to a page with a button that says “Download MozBar Free”, click this button and you will be brought to the chrome web store.

Once in the chrome web store, click the “Add to Chrome” button and MozBar will be installed onto your browser. Once MozBar is installed you will need to create an account to see site information.

To activate MozBar and create an account, you will need to click on the little blue MozBar icon that should appear in your browser next to the upper search bar. Once this is clicked, MozBar will activate and a bar will appear at the top of the page. Click “create account” on this bar. (note that if the bar does not show up as soon as you click the MozBar icon, wait a minute or two, if it still does not show up, try searching something and opening up a random webpage as I have done in this image)

Once you create an account for MozBar, if you are not automatically logged in, click the MozBar icon next to the upper search bar to turn off MozBar, wait five to ten seconds, then click the MozBar icon again. If you are still not logged in, click the login button on the MozBar that appears and log in. Once you are logged in, if MozBar is turned on, it will look something like this:

Using MozBar

MozBar can give you useful insights on other sites for consideration on whether or not they may be a good backlink for your site. You can look at sites with relevant content to yours and look at the domain authority of the site (DA) and page authority of the site (PA). Generally, you would want to backlink with a website that has a high domain and page authority.

Domain authority is a prediction of how well a website may perform on search engine result pages, where the higher the score on a 1 – 100 scale, the better the predicted performance of a website. The domain authority of a site is calculated using several factors. Including quality of backlinks, and the number of backlinks. Domain authority is meant to be used as a comparison between sites. In terms of backlinking, domain authority can be used to look at a certain niche of sites you are trying to build backlinks from, the higher the domain authority, the better. As a general rule of thumb, except in special instances, you may want to aim for domain authorities of 40 and higher. Also, note that domain authority is determined logarithmically, meaning there is a greater gap between 60 and 70 than there is between 30 and 40 in the scoring. Thus, it is easier to grow a site’s domain authority from 30 to 40 than from 60 to 70.

Page authority is a prediction of how well a site’s specific page will rank on a search engine results page. Page authority is very similar to domain authority and is based on a 1-100 scale. Several factors are used to determine page authority, many of them similar to domain authority, however, domain authority itself is a factor in determining page authority. Page authority in addition to domain authority can be helpful in deciding which sites you would like to backlink with. The page authority on a site where your link may be included or the page including the category a piece of content you post may be under can tell you the chances of users coming to your site and how high quality that link may be. Just like domain authority, page authority is a comparative tool and the higher the page authority the better.

If your website is new or you have not done much with your site yet, do not worry if your website authority is low. The MozBar ranking system sets all new sites at a domain authority of 0. You can improve this score through backlinking and other SEO improvement methods, but it takes time.

Backlinking By Featured Content

One good way to increase backlinks for your site is by doing guest blogs on other sites that feature content within your niche. You want to make sure these are sites with good domain authority and a fairly large audience. By guest posting on authoritative sites, you will not only be increasing your backlinks but also be expanding and reaching a larger potential audience for your site. You could also increase your social media following by including your social media information in your guest post.

To find good sites to guest blog on, you could type in search queries in a search engine that include a keyword that defines your site plus something like “contribute”, “guest post”, “write for”, etc. You can also take a look at your site’s competitors, these are other sites in the same niche as you, promoting similar content. Look at the backlinks your competitors have and any guest posts they may have made. Try guest posting on the sites your competitors are and keep up with the type of content they’re creating. By looking at a competitor’s content you can see what is being asked and assess the quality of the content. If you think you can create a piece of content that outmatches your competitor, do so, and get it featured as a guest post on the same sites as your competitors.

To know where your competitors are guest posting, you may be able to follow them on social media to find out. Sometimes competitors will post on social media about their guest posts on other sites so their audiences will go there and check it out. This can give you an idea of the major sites your competitors are guest posting on. You could also use a paid service like Monitor Backlinks to look at your competitor’s backlinks, which can aid you in figuring out which sites to guest post on. There is also a free backlink checking service to look at your competitor’s backlinks on NielPatel, all you need to do is sign in with your Google account on the site and type your competitor’s site in the search.

When writing guest posts, you will also need to find a way to get your content to link back to your site. There a few ways to do this. One way is to ask the site you are writing the guest post for to include a link back to your site. Another way is to include links to similar articles you have written in your post. For instance, if you are writing about different types of graphics cards, in your article as your writing you could link back to an article you have written solely about gaming graphics cards in detail, so the reader can find additional information from you if they are interested. Check out this article for more information about backlinking through guest posts.

Backlinking By Becoming a Source

You can use your expertise and writing skills to become a source for other bloggers and journalists. Being a source means that others quote you or link back to your site as a place where they got quality information from. Becoming a source also has a side benefit of increasing your site traffic and building awareness about your site.

One method to aid in becoming a source is signing up as an expert in HARO. HARO is a free service that connects expert sources in a niche to bloggers and journalists. In this case, you would be the expert source in whatever niche your site is based on. HARO will send you emails from writer’s with queries, and you can reply to those that best match your site, be sure to include your credentials in the response. If a writer selects your response, they may quote you in their article, though they may not always reply to your response. 

Another method to become a source is writing quality content that may rank I search engine results. When people are researching articles, they tend to cite similar articles that appear at the top of the search engine results, which is why writing top-ranking content is important. Writing ranking content is not as hard as it seems either. First, do some research by searching topics your business would cover. In each search, look at what comes up, and pay attention to the quality, length, and detail of each, as well as the authority of the site that wrote it. If you think that any of these criteria are lacking and you could create better, create that content. For instance, if another site wrote a high quality, but a brief article on what to look for when buying a phone case, you could rank well by expanding on that article and providing more detail.

Backlinking by Social Media

While social media posts involve “nofollow” backlinks, which will not improve your site’s backlinks, social media does increase your site’s awareness. It is very difficult to backlink if no one knows about your site, but social media can help with that. By connecting with members of social media and building your following, your site’s awareness will increase, and with that, so will backlinking naturally. If you gain a large enough following that likes what you offer, your followers will repost and talk about your site, drawing the attention of journalists and bloggers and increasing your site’s traffic. This alone also increases the authority of your site in the eyes of the public and sites you wish to guest post on, thus, increasing the number of backlinks you will receive. So be sure to keep up on your social media!

Wrapping it all Up

Backlinking can be an extremely useful tool for improving your site’s search engine rankings when done right. Make sure the backlinks to your site are high-quality, meaning they come from authoritative and reliable sites that are relevant to your site. Do not backlink to unreliable sites nor sites that are irrelevant to your site, and if you see that there is a low-quality backlink to your site, try to resolve the issue by contacting the site owner. Remember, backlinking is less about quantity and more about quality. Reach out to well-known authoritative sites related to your niche, create high-quality content that can rank, and expand your social media presence and you should be set to build your backlinking empire and improve your search engine rankings.

Want to see more content about web development? Follow me on Instagram @gittanalicia and/or follow me on facebook @AOJ.gittanalicia

Citations:

  • Nica, Irina. “11 Creative (But 100% White Hat!) Ways to Earn Backlinks in 2020.” HubSpot Blog, 16 Dec. 2019, blog.hubspot.com/marketing/backlink-strategies. Accessed 30 Dec. 2019.
  • Tarcomnicu, Felix. “10 Smart Ways to Earn or Build Backlinks to Your Website.” Entrepreneur, 14 Aug. 2015, www.entrepreneur.com/article/247984. Accessed 30 Dec. 2019.
  • Moz. “Backlinks.” Moz, moz.com/learn/seo/backlinks. Accessed 30 Dec. 2019.
  • “What is a Backlink? How to Get More Backlinks.” WPBeginner, www.wpbeginner.com/glossary/backlinks/. Accessed 30 Dec. 2019.
  • “Page Authority and Domain Authority.” LongTailPro, 23 Dec. 2019, longtailpro.com/what-is-page-authority-and-domain-authority/. Accessed 30 Dec. 2019.
  • “What Are Dofollow And Nofollow Backlinks?” Mangools, mangools.com/blog/seopedia/dofollow-nofollow-backlinks/. Accessed 30 Dec. 2019.

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