What Are Backlinks, and How Do They Work?

What Are Backlinks, and How Do They Work?

Have you ever wondered how search engines rank websites on SERPs? Google uses the E-E-A-T concept to do this, taking into account user experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. The third component, authoritativeness, plays a very big role in this approach. To earn it and promote your site, you need to use such a popular SEO tool as backlinks. We tell you what they are, how they work, how their effectiveness is evaluated, and how to increase their number.  

What Are Backlinks?

A backlink is a link that leads from another web resource to your page. It serves as a measure of a site’s authority. The more sources cite your content, share it, and recommend it to other people, the better your position on the SERP page will be. 

The logic is very simple — if everyone likes a site, then it is user-friendly, contains the correct information, and meets user needs. This assumption was the basis of Google’s algorithms from the very beginning. You can evaluate for yourself how true it is — today, the search engine has a market share of about 90% and does not give up its position even after the widespread use of artificial intelligence

How Do Links Work?

It would seem that everything is simple — the more links, the better. But the reality, as usual, turns out to be much more complicated. Spammy strategies aimed at mindlessly increasing the link volume are no longer effective. Today, you need to take into account both quantity and quality. 

The quality of backlinks is determined by several factors:

  1. The authority of the domain that links to your site. Well-known resources with a large volume of traffic have more authority. An Amazon blog will be more important than a page of a local coffee shop, and a BBC news article is more effective than a city newspaper report. 
  2. Page topic. The link should be placed on a site that has something in common with your site. If there is nothing that connects them, the search engine will regard this as spam. At best, it will ignore the backlink, and at worst, it will lower your rankings. For example, you sell flowers. A link in an article about decorating a room will be considered high-quality, and in the manual for auto repair — trash. 
  3. The Follow tag. Search engines take it into account when indexing sites. By default, the tag takes the doFollow value. This means that the crawler follows the link and takes it into account in the page ranking. If you doubt the content quality on the address page and don’t want it to harm your site, it’s better to use the nofollow tag. Although search engines take both types of links into account, dofollow links are more beneficial. 
backlink on website
  • Anchor. This is the name of the text in which the link is embedded. By clicking on this word or words, the user is directed to the landing page. For a backlink to work effectively, the anchor should give an idea of where exactly it leads. For example, the caption “top SEO apps” will work better than “learn more.” 

It is important to realize that backlinks can be both helpful and harmful. They lower a site’s ranking when placed on the following sites:

  • Flagged by a search engine as suspicious, hacked, or spammy;
  • Ones that do not match the subject of your site;
  • Containing too many backlinks.

This feature is often used in illegal black-hat SEO. It allows you to reduce competitor rankings with the help of a huge number of low-quality links. To deal with such unfair methods, special tools in admin consoles are used. For example, Google offers the Disavow service to block link spam. 

How to Build Effective Links?

SEO platforms

Many web agencies create affiliate networks of hundreds and thousands of sites ready for placing SEO links

Cooperation with them is the fastest, most convenient, and most effective way to increase domain authority. The main advantage is the perfect ratio of backlink quality and quantity. 

The agency can do all the work for you — choose a site for placement, write the text for it, design the article, take care of the visibility of the material in search engines, and monitor the result. Responsible companies place backlinks manually, which guarantees high domain authority, compliance with the website topic, and the proper anchor choice. 


This method implies working with bloggers, influencers, site administrators, and CEOs. By contacting them, you offer to place customized material under certain conditions:

  • For a one-time fee;
  • As part of a link exchange;
  • For a share of income/profit;
  • For services and so on. 

Direct cooperation with influencers is not an easy task. Therefore, most SEO specialists prefer to use outreach services for link building. They have their portfolios of opinion leaders ready to place a backlink on a blog, social network, news platform, in a review or testimonial.  

what are backlinks

Such services are convenient because you don’t have to deal with the inevitable whims of influencers. They save you from delays, violations of agreement terms, low-quality content, and other similar problems. 

Guest posts

There are many sites willing to cooperate with talented authors. They are ready to publish your article by adding a backlink to it. The terms of posting such content can vary from small rewards for authors to a paid outreach-like post. 

Guest posting is a perfect choice for authoritative experts and owners of popular websites. It is much easier for them to publish an article on popular sites. They are offered better conditions for posting materials at the top, which implies more effective backlinks. 

Beginners should carefully check the authority of domains that publish guest posts. If you spend effort on creating quality content, it should bring maximum benefit and certainly not harm. 

Niche editing

It is one of the less popular but quite effective link-building techniques. Its essence is that you add backlinks to existing content instead of creating new content. Naturally, such work takes much less effort — you just need to write one paragraph instead of a 1,000-1,500 word article. 

The problem is that you need to convince site owners to make such edits. Motivation can be link exchange, monetary reward, or providing a product to try or services. It is also important to monitor the authority of domains to effectively promote your site in search engines. 

This kind of link-building technique is quite labor-intensive. However, in this area, there are still tools that can simplify your work. They undertake all the tedious work — negotiate link placement, select motivation for site owners, write anchors, and make sure that the edits do not distort the information on the page. 

Automated link building

There are indeed services on the Internet that can generate 100 links in 10 minutes. However, you should use them as carefully as possible. They often place backlinks on domains with low rankings and do not select the subject of the site correctly.

what is a backlink in seo

The work of automatic link-building tools requires mandatory verification. You need to separate low-quality links to block them immediately using Google Disavow or another similar service. 

Conclusion: Do You Need Backlinks?

The short answer is yes, you do. It is very difficult to develop a site without a quality link volume. Search engines will not be able to adequately assess the level of the website’s authority, and therefore, it will lag behind competitors even with perfect internal optimization. 

If you disclose the topic in more detail, you should continuously work on expanding the link volume. Develop it through guest posts, niche editing, and outreach. Use the services of web agencies and engage specialized tools. And remember that in modern SEO, the quality of backlinks outweighs their quantity.