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What Are Backlinks and Why Are They Important For SEO?

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So you want to grow your website and your traffic, but Pinterest has been fickle? We get it! Pinterest, while an important component of getting traffic to your site is only one vehicle. SEO should be your number one priority and high quality backlinks are an important part of that.

But first, let’s start with the basics:

An image of a schematic and a text overlay that reads What Are High Quality Backlinks and Why They Matter for SEO

What is a Backlink?

Backlinks, which are also known as inbound, incoming links or one-way links are simply links that point to or go to your website from another website.

Backlinks help promote your website as they tell Google (and other search engines) “Wow!  This is good content. So good that others are referencing it”!

Well, yes, but not all backlinks are created equal. Quality matters. More on this in a bit. 

Backlinks help promote your website as they tell Google (and other search engines) “Wow!  This is good content. So good that others are referencing it”! #SEO #Backlinks Click To Tweet

Why are Backlinks Important?

There are quite a few components to a successful search engine optimization (SEO), including: content, keywords, meta tags, and high quality backlinks. According to Google’s ranking algorithm, backlinks have always been critical in how they determine which site or link will rank.

High quality backlinks (not just ANY old backlinks) are a critically important part of your overall SEO strategy and brand awareness.

The more quality backlinks you have, the more you are earning Google’s trust. It’s similar to going for a job interview. The more positive references you have, the better your chances of getting the job. Google is like the employer and you are trying to prove that you are worthy of being ranked.

Backlinks affect your SEO and your SERP (search engine results page) rankings.

Google is famous for their many updates to their algorithms which gather information and rank pages. In addition, they use bots and spiders to crawl your site for content and backlinks and even hire physical “raters” to manually review sites and rate on critical data, including backlinks.

Search engine algorithms gather all of this data and determine how relevant the pages linking to your site are (which impacts your page rank). The higher your quality of backlinks, the better your Search Engine Results.

Way back when, in the early days of Google and search engines, as a whole, backlinks were one of the top ranking factors.  As people started to develop “black hat” SEO techniques (basically, scamming the game to manipulate search engine algorithms), Google became much more sophisticated in how they view backlinks.

SEO success won’t happen overnight. Consider it a long-term, but highly successful strategy for website and blog growth.

SEO success won't happen overnight. Consider it a long-term, but highly successful strategy for website and blog growth. #SEO #blogging Click To Tweet

Backlink Quality Matters

By now, you can see just how important backlinks are to the success of your site and search rankings. However, spammy or low-quality backlinks can actually hurt your site.

So, what IS a spammy or low-quality backlink? 

Spammy backlinks are not relevant to your content or come from a very low-ranking site.*

When someone goes to Google to search for something, the search engine uses its algorithm and rankings to serve up the best possible results. When it comes to backlinks, you want links from high-ranking pages as opposed to low-ranking sites. Think of it like the job interview mentioned above:  you want references from respected bosses and co-workers, not people with questionable character as it affects how you are viewed.

Most importantly, you want backlinks that are RELEVANT to your site and content.  For example, I’ve had links from sites with random letters and numbers that have nothing to do with my content.  That would be a spammy link. 

*NOTE:  We are often asked about linking from low-ranking or low DA sites. Our personal opinion (and that of many SEO experts) is that as long as the link is relevant to the content and the site has good quality, it’s completely fine to have a backlink from a lower domain site. That lower domain site may be new and may surpass your own one day. In addition, as a Christian community, we should do all we can to support and build each other up. Relevance is the key here, not popularity.

Measuring Backlink Quality

Now you know what a backlink is, why it is important to SEO and how quality matters, but how do you really determine the quality of a backlink? 

There are several criteria for measuring backlink quality:

  • Relevance, as mentioned above. If you write about Christian marriage and are receiving backlinks from gardening sites or foreign sites, chances are, they are not relevant.
  • Domain Authority (DA) or Domain Ranking (DR) DA is a search engine ranking score to predict how well a website will perform in SERPs.

DA score is defined by several factors, including the total amount of backlinks and linking root domains. You can use the MOZ DA Checker to find out the Domain Authority of any website or Page Authority of a separate page to measure how strong it is.  There are several different places to find your own DA and each uses a different scoring method to provide this number. We use Ahrefs, but there is also MOZ, SEMRush and more. Keep in mind that you should compare only MOZ to MOZ or Ahrefs to Ahrefs as each scores differently. The higher the DA, the higher the search engine ranking score. The highest number you can get is 100. 

NOTE: Please do not heavily focus on this number for your own site. We all started somewhere and your DA will go up as time goes on and as you build your SEO strategy. Having a lower DA doesn’t mean you’re not as good as another site. They may be older, may publish more often, or a host of other factors. It is not a popularity score. 

TIP:  Shoot for high quality backlinks within the neighborhood of your own DA, the higher the better. For example, if your DA is 10, shoot for backlinks on sites with a DA of, say 8-30.  However, you can “reach” a bit higher or lower if the website is directly relevant to your niche.

  • Page Authority (PA) or UR (URL Rating). This factor is an indicator on how likely the linking page is to rank high.
  • Spam Score – to know how spammy the linking website is (should be a score of 3 or less.) MOZ, SEMRush and other platforms offer a place to check this, for free.

2 Main Types of Backlinks

There are two main types of backlinks:

  • Follow (or “do-follow”)

A follow backlink helps your site’s domain and page authorities and help with SERP

  • No-Follow

No-follow backlinks don’t directly affect your site’s strength directly but still point to your site and potentially help readers find your website.

Remember, Google is sophisticated now, so you want to shoot for a natural backlink strategy – a mix of do-follow and no-follow links.

How to NOT Get Backlinks

First and foremost, do NOT use “black hat” SEO techniques to get backlinks. Google knows and growing backlinks gradually will do way more for your SEO and Google SERP than getting hundreds or even thousands of backlinks, at once.

One common black hat backlink technique is buying backlinks. Don’t do it and don’t fall for the emails where people ask if they could buy a backlink on your site. Google WILL find out and you could not only harm your Google trust but potentially get banned altogether from search results.

An image of a woman in a black hat and sunglasses making duck face

How to Get High Quality Backlinks to Your Site

The best way to get high quality backlinks to your site is the old-fashioned way: networking and relationship building.

Additionally, you should:

  • Write “epic” content which includes shareable content, including infographics.
  • Regularly add new content to your site
  • Guest post on other sites
  • Have social sharing tools on your site
  • Participate in the Faithful CEOs backlink challenge starting soon.  We’ll be covering a new backlink strategy each day to help you grow your backlink profile and overall SEO strategy.
The best way to get high quality backlinks to your site is the old-fashioned way: networking and relationship building. #SEO #backlinks #blogging Click To Tweet

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10 Comments

  1. I appreciate you taking the time to put this together. However, I have to admit that most of this is like trying to read a foreign language. It is flying right over my head. I would need someone to really say, “Okay Leigha, this is all you need to do,” and then show examples of their work. You know dumb it way down :).

    1. Leigha are you signed up for our backlink challenge? That will explain it a lot. It really seems harder than it is. In the end it comes down to building relationships and building trust. But I hope you’re joining us for the challenge!

  2. This is good information – thank you! As a new blogger, I’m looking forward to learning more about backlinks. I am a little confused about one point… why would an unrelated site link to my blog? You say “For example, I’ve had links from sites with random letters and numbers that have nothing to do with my content. ” What purpose does that serve the other site?

    1. They hope that it will add value to their site by linking to informative content. So while the site may be unrelated, they may have an article that references a particular thing that they can link to. Some do it in the hopes of the site owner linking back (some do to show they are linked somewhere). There are a lot of reasons spammers do it as well.

  3. This is very interesting. I have never heard of backlinks. Thank you for sharing this information and offering the backlink challenge. I am really hopeful that I will learn lots of information from it.

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