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What Is A Backlink?

What Is A Backlink

Date First Published: 27th July 2022

Topic: Web Design & Development

Subtopic: SEO

Computer Terms & Definitions

Difficulty: Easy

Difficulty Level: 3/10

Learn more about what a backlink is in this article.

A backlink, also known as an incoming link, inbound link, inlink, or an inward link, is a hyperlink from one webpage to an external website. For example, if Website A linked to a webpage located on Website B, Website B would have a backlink and Website A would have an outbound link as the link is going out to another website. Website A would be the referrer and Website B would be the referent. If Website A included internal links that only link to pages within that website, they would not be backlinks.

One of the main algorithms that search engines use to rank indexed pages is the number of backlinks a website has. This is because backlinks signal a search engine a vote of external confidence and prove that people find the content useful. The more backlinks a website has, the higher the chances of it coming up at the top of the search engines when users input relevant keywords. If a website has a large number of backlinks, there is a greater chance of traffic being generated from those external websites. This is the reason why generating backlinks has become a common practice for SEO and are an important SEO term.

Even though the difference between these two types of backlinks is invisible unless the HTML source code is viewed, backlinks can come in two types, which include:

Dofollow backlinks

These are the default type of backlinks that add value to the site that publishes them and the site that they are linked to, causing the linked site to gain authority and improve the search engine ranking. These do not require any additional HTML code and search engines interpret these backlinks as an organic relationship between the two sites. There is no such thing as the rel="dofollow" attribute. All standard backlinks are, by default, dofollow.

Nofollow backlinks

A backlink that contains the rel="nofollow" attribute. These are less common types of backlinks that instruct the search engine to ignore the URL. If a website links to an external site using a nofollow backlink, it will not cause the linked site to gain authority or provide any SEO benefits. It is often used for sponsored links, links that a website does not want to support, and user-generated links on forums and comments to prevent posted links from being used to artificially boost the ranking of external sites. Search engines often like a good balance of both dofollow and nofollow backlinks and reward websites that have high-quality related links. Nofollowing all the links of a website will do more bad than good.

Backlinks on high ranking and major sites, such as Wikipedia, YouTube, Quora, and Reddit all use the rel="nofollow" attribute, so if you linked to your website on these websites, it would not provide any SEO benefits or boost your search engine ranking.

A Google Chrome extension called 'Strike Out Nofollow Links' automatically puts a line through any nofollow links on a page so that you don't have to have to keep manually checking the HTML.

An example of a nofollow link can be seen below:

<a href="" rel="nofollow">Facebook</a>

In 2019, two new attributes were introduced by Google. They do not give the linked website authority or an external vote of confidence. These are:

  • rel="sponsored" - Used for sponsored, affiliate, or paid links.
  • rel="ugc" - Used for user-generated links in comments, forums, or posts.

Adding a backlink to a website is simple. All that you need to do is create a hyperlink within a piece of text or an image and point it to the site by specifying the URL. It will automatically become a dofollow backlink.

Buying or selling links or using backlinks for the sole purpose of manipulating search engine ranking is prohibited by Google's guidelines and will cause the links to be devalued. For example, Google released an algorithm update called 'Penguin' in April 2012 that penalised websites believed to be violating its guidelines by artificially increasing the ranking of a webpage through manipulation of the number of external links pointing to that page. These techniques are often described as link schemes.

Even though you can add an unlimited number of external links from their content to other websites (outbound links), these links only benefit the website you direct traffic to. Getting another website to add a backlink is sometimes a difficult task and requires content to be valuable enough for people to recommend and provide a link to it.

A backlink is not the same thing as an external link. An external link refers to any hyperlink pointing from one website to a different website located on a different domain name. For a website owner, links pointing to their website would be considered backlinks, or inbound links and links located on their website that are pointing to another would be considered external links, or outbound links, not backlinks. Backlinks are a type of external links that point to the owner's site, but the links they have to other websites are not backlinks. But, for the owners of the other websites, they would be considered backlinks to them.


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