A Beginner's Guide to Backlinks in 2018

If you are just starting to carry out Search Engine Optimization (SEO) research, chances are you’ve been hearing a lot about backlinks. This is because backlinks are one of the most important elements of any SEO campaign.

This is not speculation, but a fact that Google confirmed back in 2016. Despite this, backlinks remain one of the most misunderstood ranking factors.

The aim of this guide is to very simply explain the role of backlinks in SEO as well as the various backlinking activities you can undertake to improve your website’s visibility.

What are Backlinks?

Simply put, a “backlink” is created when an external website links to yours. Search engines consider each of these links are “votes of confidence” for your website and content.

Backlinks matter because these votes tell search engines that the content on your website is valuable, credible and useful. The more of these votes you have, the higher your site will rank in Google and other search engines.

What are Quality Backlinks?

All backlinks are not created equally. Backlinks can make a small difference, a big difference, or even hurt your rankings performance. The reality is that a single quality backlink can be more powerful than thousands of low-quality backlinks.

What makes a quality backlink? Here are four factors you want to consider before getting started:

#1 Relevance

First things first, it’s important that links to your website come from websites that are topically related. For example, if you sell fishing rods and you have a high number of links from vegetarian recipe websites, this will not help your website’s ranking performance. In fact, it may cause suspicion and even cause you a penalty (which is bad for your SEO)!

#2 Quality

Not only should the websites linking to your site be relevant to your niche, but they should also be popular with Google and other search engines as well. This makes sense, if you are looking for a recommendation as a soccer coach, a recommendation from Sir Alex Ferguson will look better than a recommendation from your high school gym teacher.

#3 Variation in your Backlinks

There are many types of websites connected to various industries, ranging from blogs, to review websites, to forums and online directories. To build a strong backlink profile, you need backlinks from all of them, and not just from one particular type of website.

#4 A Link’s Anchor Text

Anchor text is the blue underlined text that is clickable and will take you to another webpage to which it is pointing to. In general, you want your links to have anchor text that includes your target keyword. In fact, industry studies show a correlation between keyword-rich anchor text and higher rankings for that keyword.

What does this mean? According to SEO Hacker ,“If you have a website that sells gift checks, building links with the anchor text “gift checks”, “gift certificates”, “gift items” will get you further up the ranks in the long run than making just focusing all your anchor texts on “gift checks”. But not having the keywords “gift” or “checks” or “gift checks” inside the anchor text would lead to it being somewhat useless.”

backline Image source: https://backlinko.com/

How do you Build Backlinks?

Unfortunately link building is more of an art than an exact science. The bottom line is that link building requires creativity, hustle, and often, a budget. No two link building campaigns are the same, and the way you choose to build links depends on a number of different factors. Here are two different examples of how you can build backlinks and a little bit about each approach:

1. “Natural” Editorial Links

These are links that are given naturally by sites and pages that want to link to your content or company. Sounds easy, right? The truth is that very few SMBs have the resources to build the kind of content that is highly shareable. It takes time and usually requires a talented content marketing team.

Even with highly talented content marketers at your disposal, this approach still requires a lot of time. The Skyscraper Technique popularized by Brian Dean is one method for achieving these “natural” links. The steps are as follows:

#1 Find link-worthy content around a topic with search volume

Set up Google Alerts for keywords related to topics you want to cover. BuzzSumo is another great tool that provides you with pieces of content that have been most shared around specific keyword phrases.

#2 Make something even better

If you stumble upon a blog post from a competitor on a topic that you’d love to cover, perhaps you could make an infographic, video, or even a more in-depth guide that could deliver more value. Consider which content medium your audience engages with most and start by relying on the skills your organization is best at.

#3 Reach out to the right people to generate the links needed to rank

Now that you have some momentum picking up with your great new piece of content, it’s time to spread out and start sharing with your list of targeted influencers, brands, and bloggers who publish and share related content.

#4 Repeat #1 -3 again with a new topic

2. Self-Created, Non-Editorial

There are literally hundreds of thousands of websites that offer any visitor the opportunity to create links through guest book signings, forum signatures, blog comments, or user profiles. These links are low-quality and low-value, but can, in the aggregate, still have an impact for some sites. In general, these links are increasingly devalued by search engines and in some instances may be considered spammy.


We at MarketTap recommend spending your time on long-term link building strategies that focus on building links naturally i.e. the “natural”, editorial links described above.

This starts with building content that is both valuable and highly shareable. From there manual outreach kicks in i.e. telling people about this content. To do this, you need to find the right targets, and send the right emails, all at a good speed.

While this may seem like it’s a substantial amount of work, the return to your SEO efforts will be worth it.

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