In short, backlinks are hyperlinks linking one site to another. For SEO, backlinks are one of the foundations to improving organic search visibility. It tells search engines that your site, with more authoritative and numerous backlinks, is better than the other sites. With the right backlinks, your site can rank better than your SERP competitors.
Backlinks can be understood as votes in the search results. All else remaining the same, a site with more backlinks will theoretically perform better than those that don’t have any. However, not all votes are weighed the same. A “vote” from a super popular, national publication will have a greater impact on rankings than a “vote” from John Doe. In other words, a quality backlink can mean much more than hundreds, maybe even thousands of low-quality, spammy backlinks.
Quick sidenote: Google has done an excellent job cracking down on low-quality spammy sites. Buying a Fiverr package for 10,000+ backlinks from “high DA” sites is better spent on an awesome ice cap.
Backlinks come in two main qualifiers: dofollow and nofollow.
Dofollow backlinks pass link equity, counting the backlink as a “vote” for your site. By default, most backlinks created from different CMS (such as WordPress) will be dofollow. No tags or additional codes need to be added to create a dofollow link.
Nofollow backlinks do not pass link equity, and does not count for a “vote” in any way. Webmasters use nofollow qualifier when they do not want to be associated with the site that they are linking to. Producing dofollow links for too many topically irrelevant sites can lead to the devaluing of your site authority (you come off as spammy), thus cause your site to lose organic search visibility . Some reasons webmasters use nofollow links include:
- Doing so on user-generated content (comments on blog posts, forum posts, etc.), removing incentives for users to spam your site
- Sponsored or paid links, as Google made it clear on numerous occasions that such “link scheme” involving buying and selling links is unacceptable
- For any links that you do not want to endorse or fully support
When it comes to your SEO campaign, dofollow links are the way to go. Nofollow links have their own benefit in that it can help improve your backlinks profile anchor text ratio. Sites also naturally receive some percentage of nofollows from their backlinks, so ensuring you have enough to “blend in” with your SERP competitors is important. However, this is an advanced SEO architectural discussion for another time.
There are several types of backlinks that SEO experts can agree on:
- Editorial backlink, when an author from another site naturally links out to you and cites your business
- Guest blogging backlink, similar to an editorial backlink, except you reach out to other webmasters and submit a guest post to their website
- Business profile backlink, better known as a citation in the SEO world, comes from business listings, directories, catalogues, and review sites (think: Google My Business, Yellow Pages, Yelp, and Homestars)
- Resource backlinks, where a backlink is garnered for pages listing multiple resources for its readers
- Image/infographic backlinks, where a backlink is achieved when an image is hyperlinked from another site to you
- Social media backlink, which is when you or someone else posts a link to your site from social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
- Q&A backlinks, short for question and answer backlinks, coming from sites such as Quora, Stack Exchange, Yahoo! Answers
- Forum backlinks, coming from niche-specific forums where users discuss relevant topics of interest (think: Reddit)
- Blog comment backlinks, where backlinks from the comment sections of other sites
- PR backlinks, short for press release backlinks, come from content sent to a network of media outlet sites (online syndication)
There are many more forms of backlinks out there. However, these 10 make up the foundation of the different types of links out there.
We mentioned that not all “votes” are weighted the same. Dofollow links inform search engines to pass link equity to the linked site. Many blog comments, forums, and Q&A sites tend to have backlinks automatically set to nofollow. Social media backlinks are also nofollowed (although the traffic generated from such sites can be a positive indicator to search engines of how much relevancy and love your site receives, i.e., shares, likes, retweets, etc.).
When it comes to building backlinks, focusing on editorial, guest posting, business profiles, resources, and image/infographic backlinks can make the greatest impact on your site SEO. Other types of backlinks can help diversify your backlinks profile, but that is often used only when doing some advance SEO work (such as fighting off search engine penalties and over-optimizations).
There are a lot of different strategies to approach your backlinks building campaign. I’ll touch on this in the future. For now, I hope this helps you better understand the different types of backlinks and what a backlink in SEO can mean to you!