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What are Backlinks and Why are They Important?

Today, you’re going to learn what backlinks are, why they’re important, how you can check them for free, and how to get more backlinks to your site. Let’s get started. So what are backlinks? Backlinks are links from a page on one website to another. From the receiving end, these are often referred to as incoming links or inbound links.

And from the linking side, they’re called external, outgoing or outbound links. Take your pick. And there are three reasons why they’re important. First, it’s a factor that helps Google and other search engines determine which pages should rank the highest for a given query. Second, links to your website can send you more visitors through referral traffic.

And third, backlinks can help search engines discover your pages faster. Now, the easiest way to conceptualize backlinks are to think of them as votes. When a page receives a backlink, it’s essentially another website vouching for the content on the page. And the more “votes” you get from credible sources, the higher the trust.

But not all backlinks are created equal. At a basic level, there are two things that separate “good quality backlinks” from the not so great ones. First is topical relevance. Google talks about this in their “reasonable surfer” model which explains how the likeliness of a link being clicked relates to its importance.

So let’s say that you have a web page on “How to make slime.” If you were to label this topic with a category, it would likely fall under DIY, crafts, or perhaps something for kids. Now, assuming this page had two backlinks, one from a tech blog and another from a kid’s activity blog, the latter would hold more weight since there’s higher topical relevance from the page and domain.

Second is authority. Now, when I’m talking about “authority,” I’m referring to the quality and quantity of backlinks from the referring websites and pages. Google places a score on this called “PageRank.” But since these numbers aren’t publicly available, third party tools like ours use our own proprietary metrics like Domain Rating, which represents the overall strength of a website’s link popularity, and URL rating, which represents the overall strength of a page’s link popularity.

To put this into perspective, let’s say your slime article got a link from the Huffington Post. This website is highly authoritative with a DR of 92. And let’s say it got another link from a lesser known site like, which has a DR of 17. Based on the definition of Domain Rating, it’s fair to say that the Huffington Post is a more “authoritative” domain.

And assuming topical relevance and everything else were equal, a link from Huff Post would hold more weight than the other one. But let’s throw a little twist in here. Let’s say that the page from the DR 17 site linking to you had collected hundreds of links from reputable sources, while the article from Huffington Post had only collected a few or maybe even zero backlinks.

Then the page-level authority of the KidsKingdom page measured by Ahrefs’ URL rating score, would likely be higher, potentially giving it an edge over the Huffington Post link. So as you’re looking to get backlinks, you’d ideally want to get them from both topically relevant and authoritative pages to reap maximum benefits.

So how can you check backlinks to your own site? There are two places you can do this for free. The first is Google Search Console If you haven’t already set up an account, just go through the verification process to prove that you own the site. Then go to the Links report. Here, you can see your pages that have gotten the most links, the websites that have linked to your site the most, as well as the link texts that are most frequently used, also known as anchor text.

To see the actual web pages linking to you, click on the More button here. Then click on a page you want to investigate, so I’ll click on our post on free keyword research tools. You can then click on any of the linking websites to see the exact pages where they’re linking from. The second way is to use Ahrefs’ Free Backlink Checker.

Just enter the URL or domain that you want to examine and you’ll be able to see the top 100 backlinks pointing at your target. And if you want the full backlink profile, you can use our tool, Ahrefs’ Site Explorer, export the results or play around with the filters to narrow in on data you want to see.

Now, looking at your own backlinks can only do so much. But you can also use Ahrefs’ Backlink Checker or Site Explorer to get actionable insights on your competitors. Just enter the URL or domain of a competitor, go to the Backlinks report, and you can see where their backlinks come from, allowing you to get an understanding of how they get backlinks.

This brings us to the final part: how do you get backlinks? There are three methods to getting backlinks. These are to earn them, create them, and build them. Earning links refers to natural organic growth. This is when people discover your pages through any medium like Google search, social media, or word of mouth, and choose to link to your page.

Creating backlinks is when you add a link on another website that points to your site. This might be through forums, directories, blog comments, or some other method. Finally are building links. And this is usually done through strategies collectively known as link building. You can build links by reaching out to other site owners, editors, or webmasters and ask them to link to your page.

As a general rule of thumb, the easier it is to get a link, the less valuable it will be. And when you’re new to SEO, you’ll want to focus on link building to really get traction for your site. Since people search for something and often read the number one result, that results in some of them linking to that page from their own website.

And because of the new links, that first-ranking page often stays at the top, creating something we call, “the vicious circle of SEO.” Now, we have a bunch of step-by-step tutorials on various link building tactics, so I strongly recommend watching them now. And if you have any questions, leave one below in the comments.

I’ll see you in the next tutorial.

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