What Are Backlinks? And How Important Are They in 2022?

If you want to gain more visibility for your website, you should consider backlink-building strategies. There are several ways to gain backlinks nowadays. SEO strategists focus on guest posting, earned media coverage, and accepting interviews.

Backlinks are paramount to SEO marketing success & are a part of off-page SEO tactics. More backlinks equal better domain strength. A website with more external links from various websites earns better search engine rankings.

Google won’t even classify your domain as reliable if it doesn’t see third-party sources linking to your web pages. Top-linked pages usually rank higher on Google search engine results pages (SERPs).

However, we don’t recommend blindly accepting all link-building opportunities. Not all backlinks are created equal; some might even hurt your brand ranking instead of boosting it.

Don’t fret if you barely understand website backlinks yet. We’ll flesh out what constitutes a backlink, how they work, and whether you should incorporate link building into your SEO strategy.

Key Takeaways

  • Backlinks are external links leading to third-party resources. Google considers your site credible if several publications, news sites, and journals source and reference information from your content.
  • Buying paid links might seem convenient. However, we strongly advise against it because Google penalizes sites that abuse black-hat SEO techniques and spam farms.
  • Webmasters and journalists will reference your website if it provides valuable information like unique insights, independent surveys, original research papers, and helpful infographics. 
  • Low-quality backlinks from spammy websites will plummet your ranking. If the site owner responsible doesn’t remove the unnatural backlinks to your site, submit a disavow the URLs via Google Search Console.
  • Backlinks are essential if you want a higher page rank. The Google search engine algorithm rewards top-linked pages with several quality backlinks and guest posts. To build backlinks consistently, connect with industry-relevant journalists and web admins.
  • Google doesn’t assess websites solely based on external and incoming links. To get higher spots on search results pages, you must execute a combination of SEO techniques that complement your link-building strategy.

What Are Backlinks?

Before anything else, let’s address the main question: What are backlinks?

Backlinks refer to the incoming hyperlink posted when third-party sites link back to your web pages. You might also know them as inward, incoming, or inbound links.

For instance, let’s say you recently uploaded a published thesis. If academic journals, scholarly blogs, and publications reference it, they must link to your website in the citation section. The working link redirecting readers to your site is the backlink.

Of course, backlinks aren’t limited to scholarly articles. Based on our research, third parties like site owners and journalists might link to your website if they need to:

  • Cite reference information. Writers often cite their sources of information for credibility and accountability. Although publications follow differing style guides, they usually insert backlinks to the studies, surveys, and infographics they use as references.
  • Quote you or your brand. Journalists and writers might link to your website if they quote you in an article. For instance, let’s say you have a press release on a new SEO tool. Someone writing about that specific tool could use your statements if they credit you appropriately.
  • Publish a guest post. Many websites accommodate guest posting nowadays. You won’t receive compensation for the blog post you write. However, you can use the opportunity to gain site visitors and boost domain strength through backlinks. Just make sure to use a discreet anchor text. Most publications reject super-promotional guest posts filled with affiliate and external links.
  • Record your profile. When creating a profile on platforms like online directories or social media websites, link to your websites. Google still classifies these links as backlinks. Just don’t expect them to increase your domain authority as much as other types of incoming links.
  • Provide credits to you or your brand. Third parties soliciting donations and asking for financial support typically credit their sponsors with backlinks. 

We’ll discuss the importance of backlinks in depth later. However, to give you an idea of their impact, let’s first assess how the following entities view them:

  • Google Crawl Bots: Google rewards quality websites with a solid web of internal and external links. Internal links improve your site’s navigability, while the latter indicates that even competitors find your content worth mentioning.
  • Alternative Search Engines: Even other search engines like Bing, Yahoo!, and Ask crawl use external links as indicators of reliability and trustworthiness.
  • Human Readers: Site visitors can’t tell the number of sites linking to your web pages, but they’ll likely spot external links in widely known sites and publications. For instance, let’s say your site is mentioned on Wikipedia frequently. More readers will likely trust your content moving forward if they notice that other contributors often reference you.

Overall, quality backlinks will improve how both search engines and readers see your content.

What Are The Types of Backlinks?

As we explained above, backlinks come in several forms; even newly launched websites might already have some from social media comments. However, not all backlinks yield results. 

The Google Panda update in 2011 emphasizes that simply having more backlinks won’t automatically make your website rank higher. Spam links might even hurt your domain strength.

To ensure that you’re building backlinks guaranteed to help your pages rank on search engines like Google, familiarize yourself with the most common types:

DoFollow Links

Example: <a href=”https://www.SampleDomain.com/”>DoFollow link sample</a>

DoFollow links are the most sought-after type of backlink. They pass domain trust and authority from one website to another, potentially boosting the linked site’s overall strength. 

Most external links automatically get coded as DoFollow. Web admins would need to add extra tags if they want their links to fall under another type of backlinks. 

Just note that not every DoFollow link benefits your site. External links only pass existing domain strength, which means backlinks from low-ranking, no-name websites won’t contain much value.

They could even hurt your ranking. In the worst case, Google might suspect you of farming links if you receive multiple DoFollow links from shady, newly launched websites.

NoFollow Links

Example: <a href=”https://www.SampleDomain.com/” rel=”nofollow”>this is a NoFollow link sample</a>

Adding a “nofollow” tag to hyperlinks tells Google crawl bots that they shouldn’t classify these links as backlinks.

NoFollow links don’t pass ranking power. Web admins and writers only use NoFollow links to cite their information sources, not vouch for them.

Generally, NoFollow links don’t affect website performance. Even if a widely known publication like Reader’s Digest or Time posts backlinks pointing to your site, your site won’t rank. However, having said that, Nofollow links still add a lot to a website & business. They still mean a lot of traffic from high-traffic websites like Forbes, etc. will come to your website & having your name mentioned in such websites adds to the credibility of the brand.

Also, a NoFollow outgoing link from shady sites won’t hurt your credibility.

Pro Tip: If you come across a NoFollow backlink, reach out to the site owner or writer involved. Some might cooperate with you & agree to change the link attribute.

Sponsored Links

Example: <a href=”https://www.SampleDomain.com/” rel=”sponsored”>sponsored link sample</a>

Google has specific guidelines on paid link schemes. Paid links still fall under backlinks but only pass ranking power in limited cases. Remember: Google penalizes redundant, low-value paid link schemes.

To prevent paid links from hurting your domain authority, insert a “sponsored” tag in website hyperlinks. Your pages won’t rank from them.

However, you can scatter as many sponsored links as you want among third-party affiliate marketers and eCommerce shops without appearing spammy.

Pro Tip: Double-check the links your affiliate marketers publish. If possible, provide the URLs yourself to eliminate the risk of newbies accidentally using mislabeled DoFollow links. 

UGC Links

Example: <a href=”https://www.SampleDomain.com/” rel=”ugc”>UGC link sample</a>

Google crawl bots started classifying blog, forum, and social media comments with linked pages as backlinks in 2019. Up until then, they fell under DoFollow.

Google prioritizes unique mentions from real users on widely known platforms and forums. You can even mention your website yourself.

Just don’t abuse UGC links; otherwise, Google will flag your profile and website for link farming. Either way, UGC links pass minimal ranking power.

Exploiting them by spamming social media sites with random hyperlinks and mentions will only hurt your domain strength in the long run.

Why Are Backlinks Important?

Now that you know how to get different types of backlinks, let’s talk about their relevance.

Why are backlinks so important? And should you invest your time, financial resources, and energy in backlink opportunities? The short answer is yes.

Backlinks serve as excellent indicators of domain strength and reputability. Your readers and search engines like Google will more likely trust your website if it has several mentions and external links.

Think of backlinks as votes of confidence. Every time someone links back to your site, they’re basically “vouching” for you by sharing their site’s ranking power.

Remember: sites can’t just give backlinks to anyone; otherwise, their authority will plummet.

Are Backlinks Still Important in 2022?

Considering the broad core updates that Google released over the years, you might wonder whether backlinks still produce results in 2022.

Thankfully, they do. DoFollow external links still transfer link juice or ranking power from one website to another. This case study shows how important backlinks still are in 2022.

Just note that Google has already changed several guidelines about using backlinks. For instance, up until 2011, all backlinks boosted ranking power.

Black-hat SEO marketers consequently abused this loophole by creating spam websites built solely for farming paid, unnatural links with zero value. Google was quick to address the issue.

To maximize your current link-building strategy, strive for backlinks from high-ranking websites and publications.

They transfer the most ranking power. Trust us—having dozens of backlinks won’t benefit you much if they all come from low-ranking, no-name websites.

What Are the Best Link Building Strategy Practices?

Getting one or two backlinks is one thing, but executing a solid link-building strategy and effectively boosting your domain strength is another.

Don’t just buy random link packages. Contrary to popular belief, you can build backlinks yourself without spending thousands of dollars. You just need to get creative.

Some proven ways to get more backlinks for your website include:

1. Assessing Your Current Backlinks

Before anything else, assess your backlinks. A firm grasp of current standing will help you understand your site’s strengths, weaknesses, limitations, and growth opportunities. Trust us—generic link-building strategies yield negligible results.

Most newbies just study their domain’s Google search results. However, if you want quicker, more accurate results, we suggest investing in any of the following backlink checkers:

  • AIOSEO: The abbreviation stands for All in One SEO. We like that it produces in-depth charts comparing your internal, external, and affiliate links. Pricing starts at $124 to $749 a month.
  • Ahrefs: If you need to research your ranking on various search engines apart from Google, consider Ahrefs. It assesses domain ratings across different platforms. You’ll see in-depth data analyzing your backlinks on YouTube, Amazon, Bing, and Yahoo! Monthly fees start at $99 to $999.
  • Moz: Using the same indicators is helpful when assessing competitors. Luckily, most websites nowadays use domain authority, which Moz calculates, as the standard indicator of ranking power. Pricing starts at $99 to $599 a month.
  • Ubersuggest: For marketing professionals who need an affordable, accessible tool, try Ubersuggest. It costs 90% less but offers nearly the same standard link assessment features. Pricing starts at $12 to $40 a month.
check domain ranking ahrefs

Don’t overlook random low-ranking backlinks. As we mentioned earlier, spam hurts your ranking power, so you should disassociate yourself from shady sources and publications. 

If you spot an unsolicited, unnatural link, reach out to the site owners involved. In cases wherein they don’t respond, disavow the links yourself via the Google Search Console platform. Just submit a sheet of the links you need Google to ignore.

2. Researching Your Competitors

Now that you know where you stand, it’s time to assess your competitors. Look up the top-performing websites in your industry and research which websites frequently link back to them.

Assess trends and patterns. In all likelihood, the publications and sites giving them backlinks might link to your site if you provide helpful, updated content.

Also, try to pinpoint the source of their backlinks, if possible. Most websites in your industry likely follow similar backlink opportunities; you’ll get left behind if you don’t know them.

3. Connecting With Journalists

Start connecting with journalists and writers in your industry. You’ll meet them through social media platforms, online groups, blog comments, forum discussions, and, of course, in-person networking events. 

Again, fix your profile before networking. You’ll leave a much better, lasting impression if you at least have a solid online presence with a few thousand followers. Remember: you’re competing with other industry experts.

4. Reaching Out to Web Admins

Whether you’re promoting a self-published case study or looking to write guest blogs, connecting with web admins can help. Look for active publications in the same industry.

If they find value in your proposals, such as when you provide valuable insights, original case studies, or infographics, you’re likely to get a backlink.

5. Frequently Writing Guest Posts

Guest posting still stands as one of the most effective ways to gain backlinks. The process involves writing and publishing unique, plagiarism-free content on another publication’s website in exchange for one or two DoFollow links.

So make a habit of writing guest posts. Simultaneously connect with several publications so that you can publish at least four to five blogs a month. 

You can hire a skilled content writer if you have no writing experience. However, we strongly discourage using AI-generated pieces; otherwise, most publications will reject your contributions altogether.

6. Tracking Your Website’s Backlinks 

Regularly assess your backlinks. You might not notice many changes during the first few months of link building.

However, once you acquire a steady stream of guest posting and backlink opportunities, you should spot several new links appearing every month.

7. Fixing Dead Links

Broken link building is a cost-effective way to improve your ranking. Use an SEO tool to scan for dead backlinks, then reach out to the respective website admins. If you’re lucky, they might fix the links for free.

8. Publishing First-Hand Information

If you want more scholars and journalists to mention your website, publish referenceable first-hand information. Writers can’t make baseless claims about specific information (i.e., statistics, dates).

In most cases, they’ll need to source data from surveys, thesis reports, and case studies, which you can provide.

9. Signing Up For HARO

Unfortunately, publishing first-hand data like surveys and case studies requires significant resources.

If you want citations to your site without going over the budget, consider signing up for Help a Reporter Out (HARO). The platform is free to use, plus you can answer as many queries as you want every day.

The platform connects journalists with qualified sources. Here, journalists looking for sources post specific queries relevant to the articles they’re writing, while industry experts and PR specialists like you can provide helpful answers. If a writer quotes you, they might link back to your site.

Just note that journalists prioritize reputable sources, so you’d do well to bolster your website’s bio and About Us pages. Otherwise, writers might overlook your profile. You can also look at other tools like Link Sourcery that collate such opportunities from tools like HARO.

link sourcery build backlinks

10. Guesting on Podcasts

Start guesting on Podcasts. Hosts typically insert links to their guests’ websites when writing show notes and transcribing episodes.

For best results, collaborate with industry-relevant channels. That way, you can use the opportunity to boost brand recognition and promote to a broader market.

11. Distributing Free Tools

Collaborate with industry-relevant websites and offer helpful tools for free in exchange for a few DoFollow backlinks.

For instance, let’s say you primarily target budding freelancers. Look for websites about remote work productivity and give them something helpful, like an invoice sample on Excel or a daily planner template for Notion. Then, ask them to link to your site once they post these tools online.

12. Asking Peers for Inbound Links

If your peers work as writers or manage websites you can ask for backlink opportunities. For instance, you can guest on their shows, provide helpful information for their article, or offer free tools.

13. Hiring a Link Building Specialist

If you’ve already exhausted the tactics above but still have very few backlinks, consider hiring an SEO specialist. Google doesn’t allow the purchase of backlinks. However, it has no rule that prohibits site owners from hiring link-building specialists on a freelance and full-time basis.

Link-building specialists are experts who can bring results you might not have. Their experience allows them to weed out issues hampering your results, such as approaching the wrong type of publications or using outdated SEO trends.

Book consultations with SEO strategists. Share your goals and assess your current approach. Google updates its guidelines regularly. Your backlink building and digital marketing strategies would yield better results if they were executed by an objective professional who’s updated on current SEO trends.

Create a Solid Link Building Strategy for Your Brand

Overall, link-building plays a crucial role in the success of any digital marketing strategy. Despite the thousands of algorithm changes that Google rolls out, it still classifies backlinks as good indicators of site credibility and authority.

Your pages need quality links to gain visibility. Otherwise, you’ll lose the higher spots on SERPs to top-linked pages with more mentions, guest posts, and backlinks.

Also, we suggest investing in SEO research tools to streamline the process. Look into robust systems that will assess your social media ads, the backlinks to your site, and your live blog posts.

That way, you won’t waste time hopping between different platforms. Trust us—once your web pages start generating more traffic, you’ll find it nearly impossible to manage several profiles alone.

Journalist Outreach Service

Looking for a fully done for you journalist outreach service? Book a call with the Jolly SEO team!

More To Explore
Kelsey Reaves is an SEO Consultant and founder of D2C Brand. We were lucky enough to talk to her about her link-building strategies.
Is your goal selling your product as a service? Find out what Tyler Gillespie from Productized.Services has to say.