The Basics of Backlinks: What, Why and How

Backlink Basics graphic

What are Backlinks?

Backlinks (which are also referred to as inbound links and incoming links) refer to a link that connects two websites. For example, our blog post “How Schema Markup Helps Boost Your SEO” contains the following sentence:

With respect to rankings, one study found that the websites with schema markup climbed an average of four positions vs. those without schema markup.

As indicated by the underlined text, the words “one study” contain a backlink to an external website: (which is the source of the study that is referenced in the content).

What Do Backlinks Do?

The simplest way to grasp what backlinks do, is to imagine that every website has an unlimited supply of “votes of confidence.” Each time a website creates a backlink to another website, it is casting one of its votes. Google, Bing and Yahoo take this into consideration when it comes to search engine ranking. All else being equal, a website with more backlinks from authoritative websites will rank higher than a website with fewer backlinks (or no backlinks) from authoritative websites.

Domain Authority

An important question that you may be asking is: are all backlinks worth the same? For example, is a backlink (i.e. vote of confidence) from Microsoft or Apple equal to a backlink from a new blog that went online this morning? The answer is a definitive no! This is because of a factor called domain authority.

Domain authority is a search engine ranking score between 1-100 that estimates how well a website will rank on search engine result pages (SERPs). A website with a relatively high domain authority is viewed by search engines as being highly credible and authoritative, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft.

For SEO purposes, backlinks from these and other websites with high domain authority scores are worth more — and sometimes much more — than backlinks from websites that have relatively low domain authority scores. It is also important to note that some websites are viewed as spammy or suspicious by search engines. Backlinks from these websites are liabilities instead of assets, and should be completely avoided.

How to Earn Backlinks

One of the most effective and sustainable ways for a website can climb the search engine result rankings — and get ahead of competitors who are vying for the same keywords and customers — is by earning backlinks from authoritative and credible websites. Here are six proven and effective strategies to achieve this objective:

1. Get Included in Local Listings, General Directors, and Industry-Specific Directories

One of the simplest and most effective ways to earn quality backlinks is to identify all high-authority directories and local listings such as “Google My Business,” and either create or complete profiles that include (among other details) a website URL — i.e. a backlink.    

2. Post Original Content on Social Media

Social media websites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram and so on, have very high domain authority. As such, it’s definitely a good idea for businesses to create shareable content (e.g. infographics, articles, videos, survey results, slideshows, etc.) in order to drive engagement and potentially earn quality backlinks.

3. Publish Guest Articles

Another effective way to generate valuable backlinks — and also attract relevant website traffic — is to publish guest articles on credible third-party websites. For example, many companies in the cyber security space publish guest posts on, Dark Reading, and several others. Typically, the backlink is contained in a small “about the author” bio at the beginning or end of the article, or it may be embedded in the content itself. Obviously, these articles must be informative and not self-promotional, or else they will not be accepted. Websites that publish guest posts either have a list of submission rules and guidelines, or they provide it upon request via email.

4. Leverage Existing Relationships

It can also be worthwhile to reach out to existing partners — such as clients, suppliers, vendors, distributors, and so on — and see if there is a viable backlink opportunity. For example, many business websites have a “Recommended Resources” page. It may also be possible to offer a testimonial that also includes a backlink.

5. Press Releases

It is important to note here that, contrary to what many people believe, using press release syndication and distribution services like PRWeb or Business Wire will NOT lead to earned backlinks. However, if third party websites pick up on the news, write about it in their own words, and include a link to the business that is the source of the news, then it will indeed generate a backlink (or multiple backlinks) that will be quite valuable. For example, a medical device manufacturer that, thanks to a timely and topical press release, is referenced on an authoritative website like or will get a massive boost SEO-wise.

6. Engage Journalists, Bloggers and Other Influencers

Another somewhat more challenging — but certainly valuable — way to earn backlinks is by engaging journalists, bloggers and other influencers, and striving to get a review or mention. As can be expected, the most credible of these sources do not sell their influence. As such, getting on their radar screen can take some effort and time. However, if these relationships can be cultivated, then the backlink rewards can be significant.  

Learn More

To learn more about backlinks — and more practically, how to earn them in order to climb the SEO ladder and boost quality traffic to your website — contact the Noble Webworks team today. Your consultation with us is free.

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