How Do Backlinks Affect Search Engine Optimization?

Backlinks are the most vital factor in successful SEO – bar none.

It’s a simple answer. Seems like what you came for, right?

But there’s more to it than that, of course.

A backlink is any link placed on one site that leads to a different site. Backlinks were established as an incredibly important factor in search from the very beginning. The first version of Google considered a backlink an “editorial vote” establishing a given site’s credibility.

Google has since implemented dozens of other ranking signals that affect how a site is placed in search. However, research shows that backlinks consistently rate as the most significant – by a long way.

Here’s what you need to know about backlinks:

Backlinks Are Associated With a Particular Keyword

A keyword is the text a search engine user enters as the query. Google has moved away from making search results match queries exactly, but they are still useful for organizing your SEO campaigns. The anchor text of a backlink determines what keyword it is associated with. When similar anchor text is used multiple times, it signals Google about the meaning of your content.

Not Every Backlink is Created Equal …

How Do Backlinks Affect Search Engine Optimization

Backlinks from authoritative sites are more valuable to your SEO than others. An authoritative site is one that Google recognizes as credible, well-established, and pertinent to your niche. In the past, .gov and .edu sites were generally considered the most authoritative. Now, Google will look at many factors that tell it whether a linking site serves the same audience you do.

… But the More Backlinks the Better (Usually)

In general, the more backlinks you have, the better off you will be. A handful of links from small, up and coming sites may bolster your SEO just as well as one link from an authority site. There is an exception, though. Sites that engage in malicious or duplicitous practices can harm your search engine standing. You can use the Disavow Tool to reduce the potential harm.

You Should Always Be Building Your Backlink Profile

A dearth of backlinks will slam the brakes on the rest of your SEO strategy. If you’re not getting backlinks, you’re not moving the needle on off-page SEO. Plus, anywhere from 10% to 30% of your entire link portfolio will vanish from the Web in any given year. A concerted plan to get new backlinks every month will keep you ahead of the curve.

What’s the bottom line? Backlinks aren’t the whole story when it comes to SEO, but they are a major part of it. Although you can get links through social media and by reaching out to influencers, the most effective way is to consistently post useful and informative Web content.