SilverDisc Blog

16th December 2022

Why Are Backlinks So Important For SEO?

You may be aware of links as one aspect of SEO – the other two being website architecture and content. But why are backlinks so important for SEO, how can they impact your website, and how do you get more of them? We’ll cover the basics of backlinks in this article.


What are backlinks?

Backlinks are links to your website from other sites. In SEO, you can have links that are internal or external, with internal links being those that sit within your website and point to another page on your site. You may also have external links on your website that link to other sites. You can learn about internal linking here, otherwise stay put to find out all about backlinks!


How do backlinks positively affect SEO?

We’ve established that backlinks are those on other websites that take a user to your site, so let’s solidify this meaning with an example. Say my fond fictional cartoon luggage company Alpaca My Bags (first unleashed here) is doing some link building, and an equally fictional influencer Tracey Travelsalot reviews the latest Alpaca My Bags backpack on her blog. In her write-up, she inserts a link to the Alpaca My Bags website. That’s a backlink. Congratulations to the Alpaca My Bags marketing team – or marketing herd, as they should be called.

But is it enough to know that this link exists? Not quite. We need to know some details about the Tracey Travelsalot website in order to evaluate whether this is a good link. Let’s set out a scenario in which the link from Tracey is a great one to have:

  • Tracey’s website has a high Domain Authority (DA) score in Moz: This score indicates how well Tracey’s site may rank and is made up of her spam score, total linking domains, external and internal links, and dofollow and nofollow links. Let’s say in our positive scenario, Alpaca My Bags has a DA of 30 and Tracey’s site has a DA of 40.
  • Tracey’s website has a low spam score: Tracey has a spam score in Moz of just 1%, so a link from her is more valuable than from a site with a high spam score.
  • Tracey regularly updates her website: A well-maintained website with fresh content is loved by Google and users alike. Luckily, in this situation, Tracey posts two blog posts every week without fail.
  • The backlink is dofollow: Sometimes people will add a “nofollow” tag to links to tell Google not to take the link as an endorsement, which renders the link fairly useless in terms of SEO as it means it doesn’t influence how Google ranks your site. Tracey hasn’t done this, so Alpaca My Bags is getting all the benefits of having a link from her site to theirs.
  • Tracey has a big following: Her website consistently attracts thousands of visitors every week, so the Alpaca My Bags blog post won’t go unnoticed.
  • Tracey’s other blog posts are indexed by Google: Not all pages on the web are indexed, but since Tracey’s other blog posts are listed on Google, chances are this one will be, too.

Clearly, Tracey has built a great following and brand for herself and is doing some good work on her website. What an upstanding internet citizen! All of this means the link from Tracey Travelsalot is great news for the Alpaca My Bags herd.


How can backlinks negatively affect SEO?

We’ve looked at the positive scenario, so now let’s take a look at a negative example. What state would Tracey’s website need to be in for a link from her site to have a detrimental effect on the Alpaca My Bags website’s SEO?

  • Tracey’s website has a low DA score in Moz: Contrary to our positive scenario, while Alpaca My Bags has a DA of 30, this time around Tracey Travelsalot only has a DA of 20. Since Alpaca My Bags has a higher DA than her website, they aren’t going to gain much in the way of SEO juice from this link. It’s not a website Google will hold in higher regard than the Alpaca My Bags site.
  • Tracey’s website has a high spam score: The Tracey in our first scenario was very discerning, and would only provide backlinks to websites she trusted and for products she really cared about. This Tracey, however, is a loose cannon. She’ll link to anyone and everyone – she doesn’t care if the website she’s linking to is trustworthy or how many links are on her site. Her links are many and questionable, and as such, she has a spam score of 40%.
  • Tracey rarely updates her website: In fact, she hasn’t touched it for months. The Alpaca My Bags blog post is the first thing she’s uploaded since July, and it’s now December. The blog post before that was saying how much she was looking forward to Halloween – Halloween 2019, that is.
  • The backlink is dofollow: In this case, it may actually be beneficial for the link from Tracey to be nofollow because Google ignoring the link would be better. But as it is, the link is dofollow and since the website is not good at all, this does Alpaca My Bags no favours.
  • Tracey has a tiny following: Nobody comes to her website. Can you blame them, if she’s only updated it twice in the last three years and it’s riddled with useless links to other bad sites?
  • Tracey’s other blog posts are not indexed by Google: Tracey’s other blog posts are not indexed by Google, so the Alpaca My Blogs post may not be, either. Which, considering the scenario I have constructed above, is probably a good thing.

Oh, Tracey. What a letdown. You could have created such a good website and fulfilled your dreams of becoming an Instagram bag model with free samples of clutches, backpacks and bum bags cascading out of your wardrobe every time you opened the door. Instead, you’ve made an SEO mess for both you and everyone you’re linking to, and I bet you’ve no free swag to show for it.

But this isn’t about Tracey Travelsalot and her digital misdeeds – it’s about Alpaca My Bags getting great backlinks. And the backlink in the above scenario could actually hinder their SEO rather than help it.


How can you get more quality backlinks?

So how can you engineer more positive scenarios with the likes of the good Tracey Travelsalot, and avoid websites like those of her nuisance counterpart? First, you can vet any links you do get – or any opportunities for potential links – using our bullet points above as a checklist. In fact, here is a blog post that goes into each point in more detail: How to Evaluate an SEO Link Building Opportunity.

You can disavow links if you need to – read Google’s guide on how to do this: Disavow links to your site.

We also have some ideas specifically for ecommerce websites, so if this is you, take a look at the final section of this article for tips on where to get backlinks: SEO For eCommerce Blog Series Part Five: Blogging, Content and Links.

Finally, take a look at this article for more information on how content fits into your link building strategy: How You Can Use Content Marketing As A Link Building Strategy.

Good luck! If you would like any help with your SEO, get in touch with SilverDisc.

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