What are backlinks and how do you obtain them for SEO?

Backlinks , or inbound links or in links, are hyperlinks from other Web sites to a Web site. For search engines, backlinks count as a recommendation from one website to another.

In this article, I will cover how backlinks work, what backlinks are and why they are important for SEO. I also talk more about the different types of backlinks and how to get them. I also provide some tips on building a natural backlink profile and measuring success of a backlinking strategy.

What are backlinks/what does backlinks mean?

So a backlink is a hyperlink from another website to a website. For search engines, this is a signal that a Web site may be relevant to the reader (after all, the Web site is used as a source). If other websites find the information interesting, chances are that visitors will find it too.

Briefly. When many quality websites link to a website, a website has a lot of authority within Google. This may result in a higher position in organic search results.

The type of backlinks

Internal links: These are links that navigate within the same Web site. Suppose you are on a web page about “healthy recipes” and there is a link to another page on the same website about “vegetarian snacks.

Getting quality backlinks?

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External links: These links point to another website. For example, if you have a blog about photography and you post a link to a camera store, that’s an external link. External links are valuable for providing additional information or resources to the user.

Backlinks: Backlinks are links from other websites that point to your website. If a popular blog about travel posts a link to your hotel website, that’s a backlink for your site. Backlinks are crucial for SEO because they act as a kind of “voice” of other sites that validate the value and relevance of your content.

Not all backlinks have the same value. The quality depends on the quality of the website it comes from. The specific content the link leads to also plays a role in this.

My video on backlinks

No time for a long article? No problem. Check out the bird’s eye view below for a summary of this article.

What are backlinks and how do you obtain them (video)?

Why are backlinks important for SEO?

Backlinks are important for SEO for the following reasons:

  1. Authority and relevance: search engines see backlinks as a sign of a website’s authority and relevance. In other words, they count as a sign that a domain name is trusted within a particular niche or field. Links from relevant websites are rated higher than those from less relevant ones.
  1. Visibility and visitors: backlinks increase the visibility of your website. This leads to more visitors. This also brings more potential customers to the website.
  1. Reliability: quality backlinks come from reliable sources. When trustworthy websites link to a website, the website appears more trustworthy to potential visitors.
  1. Indexing: if a search engine comes across backlinks to a website, it will be indexed faster. These pages are registered faster by crawlers.(1)

Continue reading about backlinks and link building

Different types of backlinks

Nofollow backlinks are backlinks with a Nofollow attribute(rel=”nofollow”). This indicates that the link does not pass SEO power to the website to which it points(2). DoFollow backlinks do increase a website’s ranking. A Dofollow backlink is a link without an attribute (i.e., only a nofollow link shows this).

Furthermore, there are the following types of links supported by Google(see this link for all types of links):

Rel=”sponsored” use for paid link entries.

Rel=”ugc” use for user generated content (for example, a comment on a forum).

You can also use them in combination (think rel=”ugc nofollow”). Generally, all of these variants are interpreted by Google as a nofollow backlink.

What is a good backlink?

I look at a number of things when I scrutinize a backlink profile. For my full articles on this, see this link.

  1. What is the progression of backlinks obtained (here you can also clearly see if they are purchased links) (see screenshot below). Too many backlinks in too short a time is often the biggest pitfall.

2. What is the ratio between the number of links and the number of referring domains (here you can see if there are some unnatural links among them in the form of thousands of links from one domain).

In the picture on the right, it looks very neat (you might even say too neat).

3. What is the most commonly used TLD and is it relevant to the country the website operates in? In doing so, I export from Ahrefs all the referring domains and analyze the TLDs.

4. What is the ratio of DR to UR of specific pages (is there too much focus on a few pages?).

5. What does the anchor text profile look like?

This is a more complex component that is often forgotten during a link building project. Hereby, these are the (rough) average guidelines for the type of anchor texts. Note: The purpose of this is to make it all look as natural as possible to Google.

Type of anchor textPercentage (guideline)
Exact match (search term)5-10%
Partial match10-20%
Naked URL10-20%
Related search terms5-10%
Type of anchor text and percentages.

6. And perhaps most importantly, what is the quality of the backlinks? For almost any backlink profile, I would say that 20% of the backlinks give more than 80% of the power (often an even smaller proportion even). When analyzing the backlinks, I take a thorough look at the quality of the backlinks obtained.

How to get quality backlinks

Below are my tips for getting more quality backlinks.

  1. Create valuable content. This will not work with regular blogs (no one just references blog articles anymore). For example, create a free tool which is relevant to your organization (you have to provide a lot of value to get a link).
  1. Guest blogging. You will almost always have to do something in return for this. So either a link from your website or a payment.
  1. Online directories. Register a website with reliable and relevant online directories within the field or niche. There is often a payment attached to this as well.
  2. Link exchange. Exchange links with other websites. This can be an effective method of obtaining backlinks, but know that it has a lot less effect because Google also sees the exchange in this.
  1. Press Releases. Create press releases and send them to relevant news sites and blogs. Especially in the Netherlands, this is the best option when there is no other budget.

It is simply difficult, despite Google’s rules, for an SME to obtain a substantial number of backlinks without purchasing some of them. No matter how nicely they (Google) outline it themselves.(3)

Overview of the influence of backlinks

The table below shows different types of backlinks that are common along with the difficulty level for each type of link.

Type of backlinkImpact on SEO Difficulty
1. Editorial backlinks (guest blogging without payment).9090
2. Guest blogging backlinks (with payment)8070
3. Natural links due to quality content9095
4. Forum and blog comment backlinks2010
5. Social media backlinks2030
6. Backlinks from news and PR sites8085
Types of backlinks to a website + the impact on SEO.

How do you measure the success of your backlink strategy?

It is always difficult to precisely express the success of link building efforts. What I always use as an example is RalfvanVeen.com when I try to explain this.

RalfvanVeen.com after years of link building is in the situation that everything I write within SEO does get into the top 10. This would never have succeeded without the piece of obtaining quality backlinks. This should be the goal of every organization within every market of course.

So I look much less at, for example, the number of backlinks obtained, referring domains and DR/UR to measure the quality of link building. I look (ultimately) at positions in Google, organic traffic and (qualitative) conversions.

Tools for backlinks

Several tools help at every stage of getting the right backlinks. Below is my list of tools:

  1. Backlink profile analysis: Ahrefs and SemRush.
  2. Content creation and marketing tool: BuzzSumo.
  3. Email outreach tool: Mailchimp.
  4. Guest blogging: MyBlogGuest (international).

What does a backlink cost?

This depends on the type of link you post and on which website you post it. Generally, you pay somewhere around €100 to €300 for one backlink.


Quality backlinks are thus a sign of authority and relevance within a field. This is not only positive for search engines, but also for the visitor.

Backlinks should be obtained naturally and come from quality websites and through quality anchor texts. Good natural backlinks increase search rankings, reliability and traffic to a website.

Note, however, that the process of getting the right backlinks is complex and risky.

Senior SEO-specialist

Ralf van Veen

Senior SEO-specialist
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I have been working for 10 years as an independent SEO specialist for companies (in the Netherlands and abroad) that want to rank higher in Google in a sustainable manner. During this period I have consulted A-brands, set up large-scale international SEO campaigns and coached global development teams in the field of search engine optimization.

With this broad experience within SEO, I have developed the SEO course and helped hundreds of companies with improved findability in Google in a sustainable and transparent way. For this you can consult my portfolio, references and collaborations.

This article was originally published on 27 March 2024. The last update of this article was on 26 June 2024. The content of this page was written and approved by Ralf van Veen. Learn more about the creation of my articles in my editorial guidelines.