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. These links grow a website’s visibility and traffic to them is therefore an important factor in the SEO roadmap.

For search engines, backlinks count as a recommendation from other Web sites to a Web site. Thus, they show authority and relevance of a page. When a quality website links to a website, it can boost a website’s position in search engines’ organic search results. More potential customers are attracted.

In this article, I cover how backlinks work, what backlinks are and explain 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 are backlinks?

So a backlink is a hyperlink from another website to a website. For search engines, this is a signal that a Web site is relevant. If other websites find the information interesting, chances are that visitors will find it too.

Search engines view backlinks as an indication of a website’s authority and relevance within a particular field or niche. When many quality websites link to a website, a website has a lot of authority. This reflects confidence in and popularity of the domain name. This results in a higher position in the organic search results. What kinds of links are there actually?

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.

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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. Here are some reasons that show the importance of backlinks for SEO:

Influence of backlinks on SEO

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. Users also value backlinks. Therefore, in case many quality websites link to a website, search engines see this as a sign that a website is an authority in its 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. If another website links to it, it can lead to more visitors. This also provides more potential customers, which can lead to more conversions and thus more sales.
Visibility and traffic with backlinks
  1. Reliability: quality backlinks come from reliable sources. When trustworthy websites link to a website, the website comes across as more trustworthy. Potential customers see the company as reliable in the field and are more likely to visit this website.
  1. Indexing: if a search engine comes across backlinks to a website, it will be indexed faster. These pages are registered faster by crawlers. This increases visibility.(1).
  2. Higher in search results search engines value quality over quantity. Obtaining only quality backlinks from relevant and trustworthy websites ensures that a site will rank higher in Google. Backlinks from less reliable websites achieve the opposite result.
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Quality backlinks are an essential component in SEO strategy. They are available in different ways. For example, create from valuable content that others want to share or write guest blogs for relevant websites. It is also important to actively participate in relevant forums and communities.

However, obtaining quality backlinks takes a lot of time and effort. Follow search engine rules and build a natural backlink profile.

Continue reading about backlinks and link building

Different types of backlinks: follow and nofollow

Nofollow backlinks are backlinks that a website places itself. These links indicate to a search engine that it may not follow or use the link to rank a Web site(2).

Follow backlinks are an important aspect for SEO. They increase a website’s ranking. An effective backlink strategy is needed to obtain follow backlinks from quality and relevant websites.

nofollow backlinks

However, nofollow backlinks are not used to determine a website’s ranking. However, they do help improve the visibility of a website and thus lead to a greater number of visitors. Visitors who click on the link will still arrive at the website.

Follow backlinks are generally more important for SEO than nowollow backlinks. Yet nofollow backlinks are also important. Actively participate in relevant online communities and post blog posts and articles to obtain nofollow backlinks.

Search engines prefer follow backlinks obtained naturally. So don’t buy backlinks. Also, don’t exchange links with websites without relevance. Creating valuable content is especially important. This is an active way to target relevant websites or obtain quality backlinks.

Backlink Analysis

Assess the quality of a backlink profile to obtain only quality backlinks. Search engines punish websites with unnatural backlinks. The factors below help in assessing a backlink profile:

  1. Relevant sources: a quality backlink profile has backlinks from relevant sources within a field or niche. Look for websites that publish content relevant to the website and target audience.
  1. Authority: a quality backlink profile has backlinks from trusted and authoritative websites. Various tools such as the Moz Domain Authority and Ahrefs Domain Rating help measure the authority of a Web site.
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  1. Anchor texts: the anchor texts of backlinks should not only be relevant, but also appropriate to the content being linked to. Don’t use too many exact keywords in anchor texts. This may strike search engines as unnatural and possibly penalized(3).
  1. Diversity: a quality backlink profile has backlinks from a variety of sources. These backlinks have different anchor texts. A backlink profile consisting only of backlinks from the same source or with the same anchor text is considered unnatural by search engines and can be penalized.
  1. Geographic location: backlinks from websites from different geographic locations, increase a website’s authority and relevance. So don’t just look for websites nearby, but rather for websites from different regions and countries.
Geographic location (global backlinks)
  1. Nofollow vs. follow: ensure a balanced ratio of follow and nofollow links to create a natural backlink profile.

It is important to regularly analyze and review a backlink profile. Don’t just check that it has quality backlinks, but also look for any problems. Thus, it is possible to resolve them quickly punishments are avoided. Use tools such as Ahrefs, Moz, SEMrush and Majestic to analyze a backlink profile.

Overview of the influence of backlinks

The table below shows different types of backlinks that are common with their degree of difficulty to determine if it is possible to get these backlinks.

Type of backlinkImpact on SEO (1-100)Difficulty level (1-100)
1. Editorial backlinks (from high authority sites).9090
2. Guest blogging backlinks8070
3. Business profile backlinks7050
4. Webinar and evergreen content backlinks.8080
5. Backlinks from infographics7060
6. Forum and blog comment backlinks3040
7. Social media backlinks5030
8. Backlinks from reviews6060
9. Backlinks from news and PR sites8085
10. Internal links within your own website7020
Types of backlinks to a website.

Getting quality backlinks

Although getting quality backlinks can be a challenge, the tips below can help:

  1. Create valuable content: create valuable and relevant content to get quality backlinks. High-quality content makes other websites link to it faster. Regularly publish valuable and interesting content – think blog posts, articles, infographics and videos.
  1. Guest blogging: write guest blogs for other websites to get quality backlinks. Look for websites within the field or niche that regularly publish guest blogs. Contact the owner. Discuss the possibility of writing a guest blog for the website. Not only should this content be relevant and valuable, it should also naturally incorporate the website.
  1. Online directories: register a website with reliable and relevant online directories within the field or niche. This is an efficient way to get quality backlinks.
  1. Social media: promote content through social media channels to gain more visibility. Users share and link to as much content as possible.
social media backlinks
  1. Link exchange: exchange links with other websites. This can be an effective method of obtaining backlinks, but it is important to do so only with relevant websites within the field or niche.
  1. Press releases: create press releases and send them to relevant news sites and blogs. If the press release is published, the website may obtain more backlinks.

The important thing is to build a natural backlink profile. However, this takes a lot of time and effort. Create valuable content and actively approach relevant websites. This contributes to an effective backlink strategy that does not violate Google’s spam policy(4).

Common mistakes

It is important to prevent search engines from penalizing a backlink strategy. Therefore, avoid the below common mistakes:

  1. Buy backlinks: search engines can penalize websites that buy backlinks, which can lower rankings in organic search results. Therefore, make sure to obtain backlinks naturally by, for example, creating valuable content and actively approaching relevant websites.
Buying backlinks
  1. Link exchange with non-relevant websites: Link exchange with non-relevant websites leads to an unnatural backlink profile. This can lead to lower website rankings.
  1. Exact keywords in anchor texts: search engines may consider and penalize too many exact keywords in anchor texts as unnatural. So use a natural and relevant anchor text that matches the content being linked to(5).
  1. Low-quality backlinks: low-quality backlinks can lead to a website’s lower ranking or even be penalized by search engines. So avoid getting these backlinks.
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  1. Getting backlinks too quickly: getting too many backlinks in a short period of time can be considered unnatural. Search engines can penalize a Web site for this. It is important to be patient to get good backlinks.
  1. Ignoring nofollow backlinks: nofollow backlinks may not directly affect website ranking, but they do contribute to the visibility of and traffic to a website. So these backlinks are also important to obtain.

So it is important to obtain backlinks naturally and slowly to avoid search engines penalizing the backlink strategy. Focus on valuable content and actively approach relevant websites for backlinks. Quality is more important than quantity.

The influence of backlinks on search engine ranking

Backlinks have a major impact on search engine rankings. When many quality websites link to a website, search engines see that website as an authority in the industry or niche. This can lead to a higher position in the search results for the keywords relevant to the website and field.

Not only does the number of backlinks play a role. The quality and relevance of backlinks are even more important to a website’s ranking. To get backlinks should be obtained naturally and not purchased. Not only are the above aspects good for search engine ranking, but a website also attracts more visitors this way.

The importance of backlink relevance

For search engines, backlinks to a website must be relevant not only to the content, but also to the field and niche. If this is not the case, it can have negative consequences for ranking.

Search engines see a website with relevant backlinks as authoritative and relevant in a particular field or niche. This ensures relevant keywords and higher rankings in the organic search results of search engines.

Quality backlinks come from websites that are important or relevant in a particular field or niche. So look for websites with relevant content the website and target audience. Also approach bloggers, journalists and authors of authoritative publications.

The content linked to on a website must also be relevant to the content of the page from which the backlink comes. If a backlink comes from a page with high authority but does not contain content relevant to a website, its value is limited. A backlink from a website with relevant content but lower authority, is a lot more valuable.

Why a natural backlink profile?

A natural backlink profile is created in an unforced way. Search engines rigorously check for websites that practice unnatural link building and penalize them with a lower ranking in search engine results or even a penalty.

These are some of the characteristics of a natural backlink profile:

  1. Diversity: a natural backlink profile has backlinks from various types of websites and sources. Consider blogs, news websites, social media and directories.
  1. Relevant anchor texts: a natural backlink profile contains several anchor texts that are relevant to the content they link to.
  1. Gradual growth: a natural backlink profile growth gradually. A website does not build a large amount of backlinks in a short period of time, but collects them over a longer period of time.
  1. Quality: a natural backlink profile has backlinks that come from quality websites with high authority and a good reputation within a field or niche.

So don’t buy backlinks or exchange links with non-relevant websites. Obtaining natural backlinks takes a while, but they eventually provide a higher ranking in search results and more traffic to a website. Links also increase the reliability of a Web site within a niche field. Thus, natural backlinks are essential to improve SEO.

The effect of backlinks on local SEO

Backlinks also have a major impact on local SEO. This is SEO optimization for local searches. Think “hairdresser Amsterdam” or “restaurant Utrecht.” Backlinks from local websites and directories increase a website’s local authority and relevance.

Here are some strategies on how to get backlinks for local SEO:

  1. Website with local directories: register a website with local directories such as Yelp, Google My Business, Tripadvisor and other local business directories. Not only does it improve the local authority and relevance of a website, it also helps in getting local backlinks.
local directories (backlinks from directories)
  1. Approach local businesses for collaborations: approach local businesses within the field or niche for a possible collaboration. This can be done, for example, by posting guest blogs on their website or exchanging backlinks. It is also possible to organize joint events. Local businesses link to the website this way. This can lead to quality backlinks.
  1. Be active on local social media: be active on local social media. Sign up a business to local Facebook groups and LinkedIn groups. This increases local visibility and can lead to quality backlinks.
  1. Participate in local events: take part in local events. It is also possible to sponsor them. This increases local authority and results in quality local backlinks.

The above tips not only increase the chances of quality backlinks, but also of better local SEO.

How do you measure the success of your backlink strategy?

It is important to understand the success of the strategy. Any errors can thus also be identified and adjusted immediately. Measuring the success of your backlink strategy can be done in the following ways:

  1. The number of backlinks: the number of backlinks pointing to a Web site is an important indicator of the success of a backlink strategy. Aim for steady growth, rather than explosive growth in the number of backlinks.
The number of backlinks
  1. The quality of backlinks: not only does the number of backlinks count, the quality is important, even more important itself. Tools like Moz Domain Authority or Ahrefs Domain Rating help evaluate the quality of backlinks.
  1. Website traffic: a successful backlink strategy leads to more traffic to a website. Therefore, measure and monitor the amount of organic traffic to a website.
  1. Position in search results: a successful backlink strategy ensures higher position in organic search results. Therefore, check the ranking regularly.
  1. Conversions: measure whether the backlinks contribute to increased conversions, the ultimate goal. Conversions include not only purchases, but also things like signing up for a newsletter or filling out a contact form.

By performing the above analyses, it is immediately clear what is successful and what aspects still need to be adjusted. Create a clear dashboard or report with the most important KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). This makes monitoring progress even easier and any problems are quickly identified and resolved.

Tools for backlinks

Several tools help at every stage of getting the right backlinks. Below are some tools by backlinks. Note: It is almost impossible to get the right backlinks without a tool like Ahrefs or SEMrush.

  1. SEO audit tools: use tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush, and Moz to analyze websites’ backlink profiles. These tools provide insight into the quality and quantity of backlinks pointing to a Web site. This can be helpful in identifying potential link-building opportunities.
  2. Content creation and marketing tools: create from high-quality, shareable content to gain backlinks. Tools such as BuzzSumo help identify trending topics and influentials in a particular niche. This can help create content that will attract backlinks.
Backlinks by Ralf van Veen

Getting quality backlinks?

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  1. Email outreach tools: E-mail tools like Mailchimp or even specialized link building outreach platforms are used for direct link building outreach. These help organize and automate email campaigns to website owners and bloggers for obtaining backlinks.
  2. Guest blogging platforms: websites such as MyBlogGuest provide a platform for finding guest blogging opportunities. Guest blogging is a popular way to get backlinks. It provides both the guest blogger and the host site with valuable content.
  3. Social media and forums: platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Reddit and niche-specific forums are used to build relationships with influencers and other website owners. This can lead to natural backlinks.
  4. Broken link building tools: tools such as Ahrefs and SEMrush are used to identify broken links on other Web sites. It is possible to approach webmasters to replace the broken link with a link to a relevant page on their own website.

Take a varied approach, focusing primarily on quality. The above tools help in obtaining quality backlinks and therefore contribute to SEO optimization.

What do these backlink tools cost?

Using these tools not only requires a lot of knowledge; they also cost a lot of money. The table below shows the prices for each tool. The price range is determined by functionality.

Tool / platformPrice range (per month)Comments
Ahrefs$99 – $999Depending on plan and functions.
SEMrush$119.95 – $449.95Depending on plan and functions.
Moz$99 – $599Depending on plan and functions.
BuzzSumo$99 – $499+Depending on plan and functions.
MailchimpFree – $299+Free up to a certain level; price increases with features and subscribers.
MyBlogGuestFree – variableDepending on specific services and functions.
LinkedIn, Twitter, RedditFree – variable (ads)Mainly free; fees for ads vary.
Tools to get backlinks: the prices.

These price ranges give a general picture. Consult the official websites of these tools for accurate information. Weigh carefully the benefits and burdens.


So backlinks is a sign of authority and relevance within a field. This is positive not only for search engines, but also for visitors.

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

Backlinks is just one of the many factors that affect a website’s ranking in organic search results. Work on a broad SEO strategy, with the biggest focus being on creating valuable content, good technical SEO and an optimal user experience.

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 27 March 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.