What Are Backlinks In SEO? The Definitive Guide For 2021

What Are Backlinks In SEO? The Definitive Guide For 2021

So, let’s just jump right into it: what are backlinks on a website and why should you bother with them in the first place?

If a website adds a hyperlink to some content present on your website or blog, then that's a backlink. Of course, you can't just wait there, hoping that someone discovers the excellence of your content and adds a backlink to your site on their blog. You'll have to think out of the box.

scheme showing backlinks leading to a random websites

It’s like this: if a bunch of people is talking about something and they all base their arguments on what you said, who’ll be the authority on the subject? Of course, you! All those people are basing their stories and thoughts on what YOU said. It works pretty much the same way on the internet.

If websites and blogs are linking back to your content, it shows Google that your content adds value to the understanding of your audience. The more authoritative your content, the better your online visibility. Back-linking directly affects your search rankings and is an integral part of any thorough search engine optimization protocol.

What Are Backlinks And How Do They Work?

As stated earlier, backlinks are essentially hyperlinks that build a link between two websites. If someone is writing about a topic, a segment of it, and you’ve done some extensive work on it already, then they may decide to link a certain keyword or phrase with your work.

When their readers click on this hyperlink, they’ll be immediately redirected to your site or blog. Earning them is not an easy task, but if you put in the effort and time to build quality links for your site, your rankings will shoot up, and the organic traffic coming your way will also see a sudden surge.

scheme showing how a backlink links from website a to website b

As a newbie, you might be intimidated by the daunting task and the practices involved but once you develop a better understanding of questions like “what are backlinks on a website,” there’s no stopping you from rising higher in the Google search results.

Types of Backlinks

Not all backlinks are the same, your slot in the search engine results pages (SERPs) for Google and other search engines will be based heavily on the type of backlinks you’ve earned. If you mess up the qualitative part, you may end up doing more harm than good.

The value of your backlink is reflected in things like:

  1. The authority of the site where the link has been placed.
  2. Whether the link has a “do-follow” status or not.
  3. Where in the text has the link been placed?

Now that we understand what are backlinks and how do they work, let's dive deeper into the types that are considered the best and that will help you rank better on Google search results.

White Hat Backlinks

You’re probably wondering what are white hat backlinks and how to get them?

Let’s answer that now.

White hat links, or white hat SEO in general, are strategies deemed legal or legit by Google.

infographics representing steps involved in interviews, resource pages, partner linksinfographics representing steps involved in interviews, resource pages, partner linksinfographics representing steps involved in interviews, resource pages, partner links

High-quality link-building is simple but not easy, however, the results are too tempting for one to overlook these opportunities:

1. Backlinks As Citations

If your work is inspiring and informative, other writers and bloggers may be drawn towards it. And if they cite your work in their reference section, you’ll get a backlink for free.

For this, of course, you’ll have to be established as an authority in your niche and have insights that others may deem valuable. Just keep an evergreen stream of content coming in (make it fast), and you will eventually benefit from such backlinks.

You can also reach out to writers and bloggers, share your work with them, and perhaps they may be inclined towards working on your project!

2. Backlinks Via Guest Blogging

The most prevalent method of getting backlinks is through guest blogging. The idea is simple: find influential blogs in your niche, offer them to write a blog for their site in return for a backlink to your web page. Such sites usually have a defined policy for guest posts, including whether or not they allow backlinks.

The key to success here is to:

  • Search for relevant and willing blogs and websites
  • Write a compelling proposal
  • Having a couple of blogs ready to go (tweak them to suit the situation)
  • Follow their guidelines as best as you can 

3. Backlinks From Digital Profiles

You can also get backlinks from your profiles and portfolios spread across the internet. Just put a link to your website in all of them – it is perfectly legit and highly effective.

But remember, don’t be spammy.

Social media is as good a place as any to kick-start this protocol.

4. Backlinks Earned Via Webinars

If you host or sponsor events relevant to your niche, you can create some high-quality backlinks for your business with all of the participants. You will have to invest the time and effort to get everything in perfect order for a webinar or event, but it will be worth it!

5. Backlinks From Guest Post Author Bio

Some blogs and websites have a strict “no backlinks” policy for their pages, and you must respect that. But you can ask them if they allow backlinks in the author bio. Most will say yes. Write a compelling proposal, draft a reader-friendly guest post, and voila.

Just a PS, make your author bio attractive too!

6. Backlinks From Press Releases

You can integrate backlinks with your PR efforts. This will be more effective for businesses that already have a following on their newsletter or press releases. Independent journalists and bloggers can also use this tactic to great effect.

7. Backlinks From Blog Commenting

Blog commenting can help you salvage some ranking boost if you do things a certain way. Just make sure that you pick only the most relevant blogs and forums to leave your comment.

Don’t just throw in your URL and then vanish in thin air, write around 100 to 200 words, be descriptive, express your views about the blogger's content, and then steal the chance to naturally incorporate your website's link.

Hopefully, this answers “what are white hat backlinks?”

Black Hat Backlinks

Whilst you engage yourself in efforts of link-building avoid the following malpractices that can down-rank you in the search engine results pages (SERPs):

Don't buy backlinks. Some influencers and blogs may demand a submission fee for your blog with a backlink, and that is okay. But paying for spammy links dotted across irrelevant sites is a foolish investment. It will only down-rank your site.

Don’t forget relevance. Let not the quantity drive you to forget about the basics: your links should all be relevant to your niche. Diffused and irrelevant links will only hurt your search rankings.

Don’t engage in link-building at low-quality forums. Your link's quality will directly reflect the quality of your website, so be careful here.

Material by SEOThe Differences Between Black Hat And White Hat SEOThe Differences Between Black Hat And White Hat SEO

To learn more about Black Hat SEO and White Hat SEO, read our article on the right.

How Do They Work?

Now that we’ve explored “what are backlinks on a website,” let’s see how they can help make a difference.

For the want of a simpler term, let’s brand backlinks as referrals.

This table will help explain how they can boost your credibility and online search rankings:

Being authoritative will get you more referrals.The most authoritative figures will have several referrals and backlinks. For instance, Direct Line Development is an authority for website development and SEO because many blogs and sites link back to our pages.
Spamming will hurt your authority.If you are buying hundreds of backlinks without giving thought to quality and relevance, Google will down-rank you.
Having no referrals can put your authority under doubt.If your content or website is great, but you have no referrals, you cannot call yourself an authority in the subject, and neither will Google.

To rank better, you need to have high-quality, relevant, and natural (spam-free) backlinks.

Awesome Proven Strategies: How To Build Backlinks In 2021

Here are some of the most effective and result-oriented techniques of building high-quality backlinks in 2021:

The Skyscraper Technique

The idea is simple, find the most often cited and trending content on Google, read the piece, understand its layout, and then redo the stuff – only better. Add more value by:

  • Incorporating high-quality images
  • Adding more authoritative facts
  • Stuffing in more information
  • Improving the language and tone

Then post it and get busy with the promotion.

Reach out to the people who commented on your competitor’s post, they will be more than willing to read out your content too, and who knows, someone may link back to your piece.

Moving Man Method 2.0

For this technique, just point out outdated information on other’s blogs or web pages and then share your content with them.

If they’re interested, you can do a guest post and earn a valuable backlink.

Explore Other Content Options

Go beyond the simple essay-type content and instead offer variety with stunning videos, infographics, how-to guides, images, and so on. It all depends on your niche, just create something that others may find useful.

They’ll repost it and you’ll get a backlink.

Reach Out To News Sites

This one demands some quick-paced action from your time, but it will be worth it. Stay in the loop of all that is happening in your field, write about the recent changes or future predictions, and then share this information with relevant media outlets.

Just make it informative and better than what your competitors are doing.

Link Building Via Podcast

By becoming a guest for podcasts and YouTube channels, you can open up a new avenue of earning backlinks.

Of course, you’ll have to be resourceful to get an invite, but don’t hesitate to reach out.

Resource Page Link Building

Find a couple of resource pages that link back to sites worth visiting (the ones that do top 10 websites sort of stuff) and pitch yours to their moderators.

Here are some search phrase ideas to help you get them:

  1. “{keyword}” + “top websites”
  2. “{keyword}” + inurl:resources
  3. “{keyword}” + inurl:links
  4. “{keyword}” + “recommended websites”
  5. “{keyword}” + “recommended resources”
  6. “{keyword}” + “further reading”
  7. “{keyword}” + inurl:recommended
  8. “{keyword}” + “top sites”
  9. “{keyword}” + “recommended reading”
  10. “{keyword}” + “useful sites”

Unlinked Brand Mentions

Set up alerts for your blog or brand name. Whenever it is mentioned on the internet, go and check out the mention, and if it is unlinked, ask the writer, politely, to give you a backlink here.

Create and Name Your Link Building Strategies 

This demands imagination and hard work on your part but will also reward you infinitely more than any other approach. Based on your niche, design a novel link-building strategy, name it wisely, and then publish it.

If it works well and sounds nice, people will use it and may also link back to you when sharing the strategy on forums and blogs.

How To Check My Backlinks?

You can keep track of your backlinks via several tools, some examples are as follows:

  • Ahrefs lets you manage your backlinks, acquire new ones, monitor broken and obsolete links, and keep an eye on the successes and failures of your link-building strategy.
  • Moz Link Explorer provides detailed data to help you build a more efficient link-building strategy.
  • SEMrush allows you to compare your progress with that of your competitors. You will also be able to check out the quality of your backlinks and focus on a qualitative approach.
  • Google Search Console is free and allows you to check the influence of your backlinks on your search results.
  • Majestic allows you to see the progress of your pages and work on improving the ones that are not linked effectively.

website statistics in ahrefs, including rank, number of backlinks & referring domainsdirectlinedev.com’s link profile in ahrefs with top linked sites and pages

Closing Thoughts

Hopefully, this article helped you better understand "what are backlinks and how do they work."

Just keep things natural, avoid spamming, and constantly adapt your approach based on your successes and failures, use backlink monitoring tools to help you see the stuff you did right and where you are at error.

Lastly, don’t forget to check out what your competitors are up to.


  • Why are backlinks important in SEO?

    Backlinks are important for SEO because they signal to Google that another resource finds your content valuable enough to link to it within their own content. As a website earns additional backlinks, search engines infer that the website possesses valuable content worth ranking well on result pages.

  • What are SEO backlinks examples?

    Backlinks are links from a page on one website to another. If someone links to your site, then you have a backlink from them. If you link to another website, then they have a backlink from you. For example, these words link to Twitter, so they now have a backlink from us.

  • How do I get SEO backlinks?

    There are three ways to get more backlinks: 

    • create them. This is when you manually add links to your site from other websites.
    • earn them. This is when people discover your content via search engines like Google, social media, or word of mouth, and choose to link to your page.
    • build them. This is when you reach out to other site owners, editors, or webmasters and ask them to link to your page.
  • How to create backlinks in SEO?

    You can find some of the most effective link building strategies in our article. Below are examples:

    • The Skyscraper Technique
    • Explore Other Content Options
    • Reach Out To News Sites
    • Unlinked Brand Mentions


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