What is a backlink? Definition and examples
If a word, phrase, or image on another website has a link that takes the visitor to your site when they click on it, we refer to that link as a backlink. That link takes the visitor back to your website; hence the term. We also call them incoming links or inbound links.
We can write the term as one or two words, i.e., either backlink or back link. The one-word version is more popular.
Backlink versus hyperlink
A link, officially called a hyperlink, is a link on a web page that takes the online visitor from a hypertext, button, or image to either:
- another part of the same page,
- another page on the same website, or
- a completely different website.
You can recognize links on words because they appear blue (plus a blue underline if your cursor hovers over them).
A backlink is a type of hyperlink, but only the third example above, i.e., it takes the visitor to a completely different website, which in this case is the one you own.
Webopedia.com has the following definition of the term:
“In search engine optimization (SEO) terminology, a backlink is a hyperlink that links from a web page, back to your own web page or website. Also called an Inbound Link (IBL) these links are important in determining the popularity (or importance) of your website.”
Why are backlinks important?
Backlinks are good for SEO. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, i.e., being right up there with the leaders when somebody searches for something on a search engine such as Google.
If somebody searches “flights to Paris” on Google or Yahoo, and your online travel agency appears on the first page of the search results, your website has excellent SEO.
Google, Yahoo, and many other search engines reward websites with many top-quality backlinks by ranking them higher than those that don’t.
A good backlink vs. a bad one
Beware of using firms that claim to be able to get you lots of inbound links quickly. They need to be good quality ones.
For example, let’s suppose another website has a page with just the lyrics of the Christmas song ‘Jingle Bells.’ There is nothing else on that page. It the phrase ‘jingle all the way’ has a backlink to your travel agency website, it will be worthless because the page content and hyperlinked phrase have nothing to do with the travel sector.
Google has software with algorithms that can tell the difference between good and bad quality hyperlinks. In fact, if a high percentage of your backlinks are bad quality one, search engines will most likely lower your site’s ranking.
A website that is full of articles that lack coherence has probably been created just for linking. It has no other purpose. All its links are bad quality ones.
Yoast.com says the following about bad links:
“Although buying bad links might give you short-term wins, it will backfire in the end; you’re at risk of a Google Penguin penalty. Unnatural links indicate that your website might not have the quality or content to be interesting enough to get proper backlinks on its own.”
If an article in the New York Times about travel has a backlink to your site, that’s great for two reasons:
- The New York Times has a top-quality website.
- The theme ‘travel’ is closely related to the services your travel agency offers.
Hyperlinks and anchor texts
All types of hyperlinks, including backlinks, should have a meaningful anchor text. In other words, the anchor words should mean something, and not just serve as somewhere to place your link.
Look at the two sentences below – the anchor words (linked words) are in red:
- This explains why people prefer a diversified portfolio. (bad link)
- This explains why people prefer a diversified portfolio. (good link)
The first sentence is an example of how NOT to place a link. The anchor word “this” on its own is not meaningful. In the second sentence, the phrase “explains why people prefer a diversified portfolio” is meaningful. Remember this when placing hyperlinks so your anchor text ratios are natural.
Video – What is SEO?
This Market Business News video explains what SEO means and how you can optimize your website.