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Backlinks are an essential part of an SEO strategy (it’s one of Google’s TOP THREE RANKING FACTORS) – but what exactly are they, why are they so important and how can they be dangerous?

WHAT IS A BACKLINK?

A backlink is when a page on a website links to a page on another website – yep, it’s that straightforward!

The main type of backlink is a text hyperlink. In the image below the text underlined in green has been linked to a page on Google Developer’s website – so this is a backlink from a page on the Search Engine Journal to a page on the Google Developers website.

You can find them (as in this case) in the main content of a blog post, but they can also appear in website footers (eg Website designed by Acme Web Design) or in a sidebar.

They can also appear as images (usually used for paid advertisements) and buttons.

Why are backlinks important for SEO?

Because the more backlinks your website has, the more likely you are to get better organic rankings for relevant search terms (there is a caveat to this – MAKE SURE you read why they can be dangerous below!!!!).

Google treats a backlink to your site like a little vote of confidence for your business (they think “this site MUST be good if another site is linking to it, so we’ll rank it a tiny bit better”).

So you’d be forgiven for thinking the more backlinks your site has the better.

 

Why can they be dangerous?

You need to be very careful about WHO actually links to your site.

Some backlinks are ‘toxic’ and can actually harm your website – negatively affecting your organic rankings or even getting your site completely banned from Google (did you know Interflora was wiped off the face of Google just before Valentines Day in 2013 for buying too many links!  Here’s an article from Computer Weekly about it).

 

The two different types of backlinks

Before we explain the two different types of backlinks, you need to know about Domain Authority!

Every website in the world has a metric called Domain Authority which is made up of a number of factors including how old the site is, how popular it is and yes, how many other websites link to it.

For example the BBC news website has a much higher Domain Authority than a local village community news site.

So, onto the different types of backlinks

Dofollow backlinks

These types of backlinks pass Domain Authority from the linking site.  This means that if the BBC news website links to yours – waheeeey!!  You’re onto a winner there 👏

A Dofollow backlink looks like this:

Dofollow backlink

Nofollow backlinks

A Nofollow backlink does the exact opposite, it tells Google and other search engines to ignore it (and therefore it doesn’t pass any Domain Authority from the linking site).

It looks like this:

Nofollow backlink

So before you put any effort into writing content for another website for a backlink make sure you ask them if it’s going to be a Dofollow one – if not it’s really not worth your time, it won’t help improve your sites Domain Authority and visibility in Google!