What You Need to Know About Backlinks

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This post covers the most important basics you need to know about backlinks. Getting backlinks to your web pages is an essential part of search engine optimization (particularly for Google). However, not all backlinks are equal. In this post, I describe the three things that matter most, in terms of backlinks. These three factors are: Amount, value and anchor text.

Note: If you prefer watching a video to reading, scroll down to see my video accompanying this post.

Here’s a short description explaining each of the three factors:


This first factor is the simplest. The higher the number of backlinks pointing to your site, the better this is for your ranking.

The thinking behind this is simply that every link to your site represents something like a “vote”. Someone linking to your site is basically saying: “Check this out, there’s something worth seeing there.”
And the more people are saying that there’s something worth seeing on your site, the better your site must be.

On a perfectly innocent Internet (what a weird concept), this would be all it takes to determine the rank of websites. But because there are many people with commercial interests online and it’s fairly easy to build links yourself, determining rank based solely on the amount of backlinks would just result in those pages whose owners have the most powerful link-spamming bots working for them to rank highest.

This is where the other two factors come in.


This is the most debated and most elusive factor determining website ranks. The value of any given backlink is dependent on many different variables and no one, apart from a few engineers at Google, knows exactly how link value is determined.

Here are some factors we can be pretty certain about:

  • Page Authority
    A link coming from a high authority website is more valuable than one coming from a low authority website. How the authority of the website is determined, is an entire subject of its own. You can assume that the more traffic a website is getting, the more people are participating on that website and the higher the Google PR of that website is, the more valuable a link from it will be.

    As example, a link coming from a blog with thousands of subscribers and many people participating in the comments is more valuable than a link coming from a blog that hasn’t been updated in months and sees hardly any traffic.
  • Link Location
    Another important factor is where on the page the link is located. For example, a link placed in the footer of a website is less valuable than a link that is part of the main text on the page. The context, and number of other links on the same page also play a part.

    For example, if your link is just one among hundreds a page consisting mainly of links, then it’s not very valuable. However, if the link is one of only a few integrated in the text flow, then it carries a lot of value.
  • Link Distribution
    In a greater context, it also matters where your links are coming from. Hundreds of backlinks, all coming from the same domain are probably less valuable than just a handful of backlinks coming from many different sites.

Anchor Text

Finally, the anchor text of your links is what determines which keywords you will rank for. For those who don’t know, the anchor text is the text you click on, to follow a link. As an example, here is a link with the anchor text reading “Killer Bunnies”: Killer Bunnies

The anchor text of your backlinks help the search engine spiders decide which keywords to rank your page for. Ideally, you want to get many backlinks that have your targeted keyword as their anchor text. However, you should avoid getting many backlinks that all have the identical anchor text, because this looks unnatural.

For the links you build yourself, I recommend using your keywords in the anchor text in most cases, related keywords in some cases, and something completely unrelated (e.g. “Click here”) in a few cases.

Rule of Thumb

The rule of thumb for good backlink building is this: the more natural your backlink-profile looks, the better.

In other words, aim for diversity when you build backlinks. You can’t go wrong with links from different sites, using variations of anchor text and placed in different contexts on the sites.
Also, don’t shy away from getting links from low-authority sites. As long as it doesn’t take you too much time to get those links, even low value links are useful and make your overall link profile look more natural.


Here’s the video, where I say the same stuff I wrote in this post:

If you have any more questions about link-building, ask away in the comments section below! Cheers,  

About the Author Shane Melaugh

I'm the founder of ActiveGrowth and Thrive Themes and over the last years, I've created and marketed a dozen different software, information and SaaS products. Apart from running my business, I spend most of my time reading, learning, developing skills and helping other people develop theirs. On ActiveGrowth, I want to help you become a better entrepreneur and product creator. Read more about my story here.

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  • Sire says:

    Hey Shane, pretty good post mate. I know that there are a lot of people who try lots of ways to get backlinks, but I sometimes wonder if it’s all worth the effort. Personally I think it’s best to concentrate on writing good content in the hope people like it enough to link to it.

    As to Google, I gave up on them long ago. Considering that no-one knows how Google works and then when you think you have finally worked it out they change their algorithms, what’s the point?

    • Shane says:

      Thanks, Sire. :)
      Getting “real” backlinks from people actually recommending your site or specific posts is certainly ideal. And it’s also something that will probably never be de-valued by search-engines. Anything where you’re promoting your own site could become near-useless with the next algo-update (as soon as enough moronic spammers are doing it, you’re in trouble).

      Having said that, backlink building does still work very well for getting ranked and I just try to have a simple, not-too time consuming system and sticking to it. It helps my pages get to where they deserve to be in the SERP. ;)

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