How Do Backlinks Affect Your SEO?


SEO backlinks are pretty much considered the must-have, can’t-do-without piece to any search engine optimization strategy. Ask any SEO professional. Marketers love backlinks because they’re arguably the easiest and most effective factors to use to boost a website’s rank.

Unfortunately, Google came out with Penguin a couple years’ back in response to black hat SEO backlinks techniques like link buying and farm-links. Since then, it’s been a bit more difficult to get on Google’s good side when using backlinks.

However, SEO strategies cannot function without backlinks.


For the sake of getting a clearer picture, let’s start with definitions.

Understanding SEO

How Do Backlinks Affect Your SEO?SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s the process of optimizing a website according to a search engine’s algorithm so that its ranking on the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) improves. This is done to drive more organic quality traffic to a website … consequently improving attention, lead generation, and—eventually—lead conversion.

Simply put, SEO is the process of making your website relevant so that more people get to see it when they search related terms.

There are a number of factors search engines use to determine a page’s quality and relevance. Keywords, social metrics, activity/posting level and (of course) backlinks are examples of such factors.

Understanding Backlinks

Backlinks refer to “inbound” or “incoming” links on websites from other websites. When Site A hosts an external link leading to Site B, we would say that Site B now has a “backlink” from Site A.

(hopefully that wasn’t too redundant)

SEO Backlinks: The Relationship

Here’s something interesting to note: according to Search Engine Journal, backlinks are part of the top seven ranking signals that really matter in 2018.

Can we narrow that down?

We can.

In an FAQ session with Googe, Andrey Lipattsev, a Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google, named links as one of their top two ranking factors (the other being content) for SERP placement.

This means that backlinks are crazy important for your site’s SERP rank. In fact, other than content, they’re the most important. So if your current SEO strategies don’t currently include backlink building, you need to amend that ASAP.

Why Backlinks?

Why do backlinks carry so much weight? Is it possible to get a good SERP ranking with just insanely good content but no backlinks?

Probably, but you’d be fighting a losing battle.

Here’s the thing, though: good content usually leads to quality backlinks, whether you mean for it to happen or not.

For instance, if another site likes what you write, they might publish a summary or accompaniment article for it and then provide a link to the original post. Same thing could happen if you post a video, an infographic, an interview, white paper, etc. If someone likes it enough to use it, they may give you credit.

This is partly the reason why Google and other search engines hold backlinks in high regard.

A Vote of Confidence. As mentioned, people who link to your site probably like the content you’re posting. If a lot of sites are linking back to your page, this piques Google’s attention. It must mean that your site is a reputable source of high-quality or relevant content. Why else would they bother mentioning or crediting you if this wasn’t the case?

Relationships/Referral Traffic. Having solid relationships with several websites is a good way to drive organic traffic to your page. Through backlinks hosted on other pages or affiliate websites, you become visible to their visitors as well.

Don’t misunderstand: you’re not stealing or redirecting their traffic. What you are is becoming another option. You’re letting people who are interested know that you post similar or related content.

Consequently, by returning the favor and linking to their website as well, you create a sort of solidarity between both pages.

Quality Through Connection. When a website that Google considers “high quality” links to your website, Google’s algorithm then assumes that your quality is on par with site A. They see your link, they think, “oh, website B’s content quality is probably similar to website A—let me check it out.”

If they judge your content quality worthy of website A’s backlink, the chances of your SERP ranking bumping up increases. Even if your content isn’t as good as site A, your content is considered quality-by-affiliation.

>> Learn Why Backlinks Matter to Local SEO and to your Business

Final Thoughts

SEO backlinks may not be the only factor in a solid ranking strategy, but it’s a pretty huge one. As mentioned, Google prioritizes content and authoritative/quality backlinks over every other ranking factor. So even though backlinks are time-consuming and difficult to earn, they’re completely worth it.