Similarly to other specialized industries, the digital marketing world is cluttered with pretentious jargon and over-complicated descriptions to explain even the most basic concepts. Long, vague descriptions and buzzwords quickly fill space without providing any real information, leaving those that are new to digital marketing overwhelmed by the perceived complexity of it all. In reality, though, a lot of digital marketing is fairly easy to understand — as long as you have a computer and basic understanding of what Google is. 

To bridge this knowledge gap and do away with the jargon, we’ve created a cheat sheet that answers your most-searched questions about one of SEO’s most vital components: backlinks.

What is a backlink?

Backlinks, in essence, are any link on another website that links back to your own website. They are an essential component of SEO because they serve as a reference for search engines — the more websites that “vouch” for you, the more your credibility is improved. From this, search engines are able to infer that your website’s content is worth linking to and boost your ranking on SERP.

Why are backlinks important?

SEO is the driving force behind your website’ organic growth, so as the most important component of off-site SEO, backlinks take on an essential role. In fact, “off-site SEO,” or any actions done away from your website to raise your SERP ranking, is so vital that it is often used synonymously with the term “link building.” Backlinks have even been found to be one of the top three search engine ranking factors for determining placement on SERP. Credibility is key when it comes to SEO, so it’s crucial that link building is included in any SEO strategy for your website.

Which backlinks are best?

The value of a backlink varies, ultimately depending on how it is used on a website. Backlinks can be divided into three major tiers: the good, the bad and the ugly. The good includes editorial backlinks and guest blogging, although guest blogging has been cracked down on by search engines in recent years, thereby devaluing this category of backlinks. The bad include guest posting links and any links from the header, footer or sidebar of a website. These links aren’t considered valuable by search engines like Google, so it’s not worth putting time and effort into these backlinks. The final tier — the ugly, dirty, no-good backlinks — includes all backlinks that either do nothing to improve your SERP ranking or, in some cases, hurt your SERP ranking. The primary categories of backlinks in this tier include paid links, comment spam and general directories. Avidly avoid the “ugly” backlinks, and steer clear of the “bad” when you can — you only want to put your time and effort towards the high-quality backlinks that do the most for your SEO.

Where do you get backlinks?

Link building (aka the process of getting backlinks) is a process worthy of its own blog post — there are numerous strategies one can take to link build, and properly detailing them all in a couple hundred words is impossible. That being said, there are a couple key ways one can acquire backlinks. The first, and most obvious, is sending out link pitch requests to relevant websites. These requests are typically ignored or flat-out denied, but this method is one of the most personal and accessible. Another is through guest posting or guestographics, which include writing content or creating visual content for other websites that ultimately links back to your website and the content you have created there. These two methods are some of the most basic and only scratch the surface of how one can acquire backlinks, so make sure to check out other websites like Neil Patel’s or Moz for most in-depth content on the topic.