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What is a backlink?

Updated on March 1, 2013
WryLilt profile image

Susannah is a Journalist and Blogger with a total social following of over 100,000 people & whose content receives over 15,000 visits/day.

In this example, your web site or hub page will be represented by a street. The street will be Site St, Townsville, Qld, Australia.

This is a unique address - there may be another Site St, but your street is the only one in Townsville, Qld, Australia.


Backlinks, backlinks, backlinks. Everyone talks about them, but how many people actually know what they are? This is a very basic guide so that even the newest internet user can understand what a backlink is.

I've written this guide with as much in depth information and as many answers as possible. On the right hand side blue boxes contain simple examples if you need further help understanding.

Some of the questions covered include: What is a backlink? Why do I need a backlink? Is there such a thing as a bad backlink? What are some places I can put a backlink? What is page rank? and What is Dofollow and Nofollow?


Think of a backlink like your street name written in a street directory or posted on a billboard. A place that is in no way related to your street is letting people know that your street exists.

What is a backlink?►

A backlink is a link on any site that leads to your own site or page.

The link will be your page's unique web address.

Basically this means that anywhere you or someone else put your site or pages unique address as a link on the internet, a backlink is created.

Backlinks can take any form - the address itself, other text or buttons - as long as when they are clicked the clicker goes to your page.

What is the difference between an internal and an external backlink?

An internal backlink - Points to other pages on the same site. For instance a link from your profile to one of your posts or hubs is an internal link.

An external backlink - Is a link from any other site (even one owned by you) to another site. For instance if you own a website and link to it from your hubpages article, that is an external backlink to your site.

What is a web address?►

Tells your computer how to retrieve the page.
Tells you where it is located. In this case on the world wide web.
The name of the domain.
The type of site it is.
A page inside the site.
If you see a https://, it means the site is a secure connection, usually for online payments and confidential information.
Google and Babies are both registered as domain names.
Examples include .org (organisation) or .gov (government)
Each page on the site will start with a forward slash.

If you post your street address on a notice board, you may get many ordinary people who see the address and want to visit. However if the owner of a large business sees your street address in several places, they may remember it and be more likely to send some of their customers there.

Why do I need a backlink?►

Backlinks are needed for two reasons:

  1. Direct traffic. People that see your backlink may click it if they're interested in the topic.
  2. Search Engine Traffic. The more backlinks you have, the better your page or website will appear to search engines, in particular, google.

Are some backlinks better than others?►

Backlinks vary in quality based on two things:

  1. Subject matter - If you put a backlink on a site that is in no way related to your site, it won't do much good. For instance if you have a page about babies, there's little point putting a backlink on a gardening site. People who visit the gardening site probably won't be interested in babies and search engines look more highly on links from sites that have similar subject matter to your own.
  2. Quality of the site - A backlink from a site with little online credibility won't be highly impressive to search engines. A backlink from a well known reputable site is much more impressive. For example, a backlink from your grandmother's blog isn't half as high quality as a backlink from

If someone writes your street name outside a strip club, it may give your street a bad reputation, with people who see it. If someone writes your street name in a piece of concrete in the middle of a pond, it's almost worthless.

But - in the end it is unlikely to change the amount of people that visit your street, unless it's in a positive direction.

Is there such a thing as bad backlinks?►

The general opinion is that there is no such thing as a bad backlink. However you should remember:

  • Some backlinks have little or no value if put on sites with no relation to your topic, low quality or no traffic.
  • Sites that contain banned or illegal material probably won't do anything for your page rank.

However, just remember this - leaving a backlink on a related site of low quality may one day pay off if that site increases in size, quality and traffic. So really, it's your call whether you want to do lots of low quality backlinks or a few high quality ones. However, high quality backlinks are harder to come by.

If you wanted people to know about your street you could advertise at places such as shops, notice boards and social meeting places.

What are some places that I can place backlinks?►

There are many places that you can place backlinks on line. Here are a few:

  • Forums - either in quality posts or in your signature.
  • Blogs - chances are that a quick google search with the following - "inurl:blog" (then your subject) will turn up a few good blogs you can leave a quality comment on and often include a backlink to your site.
  • Do guests blog posts in exchange for a link to your site, on sites on similar topics to your own.
  • Answer sites - such as yahoo answers or answerbag.
  • Dofollow blog directories such as followlist.
  • Directories relevant to your subject.
  • Social bookmarking sites such as shetoldme, digg, stumpleupon, twitter and redgage.
  • Backlinks from article sites such as Hubpages, Wizzley, Infobarrel and eZine (and even make some money from them!)

You may post information about your street on a notice board that forbids specific information such as the street's name. Some people may be able to find the street based on your information, but overall the advertisement about your street won't do it much good.

Do Follow and No Follow►

If you're new to online writing and site building, stop reading now. For starters, most of the information you need is covered in the above guide. However if you want some more in depth information about backlinks, read on.

Google and other search engines use web crawlers to search the internet and continually update what's available in searches. They follow links from pages to other pages and so on.

Nofollow tags tell the web crawlers not to follow the links.

Nofollow tags also stop the backlink having value as an aid to ranking your page or site higher in the search rankings.

Dofollow tags tell the web crawlers that it's fine to follow a link as well as increasing the chance that the backlink will increase your search engine ranking.

These tags do not effect people simply clicking the link, only their value to search engines.

That's the very basic version. For a more complete guide, see Darkside's hub on the subject.

Do I need to pay for backlinks?►

Some experienced online writers and site owners do pay for backlinks, however in most cases you should never have to pay for a backlink.

There are plenty of places online to place free backlinks and if you ever decide to pay for them, it's worth making sure that they are high quality and really worth the money.

Can I have too many backlinks?►

No, it's impossible to have too many backlinks.

It can take millions of backlinks to achieve a page rank 6 or 7. Very few pages online have a 8, 9 or 10. An example of a page rank 10 is google home page.

Of course different backlinks have different values so the more backlinks you have to a page, the more chance that there'll be a few good quality ones in there.

Backlinks create an important chain that helps your site increase in traffic and ranking. Photo from wikimedia commons.
Backlinks create an important chain that helps your site increase in traffic and ranking. Photo from wikimedia commons.

What is a page rank?►

According to google, every web site and page has a page rank. This ranges from 0 to 10.

All new websites start at a 0. The higher the page rank of the site or page, the more likely that it will be ranked higher in google.

Page rank is determined by a lot of things, including backlinks, domain age and site quality.

This site, hubpages, has a page rank 6.

You should remember that page rank is based on the reputation the page has with google. Don't confuse this with the SERP (Search Engine Results Page), which is what number and what page you rank in a particular google search. However the higher your page rank, the more likely you are to rank well in the SERPs. 

If you advertise your street, people may know where and what it is. However they'll probably have little or no idea about the house at 362, Site St. However the fact that it is in Site St will give them a better view of it than if it had been in a street they had never heard of.

Is a site's page rank the same as a pages page rank?►

Most site backlinks point to the landing page - such as

Pages within that site will be more impressive to google based on how high the main page's page rank is. However each page on the site needs to be backlinked to get it a good page rank.

Think of the main site's page rank as a nudge in the right direction for each page on the site.

What's the difference between a backlink and a paid advertisement?►

A backlink is just a permanent link to the site - whether as an address, text, button or banner.

Paid advertisements are generally rotated at random and are often redirected through various advertising sites. They can bring in more traffic if appropriately targeted but aren't worth anything to search engines.


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    • K S Lane profile image

      K S Lane 

      23 months ago from Melbourne, Australia

      This is great advice, thanks!

    • Romanian profile image


      4 years ago from Oradea, Romania

      I have a question: if I made more comments, answers, questions and hubs, will increase the page rank of my profile? Will this help my hubs to be better positioned in Google Search?

    • Gia Moroe profile image

      Gia Moroe 

      4 years ago from Texas, USA

      This was a great article on backlinks. I know about them, of course, but your hub was very well written and easy to understand, as well as easy to remember. Great job!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Thank you for this very informative post. I was familiar with the term but had no idea why backlinks are needed, and didn't bother much to google it. Very good explanation, thanks!

    • prbradshaw profile image


      5 years ago

      Great information and just what I was looking for. Thanks for the post.

    • ocla20 profile image

      Sean Train 

      6 years ago from Los Angeles

      Interesting hub. Thanks for sharing this! Would love to see more of your works!

    • WryLilt profile imageAUTHOR

      Susannah Birch 

      6 years ago from Toowoomba, Australia

      Hi dwelburn,

      Backlinks are maybe 1 of 200 individual measurements used to decide how your page ranks. So slowly, they are getting less valuable in SEO (luckily) although they can be very useful in some particular types of niche writing.

      I would probably use MPF (Made For Pinterest) images or better keywords instead, though.

    • dwelburn profile image


      6 years ago from Birmingham, UK

      Excellent and very clear explanation of backlinks. Most I knew, but this has helped clarify certain things. Can you tell me is it still worth creating your own links, say from Tumblr or Infobarrel back to your hubs? Will this still have an effect on increasing the SERPS ranking of your hubs that are linked to? I know it used to work but not sure if it does now. I ask about Hubpages because I no longer have my own site; I let it go because it had never earned anything. Thanks and best wishes.

    • WryLilt profile imageAUTHOR

      Susannah Birch 

      6 years ago from Toowoomba, Australia

      Jennifer Suchey

      Linking back and forth between two sites does lower the link value.

      If you plan to link, I recommend you link FROM Hubpages TO your website.

      Why? Hubpages already has millions of links going into it. You don't own it. You don't have a say in any changes here.

      You own your own website - you want to promote it. Link to it.

      I strongly believe in not keeping all your eggs in one basket.

    • profile image

      Jennifer Suchey 

      6 years ago

      Great hub. Thanks for writing a detailed and informative article. What is your opinion on backlinking from both your hubs to your website, as well as from your website back to your hubs. I've gotten conflicting information from two people who seem pretty knowledgable. One says that linking from HubPages, which gets automatic traffic, to my website is best and that adding any more than two links from my site back to hubpages cancels out the links to the crawlers. Another says that if the links are relevant to my readers, to leave them. What are your thoughts?

    • WryLilt profile imageAUTHOR

      Susannah Birch 

      6 years ago from Toowoomba, Australia

      @Faythef, Hubpages automatically takes them off your account at author score 75 or higher. You can view them on other websites by looking at the source code and checking if it says no follow before URLs

    • lex123 profile image


      6 years ago

      You have written this hub in such a simple way that even a very new person can easily understand it clearly. Excellent job!

    • faythef profile image

      Faythe Payne 

      6 years ago from USA

      Thank You for this article. I found it to be very helpful.... Could you please show me what a nofollow tag looks like...I want to make sure I don't have any..please and thank you.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      6 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Finally, an explanation that makes sense. Thanks so much for the information Wrylilt. I'll be sharing this so I can come back and read it again.

    • Aplethora23 profile image

      Angie Power 

      6 years ago from North Cali

      Nice. Valuable information. Thank you Wrylit for sharing.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      6 years ago from USA

      Very useful information. I wish I had happened upon this earlier!

    • Ceres Schwarz profile image

      Ceres Schwarz 

      6 years ago

      This is a very great, useful and informative hub on backlinks that's explained in such a simple manner. This is especially helpful for newbies like me who are still continuing to learn about this. Backlinks can be such a confusing topic especially because there's so much information out there and some of the information seems to only be for those that already know the basics.

    • janshares profile image

      Janis Leslie Evans 

      6 years ago from Washington, DC

      Thanks for this hub, WryLit. Up and useful.

    • Kimberly Vaughn profile image

      Kimberly Vaughn 

      7 years ago from Midwest

      Great hub! I learned so much about website rankings from your hub. Voted up!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Thanks for such a wonderful words

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      i have a blog

      this blog related to interview questions now my query is how to given a name,if i submit mysite link to another site

      lep me

    • old albion profile image

      Graham Lee 

      7 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi WryLilt. Thank you for this excellent hub. It really does explain what I need to know. I hope to improve my HP presence with your efforts.

      voted up / interesting.


    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      7 years ago from Florida

      You have answered some questions I had about backlinking and other questions. Many thanks for the good info. I'm saving this Hub! Voted UP, etc.

    • yougotme profile image

      Renz Kristofer Cheng 

      7 years ago from Manila

      I've learned a lot from this. Thanks WryLilt!

    • sandrabusby profile image

      Sandra Busby 

      7 years ago from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA

      Bookmarked for further study!! Thanks for SHARING. Sandra Busby

    • Shinkicker profile image


      7 years ago from Scotland

      Excellent article on backlinking. Thanks very much WryLilt

    • JT Walters profile image

      JT Walters 

      8 years ago from Florida

      Wow my brain is about to explode with backlink infomration but I needed it desperately so thank you very much. I guess next months project will be to create as many backlinks as I can for my hubs all 400 of them.



    • Sirwilly profile image

      Ezeh Izuchukwu 'Sirwar' Williams 

      8 years ago from Enugu, Nigeria

      great hub...thank the Lord I followed you--this info just came in handy!

    • Abdul Muqeet Khan profile image

      Abdul Muqeet Khan 

      8 years ago from islamabad

      thanks dude its the best guide i could have found on the internet

    • montecristo profile image

      Angel Caleb Santos 

      8 years ago from Hampton Roads, Virginia

      Be careful when posting backlinks in yahoo answers. Be sure you read the terms and conditions. They could term your backlinks as spam.

    • montecristo profile image

      Angel Caleb Santos 

      8 years ago from Hampton Roads, Virginia

      Great post. Thanks.

    • profile image

      seo company  

      8 years ago

      You have explained very good about backlinks and i read your blog and learned a lot about backlinks.

      Thanks for sharing

      Search Engine Marketing India

    • Mandrake_1975 profile image


      8 years ago from Pennsylvania

      This has been one of the most concise and useful hubs I have read in the 7 days I have been here.

    • lisaking1 profile image


      8 years ago

      Thanks for the information.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I am new to this, very interesting when my website is up and running I will recommend your site.

    • graceomalley profile image


      9 years ago

      I'm new, your information is very helpful.

    • Chris Crow profile image

      Chris Crow 

      9 years ago

      Very useful information. Thanks for the refresher course!

    • easylearningweb profile image

      Amelia Griggs 

      9 years ago from U.S.

      Very helpful and informative hub on backlinks! We can never have too much information on this, thanks!



    • bigpinelodgebooks profile image


      9 years ago

      Very nicely presented. I like your street address analogies.

    • passthejelly profile image

      Mark Passarelli 

      9 years ago from Lakewood Colorado

      Thank you so much for this information. It is really helpful.

    • Simone N profile image

      Simone N 

      9 years ago from Rural Northern California

      WryLilt this is amazing!

      I was just about to sort through Google to try to answer my ONE question and instead I got that question and several more questions I didn't even know I had answered!

      This was incredibly helpful and informative hub!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Good beginner stuff, just the type of hub my computer illiteracy was craving. Thank you.

    • Scribenet profile image

      Maggie Griess 

      9 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Wonderful information which is very easy to read, this is a great Hub!

    • billyaustindillon profile image


      9 years ago

      A very useful guide and something I have been very negligent about.

    • lorlie6 profile image

      Laurel Rogers 

      9 years ago from Grizzly Flats, Ca

      Wow. I'm pretty new to the Internet-1 year now-and it's taken me forever to understand the concept of a backlink. I think you've actually gotten some information through this thick old skull of mine.

      Thanks so much!

    • Kangaroo_Jase profile image


      9 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      Nicely done Wrylilt,

      Very easy to digest and well written with the initiate in mind.

    • Pcunix profile image

      Tony Lawrence 

      9 years ago from SE MA

      Nicely done and quite linkworthy.

    • Aiden Roberts profile image

      Aiden Roberts 

      9 years ago from United Kingdom

      I echo SteveoMc comments, it would take me forever to explain backlinks, Guess I better go and get some!

      brilliant well done

    • SteveoMc profile image


      9 years ago from Pacific NorthWest

      This is incredible, if it is all accurate, it is a tremendous boost to us all. I have been here about the same time you have been and there is now way I could have explained it anywhere as well as you have done. Thanks for a truly enlightening hub. Well done! You now have a vote up, useful and a FOLLOWER. Oh, and a bookmark!

    • fdoleac profile image


      9 years ago from Hollis, New Hampshire

      Great Hub for backlink basics. Consider posting on backlink diversity and it's value.

    • cocopreme profile image

      Candace Bacon 

      9 years ago from Far, far away

      Great information about backlinks. Easy and straightforward information.

    • liljen23 profile image

      Jennifer Crowder 

      9 years ago from Shreveport,LA

      This is a great hub on what is a backlink..keep on hubbing..


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