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What is a backlink?

Updated on March 1, 2013
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Susannah is a journalist and B-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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