Backlinks: what are they and how do you get them?

Backlinks: what are they and how do you get them?
Backlinks: what are they and how do you get them?
Time to read: 7 minutes

Backlinks are for sure one of the more confusing elements of SEO.

Incorporating keywords? Makes sense ✅

Creating quality content that targets search queries? Checks out ✅

Backlinks though? You might be wondering how a link on a different website can help you and your website. You might actually be wondering what a backlink even is.

We’ve got you.

Already know why you need backlinks and just want to know how to catch them? Shoot on down to ‘So, how can I build links the right way?’.

A backlink is simply a link to your website from another website. At Excite Media, we like to analogise these to votes.

Each backlink you receive is like a vote of confidence and tells Google that other websites think your content is useful, valuable, and credible.

So, someone might be writing an article or a blog post and they’ve found the perfect statistic on your website to back up their point.

To give you credit for the statistic, and to show their source, they’ll link to the page where you’ve shared that statistic. This is a backlink.

If you sell products online and one of your suppliers lists you as a distributor and links to your website, that’s a backlink.

Each time you receive a backlink, it’s another vote. With each of these votes, Google can assign more credibility and authority to you and your website.

Backlinks feed into your domain rating

Like most metrics in SEO, we can measure how well these backlinks are working for you.

Your domain rating is a metric from 0-100 that shows the strength of your backlink profile.

It’s not necessarily the more backlinks you have the higher the domain rating though. It’s all about the quality of the link — but we’ll get to that shortly.

Your domain rating gives us a lot of insight into the rankings you can achieve.

So, if you and one of your competitors were both targeting the same keyword, but your domain rating is 5/100 and theirs is 50/100 — it’s going to be much more difficult to outrank them than it would if you both had a similar domain rating.

Not all backlinks are made equal. Here’s how to ensure quality

Like we said earlier, it’s not a matter of getting as many backlinks as you can.

In the backlink world it really is a case of quality over quantity.

If it were as simple as just slinging backlink after backlink to your website, we could just create thousands of dodgy WordPress websites and whack them in.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. A really good backlink is one that’s both relevant to your business/industry and comes from a trusted website with a high domain rating.

In fact, if you did make a dodgy WordPress website and just sent poorly crafted backlinks to your own website, sure, it’d increase the number of backlinks your website has.

But your domain rating wouldn’t improve at all, and ultimately you’d have added zero value to your backlink profile.

The best kind of backlink is three things:

The anchor text ⚓️

The anchor text is a really important aspect of the quality of your backlink.

Anchor text, or link text, is simply the visible, clickable text of a link and it is what helps provide valuable context to the link.

There are a few different kinds of anchor text…

Exact Match

Let’s say Excite Media wanted a contextual link for the keyword “link building agency”. An exact match anchor text would look like this:

Excite Media is a local link building agency.

Partial Match

Using that same keyword example, a partial match would be where a variation of our keyword is used in the anchor text but not an exact match.

Excite Media is an agency who offers link building for SEO.

Phrase Match

A phrase match is where the entire keyword is included in the anchor text.

Excite Media is our favourite link building agency.


This is where the anchor text is an unspecific, generic phrase which doesn’t include the target keyword (e.g. “click here”, “this website”, “this article” etc). For example:

To contact Excite Media about their link building services, click here!


The anchor text is the name of the brand or website. So, Excite Media or New York Times.

Pro tip: branded anchor text can be levelled up by adding “According to Excite Media” or “Excite media explains…”

Naked URL

This is just the URL, all bare and on its own. For example: You should hire an SEO agency (like to improve your backlink profile.

How do backlinks help my rankings?

Backlinks and link building are often the missing piece in your SEO strategy.

If you and your competitors all have quality, well-constructed websites, amazing and valuable content, and all the necessary pages — what’s going to position one of you ahead of the other?

Ding ding ding. It’s backlinks.

More specifically, it’s your backlink profile and your resulting domain rating.

If all of your other metrics are basically identical, it’ll be your referring domains that set you apart.

We touched on this earlier in the article, but backlinks are a vote of confidence.

Each link provides a little bit more context to your website and content and it positions you as a reliable and credible source in your industry.

The more quality links you build, the more context and authority you receive.

And 🥁 the higher you’ll rank on Google.

It’s all about continuing to build more and better quality links than your competitors to stay ahead in the search engine race.

What does “white hat” mean? 🤠

In SEO there’s white hat strategies and black hat strategies. Much like a 1920s western, the good guys of SEO wear white hats and the bad guys get the black hats.

Luckily, there’s no hats actually involved in this process.

White hat basically means “by the book”. It’s taking on SEO and following Google’s guidelines to a tee.

You can interpret Google’s algorithms differently and pick and choose. In the context of link building, Google says it just wants you to naturally build authority through referring links.

The white hat interpretation of this is: create excellent content on my own website and provide value to others to receive natural and relevant backlinks in return.

The black hat interpretation would be: “Let’s spam forums with our link or hack websites to create links!”

So, how can I build links the right way?

Okay okay, links are important. You get it now. So, how can you build natural, reputable, and relevant links? These are our favourite link building strategies.

Local Citations 📍

Scoring your business some local citations or listings on online directories is one of the simplest link building strategies.

There are hundreds of quality, authoritative websites that allow you to build these citations for no or little cost.

Typically, you can perform a Google search, run the website through an SEO tool like Ahrefs to determine its domain rating, and then sign up via a form on the website.

Local citations double those SEO benefits by also providing search engines with more information about your business, further contextualising you and your content.

Pro tip: find the competitors that are outranking you and pop their website into Ahrefs. Click on “Referring Domains” and filter by “DR” to find the best links pointing at your competitors. Chances are you can nab some of these too!

Article Inclusions

Get yourself included in a blog post or article for a backlink!

You can do this by creating amazing, linkable content and letting other websites who might benefit from linking to your content know about it. But it takes some time to start collecting those backlinks naturally.

In the meantime, monitor journalist callouts. Journalists are busy and they’re often looking for high authority sources.

So, follow journalists and writers in your industry on social media so you can be across any relevant stories they’re working on.

Sign up for Respona and SourceBottle too — these platforms round up journalists’ callouts and send them out to you, allowing you to easily send a pitch in response.

Guest Posting

You can create the illusion of being naturally included in an article by writing a guest post.

A guest post is where you write an article for someone else’s website. Typically, you’ll create the content and the publication will allow you to throw yourself a link.

You might be basing the article off of some data you collected and shared on your own blog. In this case, you would link to that content piece.

Sometimes though, you’ll just be writing these as an expert in your industry.

In this case, you would include a bio about yourself at the end — it will usually have a branded link:

“Written by Laura English, a Content Writer at Excite Media

Provide quality information or data

Data and statistics are really valuable and extremely linkable.

In blogging and content creation, people may use your ideas without backlinking you because it might be a pretty generic idea.

When it comes to data or a statistic, it’s firstly, quite clear that you deserve the credit for it and secondly, that link is required to prove they didn’t just make up a statistic.

So, collecting data and sharing it in a fresh and engaging way is another way to earn backlinks.

Note: you can’t just run a Google survey and collect 50 responses. The data needs to be statistically valid… Survey Monkey unpacks this a bit more.

What to look out for 🔎

Sponsored links

Don’t acquire links from a website that mentions keywords such as “write for us”, “submit a guest post”, “become a sponsor“ or similar. Google is fully aware of sites that allow you to easily publish free or sponsored articles to receive a backlink and will give you very little value (if any) from those links.

Nofollow links

You don’t want links that are set to nofollow. Dofollow links only! Receiving a nofollow backlink does offer the benefit of potentially getting more traffic from the link, but it doesn’t transfer any of those SEO benefits or “votes” we talked about earlier.

Irrelevant links

Don’t acquire links from websites in totally contrasting industries to yours. Your backlink profile provides Google with context to your website. So, each link is like a piece in the puzzle of what your authority is in. If you start receiving these irrelevant backlinks, it can damage your backlink profile.

Low-quality links

Only acquire links from quality domains! One link from a website with a 60/100 domain rating is much better than 1,000 links from websites with a domain rating of 1/100. It’s all about quality over quantity.

Adult or gambling websites

Don’t get links from or link to adult or gambling websites. In the SEO world, adult or gambling websites are considered the “bad neighbourhood” of the internet. Google will usually assume these backlinks are not purposeful — and will usually ignore them. Buuuut, if you start building a bunch of backlinks from these kinds of websites it will look pretty spammy and may even penalise your website.

Talk with an SEO Consultant today about growing your business

Let’s talk about an SEO strategy to get your business showing up everywhere online. To find out if we’re a good fit for each other, book a short discovery call with one of our digital experts today!

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