Fernando Maciá

Written by Fernando Maciá

What are backlinks?

Backlinks are links that a website receives from other websites, and are also known as referral links or inbound links, among other less used variants.

The links we receive from other portals are the key factor of popularity, both at SEO level, as well as at a more general business level, since being referenced from other sites allows us to gain more visibility and credibility in the eyes of Internet users.

Google's Penguin update focuses on punishing toxic link profiles.
Google’s Penguin update focused on punishing toxic link profiles.

Backlinks and SEO

From an SEO point of view, search engines also take this aspect into account in a similar way to that of a user. Having backlinks on websites of good authority and with which we share thematic area represents for search engines an important indicator that our portal is relevant and has content that could be of great interest to our target users. For that reason, having quality inbound links is a factor that can help improve our rankings in search results for queries related to the content we offer.

Therefore, this is an aspect that we are interested in promoting, albeit in moderation and always taking into account Google’s guidelines regarding the achievement of links.

“Good” and “bad” inbound links

Inbound links can be good (natural) and bad (unnatural).

Good, natural or ethical links are those links that have been spontaneously included in related content that provide a reference to our content as a way of expanding the information offered, citing the source of a piece of information or attributing the authorship of a text. These links are the essence of the Web.

In this post, for example, we show how to find domains for link building, which provide links in a natural way.

On the contrary, unnatural links can be highly detrimental to the SEO of our website, so we must avoid them at all costs.

How to identify a good link versus a bad one? It is not easy, since it requires certain knowledge and, above all, experience. Mainly, they are those that come from link farms, spam websites, or have over-optimized anchor texts with keywords, to name a few examples. The use of tools such as Majestic, Cognitive SEO, SEMrush or Google Search Console itself can provide us with a list of all the links we have (or an extensive representative sample in the case of very large websites), and the detailed review of these will help us to detect those backlinks that seem suspicious.

Let’s take a look at a couple of case studies:

  • If, for example, we have an online furniture store and one of our products -such as an office chair- is referenced on a website with the anchor text optimized with the keyword “office chair” and within a text fragment that has nothing to do with furniture, it is probably an unnatural link.
  • Nor would it be natural to link from the text “office chair” to the home page of our online store, even if it is in a text fragment related to the theme, because instead of directing the user directly to the product, we would be directing him to the most generic page of our website, which may well be a furniture store with a large catalog of other products.

See this post on how to debug a toxic link profile, if you want to learn how to solve Penguin penalty problems.

Using Google Disavow Tool

Google’s link disavowal tool ultimately allows us to tell the search engine that it should disregard inbound links from low authority domains. Normally we should resort to this measure if any attempt to request the removal of backlinks to the domain that we do not want it to do so proves unproductive.

In such cases, we will compile a list of domains that we do not want Google to take into account when calculating the popularity of our website in a .txt file with the following format:

We will save and upload the text file to Google Disavow Tool, so that Google can process it. The links included in this list will be ignored in the estimation of the popularity of our website. Therefore, be careful not to include natural links from authoritative domains.

References and related content:

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Fernando Maciá
Fernando Maciá
Founder and CEO of Human Level. Expert SEO consultant with more than 20 years of experience. He has been a professor at numerous universities and business schools, and director of the Master in Professional SEO and SEM and the Advanced SEO Course at KSchool. Author of a dozen books on SEO and digital marketing.

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