The Anatomy of Links in SEO

Time: 6:09 pm

Are you attempting to understand all the intricacies of SEO in hopes of building an effective web presence? If you’re looking for everything you need to know about links and SEO as of May 2021, you’re in the right place.

You may know that links are important for SEO, but how should you use them?. Links are the highway of the internet. Every new link to your website is like a brand-new road paved to your business. They make it more likely a potential customer will find their way to your website rather than a competitor’s. That means every link to your website has value and the more the better.

Links are a road to your website

What is a backlink?

A link (short for hyperlink) is an HTML object that allows you to jump to a new location when you click or tap it. Links are found on almost every webpage and provide a simple means of navigating between pages on the web.

  • A backlink is SEO terminology for a link on an external website that navigates back to your own. 


PAGERANK was developed by Google co-founder Larry Page in 1996. Released as part of the Google algorithm in 1998, PageRank relies on the web by using its vast link structure as an indicator of an individual page’s value. Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for page B. Over time, Google began looking at more than the sheer volume of votes, or links a page receives; it also analyzes the page that casts the vote. 

Links from web pages that are deemed “more important” pass more PAGERANK. A link from a website like or will carry a lot more weight than a random blogger from another country or a website with no relevance to your industry. Although PAGERANK may not be as large of a ranking factor as it once was, PAGERANK is still used as a Google ranking factor today.

How many Backlinks do I need to get results?

If you’re trying to DIY search engine marketing, you may wonder “how many links do I really need to rank first on Google?” The answer is simple: more than your competition. 

There is no magic formula to how many links are required to rank #1, and if there was, it would be different for each keyword. However, there is plenty of research suggesting that websites with more links rank higher than those with fewer. So how do you build a strategy around that?

Analyzing a Competitor’s Backlink Profile

Analyzing Backlinks

Since there isn’t a standardized number of links to rank on the first page of Google, we need to take a look at the competition. To do this, decide which keywords you want to rank for. Obviously, you will want the keywords to be highly relevant to a page of content on your website. Take the selected keywords and perform a few Google searches. Copy the URLs of the top organic search results and plug them into a link analyzing tool like Moz Link Explorer. With Link Explorer, you can export sheets of data on how many links and of what DA (Domain Authority) the links are coming from. This should give you a good idea of where your competition stands and how far behind your site is in terms of backlinks. 

What are Linking Domains?

While every link to your site has value, acquiring links from different root domains is best. Simply finding a partner website to exchange links with isn’t going to work. Google tends to place more value on root links than it does on external links. So, if you have 1,000 different links on four different sources, you’ll get significantly less authority than if you have 1,000 different links on 1,000 different sources.

What is Domain Authority?

You may be wondering how there can be such a wildly different number of links between the top 3 search results. This may be caused by the amount of authority actually being passed from the linking website. Domain authority is a number from 0-100 used as an indicator of a domain’s ability to rank. It consists of a variety of signals that indicate that a website is of high quality and that it can be trusted. Domain authority is largely based on age, trust, and popularity. While not an official Google metric, domain authority can be a handy metric to monitor when acquiring new links to avoid spammy websites.

Where do I Get Backlinks for my Website?

There are a couple of different ways to acquire links from external websites. 

First, you can go the honest and time-consuming route of emailing websites you would like to be featured on for a short article. Depending on your personal or business accolades, the website may agree and you can insert links back to your website. 

A second option is simply creating amazing content in an easily shareable format. This could mean an infographic, blog article, or informational video. The hope is that people will find your content so captivating, they will share it either on social media or their own website. Voila, free backlinks. 

The third, and most common option is purchasing links. There are several companies like Vazoola and BrightLocal that take the work out of finding new links. This option is frowned upon by Google, and their guidelines say they may even de-index your site for dishonest activity. That being said, purchasing links has been very effective for a lot of companies. As long as the links are coming from reputable websites, AKA not full of spam and pop-ups, there isn’t much to worry about.

What should I ask for when requesting Backlinks?

Simply getting your URL posted like this: isn’t going to get you the full value out of your link, however you acquired it. Using your keyword map, ensure when you create a new guest post that the page you hyperlink to is anchored with the correct keyword. 

What is Anchor Text?

You can also hyperlink a section of text, creating what is known as anchor text. In fact, the ‘a’ in ‘a href=’ stands for anchor tag. Most website tools now offer tools to help you hyperlink text, but just in case, the linked text in HTML would look like this: <a href=””>Best SEO Company Denver</a> where “Best SEO Company Denver” would be the anchor text for the Firestarter SEO home page. 

Anchor text is important because Google associates the hyperlinked keyword with your website. Remember when we said a backlink is essentially a vote? Well using anchor text for the link would then be a vote for your website as a resource for that keyword. When acquiring new backlinks, it is important the anchor text be the keyword you are targeting for the hyperlinked page.

What is a NoFollow Link?

You may have heard the term “NoFollow Link” in your research to find new backlinks. A NoFollow link is a link that does not share any of the linking website’s authority with the link’s end destination. NoFollow links are common on most social media platforms and public forums. While it is important to note that a backlink with a NoFollow attribute will not directly help your website with organic rankings, it does create another door to your site and can help with local prominence. 

Backlink Scams to Avoid

While every link has the potential to pass great value to your website, there are still some sites to avoid. When you are inevitably approached by a “link salesman” who claims they will get you page 1 results, use caution. Not all of these are going to be bad offers, but it could save you time and money in the future to do some due diligence. Ask for examples of the sites they would be able to get you links from. If you go to the websites and they are full of popups or seem shady, it’s probably not going to be the type of high-quality links you are looking for. Google has penalized companies that have an unusually high number of links coming from “scammy” websites. If the linking sites are even slightly relevant to your business and have built some authority with Google, then you should be good to go.

Easy Backlinks for Small Businesses

Now that you know what you are looking for and some ways to find them, you might be asking “where is the low-hanging fruit?” Some of the easiest and cheapest backlinks to obtain specifically for small businesses are local directories. These are business listing companies and websites for your local area or industry that can help drive traffic to your website. Some common examples include Yelp, local government websites, and YellowPages. With a quick Google search (funny how that works) you can find several local websites that will allow you to list your business for free or a small fee with a few verification steps. Not only will this provide your website with high-quality backlinks, but also helps Google verify your business contact information and address. The more Google trusts your website, the more likely it is to rank on the first page. 

Local Business Directory


You should now have a solid foundation in understanding how link building affects the Google ranking of your website. In this article, you have been provided with the tools SEO professionals use. While SEO in itself is not difficult once you understand all the concepts, it is a painstaking, time-consuming process that can take months if not years to see the desired results. If you don’t have the time to contact businesses for relevant links or write consistent high-quality content, you might need an SEO company. Contact Firestarter SEO today for a free consultation on a strategy to get your website ranking on the first page of Google.

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