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What are backlinks and why should my small business care about them?

What is a backlink and is it important? Example

A backlink is when one website provides a link to another website page. One side of the link is the website of origin (where the link lives). The other side of the link is the target of the backlink (the page the link points back to).

For example, let’s say you visit the site of a local food critic to read their blog post about a new cafe in town.

The food critic’s blog is your website of origin. You’ve landed on this website for one of two reasons. Either you went to it directly or you did a Google search which brought you to the blog.

If the food blogger is good at her/his job, you’ll begin to know, like, and trust them. Their descriptions and critiques will resonate with you. Soon, you’ll enjoy reading their blog, agree with their past recommendations, and get excited to eat at their recommended hot-spots.

Here comes the backlink part. When the food critic writes about the new cafe in town, they will likely include a link to the new cafe’s website. The new cafe is now the target of the backlink. The food critic is linking back to the cafe, thus the term backlink.

The backlink serves a few purposes. It’s a thoughtful gesture for you, the reader, from the blogger. The backlink allows you the opportunity to do some investigating on your own. Because of the backlink, you can easily jump to the cafe’s home page (or any other page linked).

The blogger is also doing the cafe a favor. The cafe is the target of the link which drives traffic to their site and increases their SEO authority.

How do backlinks work?

In my example above, I mentioned backlinks can be a thoughtful gesture from the blogger to the reader. A good food critic will have the reader drooling, eager to go eat ASAP! You CANNOT wait to try one of those melt-in-your-mouth cinnamon rolls and wash it down with the perfect latte.

It makes sense for the blogger to provide an seamless transition from reader to eater. A link to the eatery in question makes it easy for the reader to get directions, call for reservations, or browse the menu.

Backlinks are also used to:

  • Cite a source of information

  • Provide evidence to a claim made

  • Include context

  • Add to the authority or authenticity of the writer

These are all benefits to the reader and the writer. They’re trust building tools. A writer makes a claim or statement, then builds the proof into their copy. The reader can say “Ok great. The writer is being transparent and sharing relevant information with me.” This encourages the reader to come back for more valuable content in the future.

Do backlinks affect Search Engine Optimization?

Your small business should care about backlinks because they’re powerful communicators. Ease the dread associated with Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Search engines like Google and Bing focus on user experience. The more people using Google, the better for Google. People use Google because they’re happy with the way Google anticipates their needs.

Google rewards websites who offer a positive user experience. But you have to TELL Google YOU HAVE what their users want or need. This is the heartbeat of Search Engine Optimization.

The words used in your website copy let search engines know what answers you can provide to their users.

The backlinks to your website tell search engines that a third party knows, likes, and trusts you. They know, like, and trust you enough to use YOU to build authority on THEIR site.

Backlinks help weed out the competition, putting the spotlight on you.

In our food critic example, the cafe was gaining a double benefit from the backlinks. The blog readers are able to easily access their website AND Google now has an added reason to send their users to the cafe’s website.

Imagine Google, this HUGE bank of information. A user comes along and searches for “cafes in my area”. Google now has to decide which cafe to recommend, ranked number one through infinity. The coveted spot is #1, but even then, most users don’t navigate past the first page (top 10).

How does Google know YOUR website is going to provide users with the information they want and need? How do you get onto the first page of a Google search?

By providing Google with the information it needs to recommend you to their search users.

Google uses metrics like SEO content and backlinks to determine the “authority” of your website. A backlink is a vote in favor of your website. It says “This site is credible and contains the answers your user needs.”

How do I get backlinks to my website?

Backlinks must be earned. Backlinks are not easy to earn, which is why search engines value them so highly. A new website will need some time to build the relationships necessary to earn backlinks.

Here are a few ways you can be intentional about earning backlinks:

  • Get featured in another site’s blog. Sites with a consistent blog are often eager for fresh, new content. Blogs build the site owners credibility and offer value to their audience. Find someone in your niche willing to feature you, your product, your service, and your brand in their blog. Ask them to include a backlink to your website.

You can return the favor by including a badge promoting their blog. An “As Seen In” badge at the bottom of your home page can link back to the blog. This looks super cool to a visitor to your site, which builds credibility with the reader. It also tells Google you’ve earned credibility.

  • Set up your Google My Business page. Google My Business is a valuable resource for a business of any size. One tool you should be utilizing are the alerts. Make sure you get alerts from Google any time someone mentions your website on theirs. When you get an alert, you can reach out to the original site, asking them to backlink to your website.

  • Give a link, get a link. Use this method authentically. You know the importance of building your network. Collaborate with someone in your network to help build SEO and backlink authority. Write a blog highlighting them and their product or service. Create a page on your site dedicated to people you recommend in your industry. They can do the same for you.

  • Provide value. Create a valuable piece of content or copy and share it with a site for the “cost” of a backlink. An infographic, blog post, or photo are all sharable resources.

What should I avoid when trying to get backlinks?

Do not buy backlinks! Google knows this method is unethical and disingenuous. They’ll catch you and penalize your site or even have it removed. The same goes for backlink generators or backlink software. They cannot be trusted and will cost you time, money, and trouble.


I hope this answers your questions about backlinks. If you ever find yourself needing blogs to increase your SEO and beef-up your backlinks, I’m your girl! I offer a free discovery call so we can get to know one another, share inspiration, and offer value.

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