The term “backlink”, also known as a return link, refers to a link that leads from one website to another. In contrast to a “normal” link, however, a backlink is an inbound link – the user is thus redirected from another page to your own website. Such backlinks usually have a fixed function – in the form of a normal link – within a text. However, backlinks are also very interesting for search engine optimization and are therefore often “misused” for SEO measures.

Detailed explanation of backlink

In general, a link on the Internet is a way for the operator of a website to provide the reader with further information on a topic. To do this, he incorporates the link into the HTML code of his website, and another page is linked. For the “recipient”, such an incoming link usually means more visitors and, if the site is operated commercially, more sales. For this reason, links now serve far more purposes than simply providing additional knowledge. For example, it would be possible to place links to various insurance providers or to a large pension insurance test in a text on the subject of private pension insurance. The website with the insurance test would then benefit from higher visitor numbers through the backlinks and, ideally, from further brokered insurance policies. In online marketing, (paid) backlinks are therefore a popular tool for directing potential customers from a blog to one’s own domain, for example.

However, backlinks are now probably most important for search engines and search engine optimization. For Google and Co. backlinks are an important factor in the evaluation of a website. The relatively simple basic rule applies: whoever is not linked to, does not have any greater significance for the corresponding topic with his website. Although there are various other measures in online marketing and search engine optimization to improve the ranking in Google and other search engines – without a single backlink, however, it is almost impossible to be at the top of the ranking.

Due to the far-reaching importance of backlinks for the search engine and the reader, they have been the focus of search engine optimization for some time. The associated SEO measures are summarized under the term “link building”.

How must a backlink be structured?

If Google & Co. are to recognize a backlink, it must of course be built correctly. However, since backlinks are inbound links, the operator of the website being linked to has no real influence on how the link is built. However, backlinks are often “exchanged” between websites – i.e. the pages link to each other – so that every website operator should know the correct structure of an HTML link: <a href=””>anchor text</a>.

In addition, the so-called Nofollow attribute can be set in the link. To do this, simply add “rel=”nofollow”” after the URL. The nofollow attribute causes a search engine like Google to ignore the link when analyzing the website – but more on that in a moment.
Link building tips

As mentioned at the beginning, backlinks have an enormous importance for the ranking in search engines like Google. The reason for this is obvious: if a particular website is linked to frequently for a topic, this page will usually have a high relevance for the topic – at least that’s the theory.

The basic idea that many links to one’s own site equate to a high level of relevance to the topic was naturally taken up very quickly in online marketing. In the beginning, this realization led mainly to the above-mentioned practice of paid backlinks. Variants of this were the link exchange, i.e. a mutual linking of two websites, and so-called satellite pages, which are created by the website operator and usually only serve the purpose of generating backlinks to one’s own website.

However, Google and other search engines have become much better at recognizing the quality of backlinks through updates. Accordingly, most SEO experts now assume that it is no longer the number of backlinks that is decisive for Google & Co. but their quality or the thematic proximity.

In order to improve the ranking of one’s own website through backlinks, it is therefore necessary to find the right partners for link building. One of the most important factors is the proximity to the topic. If a page on private pension insurance receives a backlink from a dating portal, a search engine like Google will hardly attach any importance to this backlink. If, on the other hand, a large insurance company links, a thematic proximity can clearly be seen, which is evaluated positively by the search engine. Other decisive factors are thematic relevance and PageRank or the procedures that have replaced PageRank.

Thematic relevance is very similar to thematic proximity – however, in the case of the former, the ranking of the page from which the link is made is also taken into account. If the page on private pension insurance mentioned in the above example were to receive a backlink from a website that appears in Google’s top ten results for the search term “private pension insurance”, this backlink would be far more “valuable” than a link from a page that only appears on page six in the SERPs. The PageRank algorithm evaluates the page from which the link is made in the same way. This indicates how many backlinks a page has of its own. The higher it is, the more effective are backlinks from this page. This effect is also referred to as “link juice” in link building. However, the PageRank algorithm no longer plays a real role for Google in its original form, as the procedure has been replaced by more complex methods, about which, however, not much is known. Nevertheless, most SEO experts assume that the quality of a page also influences how backlinks from this page are evaluated – and that good pages can “radiate” to others.

In addition, there are other factors that affect the evaluation of a backlink. Among other things, it also plays a role where the backlink is placed on the page. Google assigns a different significance to backlinks in the header or footer than to backlinks in the body of the text or in images. In addition, the anchor text, i.e. the “clickable word” of the link, is important for the quality of a backlink. Ideally, the reader – and the search engine – should be able to infer the content of the linked page from the anchor text. Descriptive anchor texts are therefore particularly effective, especially if they are used together with keywords.

Last but not least, there’s the matter of the Nofollow attribute. Basically, it is used to distance yourself from linked pages in terms of content. For example, if you think a page is not very trustworthy, but you don’t want to withhold the content of this page from the reader, a nofollow link makes sense. The search engine then does not consider the backlink in the ranking – at least theoretically. In SEO circles it is quite controversial whether the search engines actually ignore such links. So if you don’t want to take any risk with link building, you should do without nofollow links.


Backlinks and link building are an important part of search engine optimization and are therefore often used as part of online marketing and SEO measures. However, since search engines such as Google can now evaluate the quality of backlinks quite reliably, it does not do much for the ranking of a page if simply random backlinks lead to the website. Rather, one should try to follow the actual basic idea of a backlink – the thematic redirection of the reader. This results in thematically relevant backlinks that are also viewed positively by Google & Co. In addition, you should pay very close attention to the selection of suitable partners when building links, because a backlink from a non-topical page has practically no effect on the ranking of your own website.


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