What Is the Difference Between Backlinks and Inbound Links?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the visibility and ranking of a website or web page on search engine results pages (SERPs). In order to do this, SEO practitioners must employ a variety of tactics and strategies — one of which is link building.
Link building is the process of acquiring links from other websites to point back to your own.
There are two types of links that can be built: backlinks and inbound links.
Backlinks are also sometimes referred to as external links or outgoing links, while inbound links are also called internal links or incoming links. Both are important for SEO, but they serve different purposes.
What Is a Backlink?
A backlink is a link on a third-party website that points people to your domain. They’re an important ranking factor for SEO because they show search engines that your site is popular and trustworthy.
They're seen as a vote of confidence on your content, which can improve user's perception of your brand by establishing your position as a thought leader in your industry.
What Is an Inbound Link?
An inbound link is any link that points to your website from another website. In other words, when someone else links to your site, it’s an inbound link. Inbound links are also sometimes called “incoming links,” “inlinks,” or “external backlinks."
A great example of inbound links come from guest posts. When you contribute an article to another blog in your industry, they'll often link back to your website in their author bio.
This is a valuable way to earn inbound links because it's a win-win for both parties involved. The guest blogger gets exposure on a popular site, while you get a high-quality backlink from a trusted source in your niche. And should people click on that link pointing to your site, you'll be receiving what is called referral traffic.
What Is the Difference Between an Inbound Link and a Backlink?
What is the difference between backlinks and inbound links? Backlinks and inbound links serve the same function of pointing visitors to your website from another place on the internet. That’s why the terms are often used interchangeably.
Generally, though, inbound links are considered to be a subset of backlinks. This is because inbound links are specifically from other websites, while backlinks can come from anywhere, including social media, document sharing sites, and more.
How Do Backlinks Help Your SEO?
You may already know that links and keywords are the backbones of SEO. Search engines use them to determine the relevancy and ranking of your website in search results.
Unfortunately, 94% of content on the web has zero backlinks. As such, you should be scrambling to take advantage of this situation by working on your link profile.
Backlinks, in particular, are useful for two things:
- They help search engines understand your website’s structure and content.
- They act as votes of confidence, telling search engines that your site is a high-quality resource worth recommending to users.
In other words, backlinks are how search engine algorithms determine which websites are the most authoritative and relevant. The more relevant links you have from high-quality websites, the higher your website will rank in search results.
The more high-quality links your website has, the more Google will reward you with organic traffic.
Quantity and quality of the links are important and link authority is one of the most significant ranking factors.
What Backlinks Are Available to Small Businesses Looking To Rank?
These are some solid backlinks that you can claim for your small business website:
Editorial backlinks come from high-quality websites that are willing to vouch for your business by linking back to your website from one of their blog posts or articles. This is seen as a valuable form of currency by search engines because it shows that other websites are willing to stand by the quality of your site.
In order to get editorial backlinks, you’ll need to create high-quality content that other websites would want to link to. This could be a blog post, an infographic, or even a video. Once you’ve created this great piece of content, reach out to websites in your industry and let them know about it. If they like it, there’s a good chance they’ll link back to it from one of their own pieces of content.
These are examples of some of the highest quality editorial sites you can get. The top of the mountain so to speak. For small businesses though, you'll be looking at highly credible sites in your industry and niche to get backlinks from.
Guest Post Backlinks
You can also reach out to authoritative websites in your niche and ask if you can contribute a blog post on their platform. When you do, be sure to include backlinks to your website within the body of the guest post.
If you write a high-quality article that provides value to their readers, there’s a good chance they’ll say yes. When they do, you’ll not only get a backlink to your website; you’ll also get increased traffic from their platform.
Guest posting is also a tremendous way to reach your target audience through another source and will connect your brand name with the relevant content you've created.
In the retail game? Shopify and a whole host of other sites allow for guest posting opportunities!
Directories are a great way to get backlinks as well. You can submit your website to online to high domain authority directories, which will then list your site and provide a link back to it. This is a great way to get high-quality backlinks, as long as you choose reputable and relevant directories.
BrightLocal is a fantastic resource for a small business. You can get your business on local directories in minutes, all of which are highly reputable, for affordable prices.
Business Profile Backlinks
Your business profiles on search engines and social media can include backlinks. If you have a strong social media presence with lots of followers, your profiles will likely rank higher in search results. This is because social media signals (such as the number of likes and shares) are also used as search engine ranking factors.
Moreover, having a consistent business profile listing across various platforms helps build trust with potential customers. If they can find your business easily on different websites, it reaffirms that your business is legitimate. This can lead to more website visitors and — eventually — customers.
Your Google Business Profile is the cornerstone of your local presence online. Make sure this is fully built out and read this blog for tips on how to do that.
Unlinked Brand Mentions
You can also scour the web for mentions of your brand that don't include a link. You can then contact the site owner and request that they add a link to your site. This strategy is known as unlinked brand mention outreach.
Use tools like Google Alerts or Ahrefs’ Content Explorer to search for brand mentions across the web. For social media, a quick search on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok can pull up mentions of your company, which you can then reply to with your links.
Ahref's Content Explorer will help you break down any piece of content in seconds and see what linking opportunities there are when people mention your brand name.
Broken link building entails finding websites with links that don’t work and replacing them with your own. Utilize tools like Ahrefs, Majestic, or Moz to find broken backlinks pointing to your competitors.
Once you have a list of these, you can reach out to the website owners and let them know about the broken link. You can often offer to place your own working link as a replacement, with the same (or even better) type of valuable content.
This way, you improve your own backlink profile, and you also get some targeted traffic from the original source. Additionally, you get to help maintain the integrity of the third-party website by eliminating broken links on their end.
Check out Moz's Link Explorer to easily find and fix broken links for your site.
How Many Inbound Links Does Your Site Need?
Although inbound links play a significant role in boosting your rank on search engines, Google prioritizes quality and relevance rather than quantity. The answer to “how many inbound links to my site should there be?” depends on the quality of inbound links rather than on the number of links.
In general, your website should aim to nurture relationships with other websites that are high quality and relevant to your industry who also have authoritative content that Google and other search engine algorithms like. A few strong inbound links are worth more than hundreds of low-quality links.
You can increase the quantity and quality of inbound links to your website by:
- Creating interesting, shareable content
- Asking customers and clients for reviews or testimonials that you can link to from your website
- Participating in online forums related to your industry
- Guest blogging on relevant websites (be sure to include a link back to your website in your author bio)
How Do You Check Inbound Links of a Website?
Google provides free tools to help you boost your search engine rank in case you’re wondering how to check inbound links of a website. Google Analytics can show you the inbound links to your website. To check the inbound links of a specific website, simply type the URL into the search bar and then scroll down to "Acquisition." From here, click on "All Traffic" and then "Channels." This will show you how many inbound links your website has.
As you can see, there are many backlink checking tools out there. Here's Ahrefs.
You can supplement your findings with additional backlink checkers like Ahrefs, SEO Review Tools, and SEMRush. Just like Google Analytics, you can paste a URL and get a list of inbound links to that website.
Should I Buy Backlinks For My Website?
We don’t recommend buying backlinks since these will often include bad links, which can result in penalization by search engines. Google is particularly strict about sites that engage in what they consider to be link schemes. The search engine values trust and the experience that they provide users, which is why they're constantly working to identify and penalize sites that violate their guidelines.
If you're caught buying bad links, your site could be removed from Google's search results entirely. This is why we recommend building backlinks through developing great content and networking with other webmasters. Focus on earning high-quality inbound links through great content and an active link building strategy.
This is FIVERR, an online gig economy. And while these people look nice, this is the last place you should be getting backlinks from. Never buy backlinks in bulk. It only creates problems for your business.
Should I Use a Professional SEO Agency or a Freelancer To Help With Backlinks For My Site?
Getting help from SEO specialists is better than overseeing the entire process yourself. Moreover, you can avoid many common mistakes and get better results by working with an agency that specializes in backlinking.
Just like you, freelancers might not have the right resources — such as tools and workforce capacity — to pull off a successful backlinking campaign. It's more prudent to invest in an agency that will get the job done right the first time.
Agencies like Agency Jet can help you with other areas of digital marketing, such as web design, conversion optimization, digital advertising, local SEO services, regional SEO services, national SEO services and international SEO services. This way, you can focus on running your business while the agency takes care of promoting it online.
The Bottom Line
Although it's better to enlist the help of SEO professionals to boost your link building campaign, it's crucial as a business and website owner to know what inbound links and backlinks are and understand their subtle differences. Both are integral parts of a website's link popularity, which is a major factor in how search engines rank websites and individual webpages.
They serve the same purpose, but they come from different sources. Nonetheless, search engines view them as "votes" for your website. The more quality incoming backlinks you have, the more popular and important your website is in the eyes of search engines. This can result in a higher search engine ranking, and, ultimately, drive more profit for your company!