Glossary | 3 mins
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Inbound links, more commonly known as backlinks, are any hyperlinks that link from an external website to yours.
Though a simple, ubiquitous element of the internet, inbound links can have a huge influence on organic rankings, and as such, are a major topic of interest for all SEO professionals.
The two main types of inbound link are dofollow links and nofollow links. Dofollow inbound links are links carrying an HTML attribute telling search engine crawlers to follow them, and in turn, to assign value to them. Nofollow inbound links, on the other hand, are links that search engines won’t follow, and therefore have no direct impact on how the target page is ranked in a given page of search results.
Though nofollow backlinks and inbound links can be powerful source of traffic for their target pages, and there’s some debate as to how valuable they are in SEO, dofollow links will always pass a higher amount of value to the target page compared to nofollow links in the eyes of crawlers.
All major SEO tools will have features allowing you to check the number of inbound links for a given domain, showing their referring pages and domains, their dofollow/nofollow status, when they were first and last crawled, and other details. If you don’t have access to a full SEO suite, there are a number of free tools which you can use to analyse your site’s inbound link profile, such as the Ahrefs’ Free Backlink Checker.
Aside from their dofollow/nofollow status, the value of an inbound link is calculated based on a variety of other factors.
The importance of an inbound link, based on the referring page’s position in a site hierarchy, its traffic, and other metrics will affect how much value Google’s crawlers place on that link.
Relevancy is also another important determining factor, with inbound links from a page that has a topical relationship to its target page passing on more value than from a page that’s irrelevant.
The referring page’s authority is another major factor that will influence the link’s value. Many SEO tools measure the authority of a given domain using metrics such as Domain Authority or Page Authority. These gauge a referring domain’s value based on the quality and quantity of its inbound links, and seek to help SEOs determine the value of a link from one domain vs another.
There are many methods that site owners and SEOs can use to build inbound links as a method to increase a site’s organic rankings.
One of the easiest ways to gain inbound links is to find and claim broken links that had pointed to another site’s piece of content by reaching out to webmasters and suggesting they link to a similar piece of content on your site instead. Finding unlinked brand mentions, and asking webmasters to turn them into links, can also be an easy route to gaining more inbound links.
For long term, sustainable link building though, site owners should create high quality authoritative content on the subject that’s relevant to their site, driving the chances of their site being linked to naturally, while also producing guest posts on external sites that contain inbound links pointing to their site.
Keyword Research FAQs
What are inbound links?
Inbound links are any hyperlinks from external websites that point to your site. The term can refer to dofollow links, nofollow links, and any link from an external source regardless of its format or value.
How do I see inbound links?
You can check the quantity, sources, and age of your site’s inbound links through any good paid SEO tool, or see a simpler breakdown of your site’s inbound links through free tools like the Ahrefs’ Free Backlink Checker.