5 Link Building Terms Defined for Industry Newcomers

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Taking on a new job can be both exciting and overwhelming 一 taking on a new industry, even more so. I joined Go Fish Digital after a mid-pandemic departure from the publishing industry, equal parts eager to learn and scared my new role was more than I could handle. The company I previously worked for was humble in both size and practice, a team of three creatives used to old-school marketing, trying our best to keep up with digital marketing strategies and increasingly tech-savvy consumers. Needless to say, when I came to GFD, it was like landing in a foreign country with no knowledge of the language. I felt like the new kid on the first day of school. 

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A review of my Google search history during those early days in digital PR paints a picture of a panicked woman — basically the human version of the scream emoji. Some of my personal favorites, funny in hindsight, include:

“Will a no-follow link give me a virus if I click on it?”

“Is getting a virus on your work computer a fireable offense?”

“Is domain authority a website cop?”

“Can I be arrested by the domain authority?”

“Internet prison sentences.”

“First-grade reading level definition of link equity.”


But reader, I’m here to say I survived, and you can, too! If you’re new to digital marketing, SEO link building, or digital PR agencies and are in need of a link building lingo translator, start with these five terms. You’ll have clients and colleagues confident in your industry expertise in no time.

1. Backlink

A backlink is a link created when one website links to another. It’s the reward for developing and pitching a well-timed, interesting campaign, and it’s what we link builders crave. Backlinks are little trust builders. Each link pointing to a website acts as a trust signal to Google, so the more high-quality sites pointing to you, the more confident Google is in your website. 

Still a bit fuzzy? Let’s go back to high school just for a minute. Remember when you were newly licensed and itching for freedom, and all those times you asked to borrow the family car? Each time it was returned to mom and dad when expected and without a scratch, you built up your parents’ trust in you. Similarly, each time your site earns a link from another site — especially if it’s a bigger, more reputable site — Google gets to play proud parent and feel more confident in ranking your site in a search. 

2. Domain Authority

As you’ve probably guessed, because you are a reasonable, rational person, you can’t be arrested by the Domain Authority. We aren’t talking about a tiny little internet hall monitor with a stack of detention slips, ready to dole out punishments to tardy students. Domain Authority (often abbreviated as DA) is a search engine ranking score that gives a measure of how successful a site is when it comes to search engine results. This score ranges from one to 100, with higher scores corresponding to a greater ability to rank.

Sites like Wikipedia or Google, which have a very large number of high-quality backlinks (those trust builders we talked about) are at the top end of the Domain Authority scale. Think of them as the class president or the star quarterback. They’re beloved, celebrated, the cream of the crop. By contrast, small businesses and websites with fewer inbound links tend to have a much lower DA score. Brand-new websites, the internet’s freshman class, always start with a Domain Authority score of one.

3. Link Equity

Link equity, sometimes referred to as “link juice,” is a search engine ranking factor based on the idea that certain links pass value and authority from one page to another. This value is dependent on a number of factors, such as the linking page’s authority, topical relevance, and more. Links that pass equity help Google and other search engines determine a page’s rankings when someone enters a search.

It’s helpful to view link equity in terms of prom dates. If you, a little freshman fish in a big pond, get asked to prom by a senior football player, your social capital skyrockets and suddenly, there’s a place for you at the popular table! But if you end up posing for pictures with your weird older cousin who couldn’t find a date, you’ll remain socially invisible. The higher up your date is on the social ladder, the more people notice you. Similarly, the more authoritative a linking page is, the more link equity it passes to your page.

4. NoFollow Links

Nofollow links are hyperlinks that do not influence the search engine rankings of the destination URL. And while they may not be bringing much link juice to the table, nofollow links are an important part of building up a site’s link profile (and help show a client what attention their site is getting). Nofollow links are like lazy group project members — they aren’t really contributing anything, but the project isn’t complete unless everyone’s name is on the title page. 

5. Follow Links

Followed links are links that count as points, pushing link equity and boosting the page rank of the linked-to sites, helping them rank higher in a search result. These links are like studying with the smartest kid in your least favorite class. Their tips, tricks, and knowledge can help bump your grade from a B to an A. 

Don’t worry, there won’t be a pop quiz on these terms, but studying them may help make your first day at a digital marketing agency a lot easier! 

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