A backlink, termed incoming hyperlink, is simply a link to your page that can be found on another page. For instance, if the content at www.externalpage.com/why-pedigree-is-important.html contains a link to your own page at www.mypage.com/all-about-german-shepherds-explained.html, that is called a backlink from your perspective. From the point of view of www.externalpage.com/why-pedigree-is-important.html, it would be just an outbound link.
Depending on how you look at it, outbound links and backlinks are the same.
Why are backlinks important?
Backlinks are important for the simple reason that it helps in the search engine rankings. But there needs to be more than just a backlink. The outbound link should be present on a page that is rated as ‘trustworthy’ by search engines.
Search engines tend to do this. The more trustworthy a site is, the higher will any site page be ranked. If you look at news stories, often the exact same report generated by a news agency like Reuters or Agence France-Presse (AFP) will be published across news portals without edits. But some news portals will be ranked higher than others. If you are wondering how there is a difference for the same content, it is because of ‘trustworthiness’.
And if the outbound link to your page is found on a ‘trustworthy’ site/page, some of the ‘trustworthiness’ transfers over to your page and the latter is ranked higher.
So it doesn’t make sense to pay others for backlinks to your page. Often, these sites are commercial and have a lot of outbound links to other pages as well. When there is too much of this activity, Google and other search engines red-flag it and its ‘trustworthiness’ factor becomes very low. In fact, because some of the ‘trustworthiness’ spills over, it might even prove to be detrimental to your page.
For this reason, exchanging links (you link to their pages, they link to yours) is not a good idea. It is a black-hat SEO technique that does you no good.
How to get quality backlinks
There is actually only one tried and tested way – write quality content. A lot of pages are written with SEO in mind. Keyword stuffing results in poorly written content. The problem is that search engine algorithms are continuously upgraded, and these SEO tactics literally bite the dust. It would be well-nigh impossible to keep writing new content every six months or so. You can fool some of the search engines some of the time, and perhaps all the search engines some of the time, but not all the search engines all the time.
If you do this, it will automatically be ranked high by search engines. This means that a lot of people will visit your page and read the content on it. They are going to provide outbound links to your page on their own pages.
Apart from that, you could find out trustworthy sites that link out to your competitor pages. For example, if your page is about German shepherd dogs, you could Google German shepherd + inurl:links to get pages that contain outbound links. There are several online tools that you can use to find out which links are broken. Once you have compiled a list of every page, you could email the webmaster of the respective site to let him/her know that some links are no longer useful. You could also offer your own page for providing valuable information on the same. About 50% of the time, they will be happy to reciprocate. Quid pro quo.
Another way is to find out popular pages with a high readership, and if the topic is something related, you could post a comment with a link to your site (if allowed). You just have to be sure that you don’t copy-paste the same text in multiple forums/threads – that would result in your comments being marked as spam by search engines, and the effect spills over to your page.