The World Wide Web has been growing by leaps and bounds for over a decade now. It is almost unimaginable; it is so vast in scope. For millions of people, consulting the Internet has become a daily activity, whether they're shopping, looking for information, or hoping to be entertained. Gratefully, there are billions of websites waiting to offer exactly that.
On top of all this, countless websites are being added to the mix everyday. As with current webmasters, many who are jumping on board today want to tell the world something about who they are and what they're interested in. They're offering information, pictures, and videos. Others are looking for success as merchants. They want a share of the huge financial exchange going on in the Internet marketplace. (On eBay alone, there are millions of surfers spending millions of dollars daily.)
For your website to be successful in sharing its information with the world, it needs visitors. For a business person to be successful in selling products online, she or he needs to have a steady flow of web traffic. Ideally, visitors would arrive automatically, as in "build it and they will come." Mostly, however, this isn't how it works.
Again, ideally, a creator of a new website would create so much buzz and offer so much fabulous content that internet surfers would flock to the website in droves, hungry for what is being offered. Or in the case of the merchant, she or he would offer such a great deal on such a fabulous product; they couldn't keep up with the traffic and demand. But, again, this isn't how it generally works anymore.
Competition on the Internet is stiff! Millions of results are returned in Google when a search is conducted for any specific item, keyword, or area of interest. How can you hope to be found among all of those competing pages? How do the websites get listed at the top of the results? Aside from paying to be included near the top, backlinks are the answer. To have your web page found through a search engine, and noticed on the World Wide Web in its current state of evolution, you need backlinks, and a lot of them.
Backlinks are created when other websites link to your website. To the search engines, this means the other websites are "voting" for your website, giving it a thumbs up, saying it is valuable in some way. Ultimately, the websites with the most backlinks end up near the top of the search results.
Now, not all backlinks are created equal. The links that are most valuable come from other websites that have some authority in their niche. These are well-established sites with many other sites linking to them. Another criteria that will raise the value of a back link is relevance. If the back link pointing to your website comes from a site with content on a similar topic as yours, it has elevated value in the eyes of the search engines too.
Backlinks bring visitors because millions (billions?) of people are using search engines every month and thousands are searching for information on any given topic. When the search engine returns results from the search, if your site is near the top, the surfer visits your site, and this can happen over and over and over.
In this time of tremendous competition for attention on the Internet, the key is positioning your website high in the search results by building lots and lots of relevant backlinks - thousands of them. Then offer the visitor a valuable experience on your website and you've got it made.