Are Backlinks Still Important?

If you ever hear this line from your SEO company, that “backlinks are no longer important“, then you are probably facing the “we aren’t ranking so well” dilemma at the same time.

Since the beginning of search and Google, backlinks have played the most important part of winning at the search game. Over the years, the elements that determine a top ranking, have swollen to include a lot of closer focus with the website itself but backlinks remain and as long as Google wants to function as democratic voting process of presenting the most popular sites at the top, then backlinks are here to stay.

So what exactly are backlinks and how do they work to produce top rankings for websites?

Good question.

What Is A Backlink?

Let’s begin with how they work and then we will have a deeper insight as to their co-dependence for quality search results and how they will be remaining a strong ranking signal for the foreseeable future.

A backlink is simply a link from someone else’s website, linking to your website. The way this works for example is someone may comment on a blog post on a third party website and make a mention about something posted on your website.

This can be helpful for people wanting to find out more about the topic of interest.

For example you may be an experienced plastic surgeon who has expertise in some new cosmetic procedure or have a good understanding of the complications of certain surgical procedures and your blog post adds great insight into the matters being discussed.

Since people are searching for information to solve their problems, this scenario presents itself as a typical way that links or backlinks are created. Google developed their search algorithm around the democratic voting system that links from other people’s website were acting as. With links counting as votes in the election process for who should be ranked at #1 and so, they changed the way search engines and people the world over, searched for and found things on the internet forever.

It wasn’t long before many savvy webmasters began to take advantage of this ranking method and the process of SEO or search engine optimization was born.

Backlinks Important In The Early Days And Still So

In the early days of my trade it was a simple process to rank #1, that involved amassing more backlinks than the guy ranked at #2. Yes it did involve a lot of work at times but if you put in the grunt work, eventually got you there.

Now Google saw that many people were onto their “super secret” algorithm, so they decided to mix up the process to penalize anyone seen to be over-optimizing their sites. The first of these changes rolled out in 2012 and were code named Penguin.

Fast forward to today, 2016 and Google have slowed down the aggressive penalties, as most people are now convinced that the search engine giant, can’t be messed with. There are many who believe that SEO is dead and you might as well give up trying anything as Google will just slap you sooner or later.

SEO Far From Dead

In reality, SEO is far from dead and many people understand and do SEO very well. The problem is there is great confusion in the SEO world, and many practitioners have jumped ship and become content marketers. Some have combined the two with varying degrees of success, which usually has a lot to do with the Google Webmaster Guidelines.

Google are very vocal about what you can and can’t do when it comes to SEO. Companies that tread the line strictly by the Google book, are those who will convince you that backlinks are no longer important, simple because Google say that you can’t build backlinks anymore. They want you to create great content and then some how magically people will find your content and link to it. The only problem is that without any links to your “great content” it is not going to rank. And if it doesn’t rank, meaning no one will find it, then how is it that they are going to link to it?

Agencies that stick by the book believe the lies about backlinks not counting, because they will actually not be building you any. They will encourage or help you build quality content but this alone is never going to produce the traffic that your site is needing to actually shift the needle.

Also with the right tools, anyone can see that the sites that are ranking at the top of Google are sites that have lots of backlinks. Content alone is not enough to get you there and give you the traffic flow you are looking for.

So What Do Google Actually Say About The Necessity Of Backlinks?

In finally smashing the backlinks are no longer important myth, one need only to listen to voice of Google themselves. In a recent video by the Google SEO spokesperson, Matt Cutts, they openly admit that they have a private version of Google that they refer to that shows the search results without any backlinking influence and they say it ain’t pretty.

Well there you have it, backlinks are here to stay and if you hear differently, it is probably because your SEO guy or gal is too scared to build them anymore. There are still ways to build backlinks that are very effective and will not get you into any Google hot water,  and if top search engine rankings are what you are looking for, then you first need to locate a top SEO consultant who can produce results based on what Google actually allow to rank, and not what they tell you they allow.

 

Content Is King And Other SEO Half Truths

With a headline like that, you are probably expecting some flames to be flying and I promise, I will not disappoint.

It has been some time now that rules of SEO have been rewritten to now place a major focus on the actual content that is found at the top of the search results, more so than the sites that link to that content. Or so it is thought. Content is King right? I mean Google say that you just need to write (create, publish) good quality content on your website and that they will take care of the rest.

Don’t go about creating any links from other people’s websites, just to boost your rankings because Google will just magically find your content boost it to the top, as long as it is “quality content”, right? Watch this video from Google…

Well let’s just think about the logic behind this for a minute…

Let’s just suppose there are 10 plastic surgeons who are all excellent doctors with outstanding medical histories, a long list of satisfied patients and essentially well established surgeons in their own right.

Now they have the sufficient resources at their disposal to not only build a high quality website, but publish it with high quality content complete with extensive before and after photo galleries. They all appear to be great choices when it comes to quality content.

So the questions beckons, “who does Google decide is the best, and sits at #1?”. The answer is they don’t know and can’t tell just purely based on the quality of the website and it’s “King Content”.

They need more information before they can make this decision.

What information and where do they get it from?

Other people’s websites, and what they have to say about these doctors, via what is referred to as a “backlink”. Now these backlinks are not all of the same power when it comes to balancing the equation on what is a valuable link.

Let’s take a look at two examples, and see if you can determine which is the higher valued or valuable link to have.

Website A:

The first website that has a backlink pointing to a surgeon’s website is all about plumbing supplies. The link is in the sidebar, along with other advertising banners. It is a text link surrounded by mixed content that ranges from plumbing supplies, building information and links to other construction websites.

Website B:

The second website is a health related blog. It has topics that cover women’s health issues in particular. The link that comes from this site is in a blog post by a guest author, who is taking about the pros and cons of a particular form of facial plastic surgery. There are references to alternatives that don’t require going under the surgeon’s knife and also a list of doctors who are widely accepted as authorities on the subject. There are quotes from one of the doctors and it is also a link to his website.

Now before you decide which is the better link, times this equation in your head for our 10 surgeons we mentioned above. They all have a range of different links but for the sake of the argument, lets just imagine that there is one doctor in the list who gets more and more of the Website B styled links and the rest get a mixture, but mostly weighted towards the Website A style links.

It is pretty obvious that the doctor with more of the relevant links is going to fare higher in the search results than the others, purely because he is demonstrating a higher degree of authority in his field of endeavour.

Yes it is more complex than this simplified version I have used for my illustration but I think it demonstrates the point that content is not really the king it used to be or is at least made out to be.

Content yes it is important, and sort of kingly but is KING, no I don’t think so. Everybody can produce top quality content, it is easy, just hire a good copy writer and plan your site well and you are in the running for being a great content producer. The kind that Google say they love.

Google also say that you don’t need to do anything else, they will take care of it. Matt Cutts the former (now vanished) Google engineer turned SEO spokesperson aka Webspam Fighting Team Leader can be seen in the video at the beginning of this post espouse exactly that.

Don’t build any backlinks, that is risky and will get you banned by Google. That is also what they say, but it is not what they do. Even so SEO companies will tell you the same thing, “Don’t build backlinks, that is old school, we have a better way…”

So if you can’t build any backlinks and nobody is going to link out to you, i.e. create a backlink for your website, unless they can find you in the first place, how are any links every going to be established if your site is totally invisible?

Good question. It is a real chicken and egg situation.

Someone is lying when it comes to the Content is King and Backlinks situation. Could it be Google are not being entirely transparent or truthful here?

One way of finding out what the truth is, is to see what Google allow to rank at the top of the search engines and with the help of some fancy backlink discovery tools, one can easily see what backlinks are actually doing the work required to get this website to the top.

When you can see the actual links, and see how they have worked their magic, you know that Google have access to this information as well, so you can draw your own conclusion on what the truth is.

The fact of the matter is this, backlinks do count and will continue to count. They are not going anywhere when it comes to Google’s algorithmic calculations about who is the top authority on any given subject. They need backlinks to prove the value of their choice. Naturally the higher valued backlinks are more difficult to acquire but they need to be there to make content the King that he is supposed to be.

If you want to get an idea of your own backlink profile and see how this stacks up against your competitors who are currently out doing you in the Google search results, I suggest you get in contact with me and I can arrange a free 30 minute Skype strategy call. We will do an audit on your website and show you what your current SEO company doing that is good and as the case may be, not so good.

So schedule your call with me today.