Are Backlinks Still Important for Rankings?
According to Google representatives themselves, backlinks are still a really, really big win in terms of quality for search results. The search giant’s recent updates are just encouraging a movement towards more ‘natural’ links.
While I’m not quite as clever as the author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in being able to state that ‘The Meaning of Life’ is, in fact, 42, I do have the answer to one of the next most important questions in the world:
Q: Are backlinks still important?
Even after the seemingly terrifying and destructive Panda & Penguin updates, Matt Cutts made the following statement about backlinks. He was asked if Google has experimented with results that did NOT use backlinks and this was his answer:
“It turns out that backlinks, even though there is some noise and certainly a lot of spam, for the most part, are still a really, really big win in terms of quality for search results. We have played around with the idea of turning off backlink relevance and at least for now, backlink relevance still really helps in terms of making sure that we return the best, most relevant, most topical set of search results.”
Based on this sort of advice from iconic leaders in the Google algorithm, we have continued to include backlinks as an important part of our mix of SEO activities and we have continued to see that they are still immensely important in powering ranking improvements for our clients.
Moreover, links still help to sustain those high ranking positions, once you have achieved them. And that is almost more important.
Be More Natural
While they would prefer ranking results to occur naturally and spontaneously (like the Big Bang Theory), they know that many website owners are carrying out SEO to some degree. And while that is not a perfect scenario for Google, they are prepared to live with it – on condition that it is not over-engineered and overly artificial.
Over the years, we have honed a successful basket of engineered ‘natural spontaneity’ that has served and continues to serve our clients’ websites.
Diversification of Link Sources
To ensure that any links activity is seen by Google as “natural”, we have built a huge network of different link sources over the past few years – from article directories (yes, they are still very powerful for rankings), to press sites, to news feeds, industry blogs, social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, G+, Tumblr) and internal onsite blogs to profile sites and more. By expanding our mix and our portfolio of links opportunities, we ensure a far more natural spread of inbound links.
Diversification of Link Texts (Anchor Texts)
Another way of ensuring a far more natural portfolio of links is to use a range of different phrases when linking to various pages of the site. For example, we have found our internal ‘Link Trilogy‘ concept very useful for “naturalizing” our activities and getting better rankings.
This concept involves producing and publishing articles that incorporate a mix of what we call Precision, Non-Precision and Co-Citation phrases in the text. A quick example is that to support a page about villas in Tuscany, we would publish various articles that will sometimes link to the page using a very precise phrase (such as ‘villas in Tuscany‘); sometimes link to it with something further afield but still close (such as ‘holidays in Italy‘) and sometimes link to it with something completely unrelated (such as ‘this is an excellent choice for your summer break if you are looking for a quiet and relaxing villa break‘).
And then to make it even more “natural”, we point these links not only to the Villas in Tuscany page but sometimes to a relevant blog post published by the company or to their home page or somewhere else that is deemed relevant.
Yes, this creates a huge and rather complex web of links and link texts and destination pages that needs to be managed very carefully for each client over a period of many months to ensure an even and natural spread. And, yes, it is a huge operations task. But it still works extremely well. And as we have been doing this for a very long time and have a few systems in place to make it easier for us, it now seems less burdensome.
So … are backlinks still important?
Need help with your Backlinks Programme?
If you are worried about your backlinks program or think you have some toxic links, no need to panic. It is actually extremely rare to be penalized unless you are really criminal in your SEO, but feel free to contact me so we can analyze your links and let you know if we find anything that should concern you.