Are Backlinks Important? Recent News Calls Practice Into Question

You may have been told that if you want your website content to rank, you need to use backlinks. These are what you call the links that are embedded in anchor text that take viewers to specific landing pages — either on your website or on a third party’s. While there are several reasons why you would do well to include backlinks in your content (more on that below), most proponents tend to focus on the supposed benefits they have for your search engine optimization — at least, until recently. Are backlinks important? Yes. But exactly how important? That’s where things may be a bit murky.

Google Analyst Claims Backlinks Aren’t a Top Ranking Factor

An analyst from Google recently claimed that backlinks aren’t in the top three factors that the search engine giant’s algorithms consider when evaluating a website. Does that mean that everything involving the importance of backlinks will change? 

Not likely, notes Search Engine Land, which stated, “Whenever a Google representative makes a statement like this, many SEOs say it is typical Google disinformation or flat-out lying,” before concluding that the analyst hasn’t discounted backlinks entirely — simply that he doesn’t think they’re one of the highest ranking factors.

So Should You Use Backlinks?

Even if you set aside how important backlinks may or may not be for your SEO, we still think they’re a very helpful tool. They allow you to establish market credibility by sharing your sources. They help you group high-quality content that you’ve produced through interlinking pages on your site. And they offer easy shortcuts to guide visitors to the products and services you most want them to see.

Maybe you have a lead magnet that you hope visitors will download so that you’ll get their content information. Maybe you’ve got a product that you really want to promote. Or maybe you want to link important information from one blog post to another.

All of these are good reasons to include backlinks.

Types of Backlinks: Nofollow, Dofollow, UCG, and Sponsored

When you’re creating backlinks, either to your own pages or to those on another website, you’ll often need to decide whether your links are one of two types: nofollow or dofollow. Nofollow links tell a search engine crawler not to put a heavy emphasis on the quality of what you’re linking to, whereas dofollow gives the crawler your vote of confidence in that link. Proponents of dofollow links recommend them because they argue that those links prioritize your website better.

There may also be times when you’ll have the opportunity to create links to user-generated content (UCG) or to sponsored products and services. Both of these links require specific coding to tell search engine crawlers what they are and how to categorize them. Semrush provides a helpful breakdown of how to do that here.

The more content that you develop, and the better your ranking, the more likely you are to earn backlinks from other quality websites in your industry, as well as establish a strong backlink portfolio.

A Note About Anchor Text

As we mentioned earlier, anchor text is the text that you see physically highlighted by a backlink. It’s an important concept to understand because there are different types of anchor text you can use to your advantage when developing website content.

  • Branded anchor is a hyperlink of the name of the source that you’re citing.
  • Exact match is a hyperlink of the same words as (or a quote from) the material you’re citing.
  • Partial match is a hyperlink of words or phrases that use some of the same content that you’re citing, but not verbatim.
  • Related match is a hyperlink of words or phrases that restate the content that they’re citing.
  • Long tail is a hyperlink of a large portion of a sentence to make it eye-catching.
  • Generic is a hyperlink of nondescript language in the form of a call to action.
  • Random is a generic backlink without a call to action.
  • Naked link shows the entire URL to the page where it leads.

Check out our full article on anchor text with examples

TL;DR: Are Backlinks Important? Yes!

Whether you’ve followed us through this entire article or you skimmed to the end, our answer is the same: yes, backlinks are important. It may be debatable as a top-ranking factor for your website, but that’s been the case for pretty much every aspect of SEO at one point or another. As algorithms for search engines like Google and Bing become more refined, competitors create content that shifts their own site rankings, and we experience industry-wide changes like the loss of third-party cookies, more trial and error is undoubtedly ahead.

As we’d tell any of our clients, SEO is a moving target. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t SEO tools and tips you can use to improve your website’s standing today — including the use of backlinks.

If you’d like assistance with backlinking, content development, or other digital marketing services, click the link below to schedule a free consultation.

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