Link building can be considered as one of the “bread and butter” of a good and healthy SEO strategy. It helps visitors navigate through your site or other credible websites that could help them. And for search engines, this is plus points for your website (Search engines love it when you help your visitors!)
But with so many Google updates on Google’s search algorithm over the years, is link-building still an important part of Google’s ranking checklist?
According to Search Engine Land, It is—and it’s even more powerful now than ever.
“A new ranking study done by Stone Temple Consulting on the importance of links has just been released. The study shows clearly how links are as powerful as ever for ranking in the Google search results,” the report by Search Engine Land states.
What Is Link-Building?
Before we discuss why link-building is still important despite the constantly-changing algorithm of search engines, let’s discuss what link building is:
According to wordstream, link-building “is the process of getting other websites to link back to your website” which sends a signal to Google that your site is credible that’s why it was backlinked by another website. The more backlinks you receive, the more Google will view your website as credible.
Of course, the quality of the website giving you a backlink is also an important factor for Google. If the website itself is considered by Google as credible and is “voting” your website as a credible source too, then you can expect plus points from Google in the search engine result pages.
BackLinks And Google’s Crawlers
Google’s crawlers use backlinks to help judge the credibility of your website. If more google crawlers end up in your site from other websites, they start to consider your website as having value to customers and they will decide to rank you high in the search pages as an authoritative source.
Before, when Google’s algorithm was in its less developed phase, the battle for the top spot relied on a battle of quantity. The more backlinks you have, the more value your site has and you get a higher rank on the results page. But now it’s no longer as simple as that with all the updates that took place. Google crawlers now check for quality as well and if the link will benefit readers who are redirected towards the website.
Web crawlers also look out for manipulative links that aim at manipulating PageRank and violate their webmaster guidelines. So Google’s crawlers are now given more policing powers than before.
Is It Still Important? YES!
So now that we understand what link-building is and how backlinks help your website, let’s dive deeper into why link-building and backlinks are still important to this day.
According to the Stone Temple Consulting study on links, Google has a hard time finding an alternative to the signal given by links. The study tries to explain why Google can’t use social media signals or user engagement signals:
- Social Media Signals: Google can’t be dependent on signals from third-party platforms that are run by their competitors (Google and Facebook are not friends). For a more in-depth exploration of this topic, see Mark Traphagen’s Does Social Media Affect SEO?
- User Engagement Signals: Google probably finds some way to use these signals in one scenario or another, but there are limitations to what they can do. Here is what the head of their machine learning team, Jeff Dean, said about them: “An example of a messier reinforcement learning problem is perhaps trying to use it in what search results should I show. There’s a much broader set of search results I can show in response to different queries, and the reward signal is a little noisy. If a user looks at a search result and likes it or doesn’t like it, that’s not that obvious.”
Without a clear alternative to the valuable data given by links, Google doesn’t have much choice but to improve on their algorithm to sweep through links instead of finding another metric to use to improve their ranking. But this may change in the future as technology develops even more.
Links Are Here To Stay
Whether you’re for or against the idea that link-building is important, links as a valuable signal for authenticity and ranking is here to stay. And unless Google finds another metric to substitute links in their checklist for ranking websites, link-building will remain an essential part of SEO efforts.
Link-building is one of the hardest tasks in SEO and can make or break your website’s ranking. If you’re not well-knowledgeable about link-building and what links are relevant to your website, it would be best to hire a competent SEO team that is knowledgeable in link-building.
Remember: Link-building can make or break your website’s rank, so be careful with it.