There are plenty of resources online discussing backlinks and why they should be part of your SEO strategy. When you Google “how important is link building for SEO?” you inevitably find an endless supply of websites sharing link building strategies and tips on how to get backlinks. But the one question often left unanswered is: Does the number of backlinks really matter for your link building strategy?
Google’s John Mueller recently put the issue to rest. In a Search Central office-hours hangout, Mueller was asked,
“What’s more important: the number of unique backlinks referring domains or the total number of backlinks?”
He responded, definitively, that the number of links in SEO link building does not matter.
“I don’t think we differentiate that in our systems,” Mueller said. “We try to understand what is relevant for a website, how much we weigh these individual links, and the total number of links doesn’t matter at all.”
If how many backlinks per month or year you generate doesn’t matter, what, then, should be the main focus of your link building strategy? According to Mueller, what matters to Google is quality over quantity – and that’s what your link building strategies should prioritize.
In this blog, we’ll be talking about high quality link building; specifically, the importance of backlinks and domain authority (DA), how to build backlinks and how to check backlinks in Google search.
What Are Backlinks?
The main purpose of SEO is to enhance your site’s visibility through organic search. One way of doing this is through quality link building and knowing how to get backlinks. But what are backlinks? And, to be more precise, what are backlinks in SEO?
Backlinks are links that point from one page to another web page on a different domain. But their primary function isn’t just to improve navigation and facilitate site crawling. In SEO, websites can benefit from an inbound link because it improves domain authority, a trust signal that helps boost your rankings on organic search.
“A backlink is a vote of confidence search engines like Google use to determine if a website is trustworthy,” said Thrive’s Link Building Manager, Claudia Cruz. “It is an effective way of getting third parties to affirm your site’s authenticity, trustworthiness and authority.”
How Important Is Link Building for SEO?
Now that we know the answer to “what are backlinks in SEO?” let’s move onto the importance of backlinks. So, exactly how important is link building for SEO and how much does it matter?
We’ve explained that link building is the process of acquiring backlinks for your website. Generally, there are two ways to do this:
• Natural Link Building – the editorial acquisition of backlinks when others discover your content and link to it organically.
• Non-Natural Link Building – an umbrella term for link acquisition that covers link building through editorial outreach, guest posting or quality link building services, among others.
Note: We used the term non-natural link building to differentiate from unnatural link building, which is a frowned-upon method of acquiring backlinks. Unnatural or black-hat link building services attach artificial links to web pages without the administrator’s consent for the sole purpose of manipulating a page’s ranking.
But how important is link building for SEO? Extremely. In fact, it has become a critical ranking factor, which is why many link building services exist. As mentioned above, backlinks serve as a vote of confidence for your website and are instrumental in improving your visibility online through organic search.
Making the Case: Link Building Quality vs Quantity
The debate over link building quality vs quantity wasn’t even a thing before 1998. That year, Google started considering the importance of backlinks by introducing PageRank to estimate the quality of web pages through the number of links that point to them.
One major flaw, however, was that it couldn’t differentiate between low- and high-quality sources. Exploiters saw an opportunity to trick the system, giving rise to black-hat link building strategies, such as spam comments, private blog networks (PBNs) and link farms, among many others.
Google introduced a series of updates, beginning in 2011, to filter out and penalize websites that didn’t follow its guidelines. Before the update, link building services could simply ask how many backlinks per month you wanted and deliver because it didn’t matter if you knew how to get backlinks from quality sources. Today, the link source’s DA and trustworthiness matter way more than the number of links. In the debate between link building quality vs quantity, experts agree that quality is the clear winner.
“Long gone are the days when link builders used PBNs and link farms to rank a website. These practices go against Google’s guidelines, which can result in penalization,” said Cruz. “A quality backlink has a lot more weight when passing link equity, and the potential referral traffic and branding opportunities that come with it are signaling Google the right way.”
It is more important than ever to build quality links through your link building strategy. One link from a highly reputable source such as a popular blog or a credible news website has more link juice than a million links from sketchy sources that Google can easily ignore.
Anatomy of a Quality Link
Not all links are created equal. Bad links exist perhaps twice as much as quality links, so it’s imperative to know how to check backlinks in Google Search Console, the best free backlink checker by Google. While using a backlink checker, look for the following features to identify quality links:
• Relevance to Topic or Niche: The link’s location should match your target topic and your industry based on the linking page’s meta tags.
• Relevance According to Context: Links should never look out of place. They should be integrated naturally according to the context of the anchor text.
• Credibility and Authoritativeness of Source: Look for links from websites that users and search engines can look at as trustworthy sources.
What Are the Benefits of a Link Building Strategy Focused on High Quality Link Building?
High quality link building should be a priority in your SEO strategy for several reasons, including:
• It boosts website traffic, targeting relevant audiences and industry niches.
• It improves domain authority as link juice is passed to your domain from high-authority sources.
• It broadens your opportunities to build relationships with other businesses, collaborators and subject matter experts.
• It positions your brand as an authoritative voice, leading to better credibility and a stellar reputation.
Best Practices for SEO Link Building
Link building is a laborious process. According to 51 percent of marketers, even profitable link building campaigns could take 1-3 months to see significant results. But quality link building services still exist because of the tremendous impact these backlinks can have on your SEO efforts.
With that said, the question of how many backlinks per month you should generate should be out of your radar because links from quality sources take time to acquire. So, how do you get started on your link building campaigns? By taking small steps and applying these best practices. Here’s how to create backlinks by following Google’s guidelines:
Create Quality Content
In a perfect world, you wouldn’t need to learn how to build backlinks if you “earn” them through quality content. But one of the best ways to begin your link building campaigns is by producing excellent content that assists in building quality links naturally. These pieces of content generally provide value that people want to link to, such as a blog post, whitepaper or infographic.
Beginning your link building campaigns this way creates assets that attract the attention of site owners and readers alike for increased traffic. And if you’re looking for content ideas to launch your campaign, remember that blog posts that answer “why” and “what” receive 25.8 percent more links than “how-to” posts, according to Backlinko. So a blog post about “what are backlinks?” is more than likely to receive more links than a post about “how to build backlinks.”
Every quality link building campaign revolves around some form of outreach. Whether you’re promoting a piece of content, making a request or building relationships, editorial outreach can help you achieve your link building goals. Here’s how to create backlinks through outreach:
• Ask for a link: Don’t be afraid to send an email to ask someone for a link to any of the resources on your website. But make sure to keep your email short and right to the point.
• Help a Reporter Out (HARO): Reach out to journalists who are looking for extra help for their articles via HARO. HARO is a message board for journalists and a great source of high-quality links from big-name news outlets.
• Broken link building method: This method involves flagging broken links on certain web pages using a backlink checker and contacting webmasters to provide a suitable replacement for those links. All you need to do is learn how to check backlinks in Google Search Console, the best free backlink checker today. Aside from the best free backlink checker, you can use similar tools like SEMrush and Ahrefs as a backlink checker.
Guest posting remains one of the most-used tactics to build quality links, especially for small businesses. It involves writing high-quality articles that contain links that point to your website. There are many websites online that offer opportunities for guest posting. But before you start looking for such sites, keep in mind the following:
• Look for websites or blogs that are relevant to your industry and topic.
• Your article’s primary objective should be to provide value and not self-promotion.
• Make sure you share a high-quality, well-written blog post because it can also affect your reputation.
In this article, we answered the question “what are backlinks in SEO?” and why your SEO link building strategy should focus on how to build quality links. Today, the quality of a backlink has a higher impact on your search rankings than the number of links you have. Links from a million low-quality sources can easily be ignored by Google or may even negatively impact your domain.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to the quantity of backlinks you earn. On the contrary, you should know how to create backlinks from quality sources to earn more votes of confidence that improve your domain authority. And with the help and resources of reputable agencies like Thrive, you can fast-track the process of quality link building.
Acquire more high-quality backlinks by working with one of the best digital marketing agencies today. Thrive is a full-service digital marketing agency that offers quality link building services that boost your rankings on organic search by generating links from high-DA websites. Put your business in the best position to succeed today by giving us a call at 866-908-4748 or filling out this form.