Years later, here’s why backlinks are still important for SEO.

Search engine optimization professionals have been proclaiming the importance of backlinks for a very long time. Google’s main innovation early in the internet’s history was to use backlinks as a marker of legitimacy. While their algorithm has gone through many iterations, backlinks remain a prominent factor that determines which websites are ranked highly in Google search results.

Ninety-three percent of all online experiences begin with a search engine query. And as volumes of internet usage have continued to climb, strong positions on high-value keywords have become extremely lucrative for business owners.

These trends translate into stronger competition in high-volume search engine applications such as google.com. Google shows no sign of slowing down, either. In fact, we expect them to take in nearly $58 billion digital ad revenue this year.

It was once believed that Yahoo and Bing could give them a run for their money, but recent trends show that Google is at a new monopolistic level of search user penetration.

Content Is Getting Better

In response to the intense competition for a page one position in Google, search engine optimization professionals have shifted much of their strategy. SEO used to be a technical event that was done to a website to make the code more crawlable by the search engine spiders. This is no longer the case.

Today, many SEO tactics have merged with content marketing. In fact, over 2 million blog posts are created each day on the internet. The number of words being published per minute is simply staggering when you stop to think about it.

To compete at this level, many SEOs have started to devise very intricate digital marketing strategies to induce top rankings for the content they produce. First off, they are producing better content than they used to.

The overall length of content used for SEO purposes has increased from 500 words to nearly 1,500 words per page. Recent data has suggested that the majority of page one listings in Google have over 1,000 unique words on them.

Backlinks Are the Differentiator

The reality is that backlinks are still an incredibly powerful signal in the Google algorithm that determines who will rank.

Amazing content that has no backlinks simply has no opportunity to outrank content with a well-orchestrated backlink acquisition strategy behind it. A simple review of page one rankings will reinforce the idea.

Take any specific keyword you hope to rank on and look at the top three results. They are likely to be subpages of a website with that keyword in the slug. They’re likely to have over 1,500 words on the page and to be well designed and usable. If you take the URL string and put it into ahrefs, you will likely see backlinks to that specific page from related websites.

All Links Are Not Created Equally

As you pursue high-quality backlinks for your content marketing campaigns, keep in mind that not all links are created equally. Below is a handy infographic from Hubshout outlining exactly how to determine if a backlink will be beneficial to your ranking.

Domain Authority is an overall measure of how strong a website is in the most general terms. It renders the single number on a 0 to 100 scale. While this is a very blunt measure of the overall efficacy of a website, it can be helpful to get a number at a glance and know how it fits in the linkscape.

Page Authority is a more specific measure that is specific to a URL on a domain. Google shifted from evaluating the overall strength of a domain to have any specific score assigned to every page in a domain several years ago. Most SEOs believe that both the Domain Authority and Page Authority are considered when evaluating the strength of a specific backlink.

Anchor text is another critical component in determining how much juice a specific backlink will provide toward your rankings. This is the visible text that the end-user can see as a link on a page. Google has long been known to use these words in their ranking algorithm because they give a hint to what the page at the other end is about.

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Voice Search

A final reason to care about backlinks is the emergence of voice search.  According to a recent study, most voice search answers come from the top three organic results in Google. While there has been great buzz about the emergence of voice search in anticipation of its further infiltration into our daily lives, many SEOs pointed out that this is simply another interface device for the end user. On the back end of the search process, whether it originated from voice, from a mobile device, or from a keyboard, the same data is being used to respond. In short, backlinks matter for voice search just as much as they do for traditional desktop.

Conclusions

SEO professionals love to declare that backlinking is dead and that Google has moved on to other signals. However, the data suggests that backlinks, Domain Authority, Page Authority, and anchor text are all still incredibly relevant in the Google algorithm. If you want to have a great ranking, you need to stay up with the times on on-site SEO and write longer content that is very useful to end-users. However, you also need to stay current on your backlink building approaches as they remain critical for high visibility.