For what feels like an age, SEOs have known that links are crucial for a well-ranking site – from the early days of getting as many links as possible (regardless of quality), through to the present day where every link is scrutinised for quality, relevancy, potential to drive traffic, et al.
Recently, people have begun to challenge links, their value, and the quantity required to rank – stating a range of other elements as more important, such as content, engagement, etc. Yet a recent study into the value of links, backed up their continued importance.
The report showed a “near-perfect correlation” between links and ranking highly within Google. The study was put together using the top 50 results across 6,000 search results pages (for you maths geeks that’s 300,000 results), and aggregated the amount of links by ranking position.
The key summary for the study (which can be found here) is that with Google’s algorithm constantly evolving, we are seeing a consistent change to search results – with more real estate taken up by paid search; other content is being displayed by sites such as YouTube and a host of other search results, such as local search and the Google map pack. A range of other ranking factors often dictate these results therefore, although links are still in the mix and a factor amongst many.
So in short, when you’re not facing quality or relevancy issues caused by the above search results, links can and still considerably effect rankings.
So what should you do about this?
Continue to acquire links – Links will most likely always be an important factor, regardless of where you’re trying to rank, so continue to work towards link acquisition.
Review quality and relevancy – A caveat on the above point – don’t just acquire and build links from anywhere, review whether the link is relevant for your business, links to the right page, and the quality of the site linking to you. How many backlinks does it have? What is the quality of those links? How many links do they have leaving the page linking to you? Is the site user friendly? Do they receive useful traffic that could potentially pass to you? These are all questions you should be considering whilst you review the quality and relevancy of a link.
Don’t get hung up – The danger with this kind of study is that people can just focus on whatever ranking factor is in question. Don’t get hug up on links as a ranking factor they may be important, but they’re not the only one. Instead, work on the quality and usefulness of your content, make sure your site is user-friendly/mobile-friendly, etc.