Yes! Links still matter
Linkbuilding is always met with an air of caution – what if we pick up a penalty? How many links are enough links? Do we need to pay for additional content? Ultimately, businesses tend to shy away from link building since the ‘big Penguin crash of 2013’ whereby Google changed the linkbuilding market altogether. But thinking strategically about links should form part of an SEO strategy.
According to analysis of linking trends there is a clear indication that links carry huge weight in ranking algorithms. Which means businesses need to incorporate link building into an SEO strategy.
Regularly, Moz and Search Metrics publish reports showing that links are incredibly important. However, a study from Stone Temple Consulting took a different approach and the numbers are even more in favour of good quality link building.
The study aggregated the count of links by the ranking position for the top 50 results across 6000 search results pages, and it showed a near-perfect correlation between links and ranking.
Earlier this year, during a Hangout conversation with Google, Andrey Lippatsev, stated that content and links were important signals contributing to rank results. However, the studies developed by Moz and Searchmetrics on ranking factors, failed to show higher numbers in the correlation between incoming links and other ranking factors. The statistic didn’t seem to ring truth to Lippatsev’s words.
Stone Temple Consulting focused on the same terms as the previous studies but had a different approach: Calculations were made in a different way as well as different query types. Commercial head terms, commercial long terms and also informational queries were tested. And with this approach, results were in fact higher than the ones showed in the studies by Moz and Searchmetrics.
This data study strongly suggests that links continue to play a major role in rankings. When you aren’t facing page relevance or quality issues, links can continue to significantly impact rankings.
What should marketers take from this study?
Marketers and website owners have plenty to learn from this study. Probably, the most important lessons are:
a) Focus on building great content and user experiences.
b) Market your business proactively to encourage people to write about you, your business and link to you.
It is important to point out that as further research was done, some important additional findings were made. Incoming links didn’t seem to have much influence on local listings or in-depth content. In addition, incoming links didn’t help poor or low relevance content rank higher in search engines.
Keep in mind
Although an aspect of SEO may increase or decrease with importance over time, they should never be ignored, marketers should ensure that their site has a good SEO strategy if not already managed by an SEO agency.
Links are just one of the many ranking factors that Google and other search engines take into account. Google will always prioritise and therefore highly rank websites that:
● Have lengthy, well-written, compelling and relevant content
● Update their content regularly
● Have a strong on-site SEO structure
● Have strong social signals (they participate in social media and engage with their followers)
● Receive links from sites with good metrics that are relevant to their niche
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