There is a lot of chatter in the search engine optimisation community about the relevance of backlinks to helping a website rank highly on search engines. It is well known that Google has long used backlinks as the major ranking factor in its search algorithm. Google sees an inbound link to your website, also known as a backlink, as a vote of confidence in your site and an indicator that your website is providing quality content to users. Over the years this has led to many ways to generate inbound links to a website, some ethical, some not so ethical.
In February 2011 Google rolled out an update to its algorithm known as “Panda”. The aim of Panda was to try to reduce the rankings of poor quality sites. On April 24th 2012 Google announced an update to its algorithm known as “Penguin”. Penguin was aimed at decreasing the rankings of websites that had attempted to manipulate the system by using unethical techniques such as buying links from other websites. SEO specialists had already been questioning the value of inbound links as a true signal to the quality of a website and this update to Google’s algorithm enhanced that view. Many SEO specialists declared that link building was dead and that “Content Marketing” was king.
While I agree that content marketing is king it would be foolish to think that link building is dead. It just needs to be performed in an ethical manner. If you provide high quality, original content for your users then you are likely to generate inbound links to your website. This is still a form of link building.
Matt Cutts, head of the web spam busting team at Google, has said in a recent video that they still use inbound links as a major signal. He had been asked if there was a version of Google that does not use backlinks for rankings? Matt replied that they do have a version internally at Google that does not use backlinks but that it is not available to the public. He went on to say that they performed tests on this version and compared it to the public version of the search engine and that they found that the public version provided better quality results.
There are many ways that you can look at that last sentence. One way would be if they have a version that does not use backlinks then they must be looking at eventually looking at a way to remove backlinks completely from the algorithm. Another way is to say that any company should constantly be testing its own performance to look for ways that they can provide a better service for their clients. Perhaps the main thing to realise is that Google still see backlinks as a valuable signal in determining the quality of a website.
So if you are serious about search engine optimisation and want your website to rank well on Google and Bing then keep building backlinks to your website but make sure that you do it in an ethical manner.