Understanding When Links Still Impact Rankings

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June 5, 2024

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Understanding When Links Still Impact Rankings

The Evolving Landscape of Link-Based SEO

Have you ever watched a tree grow from a tiny sapling to a robust, towering giant? It’s a slow yet sure process, much like the ever-changing world of search engine optimization (SEO). In this article, we’ll explore the nuanced role of backlinks in modern-day rankings – a topic that, like that growing tree, has stood the test of time, yet continues to evolve.

As an SEO specialist at MCRSEO, a leading agency in Manchester, UK, I’ve witnessed firsthand how the significance of backlinks has ebbed and flowed over the years. Back in the early days of SEO, it was all about quantity – the more links, the better. But as search algorithms became increasingly sophisticated, the quality of those links emerged as the true driving force behind sustainable rankings.

The Enduring Importance of Backlinks

Backlinks, commonly known as inbound or external links, are links from other websites that lead to your own. Each backlink is a potential vote of confidence from other sites, signaling trust and authority to search algorithms. Essentially, backlinks to your website are signals to search engines that other sites vouch for your content.

If many sites link to the same webpage, search engines will realize that the content is worth linking to and, therefore, also worth surfacing on search results. However, the quantity and quality of backlinks play a crucial role in ranking a site for specific keywords. That’s why a strong backlink profile, characterized by links from highly reputable sources, can significantly increase a site’s position on SERPs (search engine results pages).

Identifying High-Quality Backlinks

Not all backlinks are created equal. The features that make the relevant ones stand out are:

Relevance

Links from websites in the same industry or niche as yours are generally more effective than those from unrelated sites. Imagine you publish an article on cheese recipes, and sites about rank tracking, personal fitness, and tech gadgets link to the page – there’s no tally in relevance, and it’s a turn-down from search algorithms.

Domain Authority

The domain authority and expert signals for a specific site will play a role. For example, a backlink from trustworthy, popular, high-authority sites is considered high-quality. In contrast, links from spammy, low-authority, or questionable sites can negatively impact your site.

Anchor Text

When a backlink uses your target keyword as the anchor text, it sends a strong relevance signal to search engines. It indicates that the content on the linked page is closely related to that keyword, helping search engines better understand your page and potentially improving your rankings for that keyword.

The Evolving Role of Dofollow and Nofollow Links

By default, all links are dofollow links, which pass on link equity (ranking power). However, site owners can mark links as “nofollow,” which instructs search engines not to follow these links or pass on link equity.

A dofollow link is definitely more beneficial to your site than a nofollow link. However, a nofollow link from a relevant and authoritative site is more helpful than a dofollow link from a non-related, random website. This is because search engines still take note of nofollow links and can use them to understand the overall context and relevance of a page.

The Ongoing Importance of Backlinks in SEO

While the landscape of SEO has undoubtedly changed over the years, the significance of backlinks remains a constant. As research has shown, backlinks continue to be one of the most important ranking factors for search engines.

In fact, a recent study by the University of Illinois at Chicago found that the number and quality of backlinks account for up to 30% of a website’s ranking on Google. This underscores the ongoing importance of building a strong, diverse backlink profile as part of a comprehensive SEO strategy.

Navigating the Evolving Backlink Landscape

So, how can you ensure your backlink strategy remains effective in the face of these changes? The key is to focus on quality over quantity. Aim for links from relevant, high-authority sites that provide genuine value to your target audience.

As Rank Math points out, a nofollow link from a reputable site can be more valuable than a dofollow link from a low-quality source. The key is to strike a balance, continuously monitoring your backlink profile and making adjustments as needed.

Remember, like that growing tree, the world of SEO is a constantly evolving landscape. But by staying attuned to the latest trends and best practices, and by building a robust, high-quality backlink profile, you can ensure that your website continues to thrive and climb the search engine rankings.

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