Link building has been a hot SEO topic for many years now. While Google continues to emphasize external links don’t matter as much as everyone believes, there are many SEO experts who beg to differ.
Neil Patel reports the link popularity of a specific page makes up about 22% of Google’s ranking algorithm. That’s almost a quarter, which is a huge chunk, in my eyes.
Backlinko did a study and found the average page in position No. 1 on Google search results had 35,000-plus external backlinks.
Of course, this isn’t all you need to know when gauging the importance of link building in 2019. You need to know:
- which links influence page rank;
- how much quality matters; and
- how much power link building really has on your site’s rankings.
Gaining Recognition From Google With PageRank
Links from authoritative pages pass authority to your page. PageRank is what determines how authoritative a page is according to Google. Because sites with high PageRank are already in Google’s good graces, any links to other sites from those high PageRank sites also receive recognition.
It’s a lot like high school. When someone in the popular group accepts a new student, everyone else in the group accepts him. The authoritative page is the popular kid, and your site is the new kid. Google just likes to hang out with the popular kids and decides to grant rankings to those who are accepted by the cool, popular sites.
The following sums up the importance of having quality backlinks. To increase your site’s PageRank (authority), you must get sites with high PageRank to link to you. Google trusts sites with high PageRank and, in turn, they will trust you when they link to you.
This trust is what leads Google to rank your site higher for keyword phrases your targeted audience uses in search. As your backlink profile grows with more authoritative links to your site, the more trust Google has for your site, which then leads to higher rankings for more keyword phrases.
The Downfall of the Backlink Hustle
People went crazy over getting backlinks when they found out it had an effect on their site’s rankings. They were asking any and every site to link back to them. Some of them even paid website owners for links, or exchanged links with them.
Paying for links and exchanging links worked for a while, but eventually Google caught on. Google tweaked its algorithm and devalued these types of self-created links.
Introducing … The Penguin Update
It all started when the Penguin update waddled itself into our life. Our SEO life, that is.
When the Penguin update was released, SEOs looked intensely at what happened to their rankings. After Google explained some of the reasoning behind the update, it was clear what made some sites increase in rankings and others plummet: backlinks.
Sites that had high-quality external links saw ranking increases, while those that had low-quality, spammy links or not many backlinks, lost their ranking positions.
But Do Links Still Matter?
The short answer is “yes.” Links are still important in 2019.
In fact, nothing has really changed over the years except that Google does a better job at weeding out the websites that don’t really belong on the first page of the search results. As long as you focus on high-quality, relevant links and steer clear of shortcuts, like paid links or spammy links, then you’ll stay in Google’s good graces.
Link building is important, as long as you’re collecting quality backlinks. Publish top-notch content, share it with your industry, and see if others find enough value in it to share a link to it on their sites. As you publish more content and get the recognition from industry leaders, you should see rankings increase little by little. While it may seem like a lot of work, all of the content creation and marketing is worth it when you start to see your site improve (instead of decline) with each algorithm update.
Want more tips on improving your SEO? Grab a copy of our “Ultimate SEO Checklist.”