Why Are Backlinks Important For SEO In 2021 (And Beyond)?

Bloggers often ask whether backlinks are important for SEO, even in 2021?. The answer can be a simplistic yes or no. But it requires understanding a few basics behind the criticality of backlinks.

Backlinks have been around for a long time on the internet, but the way bloggers need to exploit them has evolved rather too fast.

Here’s a relevant aside…

It’s documented that  93% of all online experience begins with a search engine. Now if you don’t have an SEO strategy in place then it’s very likely that you will never succeed with search engine optimization.

And the cornerstone of any SEO strategy are quality backlinks, that get you much desired organic traffic, and ranking.

So

In this post we will examine why backlinks are important for SEO even today. And will continue to be so, well into the future too!

Here we go.


What Are Backlinks 

Quite simply, backlinks are links from other prominent sites that connect back to your site. Today almost all search engines give immense importance to backlinks for site rank. ……

And by the way, backlinks have been quite popular since the 1990s.

That’s when Google’s founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, observed that search engines were not using links as a criterion for ranking sites. This resulted in poor user search-satisfaction too.

 So they decided to employ links as a criteria as well. That’s one reason why links are considered as a vote from one site for another’s trust and authority.

Backlinks are important

No wonder, even today, an authority site like Moz.com has this to say…

Why are backlinks important? Backlinks are especially valuable for SEO because they represent a “vote of confidence    from one site to another”.

 I guess before plunging in deeper into the importance of backlinks, its worth checking out some terms and definitions.

I’m sure they’ll help understand things further along.


Important Terms And Definitions

Link Equity/ Link Juice:

In SEO terms the equity or value passed from one site to another, through its links is called link juice. This is largely determined by the authority of the other sites linking out to your site.

Why’s this link juice important?

Because link juice drives your domain authority, and also helps ranking your site pages or articles.

Simply stated, hyperlinks (backlinks) from other sites terminating at  your site are seen by search engines as a vote of confidence for your site.

This means that your site is valued by search engines, and considered ‘promote-worthy’ for its content authority and relevance.

So in a way, link juice virtually enhances your own site’s domain authority.

No-Follow Link:

No follow links are typically hyperlinks with a tag of rel=“nofollow”.Which means :-

             ▪ Google does not crawl these links,

             ▪Google doesn’t confer page rank through these links.

             ▪ It doesn’t benefit the destination site’s ranking due to no-follow link.

Usually, sites apply a no-follow tag to a link when they are uncertain about the authority/quality/ranking of the destination site.

link juice Backlinks important for SEO

Do-Follow Link:

By default, all the links that you add to a blog post are do-follow links and these links will pass on link juice.

Essentially, do-follow links are an HTML attribute that allows search bots to crawl the links.

When any site links to your site with do-follow link, search engine bots and people are permitted follow you. Hence link juice is transferred to you and your website  benefits from a higher page rank.

Bad-Quality Links:

Bad quality links emerge from sites that are unreliable and those which have been penalized themselves by Google webmasters.

According to Google’s quality guidelines any attempt to manipulate page rank may be taken as a link scheme, which is violative of Google Webmasters Guidelines.

avoid link schemes for good backlinks

This is where you have to be extra careful about buying links. Especially from these sources :-

        ▪Press Release Links.

       ▪Pvt Blog Networks (PBN).

          ▪Social Bookmark Sites.

          ▪Directory Submissions.

           ▪Blog Comments.

          ▪ Forum Comments.

           ▪Auto Link Building Schemes.

When you consider the potential damage to your site, I have only this to say.

That “it’s any day better to have natural links than unnatural ones”.

Because if these links are not natural or, high quality then even a ton of such poor links could be classified as spammy.

Searchenginejournal.com says this about natural links vs paid links “The main determining factor is if the links are seen as natural vs. paid or a deliberate attempt at trying to get backlinks.”

Since all links are not equal in value, it is best to make an informed decision before falling for bad links/low quality links 

Internal Links:

Links between pages or articles within the same site are called internal links. Because Google uses these links to transfer link equity within a site, they are still considered backlinks.

But most bloggers undervalue them because they connect pages within the same website or domain.

However remember, since internal links carry value, you should not disregard them.

anchor text crucial for Backlinks and for SEO

Anchor Text:

The exact word /phrase used in your content for inserting hyperlinks is called anchor text.This is the clickable (often blue) text, that leads you to another page or site.

Anchor text backlinks work great when you are trying to rank for particular keywords, even if they are long tail keywords.

In the previous sentence the phrase long tail keywords” is an example of an anchor text. So if you click that phrase, it leads the reader to another post on my site.  


Why Are Backlinks Important For SEO

For a comprehensive SEO strategy, your blog needs to have a healthy mix of on page SEO  ,as well as off page SEO. And backlinks are an essential part of off page SEO.

Here we need to note that the quality of backlinks has assumed higher importance since 2012.That’s when Google came out with the Penguin algorithm to arrest spammy sites. This was updated further in 2016.

Due to these developments, many bloggers started to disregard the importance of backlinks. Particularly the number of backlinks.

But I am stating a clearly established fact. Backlinks are important both, qualitatively and quantitatively.

And they are here to stay.

Backlinks are important for SEO

Let’s consider what the SEO expert, Brian Dean of Backlinko.com thinks about backlinks.

According to Brian Dean great content itself isn’t enough. Backlinks are crucial for increasing traffic. That’s why he came up with the Skyscraper technique, through which his own backlinks shot up.

 He says “More importantly, organic search traffic  to my entire site — not just that post — doubled in just 14 days”

 Now if that is the case, then there’s ground for examining the critical aspects that make backlinks important for SEO.

They are:-

1.Organic traffic and ranking.

2.Referral traffic.

3.Faster indexing.


Backlinks are important for SEO

Organic Traffic And Ranking

Backlinks help in achieving better organic traffic and search engine rankings. That is because of four driving factors namely link profile diversity, placement, domain authority, and relevance.

Link Profile  Diversity.

Google prefers sites that  naturally mature their authority over time. This happens by linking with a broad range of sites, influencing the site-rank.

For example, if your site has evolved by linking with directories, blogs, other websites, and forums, it’s a positive indicator for Google. Your site’s ranking rises higher naturally with the passage of time.

Placement.

It is preferable to have the anchor text placed within the text content, instead of loosely placing it in the footer or sidebar menus. The link in the main content carries a higher page rank.

Domain Authority.

Domain authority (DA) is measured on a scale of 1 to 100. And according to SEO principles, backlinks from a higher authority site will transfer greater link equity than a lower DA site.

Relevance.

Relevance refers to contextual connections. That’s why a site that shares common, relevant content must link to you. This is considered to bring greater link juice.

relevant content is important fror indexing by search engines

So if your site deals with pet food, but you receive backlinks from a real estate site it won’t profit you. Even if that other site has high DA. That’s because the real estate site has no “relevance” factor attached with your pet food site.

Backlinks Are Important For Referral Traffic

Backlinks are also decidedly great for increasing your referral traffic.

But what does that mean? Why’s referral traffic so important for your site?

Okay so,before I go on to explain the tech, here’s the analogy…

Take organic traffic as your “meat and potatoes diet” for your SEO strategy. In that case referral traffic is your crucial vitamin.

What’s more? You can ignore it at your peril.

So what is referral traffic then?

Referral traffic is that which arrives at your site from another website. The other site from where it arrives is called the ‘referrer’. And this traffic arrives at your site when some reader clicks a link on the referrer site.

For Google Analytics, referral traffic is a positive indicator. That’s because signals from the other two types of traffic (search traffic and direct traffic) are also reinforced by referral traffic. Remember vitamins!

Backlinks are important for SEO

Small wonder that the famous online blogger, Neil Patel says “The best kind of backlinks also draws referral traffic  to your website”.

In essence, what we’re saying is that referral traffic proves the importance of backlinks for SEO.

Let me break it down for you.

▪Trust Factor. It is worth noting about referral traffic, that readers come to your site from another ‘referrer’ site. This particularly reveals that the other site too considers your site trustworthy enough for linking to.

For google analytics, this is a positive signal about your site’s authority. And it is more crucial when the referrer site is a high DA site.

▪Search Rankings. For a search engine, any traffic arriving from a different site gets you better search rankings. Particularly so, when the referrer site has a high DA itself.

high quality referral traffic

   ▪More Targeted Traffic. Now you cannot miss this…

   The traffic coming to your site from a referrer site is channeled and targeted, unlike paid or organic traffic. So this targeted traffic is more profitable for sales conversions, as well as  for your search rankings

▪Low  Bounce Rate. As a corollary to the previous fact, the targeted traffic arriving at your site is bound to show a lower bounce rate. That is, those readers visiting your site from a referrer site are less likely to exit or ‘bounce away’.

 ▪Referral Traffic Conversions. Backlinks from referral traffic are highly suited for sales conversions because it results from visitor clicks that indirectly indicate keyword intent to convert . So instead of bouncing away referred customers are more likely to exit only after providing conversion or closing a sale

Quick Indexing

Now this is interesting.

Wonder if  you know?

That over time, backlinks have also become famous for helping your site get indexed faster.

Well, that is true. And is also a significant reason that makes backlinks important for SEO.

But

 I think before delving further we need to understand the subtle difference between crawling and indexing. Because, more often than not, readers are confused between the two.

▪Crawling refers to Googlebot activity, where bots search for page content and try to comprehend the page content or code. For doing this, Google bots analyze the embedded content, images, and videos on the page.

▪Indexing, however, is the simple process of making the page eligible for showing up on Google search. That means indexing makes your content qualified to be seen by online visitors if they’re searching for related content.

indexing is important for SEO

 

indexing

Okay, so that’s about the difference between crawling and indexing.

But where do backlinks step in for indexing your site/page?

Let’s lift the veil on this slightly.

 ✔Firstly it’s crucial for Google spiders(bots) to crawl your site. Then only does the search engine comprehend your page content.

  ✔Later on, Google bots revisit your site, and this crawling process becomes a regular feature over time. Essentially, they are visitors looking for “fresh food” (new updates).

✔During this process, if google bots discover new content on your site or page, that’s a positive thumbs up for you.

  ✔But all this crawling and revisiting by Google bots happens only when high-quality backlinks, from other websites, connect to you. And if those sites happen to be of higher authority(DA), all the better for you.

    ✔In short, you will appear in the search engine result pages (SERPs) of Google, only when your backlinks are indexed. That is why backlinks are important for SEO.

 No small wonder that AuthorityHacker.com says ….“Backlinks, measured by the number of referring domains to a URL are still the most strongly correlated factor for SEO success”.

I think it’s relevant to emphasize here, that thin content and plagiarized content is the enemy of good backlinks and indexing.

Hence, to exploit the importance of backlinks I strongly recommend that you focus on the expertise, authority and trustworthiness of your content. That positively establishes the E-A-T score of your content.


Conclusion

Backlinks have been around since the ‘90s. And they are important for extracting link juice or link equity from your neighborhood sites.

However, the question of why backlinks are important for SEO has always been alive among bloggers.

Well, a couple of critical factors decide everything in favor of backlinks. Organic traffic and search rankings, faster indexing, and referral traffic are major driving reasons. They positively prove why backlinks are important for SEO.

At the same, time it’s worth keeping your SEO compass focused on the Google quality guidelines as well. These are stringent metrics that swiftly penalize poor quality backlinks.

Mature websites with good natural backlinks are preferred by Google, over any dubious links that degrade their site’s authority in the long term.

I would like to know why you consider backlinks important for SEO. I’ll be glad to see your comments in the comment box.

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