Backlinks Myths and Google’s Recommendations to Address It
If you know SEO, you must have been wondering how many backlinks are required for a website to rank well.
The industry believes that you can keep creating backlinks and that always helps you to rank higher.
But no SEO veterans, or bloggers ever pointed out the exact numbers. No one actually knows how many backlinks you really require to get on top SERPs.
After you complete reading this blog, you will come to know what Google says about the number of backlinks a web page should have to rank well. We will show you the proof of it.
As a website owner, you want to stay on top of your game. You’re always on alert to know when there is an algorithm change. You want to outshine your competitors by ranking number 1 on search engine result pages.
“The truth is that nobody can predict Google’s algorithm 100%.”
In 2014, Heiko Mass, a German Justice Minister, asked Google to reveal its algorithm for transparency.
In 2016, Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor at the time, also made the same request.
But we all know that Google’s algorithm is a trade secret. If anyone gets hold of it, then spammers will be all over the internet dishing out inferior content.
Because Google keeps updating the way it ranks pages, no one can exactly say how the algorithm works. We’re simply experimenting.
And one of the popular tips you will find in an SEO community is the use of backlinks.
Even HubSpot recommends it. Take a look:
No doubt, backlinks are very useful to your website’s performance. However, not every backlinking strategy is correct. It can damage your site’s reputation or even land you a penalty from Google.
Keep reading to learn about some backlinking info that can get you into trouble if you believe them.
What are Backlinks
In simple words, backlinks are links from one website to another. They are also known as incoming or inbound links.
If other websites link to a page on your website, it means you have backlinks from them. But if you link to other websites, they have backlinks from you.
Google considers backlinks as a meter for ranking.
When you link to a site, it means that you trust that site. As a result, sites with high-quality backlinks rank high on Google.
What are the Real Backlinks in Modern-day SEO
AI-powered search engines are so advanced nowadays that they have completely redefined the way backlinks used to be taken and understood. So what actually a backlink is with respect to modern-day SEO?
Backlink, as mentioned previously, is a link used to provide useful context by referring to some other online resource through a link. And when others find your content useful, informative, and worthy that they refer to it in their blogs/articles and other relevant web pages, it actually comes with a true backlink and holds 100% importance and relevance.
On the contrary, any link that is created to promote your website’s content is nowadays taken as a spammy backlink and has no value and dents the chances of ranking higher.
While doing our research, we came across a couple of instances that signify our take on the importance of backlinks in today’s SEO landscape.
Given are some examples to put into perspective the worth and value created by authentic backlinks.
Once you go deeper into the article, you will find many cases when a page is ranking very high with thousands of keywords with just a couple of backlinks and probably no backlinks also.
Are Backlinks Important for SEO?
Backlinks are important aspects of search engine optimization. As mentioned earlier, if you place a link on your site, you’re telling Google that you trust the content on that site.
When more sites link to one site, it sends a signal to the search engine that such a site is relevant. As a result, the site will become more visible on search engine result pages.
In addition to gaining visibility, the site gains more authority and ranks high.
Because backlinks are clickable and usually point to relevant resources for further reading, they help your site to gain referral traffic.
Although Google’s algorithm keeps changing, the quality of links and content on a page is still a major ranking factor.
Can Backlinks Hurt Your Site?
In a Google+ hangouts video, when asked whether link building was good, John Mueller said it should be avoided entirely.
He further stated that Google uses links as a part of its algorithm. But focusing on them alone may cause bigger problems for your website’s ranking.
Theoretically, backlinks from trusted sites with a high level of authority inform the search engine that your site can be trusted.
But if they come from sites with low authority, they will affect your rank negatively. Such links are known as toxic links.
Here are Some Bad Links that can Hurt Your Site:
- Links to press releases
- Foreign discussion forums with low authority
- Advertising links
- Links from online directories and social bookmarking websites
You may want to check out Google’s guidelines on link schemes to know other types of links to avoid.
Can a Website Rank without Backlinks?
Because of the way backlinks are magnified, you may have believed that your site can’t rank well without them. But that’s not correct.
Link building is just one out of many ranking strategies. So, your website can actually rank without backlinks.
Here are some examples of websites ranking for thousands of keywords and on top positions with a very minimum or no backlinks at all:
Let’s evaluate this report to gain an insight.
While doing our background research, we came across this website and we were surprised to see its consistency and growth with approximately 30K monthly visitors and more than 3.2K inbound links.
Our team reached out to the owner to learn more about his views on link building for rankings and traffic generation. He claimed that he never focused on these SEO metrics and paid no heed to manually create outbound links.
Instead, he and his team put all their efforts into creating worthy content, which ultimately was the reason why their website started receiving traffic.
Seeing the constant influx of online visitors, other website owners started to link the website to their web resources to provide useful context to the readers.
Outbound links are out of fashion, and now is the time for inbound links. The tech-savvy generation today wants relevant, useful and value-added content, and if you can create some worthwhile write-ups, people will link their website to yours, injecting invaluable link juices for your website to rank higher.
Another fine example to justify the insignificance of backlinks is this graph, which is clearly highlighting that a webpage can rank on 2.4K Organic Keywords with only 33 backlinks.
As part of our research program, we contacted the website owner to know how he was able to generate 3.3K monthly traffic and rank on almost 2500 keywords. We got to know that he spent money on quality writing and didn’t care much about creating backlinks.
This particular blog happens to be a detailed blog with 5000+ wordcount about a very popular file transfer utility, and given its widespread user base, the website was able to get hold of a vast majority of the online searchers.
Due to the relevancy and quality of the content, as many as 33 other website owners managed to link their resources – all inbounds.
Again, it is about the quality and relevancy of the content that you publish on your website, which helps you lure online visitors and add up to your website’s worth and if others find your content lucrative enough, then you will get the needed backlinks without any manual efforts.
I also spoke directly to the owner of the website. As per them also, they never cared to create manual backlinks. They just focus on creating long and detailed contents and their contents are linked by the audience then.
Google’s John Mueller didn’t say otherwise.
How Your Site can Rank without Backlinks:
1. Create Valuable Content
It’s quite easy to start a blog and publish articles randomly. But Google likes sites that offer relevant, updated content.
Instead of focusing on the number of posts you have on your website, spend more time ensuring they are quality.
People should visit your website and find answers to their questions. That’s why they are surfing the internet in the first place.
Rather than publishing only your opinion, research and write on what other people (especially high authority sites) have to say about a particular topic. Use images to explain concepts better.
Your goal should be to write posts that are better than the first 10 articles that pop up when you search for your target keywords.
2. Study the Competition
Your competitors are ahead of you because they are doing something that you’re not. And when it comes to SEO, you can learn a lot from competitors, especially those that have been in business for a longer time.
The first thing to do is conduct a keyword search for the phrase you want to rank for. Your target is to copy what the top 10 search results are doing.
To get better results, consider the following:
- The average number of words in the article
- Keyword usage in H1, H2, and other headings
- The number of images used
- The length of paragraphs and use of bold words and bullet points
- The pages they are linking to, both internal and external
- The domain trust score
Tools like SurferSEO will give you an idea of these factors as well as highlight the areas your competitors did not pay attention to.
3. Utilize Internal Links
Internal links are more powerful than you can imagine and very easy to get.
When you publish content, ensure you link to other related pages on your website. This strategy helps your pages to gain visibility.
Instead of saying “click here”, you can optimize an internal link by using anchor text. It may not match your exact keyword, but it should appear natural.
4. Firstly Choose Low Competition , Longtail Keywords
Longtail keywords are very specific, and the lesser the search volume, the lesser your competition.
You can use suggestions from Google search to get longtail keywords. Just type the primary keyword in the search box.
These suggestions will help you know what people are searching for so you can create content around them.
Another method is by checking the related searches that appear below the first results page.
You can also use free longtail keyword tool finders like SEMrush, Answer the public, and KWFinder.
5. Improve Your User Page Experience
User experience, both on desktop and mobile devices, is the bedrock of ranking on Google. So, if you want to rank high, people should be able to access your website on any screen size.
Google page experience consists of the following metrics:
- Core web vitals (loading performance, interactivity, and visual stability)
- Site security (HTTPS)
- Easily accessible content
When people visit your site, they expect it to load immediately. If it delays by 3 seconds, it’s a huge turn-off. They will leave your site and look for another one that contains the information they want.
Google is concerned about user experience. So, if visitors keep leaving your site because of poor performance, Google will stop directing people to your site.
The following tips can help to improve your website speed:
- Reduce the sizes of your images and videos
- Use a page caching plugin
- Invest in a dedicated web hosting service
- Leverage content delivery network (CDN)
Can You Buy Backlinks?
A quick search on the internet shows that many companies are willing to sell links to you.
Their targets are new website owners who have quality content but are not getting the desired visibility.
This may sound like a done-for-you solution, but it’s a black hat SEO technique. It tricks Google or other search engines into believing that your website is good enough to rank higher.
“Google clearly stated in its Webmaster Guidelines that buying or selling links can reduce a website’s rank.”
Because links count as votes, buying them is synonymous with paying electorates to vote for you; it’s unethical.
If you engage in such practices and you’re caught, your website will lose rankings for all its keywords. That means all your hard work will be flushed down the drain.
Rather than pay for cheap or even expensive links, channel the resources into building your site. Invest in quality content and other areas such as:
- On-page optimization
- Customer experience
- Google AdWords
Gradually, your site will earn high-quality organic backlinks.
How Backlinks Work
Backlinks work like citations in research. When renowned researchers cite the work of a particular researcher, it shows that he or she is an authority on that subject.
So, when authority websites link back to your site, Google starts noticing you.
Here’s a simple example to help you understand it better:
Joe writes a blog post on pets.
Jane, a popular blogger, writes on pet products and links to Joe’s post. This has created a backlink for Joe’s website.
Because Jane’s site is popular, other bloggers will link back to her post. This will increase the authority of Jane’s site.
Joe’s site, on the other hand, has gained a backlink from an authority site. So, it’s a win-win situation.
How Do Backlinks Help Us in the Ranking?
By linking to a site, you’re giving that site a thumbs up. The more people link to that site, the more it becomes visible on page 1 of search engine results pages.
This is basically because the search engine believes that the site contains relevant information.
However, moving to page 1 is not as easy as it seems. Spammers can link back to your site but that doesn’t mean your site is gaining.
Spam links are low authority. They will do your ranking no good.
Can More Number of Backlinks Help Websites to Rank?
There is no formula to measure the number of backlinks your website requires to rank.
You can get 300 backlinks in one month, then it reduces to 50 in the next month. Google will definitely suspect your website because the sudden rise and fall are abnormal.
Some people think it’s not about quantity but quality. A high-quality link has the following features:
- It comes from a website with high a high domain authority
- It is related to your niche
- You do not pay for it
- It sends traffic to your site
Getting quality backlinks is quite challenging but worth the while. However, there are other things you can do.
- Build organic backlinks to your homepage
- Go heavy on content, but ensure that it is quality and includes images
- Naturally build backlinks to that content
Implementing a combination of two or all three techniques will help your website to rank.
Is Backlink Still Relevant
Backlink is a very important part of the SEO strategy. Irrespective of what anyone says, it is still relevant.
A scientific research done by Sergey Brin and Lawrence Page shows that Google uses link structure to determine how a page ranks. It also uses links to improve search results.
The only thing that has changed is the fact that Google now focuses on rewarding high-quality links. Its algorithm has been improved to fish out spammy links.
Backlinks show that webmasters trust your content. It connects people to relevant information.
Although it isn’t the only ranking factor, people can still find your page whether it has a slow loading rate or low content.
In the same vein, if the site has no content or loads slowly, any vote awarded to that site won’t count.
Because many of us are too busy to build backlinks for our websites, some SEO service providers are ready to help you fill the gap.
So, what’s a backlink service and what does it do?
A backlink service is a company or a freelancer that helps you find websites with high authority that are related to your niche. It ensure that these websites link back to your site.
They reach out to high authority websites in order to submit your content with your anchor text embedded in it.
Also offer guest posting services such that they write for you for a fee and add a contextual link. And if you have broken links, they may be willing to replace them.
Simply put, a backlink service helps you to fix your low-traffic problem.
Now, the question is “should you pay for their services?”
Link building services are quite shady. You may end up paying for things that you do not need.
For instance, some companies offer content creation as part of the full package. This could be problematic because the content may not be related to your niche or you will have a hard time editing it.
In some cases, the keyword may not appear naturally because they are trying to fit it into an unrelated article. Imagine placing “wet dog food” as an anchor text in a baby products article.
Additionally, most link building services do not have access to high authority sites. They advertise what they want you to see, then post your content on their private blogs or website.
Funnily enough, their services are highly-priced. And if you choose cheaper services, get ready to be penalized. Cheap backlink services can give you links from sites with zero site visitors.
Therefore, it’s important to do the hard work yourself and be sure that you’re getting only high-quality, relevant links.
How Many Backlinks Required? Google Recommends!
There are 200 ranking signals and when a query is searched, all those ranking signals are applied to serve the most relevant results to the users.
Backlink is also an important ranking signal but as per Google’s blog, only two quality backlinks are required to contribute to the pagerank signal.
Here’s the screenshot of Google’s blog:
It all boils down to the fact that backlinks are an important ranking factor for Google, but surely not the only one.
Considering that Google’s algorithm works in mysterious ways, if you rely too much on link building alone, your website may not grow as much as you want.
Moreover, getting quality links is becoming increasingly difficult, and hence, it is advisable to invest more time to check other important SEO techniques, such as using longtail low competition keywords, internal linking, improving your page speed, and page optimization to ensure sustainable organic growth and traffic generation.