There are plenty of resources online discussing backlinks and why they should be part of your SEO strategy. When you Google “how important is link building for SEO?” you inevitably find an endless supply of websites sharing link building strategies and tips on how to get backlinks. But the one question often left unanswered is: Does the number of backlinks really matter for your link building strategy?
Google’s John Mueller recently put the issue to rest. In a Search Central office-hours hangout, Mueller was asked,
“What’s more important: the number of unique backlinks referring domains or the total number of backlinks?”
He responded, definitively, that the number of links in SEO link building does not matter.
“I don’t think we differentiate that in our systems,” Mueller said. “We try to understand what is relevant for a website, how much we weigh these individual links, and the total number of links doesn’t matter at all.”
If how many backlinks per month or year you generate doesn’t matter, what, then, should be the main focus of your link building strategy? According to Mueller, what matters to Google is quality over quantity – and that’s what your link building strategies should prioritize.
In this blog, we’ll be talking about high quality link building; specifically, the importance of backlinks and domain authority (DA), how to build backlinks and how to check backlinks in Google search.
How Important Is Link Building for SEO?
Now that we know the answer to “what are backlinks in SEO?” let’s move onto the importance of backlinks. So, exactly how important is link building for SEO and how much does it matter?
We’ve explained that link building is the process of acquiring backlinks for your website. Generally, there are two ways to do this:
• Natural Link Building – the editorial acquisition of backlinks when others discover your content and link to it organically.
• Non-Natural Link Building – an umbrella term for link acquisition that covers link building through editorial outreach, guest posting or quality link building services, among others.
Note: We used the term non-natural link building to differentiate from unnatural link building, which is a frowned-upon method of acquiring backlinks. Unnatural or black-hat link building services attach artificial links to web pages without the administrator’s consent for the sole purpose of manipulating a page’s ranking.
But how important is link building for SEO? Extremely. In fact, it has become a critical ranking factor, which is why many link building services exist. As mentioned above, backlinks serve as a vote of confidence for your website and are instrumental in improving your visibility online through organic search.
Making the Case: Link Building Quality vs Quantity
The debate over link building quality vs quantity wasn’t even a thing before 1998. That year, Google started considering the importance of backlinks by introducing PageRank to estimate the quality of web pages through the number of links that point to them.
One major flaw, however, was that it couldn’t differentiate between low- and high-quality sources. Exploiters saw an opportunity to trick the system, giving rise to black-hat link building strategies, such as spam comments, private blog networks (PBNs) and link farms, among many others.
Google introduced a series of updates, beginning in 2011, to filter out and penalize websites that didn’t follow its guidelines. Before the update, link building services could simply ask how many backlinks per month you wanted and deliver because it didn’t matter if you knew how to get backlinks from quality sources. Today, the link source’s DA and trustworthiness matter way more than the number of links. In the debate between link building quality vs quantity, experts agree that quality is the clear winner.
“Long gone are the days when link builders used PBNs and link farms to rank a website. These practices go against Google’s guidelines, which can result in penalization,” said Cruz. “A quality backlink has a lot more weight when passing link equity, and the potential referral traffic and branding opportunities that come with it are signaling Google the right way.”
It is more important than ever to build quality links through your link building strategy. One link from a highly reputable source such as a popular blog or a credible news website has more link juice than a million links from sketchy sources that Google can easily ignore.