It was only a few years ago when improving your website ranking meant acquiring absolutely as many backlinks as you could. The more backlinks you had, the better your reputation with Google, and the more likely you were to rank favorably in the search engine results.
Thanks to too many people trying to game the system the strategies have changed. Backlinks aren’t nearly as important as they once were. Does this mean that they aren’t important at all? Moz and Phoenix SEO services wanted to find out.
Moz Backlink Study
Earlier this month, Moz published the results of a backlink study they did that would tell them just that. The study examined the top 50 Google search results for approximately 15,000 competitive keywords, and the results were not surprising. Moz did find a strong correlation between backlinks and Google ranking.
Of the websites and pages that Moz examined, they found that an impressive 99.2% of all websites that ranked among the top results had at least one external link. Most sites had significantly more links than just one. Of individual pages that ranked, 77.8% of them had at least one link pointing to the individual page.
Is it Possible to Rank Without Backlinks?
While it is possible to rank without backlinks, you are going to have a difficult time trying, especially if you are hoping to rank for a competitive keyword. Google still sees quality backlinks as a sign of authority, and obtaining them should still be an important element of your SEO strategy.
There are at least two times when it is possible to rank well without backlinks. One is if you are attempting to rank for a unique keyword or phrase. When there is little competition, ranking becomes much easier.
Secondly, it’s possible for individual pages to rank well without backlinks — as long as the site as a whole has several backlinks and is already seen as an authority within Google. This is common in large and well-known websites, particularly media websites, that would not have backlinks immediately upon publication. While acquiring backlinks would certainly help, they aren’t always necessary, in this case, to rank.
How Many Backlinks are Needed to Rank?
Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. While the Moz study demonstrated that having at least one backlink is practically necessary and having many backlinks is even better, there is no optimal number of backlinks. The number you need will greatly depend on the SEO of your site as a whole as well as the strength and influence of the sites that are linking to you.
Are More Links Always Better?
While Moz did find a strong correlation between the number of backlinks a page or website had and its ability to rank well in the search engine results, ranking is no longer a matter of just obtaining as many backlinks as possible. Thanks to Google’s increasingly complex and sophisticated algorithm, the quality of the backlinks plays a major factor in the algorithm as well. Links from reputable and relevant sites carry far more weight than links from spammy or irrelevant sites.
One thing many webmasters do not realize is that not all backlinks are helpful, and some can actually hurt your site SEO more than help it. This is particularly true of spammy backlinks, purchased backlinks or backlinks obtained as the result of manipulative practices or link-building strategies. Google has made it clear that these strategies are not good practice, and they will not hesitate to hand out penalties to any sites they find that break their rules.
Backlinking Best Practices
If your company is still purchasing backlinks or participating in backlinking schemes with other companies, the time to stop is now. Not only are you wasting your time, but you could potentially harm your site rather than help.
A better strategy would be to create amazing, helpful and practical content that would naturally compel others to link and share. Not only will this better serve your readers and customers, but it truly is the best way to get your site to rank well in the search engines.