The main determining factor is if the links are seen as natural vs. paid or a deliberate attempt at trying to get backlinks.
Natural links include:
- Companies that link to their other brands in their own footers or in their main navigation to switch between stores.
- If you’re an authority and a blogger has a list of resources and other reading in their sidebar.
- When you’re producing a ton of photo content and the website uses your work across numerous posts.
- As you do something newsworthy and media companies, bloggers, and publications mention, source or feature you for it.
- Providing databases and feeds to sell products on other sites that link to your site.
- Having bloggers or publishers create a store without “sponsored” or “nofollow” attributes on their links.
- Banner ads – run of site, category, etc., because they are paid placements.
- Widgets, feeds, and badges with keyword-rich backlinks.
- Widgets, feeds, and badges that are clearly marketing ploys and not something exclusive or real.
- If the site is part of a PBN (private blog network) regardless if you paid or earned the links.
- Using scholarships and other gimmicks.
- Leaving comments on blogs, in forums, or on community websites.
- Keyword-rich links to category pages or products that you do not manufacture.
- Anything that isn’t clearly earned by merit.
Are Backlinks Important for SEO?
- Yes, backlinks are 100% important for SEO. But it is not a numbers game.
- Backlinks are only one of the signals a search engine uses.
- The entire purpose of a search engine is to show a person searching the most relevant response, formatted in the best way possible to and in the fastest and most accessible way.
- That could be a paragraph or list of text, a video, images, or mixed media. This is equally if not more important than backlinks.
Why a Site with Less Backlinks Outranks a Site with More
To answer the question about why a site with fewer links will outrank a site with a ton, or how to get your website with a few links to outrank one with a few hundred thousand you need to look at what a link is.
Before we had smartphones, schema, and concepts like E-A-T, the search engines needed a way to determine the trust of a website and a specific page within that website.
Backlinks were one of these trust factors, specifically PageRank with Google.
Now that PageRank doesn’t exist (at least as we knew it back then), we have other ways to help build the trust and authority of our website.
If your website and the page in particular meet these trust and authority signals, you may now have the ability to compete with the website and webpages that have more links.
You can build trust by have licensed and credible people in the niche create or sign off on your content.
Just because someone is your CEO does not mean they are credible or established. That is one of the hardest pills for an executive to swallow.
- Source the content to the author and relevant sources using links and schema.
- Have a solid internal linking structure that provides more explanations for concepts or resources mentioned in your content.
- Ensure your website is secure.
- Provide a better explanation of the concept, formulate an easier way to purchase, or have better formatting that is easier to digest.
- Be as ADA-compliant as possible
- Have lightning-fast load times so people on mobile devices and slow connections can access your content.
Properly structure your content using:
- Header tags.
- Clear titles.
- Properly named images.
- The formatting of sections into tables, lists, paragraphs, etc.
- Add proper schema to define what is on the page and in each section.
- Use proper site structure and make sure your most important pages are being referenced when it is natural.
- Check your Core Web Vitals now that search engines like Google are doubling down including cumulative layout shift (CLS).
Yes, quality backlinks will help you rank more easily than merit alone.