Is the practice of building backlinks to your website a dead SEO strategy? This is a question that has been doing the rounds for many years now. Before attempting to answer it, it’s important to clarify what we are talking about.
Links are part of the internet and always will be. By linking to a page on another website, you are improving the experience for visitors by helping them find additional information. Websites also like to be associated with other brands, links to other websites can provide context for the points you are making, and links can add validity to something you are saying.
In other words, there are lots of reasons for linking to another website that have little-to-nothing to do with SEO.
What we are really talking about with this question is proactive link building, i.e., implementing strategies to encourage third-party websites to add a backlink to one of your pages. Is this type of link building dead?
Some Forms of Link Building Are Most Definitely Dead
If we are talking about old black-hat SEO tactics like link farms and content that can be described as nothing other than spam, then yes, that sort of link building is long dead.
Google spends considerable time and resources removing and devaluing what it considers fake or spammy links, and even dishes out penalties to the worst offenders. While some of these strategies might have yielded short-term results in the past, they are dead strategies now.
What about other, more legitimate forms of link building? This question brings us to our next point.
Backlinks Are Still a Ranking Factor
By all accounts, Google would like to rely on backlinks less, and it has taken steps in this direction. However, it simply can’t replace the value of backlinks as a ranking factor. In fact, not only are backlinks a ranking factor, but they are also one of the most important.
Therefore, shouldn’t the sensible answer to our central question be that backlinking in SEO remains alive and well? Not quite.
Content Quality Considerations
There is a sizeable number of SEO professionals who argue that creating quality content is much more important than proactive link building. Their argument is that quality content will attract organic backlinks, creating a more natural backlink profile for the page. Natural backlink profiles are what Google is looking for. They are also what proactive link building attempts to accelerate.
In many respects, this argument is valid, particularly in relation to the importance of creating high-quality content. Focusing on user experience is also crucial, as is creating content based on search intent.
However, you don’t want to create fantastic content that doesn’t get seen. Therefore, you need to promote your content, which, after all, is what proactive link building largely involves, i.e., building relationships and promoting the content you create.
Backlinking Isn’t Just About SEO
We are now full circle, where backlinking strategies are about more than SEO. Instead, they are about promoting the content on your website as far and as wide as possible. If the content is good enough (the quality content argument again), other websites will link back to it. As we know backlinks are a ranking factor, those backlinks will be good for your SEO.
So, the summary is, no, backlinking is not dead in SEO.
It might be a good idea to look at backlinking a different way, however, as backlinking itself can raise the profile of your brand and bring targeted traffic to your website, even before you look at the potential SEO benefits.