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In the past, links were the primary foundation of Google’s algorithm. Now that machine learning, AI, fresh content, and user experience are gaining more relevance when it comes to ranking, are backlinks still relevant when it comes to search engine optimization

Search engines like Google are getting better at indexing and ranking websites based on these factors. With smartphones and other mobile devices available, Google is also basing its ranking on the most updated and most shared content. After all, traffic is one of Google’s primary ranking signals, so highly shareable content means more traffic.

However, backlinks are still a significant factor in Google’s ranking algorithm. Although content should be your primary focus, backlinks carry substantial weight in influencing Google’s decision of where to rank your page.

What are backlinks?

Backlinks, also called inbound links, are links created when one website links to your website. The links represent a vote from another site that your site is relevant and legitimate. Search engines take this as a signal that your content is valuable and useful.

If your website receives links from many sites, it means you’ve received many votes and, therefore, worth ranking on search results. Earning quality backlinks will positively impact your site’s ranking on search engines.

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What is PageRank?

PageRank is an algorithm that Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin created in 1998. It’s a system of ranking pages based on scoring links. If your page received a PageRank score of “0,” then it’s deemed a low-quality site. On the other hand, a grade of “10” meant it’s one of the most authoritative sites on the web.

This became a huge deal back then since a page’s score can be passed on to another if the website with a higher rank links to another. And so, a website can be authoritative if it’s linked to an authoritative site.

Google decided to upgrade and retire some parts of PageRank as SEOs became fixated with this kind of ranking system, becoming more focused on the method rather than improving content. However, even though the algorithm has changed dramatically today, Google still uses a part of PageRank.

Here are the factors that still affect today’s ranking signals:

  • Internal links
  • Nofollow links
  • Anchor text (anchors should provide an accurate description of a page’s content)
  • Clicks (links from the website should be clicked)

Earning Backlinks Through Link Building

To get the links you need from sites relevant to your industry, off-page SEO initiatives with solid link-building strategies should be put in place.

Link building is a method of getting other websites to link to a page on your website. This can be done through content collaborations, guest blogging, mentions, and more.

However, not all links are valued the same way.

Some links are more powerful than others. For example, a link from a well-known website like entrepreneur.com or a government-owned site will have more value than a random blog. In return, Google will more likely trust and recommend your site if a well-known site links to you.

Two of the most critical factors that contribute to a link’s importance are authority and relevance. This means that in choosing a website to link to, you have to determine if that website is both relevant and authoritative.

Website Relevance means the website should already be an expert in the industry. Google will prefer links coming from sites that already have a lot of traffic, users, and content related to your niche.

Website Authority refers to high-ranking websites. These are heavyweights that can influence your page’s rank because they are linked to you. You can check the domain authority by using the free Domain Authority Tool of Moz. The scale goes from 1-100, with 1 being the lowest score and 100 being the highest score you can get. A domain rating of 50 may seem low, and anything higher than 65 will be good.

It’s essential to only use white hat or best link-building practices when earning backlinks. Google penalizes websites that fail to adhere to their guidelines.

Are Backlinks Still Important in 2021?

Yes, backlinks are still important. 

Links formed the foundation of Google’s original ranking algorithm, which is PageRank. Backlinks can be seen as a vote from other websites saying that your website is “credible, valuable and informative.”

In essence, backlinks represent what the web is — a connection of pages from one to another. 

So even with Google’s thousands of algorithm changes and updates, backlinks will remain a key ranking signal. 

But balance plays a huge part in the success of your backlink initiatives. If your content brings value to readers and it’s genuinely interesting, it will be shared. Websites will be referencing it and will be linking to it. 

Ultimately, your focus should be on producing relevant content writing to help people solve their issues or problems. Provide the user with high-value content, and with a good link-building strategy, quality backlinks will accumulate in your favor.

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