We know that in 2019, there are over 200+ ranking factors that Google are constantly looking at to decide which sites are the most reliable, useful and trustworthy. These factors have been created, tweaked and tweaked again and again over the past 16 years since we saw the first Google update in 2003!
In that time Google has become a king at discerning the awful from the good and figuring out the shady tactics that many SEO professionals and webmasters will have undertaken over the years in order to get an upper hand on their keyword ‘rivals’!
However, one ranking factor has remained at the top of that list as potentially the most important factor – and that is having great backlinks!
But in this age where Googles algorithm is getting smarter, what does that mean? And does it still matter as much?
A study by Moz would say yes, it’s still very important!
A recent study commissioned by Stone Temple agency and Moz looked into the correlation between links and the top pages of SERPS.
In order to do this, they had to ensure that these correlations were strong and not just random correlations!
An example they gave to show the difference between correlation and causation was ‘ when the sales of ice cream go up, so does the rate of people drowning’ does that mean that ice cream is causing people to drown?
Of course not, but the overriding factor here would be warmer weather, which would lead people to buy more ice cream and swim more (therefore increasing the risk of drowning).
This works the same when studying an increase in SERPS and the number of backlinks.
Because Google has over 200+ ranking factors, they believed it would be difficult to find anyone strong factor.
The strength of correlations ranges from -1 to 1.
A correlation of -1 would mean that the two factors have an inverse effect – so say X increased – Y would decrease.
A score of 0 would mean that there is no clear relationship between X and Y whatsoever
And a score of 1 would indicate a perfect correlation mean that when X increases in value as does.
Stone Temple believed that any results would yield around the 0.2 mark due to the enormous number of ranking factors that affect the top SERP positions.
So what did they find?
Well, in fact, the results came in at a score of 0.293 – meaning nearly a whole point more than they expected to see.
To have such a clear result for the number of links having an effect on SERP positions laid to rest any idea that links are not important! It is highly unlikely that any other ranking factor would show such a clear correlation!
Not only this but they found that the higher the DA (domain authority) and PA (page authority) of the linking sites those numbers increased even more.
This shows us how important links from authoritative sites has truly become! This would make sense if we think back to last year and the introduction of the new Page Rank patent, which increased the importance of authoritative links in your niche!
They also broke the correlations down into industries and found that in industries such as medical and financial the correlation between top SERP positions and backlinks was even higher.
We can speculate that this could be due to E.A.T (expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness) being of higher importance in those industries, as we’ve discussed at length previously. And therefore authoritative links are of enormous importance for showing ‘votes of confidence’.
However, as Stone Temple mentioned, this does not diminish the importance of Links in all other industries, it may just be that those types of industry focus on gaining backlinks more than others.
So what does this mean for SEO professionals and those wanting to build a presence on Google?
Well, essentially this study just confirmed once again, everything that we have been stating over the years.
That natural, authoritative backlinking is THE most important part of any SEO campaign.
Of course, you must also have great content BUT great content on its own is not enough to get you up to the top of Google (Just ask b2b marketing giants DigitalSquad if you still have any doubts and they’ll set the record straight also).
It’s also highlighted the fact that so many SEO agencies/professionals are willing to sell you a load of bulls**t.
How many times have we heard that the only kind of backlinking you should go after is completely natural? Otherwise, Google will think it’s spam.
One recent well-known SEO professional even claimed that getting sent a product and then writing a review on it and putting a link to the product would be deemed as spam because it is unnatural.
Well, then that’s the whole marketing, influencer and SEO industry going under.
At the end of the day, you can have great content, follow all of Google’s rules, such as page speed, mobile-friendliness and so on
Those are only the base of what you need to even have a chance of ranking – realistically the way Google still works out the ‘worth’ of your site is by the quantity (and importantly: quality) of the sites linking to you and this only confirms that!
If you’re interested in gaining high-quality links, we offer that service right here!
Or if you’re afraid your site is plagued by bad backlinks then we can also perform link audits to ensure that your sites ability to reach page 1 isn’t being hindered by dodgy backlinks.
Any questions drop us a message on Live Chat 🙂