Are Backlinks Still Good for SEO in 2018?

Jen Saunders
Reading Time: 4 minutes

A lot has changed in terms as to how Google grants organic ranking to web pages. Over a decade ago he who had the most backlinks won. Webmasters were linking from everything to Russian orthopedics directories to cat lover blogs, and the more links one had the easier they were to be found by the search engines. Then the 2003 Florida update caused businesses to drop in ranking by penalizing spammy backlink portfolios and content packed with keyword stuffing. In 2005 the NoFollow attribute sought to clean up link spam, and over the years numerous updates were designed to favor backlink portfolios that appeared organic in nature while penalizing those who appeared to pay for links or use link farm systems.

Today the best digital marketing agencies in Los Angeles to the top inbound experts in New York City continue using link building to help improve their client’s organic ranking. But how do they do it? Are backlinks still making a positive impact in 2018?


Implied Links / Likeness Mentionings

In 2014 Bill Slawski predicted that Panda’s algorithm key workings were going to lead to a future where Google’s favoritism towards websites with backlinks would be significantly reduced to honor mentions or implied links. This plays into measuring brand authority, and today digital marketers commonly refer to this as likeness mentionings.

Over the last two years webmasters have been able to buy links and make them look organic. It was the best way to manipulate Google, but you had to have big bucks to do it. Dropping $2000 on links in The Huffington Post and Forbes was a sure way to get great organic ranking; it also allowed companies to brag about their mentionings in top publications–chatter that, if managed by savvy marketers, added even more SEO sauce to the the mix. Now most of these top publication journalists no longer work with SEO hacks, and smart SEO hacks have stopped paying for these links anyway.

Now that Google’s algorithm is able to crawl implied links and associate the value of mentionings to brands, their products, and their services, it seems crystal clear that links will eventually become obsolete, dare I even say encompassing the stuff black hat spam is made of. But for the time being, they still help with organic ranking.

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Relevancy Matters

There have been a number of experiments out there suggesting that Google favors backlinks with domain relevancy over domain authority. Last year I ran an experiment across nine different websites in which disavows were executed on ALL backlinks from domains that weren’t directly relevant. Overall, organic ranking increased by an average of 32% six weeks after all disavows were completed. Make sure your links come from domains that are part of your industry, and not remotely related.

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Use Immortal Content with Backlinks

In the event Google, one day, deems that backlinks provide zero SEO value, protect your off site content with immortal text that will live forever. Make sure your off site content utilizes implied links–likeness mentionings that place brands in the spot light without using a physical link. In the event links no longer offer SEO value, and if the day should ever come where links may be regarded as spammy efforts to manipulate rankings, you can disavow yet still keep the intended link content intact.

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Be On the Lookout for Link Stink

As of now, backlinks still help with organic ranking efforts. However, Google’s evolution seems to be forecasting that, one day, they will no longer matter in terms of SEO value. Keep using them, but make sure to use likeness mentionings in your offsite content so that if “link stink” ever becomes a big issue in search marketing, you can simply disavow all links and still have SEO value in the content itself.

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