Written by Aaron Rains March 22nd 2024

Google does not recommend that we build links to our website but rather that we build partnerships based on the content we create. As a result, links will be established as others find our content highly informative and helpful. However, you can cross the line of Google’s spam policies when you build links to manipulate search research by reaching out to publishers, as shown in the example below. 

Publishing a study and having a site like Entrepreneur mention it and link to you is excellent. However, if you get a link like this because you have connections with entrepreneurs who can get you mentioned or exchange money, that’s spam. It might be hard to tell the difference when looking at individual links, but Google is continually learning and looking at patterns. They aim only to pay attention to links worth counting as unsolicited recommendations. They tell us in their spam policies that links intended to manipulate rankings may be considered link spam. do backlinks matter any more in seo

We know they matter because otherwise, why would Google still be handing out manual actions for sites that have built “unnatural links?” Those unnatural links made simply for SEO purposes rather than earned must still make a difference. Many links still matter, but the reasons why have changed. We used to build links for PageRank. Today, links can do two things.

2 Ways Backlinks Are Important

1. They can help Google discover content (vitally crucial for a spam site that doesn’t have Google happily crawling its copious amounts of content regularly) and

2. They can help Google’s AI systems understand more about how well you are known for your topics.

Please read Dawn Anderson’s latest presentation. I’ll be sharing more on this, but I’d like to focus on how she says that for ranking, “it all mostly comes down to labels and labeling.”

Links represent labels for your site. Links from places that Google considers trustworthy can help Google understand what people say about your site.

I have yet to build links to my site, yet you can get a decent idea of what I’m known for by how people link to my content. These unsolicited links can help Google see that others recommend content I write on EEAT, SEO, Consulting and Google’s algorithms.

Links are labels that help Google understand what your site is known for.

However, not all content needs links to rank. In fact, for some sites, many signals likely need links to help Google understand your business and what topics you are known for. In 2016, Google used over 200 unique signals in search results, of which PageRank was just one. I would expect that since Google became AI-first in 2017, they have done quite a bit more to learn which signals to use and how to use them to surface helpful and reliable results best.

In Conclusion

Google is entirely aware of the techniques SEOs use to manipulate search results with Backlinks. Today, backlinks are a brand signal about what your website or services are about. How trustworthy is your brand or an expert in a particular industry? Developing a link strategy to build labels about your company or business is how backlinks still provide necessary signals to help your website rank higher.