SEO Expert Explains The True Importance of Backlinks.

What if I told you that 99% of all backlinking efforts and advice are a waste of time? That they have very little, none or even negative impact and importance on your SEO? 

Don’t believe me?

I don’t blame you, the fact of the matter is that backlinking is one of the most misrepresented, lied about and incorrectly explained concepts when it comes to SEO improvement. I hear, and see people preaching about it all over (blogs, ads, social media, ect…), but the fact of the matter is, most of them have no clue about it

And being that I have years of experience with this topic from just about every single angle (I’ve experienced loss of rankings from them, I made a lot of high ranking websites from them and I’ve had no results from using them), I believe I’m more than qualified as an expert to explain what I’ve learned about this and how it’s supposed to REALLY work.

As long as this article is going to be, I want you to take one very important thing from it which summarizes the whole point I’m trying to make here and that is that…

It’s not the backlink that counts or how many you have, but the value behind it.

If you TRULY understand what that statement means, congratulations, you are the 1% or less of SEO experts out there who truly understand this subject and frankly, you can stop reading this article right now.

But if you have any doubt about that statement and I mean even a LITTLE bit of doubt, I strongly encourage you to keep reading what I’m about to say because I promise that after you do, you will no longer waste your time and money building backlinks the wrong way or hiring scam artists to build it for you.

Because believe me, they’ll try to convince you of the wrong ways to do it in an effort to make themselves money, whilst putting your site’s SEO at risk. Don’t fall for that mistake like I once did…

Another word for this is link equity (value).

You may have heard a phrase like this before, but it’s very much tied in with this topic, if not, and you’re wondering, what is link equity, it is simply a way of grading the value of the backlink.

As I go through specific examples below, you will notice the ones which carry the highest value (green), also carry the most equity, and these are the ones which also bring the SEO results you want.

There’s 3 categories of backlinks you need to know about:

The problem most people fail to realize is that not every backlink carries the same value. They just hear that magic buzz word and think it’s automatically important, but the problem is that this lack of knowledge and not being able to distinguish the value of the backlink is what leads people to totally screw it up. 

Let me explain it like this…

Consider the following 10 examples, all of which are backlinks…

They all fall under that definition and they are common, so it works out for this example:

1) Going around forums, leaving your URL.

2) Sharing your URL on a social media site.

3) Buying a package from a company which sells them.

4) Providing a URL from one of your website’s pages to another page on your website.

5) Asking a friend to share your URL with their friends. 

6) Emailing your list or friends with a URL to your website.

7) Your page/post gets liked by MASSES of people, aka it goes viral. 

8) Having a large, loyal following and sharing your URL with them.

9) Getting a popular person to recommend your site and point to it through their email list and/or their website.

10) Providing a URL on your website to a completely different website, elsewhere (it could be to an affiliate product or just to an informational website).

Based on that list, if you can’t tell me which ones carry the real value, then you need to keep reading this article (before you finish it, you will be able to!).

People who don’t understand this subject might classify every single example I just put above to carry the same value (big mistake…).

But here’s how I’m going to help you understand this stuff…

In my experience, there are 3 categories of backlinks you need to know about.

If you can distinguish them based on the criteria I am about to tell you about, you will be able to build the right ones and truly improve your SEO. After you do, we’ll review those 10 examples again and you’ll see in minutes what took me years to see personally…

Low quality ones.

This is the most common type people fall for. It can involve anything from going around forums, sites, social media pages and spamming your website URL (and let’s not pretend it isn’t spamming!) to buying masses of backlink packages from companies and individuals (which is also spamming!).

There used to be a time MANY years ago when this was considered high quality for getting good SEO results but believe me, if you do this stuff today, you will see zero (0) SEO value out of it and you may even suffer SEO penalties from it. I’ll provide you with examples further below to illustrate what counts as low quality.

Medium quality ones.

Examples include socially sharing your URL with friends, family and perhaps a small fan page you build up on social media. It could be Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, ect…

I almost entirely endorse focusing on these. I put them in yellow because while they work, they don’t always work as well as intended. At worst, you won’t get any value out of backlinks in this category. At best, they can carry high value (depending on the result of building them).

High quality ones.

These are the rare ones and the TRULY important ones for SEO. Examples include someone with a large, faithful audience linking to your website and telling people to comment/read your article.

Other examples include linking pages and posts within your website to one another. 

The real meaning behind each category: What’s the value of it?

The easiest way I can explain this part is by saying a backlink has TRUE value IF it leads to the following outcomes:

  • People are seeing it and clicking it.
  • As a result of that, people are reading your content for an extended period of time.
  • And as a result of that, people commenting on it, sharing the article and coming back to read more.

If you can get at least 2 of these things to happen, then you have yourselves a high quality backlink taking place. Anything other than that, is at best in the yellow category, but most likely red, in the low quality arena.

And here is the best way to make sure you get at least 2 of those 3 things (if not all 3):

You may think that sounds simple, but it takes a lot of practice to get it done right, yet this has been the exact formula I’ve followed which has gotten me great SEO results over the years.

Let’s go back to the 10 examples with this new knowledge:

Now that we all have a better understanding of the value of a backlink, let’s go back to the 10 examples we had up before. Here is how I will grade each one on the color scale I put up (let me know if you agree or disagree with it below):

1) Going around forums, leaving your URL.

This is one of the worse things you can do. It’s quite literally spamming and it doesn’t work. In fact, many forums ban this practice because it ruins their image. Do not do this. Here you are engaging in one of the lowest forms of SEO, and it won’t lead to anything good.

2) Sharing your URL on a social media site.

Unless you share this URL with a large, loyal following, MOST of the time, this will not really get you any major points with regards to SEO. It may lead to a like, a share here and there, and maybe even a comment or two, and frankly, that will be better than nothing, but most of the time, it’ll play a small role in helping your site’s SEO grow.

So this is why it’s yellow. It’ll be green if you have a large following clicking on the link and truly visiting your site though.

3) Buying a package from a company which sells them.

No way. This is the other way of doing backlinking in one of the worst imaginable ways. Do not do this!

4) Providing a URL from one of your website’s pages to another page on your website.

This is known as internal linking and while by definition it counts as a backlink, it does not involve outside sites pointing back to yours. In fact, internal linking may not provide direct equity in terms of having people click on all the links you give them, BUT it is still something that when present on a website, gets points from Google, 100%.

You can even read Google’s own words, to get the proof that this tactic absolutely has positive weight on your SEO and is thus green in my book. I actively do this on ALL of my websites and it allows more of it to be exposed to not just Google, but my audience. 100%, do this on your website.

5) Asking a friend to share your URL with their friends. 

Unless that friend is a big time social media icon and/or has a large social media following/email list, these tactics don’t usually lead to anything majorly positive. They won’t result in negative SEO happening, but it’s basically another way of describing scenario 2 above.

6) Emailing your list or friends with a link to your website.

Again, unless you have a large following and that following does things such as likes, comments and shares your content, this will usually not result in anything spectacular. 

7) Your page/post gets liked by MASSES of people, aka it goes viral. 

This is a tricky one because it can either result in minimally positive or highly positive SEO results. Say you shared an article on social media and it received a 1,000+ likes. Wow, you may be thinking that 1st page rankings on Google are just around the corner.

Not so fast. Are those 1,000 likes just likes for show or are they causing people to do more such as leave comments, re-shares and bookmarks? 

If it’s the first thing, then you’ll get a yellow result from this, and if you get the latter, you’ll get a green result from this, which is why I said it’s a tricky one. I explain this a lot more here.

8) Having a large, loyal following and sharing your URL with them.

This is one of the best things you want happening to get good, high quality backlinks working for you. Suppose a person with an email list of 1,000 loyal subscribers and/or a social media following of 1,000 fans creates a blog post and shares it with them.

If they are indeed loyal and into what you put out, not only will they like it, but they will comment on it in masses, they will create a dialogue with you and between themselves. 

ALL of this activity will lead to more content being produced on that very blog post and it WILL lead to Google taking notice and rewarding that blog post with massively high rankings.

9) Getting a popular person to recommend your site and link to it through their email list and/or their website.

This in ideal circumstances can have the same outcome as #8, but it ultimately depends on the person who shares your URL and how loyal THEIR subscribers are. I find that this, while considered a high quality form of backlinking may not have the same influence/result as #8, but it still is VERY much a good thing to experience.

10) Providing a URL on your website to a completely different website, elsewhere (it could be to an affiliate product or just to an informational website).

Generally, external linking which is what this scenario is classified under can be a hit or miss. 

This approach does not actually create backlinks, because more often than not, you are providing a URL to a completely different sites, often without them knowing about, and/or without any expectation that they’ll link back to you.

Yet, from an SEO point of view, this tactic does have positive results if done right.

But there’s different places you can externally link to.

If I link to an informative, high quality page, without any intent to monetize from that, then it can be a green level scenario.

If I link to an affiliate product, it can be either yellow or green. It’ll be yellow if the page I send my traffic to is low quality quality and green if the page I send people to provides valuable info.

Do you agree with my grading of these 10 scenarios?

I’d love to hear your point of view below on how you would grade those same scenarios, if they would be the same or different. And also, if you want to get specifics on using these strategies, here’s 15 awesome methods for raising your rankings, many of which include the good kind of backlinking.

Either way, you now have the same knowledge of backlinks that took me years to attain and I hope with this knowledge, that you’ll be able to raise your SEO rankings (you will).

16 thoughts on “SEO Expert Explains The True Importance of Backlinks.”

  1. If you aim for popular search terms you need quality content/backlinks. Search terms with low traffic don’t necessarily need backlinks to rank well. Good quality content (2000+ words) is enough, but takes time. 

    I like to use a silo structure for internal linking, no external backlinking for my websites and target low search terms.

  2. Backlinks have confused me to the point I only do internal linking. Until this article I didn’t know internal linking was back linking. Too many times I have gotten emails from someone offering my a ton of high quality links which I know enough to avoid and delete.

    One thing I’m not sure about is what is a safe number of affiliate links per post. I’m not trying to put a lot in, just need to know a safe limit or how many I should put in.

  3. This cleared up a lot of things about backlinking. You have these so called gurus who live by promoting them as the ultimate ranking factor if you want to be on Google’s first page.

    But I know this isn’t the case because I have a few posts in the top positions and no back linking was carried out. I only did a few internal links and some external linking to Wikipedia.

  4. Hi Vitaliy – Like one of the other commenters, I have also been advised that it’s not worth bothering with backlinks. However, from what you say, it IS worthwhile if you can get quality links. That’s good to know and will save a lot of time and effort.

    You talk about internal, external and affiliate links. I’ve been told that internal links should be set to do follow but external and affiliate links should be set to no follow. Is that correct and does it really make any difference?

    Thanks,
    Ian

    • I never bother setting a “no follow” on my external links Ian. That’s an old, once widely accepted rumor that only applied to people linking to sites which could have been low quality, but since I only link either to relevant sources and/or very highly trusted sources, there’s no need for me to worry about this and I would also suggest the same thing.

      For internal links, I also don’t worry about that, as by default, they are set to follow and as long as the content you link to internally is good, then it’ll get SEO value.

        • There is absolutely such a thing as Google juice (your question made me write an article on it, thanks!) and when it comes to external linking, it a bit mixed, because:

          1) You do get points from Google for doing it.
          2) You do potentially lose a visitor if they click and never come back.

          But for SEO, you should still do this, just not very often Ian.

  5. It’s amazing how easy things can be when they are properly explained. I’m in the habit of leaving backlinks to other pages of my site or another website I own. I learned to do internal links and videos to keep visitors engaged on my site longer. You have taken all the mystery out of backlinks for me today.

    Thank you for this good post today and for sharing your expertise.

    Vanna

  6. Hey Vitaliy,

    I have been preaching this for years that you don’t need backlinks to move up the ranks in Google. Each and every year I believe Google has been devaluing backlinks.

    Truth be told I don’t even work on backlinks anymore. I guess if I did want to I could contact some authorities in one of my niches and get a guest post. But, over time I found that if it’s good content, naturally they will start linking to you anyway.

    But, I guess it’s a slippery slope because I don’t even pay much attention to my backlink profile. Only thing I ever check on making sure there aren’t a lot of spammy links to one of my sites. People like to try to harm sites, but all you have to do is have Google devalue the links.

    I really believe the best SEO advice you can give someone is making your articles 2,000+ words of awesome content.

    • Hi Garen, I agree on your overall position regarding backlinks. It is true that Google has given them less and less favor, but specifically for the link itself, not the value the link brings in such in the examples I gave above.

      However, I’d like to share my point of view on 2 things, the 1st being guest posts from authority sites and people. This can still work very well, and I may do a blog on guest posting and making sure it’s done correctly, but the second thing is spammy links. 

      While the whole devaluing links still works if people try to send toxic ones to your site, the problem is that it can become a crazy hassle where malicious people may just keep sending them to your page over and over, and eventually, playing this game, you’ll just end up devaluing endlessly. 

      I honestly believe, given that we both believe backlinks hold small value (again, the link itself), that there’s not much of a point in worrying about people trying to spam your site with it. If the value of the link is bad, Google just won’t give it any attention and it won’t affect your site. 

      I’m sure Google understands that there’s bad people out there who would try to destroy other sites by sending mass links to them and to protect the person and their site, they just won’t allow any value to be given to the person who does this, that’s my personal belief and it really fits in with the overall message and understanding I’ve gathered on this.

  7. Very helpful content indeed. I’ve been researching about backlinks and most serious people would say ignore it now a days. But this is the first post that I’ve seen that gives detailed explanation on the topic. I’ll definitely build more internal links in my posts. 

    How many internal/external links should there be per post? Thanks for sharing and looking forward to more.

    • Hi Wei, the real answer is whenever you feel a link would be justified in helping your visitors get a better experience, put it in and decide if it should be an internal or external one based on the context. But at the same time make sure that about 90% of your article is content that has no links.

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