Where is the evolution? Backlinks still the single most important ranking factor…

backlink evolution

While searching for various types of stuff in Google, I saw lots of partially-relevant or totally irrelevant results showing up in the first few pages, instead of what I was actually looking for. After a quick analysis, I found that the pages that were ranking good weren’t ranking high up in SERPs because of highly relevant content, superb user-experience, blazing fast site speed, or even jaw dropping social metrics. So, why were they ranking so high for partially relevant keywords? Apparently because they and the domains that they were on, had mind blowing backlink profiles.

A few practical examples showing why the ‘often neglected’ SEO method of linking building still is one of the most important ranking factors, if not the most.

Here’s why (quality) backlinks are still more important than,

Social Metrics

Phrase: “Boost WordPress SEO”

DreamHost’s short post outranks this post by Yoast, which is clearly better with a lot more details and useful information.

Here’s a comparison between the link & social metrics of those two posts:

gsa-1

As you can see from the image above, the Yoast.com article had significantly higher number of social shares, and lower number of referring domains (or linking root domains).

I wrote an article on the topic myself. It was the longest one (4,400+ words) among the results of the first few pages of a Google search. Yet, it manages to rank only 9th or 10th.

Takeaway: (Quality) links are still more important than social metrics when it comes to ranking in Google.

Relevance

Phrase: “leave internet”, “leave the internet”, “left internet” etc.

First result: I’m still here: back online after a year without the internet | The Verge

The post is indeed of very high quality. I personally loved reading it. But, there probably are more relevant pages out there. So, why did it rank first for all those (popular and competitive) keywords? Here’s why:

gsa-2 gsa-3

Takeaway: As long as the page is partially relevant to the search query, its backlink profile is what manipulates the rankings the most.

Conclusion

So, backlinks still practically are the most important ranking factor in Google, even in 2013!

Moz’s 2013 Search Engine Ranking Factors suggest something similar:

And here’s how the priorities might change in future, according to SEOs:

Author Rank, social signals, user satisfaction, might all play important roles in future. But, for now, there’s one thing that we all can be sure about — Google still pays the most attention to domain-level and page-level backlinks while ranking webpages.

What’s your opinion?

Rohit Palit

Rohit Palit

Administrator at TechTage
Rohit is a 16 years old SEO consultant based out of Kolkata, India. He blogs primarily at TechTage. He’s a technical SEO fanatic and a WordPress enthusiast. He also loves to build and grow new sites.
Rohit Palit
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