Are Backlinks Good for Rankings? Nope.

Last Update: December 30, 2019

There seems to be a lot of confusion surrounding SEO (Search Engine Optimization) these days and I wanted to spend a few minutes offering those that are confused or those that have frankly, been totally misinformed/misguided, some real clarity.

The most common and the most talked about is “backlinks”. Companies, internet marketers and "gurus" still seem to be pushing the idea of backlinks. Many other marketers say to avoid backlinks at all costs.

Which is correct? Who should you believe and what sort of weight should you put on your backlink activities (in terms of time), if any.

I want to offer my perspective and hopefully this will save you a lot of time and energy and it will most certainly lead to much higher rankings going forward in Google and other search engines.

Are Backlinks Good for Your Website Rankings?

The answer. They USED to be.

Prior to a massive Google Penguin update in 2014, a decent part of the Google ranking algorithm based their rankings on backlinks to your website.

Google made a very foolish assumption about "inbound" links to websites, but there were definitely grounds for doing this. They figured that if your website had links coming to it from other very popular websites online, that your website is also a popular and valuable website...thus they should rank you higher.

The problem with this is that backlinks were and continue to be easily cheated. There were companies and little outsourcing jobs you could purchase to get an incredible amount of high quality backlinks for very cheap.

As soon as any aspect of Google’s algorithm can become gamed, it impacts the QUALITY of their search results. Thus, the quality of Google’s SERPS was no longer reliable and it was causing quality issues in terms of the experience for Google users.

Google acted quickly and swiftly to this. The 2014 Penguin update literally WIPED many entire businesses off the face of the earth that were relying solely on backlinks to get their rankings (traffic). I know many folks first hand that were impacted by this.

I personally loved the update as did MANY members here at Wealthy Affiliate. I experienced DOUBLE the traffic overnight when this Penguin update was rolled out because I didn’t rely on backlinks then, and I sure as heck would never be foolish enough to waste time on backlinks now.

Are backlinks required? Do you need them for your business, will you benefit from backlinks?

The answer to all of these is NO.

Contrary to any level of logic and common sense, there has been talk from many deemed “authorities” sites in the industry that backlinks are still completely relevant. One such quote was brought to my attention more recently as "groundbreaking" information.

“....three of Google's most well-known ranking factors are link-related: 1. the number of links pointing to your site, 2. the anchor text of those links and 3. the authority of those links.”

This could not be further from the truth. You can rank without ANY backlinks, in fact, if you are spending your time trying to get backlinks to your website, you are wasting your time.

Google has granted a close to ZERO NET VALUE (in terms of rankings) for backlinks.

Why? Because it doesn’t make sense to make something important that can be easily gamed and manipulated by grey and black hat marketers (people that trying to find temporary holes in algorithms like this for their own gains).

Some companies will try to reverse engineer sites that are getting good SEO rankings and see that sure, they do have backlinks. The problem with this sort of analysis is the fact that any QUALITY content is naturally going to get other websites linking to it, because well, it is quality content. It was the content that got these sites their rankings.

Also, there are many automated scripts and programs that will link to you. In some cases, competitors will think that they can KILL your website rankings by doing negative SEO and mass backlinking campaigns on your site. It does NOT work.

So When it Comes to SEO, What Should You Focus On?

So if you aren’t going to be focusing on backlinks, what should you be spending your time and energy on. There are SIX things that are the most critical aspects to SEO that you should be investing ALL of your SEO attention to moving forward in 2018.

They are as follows.

  1. Your Content Quality. Content is king/queen! You have likely heard that statement and the actual quality of your content is and should always be the core focus of your SEO activities. Google is a search engine which delivers content.

    They are looking for the best content and every algorithm update they make is in effort to find and deliver the best content to its users. That is their business, that is how they make money. Create thorough, helpful and informative content. That is the basis of SEO. Cheap out on your content and you are going to have an unsuccessful SEO journey ahead.

  2. Targeting Keywords. Every page/post you create should have a certain level of keyword “intent”. That is, you should be putting emphasis on certain keywords within your content.

    I always recommend that your target keyword be somewhere within your title, within your first paragraph and then as you write your article, write NATURALLY. There will likely be more occurrences of your keyword naturally within the rest of your content...that is fine. Just don’t STUFF keywords, that is bad.

  3. LSI WIthin Your Content. These are keywords that are semantically related to your main keyword. For example, the keyword “diet” would semantically relate to “lose weight”.

    When you write naturally, it is obvious to Google. The LSI (Latent Semantic Index) score of your content will play a big role in terms of your overall ranking and will actually lead to rankings under many other search terms. The moral of the story here, write naturally.

  4. Engagement/Comments. Dialogue within your content is a strong indicator that people are actually reading your content, that it is of high quality. People will engage in content that they enjoy, that they trust, and often times content that already has comments and dialogue within it. You can leverage the SiteComments platform.

  5. User Experience. Google focuses a good deal of it’s time and energy determining whether or not a website is a quality user experience. Some things that it is focuses on are web page load times, does it work on a mobile device (responsive), the UX design, how easy the content is to read/interpret, content length, and structuring of your content.

  6. Your Overall Website Authority. This will happen over time. As you build out a website in any niche, you are going to gain more and more authority naturally (assuming you are doing so in a way that focused on quality). Consistent content creation, consistent engagement within your content, and TIME are what will lead to website authority. With effort, you can really start to have authority breakthroughs around the 3 month mark.

So at the end of the day, there is going to be conflicting information online about techniques and strategies. Different companies with different motives are going to push their latest “idea”, technique or in many cases, they are tied to an tool/services that no longer works (in this case, anything related to backlinks).

To build a very successful (and high ranking) website online, you do not need backlinks.

Not one.

Quite the contrary. In fact, if you are wasting energy on getting backlinks, which have next to no value in your business. You are taking away from time that could have been much better invested on other things. Like content. Like user experience. Like engagement.

If you focus on the stuff that matters and you avoid trying to “trick” Google into giving you rankings, you have a long term SEO strategy.

If you have any questions about backlinks or SEO or would like to offer any feedback/experiences that you have had over the years, please leave your comment or questions below.

Join the Discussion
Write something…
Recent messages
satriaain Premium
In his book, The Art of Social Media, Guy Kawasaki wrote "In our opinion, most search engine optimisation is b*llsh*t. It involves trying to read Google's mind and then gaming the system to make Google find crap. There are three thousand computer science PhDs at Google trying to make each search relevant, and then there's you trying to fool them. Who's going to win?"

Furthermore, he wrote, "Tricking Google is futile. Instead, you should let Google do what it does best: find great content. So defy all the SEO witchcraft out there and focus on creating, curating, and sharing great content. This is what's called SMO: socil-media optimization."

Thanks for the article Kyle! Now I know what your idea of SEO is and since it resonates with what Guy Kawasaki wrote I now have more trust in the WA's courses. :)
ZEGU Premium
That is 100 % true. Indeed tricking Google is futile. The best way is to keep learning until we get there. This is really good and useful advice, Kyle.
Kyle Premium Plus
Those that black hat their way through business within the SEO world are those that are constantly chasing their tails and chasing the next best thing.

What they deem as the most "important" thing now, will be the one thing you MUST NOT do in the next breath...well, when Google hammers down in their black hat techniques.

If you produce awesome, engaging content and you do so on a regular basis, Google is going to chase after you. That is my approach to SEO and it worked in 2010, it will work in 2020.
tmmoxley Premium
That sounds like a book I would like to read! Thank you for your comment on this discussion! I am going to look it up and hopefully tuck it into my library.
Newguru Premium
Thanks Kyle. This is all great to know. So although backlinks won't improve your ranking directly, good quality backlinks will still drive traffic to your website via those links. Right?

I know that Brian Dean still talks a lot about backlinks and I don't know if he says that they will improve ranking as much as he just says that they will get more people to your website.

Does anyone have any opinions on this?
Belden Premium
Sure it will get more people to your website but won't improve your ranking.
Steve1958 Premium
I don't know too much about backlinks and how they work...but if you type 'BACKLINKS' into Google search there is a heap of information all about the's a link which might be helpful to you...

The Importance of Backlinks - SEO Tools

And if you really would like a blast of what backlinks are all about check out the Wikipedia info...

Now I have educated myself as well!

I hope this info gives you a bit to work with...
GlenPalo Premium
Google won't admit it, but a Moz Blog article indicates there is a strong correlation between competitive keyword ranking and external links. The external links are the result of natural linking to quality content. The article also indicated that it is possible to get high ranking with non-competitive keywords without external links.
bobstratton Premium
Wow! I have been lied to by some of the biggest names in the business. What Kyle says makes sense. I believe he is right on. I am going to act on what he says - or should I say NOT act on getting backlinks. The work required to get honest and good backlinks is the main thing that has kept me from being serious about affiliate marketing until now. Thanks Kyle!
Danmez Premium

An eye opening post.

I had heard that search engines recognise your content and comments as a whole and don't distinguish the two. For example if you have a 500 word post with 500 words of comments, this is just seen as a 1000 word post with interaction, or can they distinguish between the 2 and recognise low word count (500 words) with good interaction 500 words)?

I hope this makes sense.


rodeves Premium
Good question, Dan. I too would like an answer.