Are Backlinks Still Important For SEO or Are They Bad?

Ever since Google’s algorithm had changed in early 2013, online marketers have wondered if backlinks are still important & useful for SEO or if they’re bad.

The answer is most if not all backlinking can likely do nothing or hurt your website’s SEO progress. There are still ways to make it work, but you need to know how/when to use it properly. This article explains what sort of backlinking (BL) is still useful and which to avoid.

Here’s what you need to know:

About a year ago, a lot of what determined your website’s rank came down to these 3 components:

  • A: How good your content was.
  • B: Your domain name (If you made a domain name based on a keyword, you had greater chances of ranking higher for it).
  • C: How many backlinks you had coming to your site. What’s a backlink? It’s basically any website which provides a link back to your website. If I have a YouTube video linking to my website, that’s 1 BL. If I write an article and link it to my website, that’s another BL. 

C Was The Most Important (Once):

At one point in SEO, your site’s rank were determined mostly by how many backlinks your site had. The more you had, the better ranked your site was from Google. Then what happened was that many companies sprouted and started offering (and still do) “backlink packages” in which you could get 1,000’s linked to your website instantly and get high rankings fast. 

C was the one which most people used because it was simple and it was a hole in the system that could be exploited. Why was this a hole? Because people could make horrible websites and rank higher than quality websites, and all because the horrible one had more BL. This could mean Google’s search would be riddled with low quality websites which would ultimately damage Google’s reputation in the eyes of it’s customers. And so…

Google updated it’s algorithm & put the hammer down on BL. 

Websites which were caught using BL packages, no matter how high their PR (page rank) would be slapped or even blacklisted.  Nowadays only B (domain name) and most importantly A (quality content) are the biggest factor in ranking high. As for C, what was once an internet marketers best friend quickly became their poison.

My personal BL story and how it failed me…

I used a BL package from a company called Bring The Fresh which did help me out in the beginning, but when the Google changes came about, my website was slapped and even blacklisted for awhile.

Here is a screenshot of my traffic stats:

the side effects of using backlink packages

When this happened, I though my online business was dead and naturally I was depressed…

One thing you will commonly see when using these BL packages is a surge in traffic, but it’s only temporary and when you’re spotted by Google, the same thing will happen to you that happened to me. This formula ALWAYS repeats itself. 

Despite that event and the depression it hit me with, when this happened to me, it seriously opened my eyes to the side effects of using BL packages (and anything blackhat!) ! I actually ended up having more trouble with this business as a result. Regardless however, there’s more facts you need to know about this subject…

Backlinking isn’t dead. But you need to know how to utilize it properly.

With recent changes in Google’s algorithm, BL can do more harm than good to your site. In order to use it effectively, you need to know the difference between good and bad ones.

Good ones: 

  • Making your own YouTube videos and linking them to your website.

Bad ones:

  • Buying BL packages of ANY kind. Never use these! You will get caught eventually and your website will never see the light of day in the SERPS. 
  • Writing your own articles and linking them to your website (although this one is pretty useless now). This won’t cause your site to get slapped, but it’ll be a waste of time. People used to do this with article directories.

Or just keep this strategy simple and follow this updated guide.

Simple rule of thumb:

Don’t trust any company who sells BL packages to you, no matter how glorified their promises are. This is just a sale’s pitch and these methods no longer work! Stick to only using the good ones or none at all. The only BL I would recommend are making your own YouTube videos, that’s it! Anything else is pretty much a black hat approach to SEO which will eventually crumble.

So are backlinks still worth it?

Unless you’re making a YouTube video which helps your website’s content, I don’t think they are worth using anymore. This kind of stuff isn’t dead, but it’s lost pretty much all of it’s juice and isn’t worth spending time on. Rely on making excellent content and you will be rewarded with higher rankings.

This can take time, but it’s worth the wait, believe me. In this battle for better SEO, the turtle will always beat the rabbit in the long run! If you don’t know how to earn high rankings with Google, get great SEO training here.

Final words:  The next time you see anyone recommending or advertising something like “Buy high PR backlinks” or “Slap proof”, click the back button because you’re going to be taking a huge risk and plowing down a lot of money for a method of marketing which will almost always end up destroying any SEO hopes you have and forever messing up your website.

Update: An evolved approach to the whole BL topic…

Read this newly updated article on which types of BL’s you NEED and which ones you don’t. While the main points about which ones to avoid still are the same, there’s new ways to build good ones that will be able to help your site.

Have you had success with backlinking or did you experience a Google slap from using them? Please share your experiences below.

11 thoughts on “Are Backlinks Still Important For SEO or Are They Bad?”

  1. This article is worth a few considered words! Firstly, there is no algorithm that can assess the quality of a written article – not at Google and not anywhere else. What can be done is an assessment of article length, check for plagiarism, check for accompanying images, headings, keywords, basic sentence structure, verb usage and so on. An assessment of ‘quality’ as such is a subjective assessment and an algorithm can only check on objective criteria such as those I have specified. So there is no way Google can rank sites based purely on quality – no way! Secondly, backlinks remain critical – hell, I can see that in the response of my rankings to good quality links. But it’s not just the links – it’s the whole link profile – which is way too complicated a subject for those who dabble and promise ‘instant rankings’ without recognising the risk. A blend of social links, power links, web2.0 links, video linkls etc from relevant sources is needed – I’ve been almost two years experimenting and practising this and I still feel like I’m scratching the surface at times. So backlinks work – but real expertise is needed to ensure sustainability and avoidance of a whack from the Google mutant Penguin. Finally – back to objective criteria – onsite SEO is just as important as backlinks – meta tags, headings, site speed, no keyword stuffing etc. So, in my honest opinion, saying that ‘backlinks bad, quality good’ is a gross over-simplification of the matter.

    • You make a lot of good points Keith and it is true that quality is a very subjective topic when it comes to SEO, but a reflection of good quality on a site is having social likes, comments, user engagement (again comments and shares), a lot of content on each page/blog and overall a lot of content on the overall site that is unique.

      Having backlinks on your can indeed help the site rank well. If those links are bad links like the ones I mentioned, you will see a boost in rankings but only temporarily because it always gives Google the impression your site is getting the recognition as being high quality, but once the links are analyzed and it’s assumed or concluded you used those links in a low quality manner (to just give the impression of high quality) a slap will come.

      Mastery of SEO and backlinking is not necessary to maneuver penguin updates in my opinion. The people who do always do this or find new ways to seem to be missing the point of their site: To provide content that helps people and not one which is always trying to 1 up Google. This is why in spite of backlinks evolving over the years from spam, to high quality linking back to your site, to PBNs and so forth have all eventually led to Google cracking down on them. The continued proponents of backlinks (we’re talking the good ones), still seem to be missing the point of SEO: It’s the quality of their content that leads to natural backlinking (sharing) and not them trying to constantly micromanage the process.

      That’s how I look at it and maybe in the future I could be proven to be wrong in which case I’ll write about it. But for now it seems to be working. This is why I only follow my basic rule of backlinking: Only socially share your site and make Youtubde videos, BUT ONLY for the purpose of helping people out and offering them good information to share back with others.

      Is there a place for guest blogging, leaving your link on high quality sites if the comment offers value? There sure is and I’m fine with those things, but I still like to let things develop naturally. If people like what I write, they will share it and that process will help Google notice my site.

    • Mike, this is a response to both your comments. I took a look at the video you posted. I removed it because frankly the information is outdated. That video is from Jan 2013 and it was done by Alex Becker (I think that’s his last name) whose product SEO Zen I did NOT rank very highly.

      Most of the tactics in that video either lead to my backlink argument or if you do follow Alex’s advice, you’ll likely get initial rankings and then they’ll fade. I did see Alex endorsed adding content after the site is being ranked on page 1 or two, but I prefer my approach.

      My whole approach to SEO is white hat, nothing shady. You can certainly brag about fast results, but I still focus on quality > anything else initially because in the long run this is what matters. And you mentioned how you couldn’t find my site either? Well obviously you found it somehow if you’re posting a comment here.

      Point being, is that SEO takes time to develop and I have seen the side effects of using backlinks. As for the other tactics he recommended, I’ll avoid it mostly because of his association with SEO zen in which he talks about getting very high rankings using many black hat marketing methods. I’m here to tell you, it’s not going to work (in the long run).

  2. You are soooooooo dead wrong about back linking lol No wonder your stuff is not on the first page. Back links still work extremely well actually better then ever… If you know what your doing. Best practice right now to get killer SERPS is to build your own powerful blog network. This can be done cheaper then your think. Then host each blog on a different 1 dollar hosting and activate whois protection and your good to go. Untraceable high PR juice straight to your site 🙂 I have a niche weight loss site on the first page for multiple keyword in just 3 months. Backlinks are still king and will always still be. Anyways man good luck!

  3. If you are “working” to get backlinks, you are probably doing things wrong. Backlinks are no longer important to get rankings in Google.

    There have been entire businesses that have been “crushed” by getting backlinks and it is unfortunate that companies out there are still scamming folks by offering backlink services.

    • I’ve experienced the backlash of backlinks so I know the feeling of putting so much effort into a site and then seeing it all vanish by a simple Google panda update. Truly a terrible feeling.

  4. This was once all I would focus on when I sent out content on the web Vitaliy and the time I spent doing it wasn’t worth it in the end as you explained in your article.

    It has had a very positive outcome because it’s leveled the playing field for the likes of me and people in the same situation who can’t throw money at getting our sites at the top of page one because we have more money than the average guys.

    Good content should always be the criteria for getting your work ranked, and Google have recognized this and have acted accordingly.

    Great post

    • Very good point about leveling the playing field Mike. This move by Google, though in their best interest did in fact work out for the little guy and I’m sure glad for that!

  5. When I was first starting out(around June of this year)I had built a review site and was putting all my energy into perfecting my content and browsing around for anywhere to leave a comment/backlink. To be honest, it did start to work after quite some time, I even got a sale (and later a refund:().

    I get it now though. Instead of focusing on perfecting content, instead aim to make each piece more perfect than the last. My new site (just 2 months old)is already approaching the traffic that my last had, simply by creating TONS of better and better content. In the coming weeks, I’m expecting my traffic to EXPLODE as all of my content is approaching first page bit by bit. And of course the most important detail- I don’t do any mass backlinking. Only a handful of articles that I mostly did to get feedback to improve my writing. I don’t believe in “white hat” and “black hat” but rather “sustainable” or “unsustainable”.

    The only “backlinking” that I recommend is a bit of social sharing to give the Google spiders a chance to crawl your content. This is also a good reason to use a lot of internal links.

    • Amen to that Chip. Glad to hear your site is approaching the goal you’ve been waiting for. In the end, writing up great content and giving it time to develop is the way to go.


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