How important are backlinks to SEO?

These weeks Ask an SEO Questions are from Deepinder in Toronto who asked:

“1. I’ve worked on several projects. I’ve seen sites with 1,000 backlinks beat sites with 100,000 backlinks. And the same 1,000 backlinks website beaten by a website containing / stealing content (copying, pasting content with a backlink to the source).
How important are backlinks as ranking factors?

2. Are 1,000 to 3,000 backlinks from a website considered spam? Because I’ve seen some good companies that have done that. “

I would first like to answer the second question.

Is getting thousands of links from a website considered spam?

It depends on the situation whether it is spam or not.

The deciding factor is whether the links are considered natural or paid, or whether there is an intentional attempt to get backlinks.

Natural links include:

  • Companies that refer to their other brands in their own footers or in their main navigation to switch between stores.
  • If you are an authority and a blogger has a list of resources and other information in the sidebar.
  • If you produce a lot of photo content and the site has used your work in a lot of posts.
  • When you do something newsworthy and media companies, bloggers and publications mention, source, or tag you for it.


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  • Providing databases and feeds for selling products on other websites that link to your website.
  • Bloggers or publishers create a shop without the attributes “sponsored” or “not following” in their links.
  • Banner ads – run websites, categories, etc. as they are paid placements.
  • Widgets, feeds and badges with keyword rich backlinks.
  • Widgets, feeds, and badges that are clearly marketing tricks and nothing exclusive or real.
  • If the site is part of a PBN (Private Blog Network), regardless of whether you paid or earned the links.
  • With scholarships and other gimmicks.
  • Leave comments on blogs, forums, or on community websites.
  • Keyword rich links to category pages or products that you don’t make.
  • Anything that is not clearly earned through merit.

These are just a few examples.

So yes and no.

Sometimes they are considered spam and sometimes they are not.

It depends on the links, your relationship with the website, and whether or not they are natural.

Now to your first question.

Are backlinks important to SEO?

Yes, backlinks are 100% important to SEO. But it’s not a numbers game.

I have a customer ranking and I suggest national brands without many links.

They even rank above their industry governing body when it comes to that governing body’s trademarks.

The quality of the links they earned helped, but they started ranking based on site structure, quality content, the way the page is rendered, and site structure before we did the first links received.

Oddly enough, based on the content we created, they also received a backlink from this governing body. (Talk about a big win!)


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Backlinks are just one of the signals a search engine uses.

The whole purpose of a search engine is to show a person the search for the most relevant answer, formatted in the best, fastest, and most accessible way possible.

This can be a paragraph or list of text, video, images, or mixed media. This is just as important, if not more important, than backlinks.

The whole purpose of a search engine is to show a person the search for the most relevant answer, formatted in the best, fastest, and most accessible way possible.

Why a site with fewer backlinks outperforms a site with more

To answer the question of why a website with fewer links outperforms a website with a ton, or how does your website outperform a website with a few hundred thousand, you need to look at what a link is.

Before we had smartphones, schemes and concepts like EAT, search engines needed a way to determine the trust of a website and a specific page within that website.

Backlinks were one of those trust factors, especially PageRank on Google.

Now that PageRank doesn’t exist (at least as we knew it back then) we have other options for building the trust and authority of our website.

If your website, and the page in particular, meets these signals of trust and authority, you may now be able to compete with the website and webpages with more links.

  • You can build trust by letting licensed and credible people in the niche create or unsubscribe your content.
    • Just because someone is your CEO doesn’t mean they are credible or established. This is one of the hardest pills for an executive to swallow.
  • Share the content with the author and relevant sources using links and schemes.
  • Have a solid internal link structure that provides further explanation for any concept or resource mentioned in your content.
  • Make sure your website is secure.
  • Offer a better explanation of the concept, provide an easier method of buying, or use better formatting that is easier to digest.

You can also:


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  • Be as ADA compliant as possible (the more people have access to your content, the better the experience for anyone who gives search engines a reason to show your page over another).
  • Lightning fast load times so users on mobile devices and slow connections can access your content.
  • Structure your content properly with:
  • Add an appropriate scheme to define what is on the page and in each section.
  • Use the correct site structure and make sure your most important pages are referenced when natural.
  • Check Your Core Web Vitals Now as Search Engines like Google are doubling down including Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS).

Yes, high quality backlinks will help you rank easier than on your own, but there are things you can do as you start acquiring links so that you can beat a website or webpage 10 or 100 times as much contains many links like you.

editor‘s Note:: ask one SEO is a weekly SEO advice pillar written by some of the top in the business SEO Experts selected by the Search Engine Journal. I have a question about SEO? Fill out our form. You might see your answer in the next #AskanSEO post!


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