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Why Links Matter to Search Engine Rankings



Why Links Matter to Search Engine Rankings

In the digital age, a business’s website is a treasured asset. But before customers can shop at a business online, they need to find it first. Search engines like Google play a huge role in choosing which websites users see, and one of the most important things search engines look for the links. SEMRush lists different link signals as 4 of the top 8 ranking factors in search results. Backlinks found that the average #1 Google Search has 3.8x more backlinks and 3.2x more referring domains than #2-#10. 

Despite the obvious importance of links, not every business takes advantage of them. 94% of all web content doesn’t have any external backlinks. These pages are like islands; isolated from the rest of the web. Your business needs to take action to make sure it isn’t part of that archipelago. Customers rarely want to traverse virtual oceans to find what they need.

Increasing your number of link signals is important; however, don’t leave quality by the wayside. Not every link signal is a good one. Google penalizes websites they perceive as cheating with doorway pages meant to funnel users to a different page than they clicked, hidden links in places users won’t see, or high volumes of exact matches due to spam. This type of deception seeks to increase a site’s search ranking without also increasing its quality or relevance to a user, hence why Google does not want to allow spam to have a positive influence on rankings. Working with spam can bring down a good site’s reputation; connecting with many poor-quality links creates a “bad neighborhood” in the virtual world. If you set up a shop in a rough part of town, don’t be surprised when potential customers are scared to walk in.

What’s better is to improve the quality and number of your link signals at the same time. These ways don’t all have to include putting links on your site. Some of them relate to the content of your page. For example, domain age works in a website’s favor; it shows that the website has stood the test of time. Longform content also gets more shares than short articles do. Ways to improve that are more directly tied to links include: locate the best links in the body of your content, where a reader is most likely to click it. Consider the words people would use to search for your website: popular keywords need 4x as many referring domains as less common ones for a high search rank. Follow links always rank above NoFollow links because of the former vouches for the linked site’s authority. 

At the end of the day, the most important thing is to maintain a high-quality website and provide external backlinks to websites of equal/better quality. So long as your page and the external backlinks it attracts have good Expertise, Authority, and Trust, you will be able to climb in search rankings. 


Brian Wallace is the Founder and President of NowSourcing, an industry leading infographic design agency , based in Louisville, KY and Cincinnati, OH which works with companies that range from startups to Fortune 500s. Brian also runs #LinkedInLocal events nationwide, hosts the Next Action Podcast, and has been named a Google Small Business Advisor for 2016-present and joined the SXSW Advisory Board in 2019. Follow Brian Wallace on LinkedIn as well as Twitter.