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What part do backlinks play in the future of SEO?

Written by Ben Welch on May 13, 2016

Backlinks, also known as inbound links, are considered to be an important building block when undertaking a solid SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) campaign.  Search engines use complex algorithms that incorporate numerous factors to determine a websites ranking and generate relevant results.

Historically, backlinks were regarded as the dominant factor in SEO.  Even today, backlinks still play an important part in determining which website is relevant to any given user query. But is the popularity of social media commanding an equal presence on the playing field? And what does this mean for the future of SEO? First let’s understand both aspects.

Backlinks

I like to think of backlinks as a presidential election. To win an election, the winning party needs to acquire as many votes as possible in the race to the top. Loosely speaking, this is represented where votes equal backlinks.  A website needs to accumulate a vast number of quality backlinks from authoritative websites. Therefore, it is widely accepted that the number of quality backlinks is a good indication of popularity or importance of a website.

The higher the relevance, the greater their quality

Presently, search engines give more credit to websites that have a high number of industry relevant and quality backlinks. If inbound links are established from an authoritative website within the same industry or relevance, search engines will favour the credible backlinks over a website which has low authority/pagerank.  The higher the relevance of inbound links, the greater their quality will be.

With this in mind, a successful SEO campaign would yield better results, if the inbound links are established from websites with high a pagerank (scale 1=poor – 10=authoritative), it would be safe to say these factors alone would help to elevate a websites ranking in search engines such as Google or Bing.

Social Media

Social networks are ever more present in today’s society. Again, like my presidential election scenario we can refer to social media as a presidential campaign.  To win a campaign you need to earn the trust of your public. Earn those votes and overtime you’ll have a trusted brand, which command both presence and popularity.

Social signals contribute towards the ranking of a URL

It’s with presence and popularity that social media comes into its own and through platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn, we hear familiar terms such as ‘Likes, Mentions, +1’s and Shares’.  Search engine algorithms have incorporated these social signals and social media popularity counts, not only to enable fasting indexing of a URL, but also towards the elevation of a websites ranking position.

Search engines look for natural links built up over a period of time. A websites URL can be mentioned within a tweet to help gain a natural backlink. But with social media’s authoritative stamps like retweets and reshares being so popular, we have seen a websites search position elevated over a short time period as proven by articles such as ‘Experiments on Google+ and Twitter Influencing Search Rankings’.  Indicating, popularity across these social networks, command an ever increasing presentence across the SEO playing field.

Conclusion

There’s no denying that social media continues to have an influence on today’s ranking positions, but at this stage, a social signal does not carry the same weight as an authoritative backlink from a high pageranked website. Therefore link building is still a key element to your SEO campaign. Continue to target authoritative websites within your industry and build relationships to create quality backlinks to websites that contain relevant content.

I believe the future of SEO lies within Google’s T+C’s.  Continue to create unique informative content that capture people and answers their queries. Where possible upload your content with Infographics and display social media buttons ready for others to share your content and link back to your articles.