Do Backlinks Still Matter ? (updated in 2019)

(Last Updated On: March 8, 2019)

Do backlinks still matter?

Oh boy, one of the most boring topics in the internet world. Yeah, it’s SEO. I said it deal with it!

Personally, I have spent so much of my career learning the ends and outs of SEO. But, this isn’t going to be another rehashed article that tells you to go out there and get authority backlinks pointing to your website.

I hope to clear up some questions about “do backlinks still matter in 2019”?

First and foremost there’s a lot of content online about SEO. If you think about it how many WSO’s on the warriorforum.com, forum threads on blackhatworld.com, a crappy Clickbank e-book, a video on YouTube, or just some random article you came a crossed on Google have you seen on backlinks?

Chances are whatever you’ve read on backlinks is rehashed, outdated, or just flat out false information.

It’s really quite sad if you think about it. The SEO Industry as a whole kind of gets a bad name. Then an experience bloggers, self-proclaimed gurus, etc. rehash the false information and spread it around the Internet. It’s really a cycle that’s been going around for over 10 years.

Why I Stopped Doing SEO For Businesses

Page One GoogleTo be honest with you it’s like pulling teeth.

The SEO industry is rough.  Real rough!

First, I really like being independent and answering peoples questions gets really old after awhile.

I have explained the same thing over and over to dozens of people. It gets to the point where I hate hearing myself talk.  But, dude I need some authority backlinks can you help me out?  Why are company XYZ ranking number one on Google and I am only on the 8th page of Google?

So imagine you’re an SEO guy/girl and you’re working with a company and they just want rankings. They have their five-page website. Ok, maybe it’s 10 pages.

Their articles are 200 to 400 words (which is a bad idea). They want you to rank their website for some very competitive keywords.  Also, did I mention their business website was designed on Wix. Not to mention, their budget is $200-300 a month!

Crap, where do I start with what needs to be done to actually get your businesses website to rank!

Personally, I have talked to several different companies and I told them they need to focus on lower competition keywords because their likelihood of getting ranked realistically isn’t going to happen.

This shows one of the reasons I stopped doing SEO for businesses.

But, for me building my own websites and selling them for profit is much more lucrative and I don’t have to go back and forth with businesses.

Google has hinted for a long time that it’s been cracking down on websites that are trying to “game” their algorithm.  Check out this article written by KissMetrics.com. Everyone remembers The Panda and Penguin algorithms rolled out by Google. One algorithm was rolled out to penalize websites with thin content. Another algorithm was rolled out to penalize spammy me backlink profiles.

Bad Backlink Building Tactics

Having said that just look around on the Internet and you’ll still see people advocating these backlink building methods:

  • Toxic BacklinksPrivate blog networks. Google cut down on private blog networks many years ago.  See this article by SearchEngineLand.comBut still to this day as your “gurus” are still trying to tell you to build a private blog network. They might work for a little while. Meaning, your traffic will increase and you’ll be on the top page of Google but after Google finds out they will take action on your website.  Then you have a new problem to deal with.  All your organic traffic will go away and you might never recover.
  • Blog commenting. Seriously, I don’t know how many times I have seen people promoting blog commenting services.  A lot of them use automated tools which are bad news in terms of SEO. They are complete crap I don’t care if they’re “dofollow” links. If anything this just hurts you by making your backlink profile look spammy. Not to mention you shouldn’t ever do blog commenting to build backlinks in the first place.  Anytime I do blog commenting I am just leaving something of value and building a relationship with the website owner.  I am not doing it for a backlink.
  • High PR backlinks. Correct me if I’m wrong but didn’t Google stop updating PageRank years ago. But what’s funny is people still think of the whole PageRank metric that actually helps you rank on Google.  In the words of Micheal Irving, “C’mon man”.
  • Social bookmarking links. Another garbage service that does nothing to help you in the search engines. Who cares about a bunch of automated programs have shared your content. Could it help for easier keywords that are of low competition? Possibly, but is that going to really help you? Chances are you’re just building a spammy backlink profile. This also relates to people use Squidoo, Hubpages, Weebly blogs, etc. because of the belief it helps pass some link juice to your website.
  • Article marketing.  Really, do I even need to elaborate on this tactic?  They don’t really hold much value at all.  Even worse when you spin your content and zap it out to hundreds of websites.  Chances are you’re going to have another problem to deal with whenever Google drops the hammer on you.

Really the list could go on and on with crappy backlink building strategies I’ve seen over the years. You want a longer list of crappy backlink building tactics. Hop over to Fiverr.com and pretty much everything SEO related on there is a waste of money. But what I find really funny is people keep trying to game Google. But, if people would just smell the roses and wake up and do stuff correctly they would actually see better results with their SEO strategies.

What you should really be focusing on

Content

Anybody that’s been in the SEO industry for any time can tell you content matters on your site. I’m sure you’ve heard the words “content is king” 1 million times already. But what does this mean? It means this. You need to have content on your site that is quality written content, entertaining to read, the longer your articles the better. Typically every article I write I want to be over 1,000 words minimum. Obviously, there are no set limits but the longer the better, as long as it’s just not constant rambling.

User Engagement

User engagement is so important. I consider it to be one of the biggest indicators that Google looks at. Think of it this way if people are actively commenting on your website then there’s a pretty good chance that the quality of the site is pretty decent. Therefore, over time Google will end up ranking it higher in their index.

User Engagement Example

So this simply means you create an article and get comments on it. Each and every one of your articles you should focus on getting quality comments on it. By quality comments I mean people asking questions and you answering them, starting the discussion linking to your other articles, and generally just helping people out. This approach does not work with comments. Instead, it’s not about you it’s about helping others out.

Over the years, I have found that consistent user engagement is what really helps tremendously with your SEO. If you can publish an article once a week and get 5,10 20,30 comments on it; you will notice gains on Google over time.

Videos

Google Favors YouTube VideosVideos are so powerful for SEO, but more importantly for the user engagement. I don’t know about you but when I go to a website and I see 4000 words I get a little overwhelmed at all the content I’m going to have to read. Therefore if I can just watch a video I will do it every time. People are impatient when they read online. Therefore, make a short 3-minute video at the top of your page that discusses most of what you have written about in your article. If people want to dig further they will read your article.

I believe that Google really favors articles that have YouTube videos on them. Google bought YouTube several years ago. So I wouldn’t use any other video service because I believe they favor their own network. This is just speculation, but have you ever done a Google search for something and clicked on videos? What shows up there? YouTube videos, not Vimeo ones? So, clearly use YouTube!

Social Media Engagement

Social Media Engagement

Let’s face it SEO is boring as hell. So focus less on your SEO and use social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. You should never focus on how many followers or likes you have. Instead, make sure you focus on quality engagement. Are people asking questions? Are you replying to them? Most importantly, are you helping people out?

Further Reading On Backlinks & Whether They Matter

I did a lot of research when writing this article.  It seems that a lot of established SEO’s believe backlinks matter.  However, I disagree and don’t pay much attention to backlinks.  Here are some links you can check out which talk about backlinks:

So Do Backlinks Really Matter In 2019

To be 100% honest with you I don’t even build backlinks anymore for websites I develop. I haven’t built one backlink in over 3 years now. People get so caught up in the rankings in Google and what can I do to get ranked number one. But if they would just focus more on creating sites that have a lot of engagement they wouldn’t ever have to worry about the rankings on Google.

I will say it again because it’s important that you know this. Stop building low-value websites with poor content, purchasing backlinks, and then wondering why it doesn’t rank in Google.

You have to create high-quality websites if you want them to rank on Google.  You might end up “gaming” Google for a little while.  But, once they find out you’re doing something dodgy you will probably try to recover your rankings for a while.   Or who knows maybe you will be forced to start all over again.  It’s a cycle I have seen over and over again in all the years I have been in the SEO field.

Backlinks don’t matter really all that much so don’t worry about them.

Do you agree or disagree with this article?  Do you believe backlinks matter anymore? Leave your comments down below.

Garen Arnold has been designing websites for a decade now. He sold his 8-year-old affiliate marketing niche site and founded SellWebsite.co to show people how to buy/sell websites and domains.

24 thoughts on “Do Backlinks Still Matter ? (updated in 2019)”

  1. I was worried and disappearing for a few months on my website not having any backlinks. I am thankful to run into your article telling me what I should really focus on.

    As far as social media engagement is concerned, if you are trying to ask your followers questions for what information they would like you to talk about and you’re not getting the responses you like, what would you do?

    • Yeah, I wouldn’t focus on backlinks at all. It’s normal to disappear for a few months. This happens because what is called the “Google Dance”. Basically, newer websites all have to go through this stage. They will jump around on Google until they settle at one position. Usually, it’s a good 6 months before you stop disappearing from Google and then show up again. Every new website has to deal with it, unfortunately.

      As far as social engagement is concerned. If you are asking questions to your following and no one is replying than they really are not that loyal of followers. Meaning, you’re simply asking them for something to help them and they don’t even care to respond. I would focus on posting content on social media from your influencers and just focus on helping people out. For instance, on Twitter you can find Twitter chats where people are asking questions. Simply, tweet to them a solution and possibly point to an article you have written on your website.

      The truth of the matter is you shouldn’t really spend more than 10 minutes a day on social media, though. Just keep helping people sharing others content and good things will come from it.

  2. This has cleared some issues up for me regarding the importance (or not) of backlinks, not worrying about rankings, but instead creating valuable content.

    Some people say that you have to blog better, find something new to offer. Well, sometimes that’s not possible. Do you think it is important to find ‘new’ things to blog about? Do we need some sort of an edge?

    • Yes, obviously, you always need something new to write about. There are always niches where 10-20 articles is all you can think to say, but sometimes you just have to keep digging deeper. Meaning, you could:

      Interview authorities in your niche.
      Create content that is somewhat controversial (kind of like this article you are reading now).
      Start a how-to series.
      Talk about changes, news, etc. in your niche.

  3. Love these ideas, I think that content is king and is more important than anything! How much do you think social signals impact your ranking on Google, though?

    • There have been a lot of studies that show social signals do affect your Google rankings. As long as your doing it correctly and not purchasing crappy followers from some website. Here is a good article I found on social signals and SEO;
      https://cognitiveseo.com/blog/11903/social-signals-seo-influence/

      Always engage with people on your social media accounts. I can’t stress the importance of engaging with people on social media. So many people do their social media marketing completely wrong.

  4. One of the most authoritative figures in SEO, Brian Dean, indicates that as of right now backlinks are still incredibly important based on analysis of over 1 million different searches and the #1 ranked organic result. While he indicates content is numero uno in importance he indicates backlinks are as well.

    While I agree with you that content is king I would still argue that good solid backlinks from authoritative domains are still very very useful. They might not be what they once were, but I wouldn’t tell people to ignore them completely.

    If you had to choose a single social network to be active on to help drive rankings which would you choose?

    • I’m not discrediting Brian Dean’s expertise whatsoever because he certainly has the accolades to talk about SEO. While he does state that backlinks are still very important I disagree to some degree.

      For one, if you build a high-quality website with awesome content you will never once have to build a backlink in your life. This is because sites will naturally link to your website because it’s of high quality and people are actually talking about it.

      Next, the less dodgy stuff we do to our websites in terms of “SEO” will keep Google from attributing a manual penalty to our website. Still today, not going to mention any names, but some very successful SEO’s are still using private blog networks to help give their websites a boost in Google.

      This is why I just focus on my websites and providing the most quality content I can. Over time if my websites are as good as I think they are they will naturally get backlinks. Thus, I never really have to spend a dime purchasing a link, doing some kind of link pyramid scheme, etc.

      In regards to your social media question I feel Twitter is the most effective. For entertainment websites. However, if you had a strickly business website I would say LinkedIn is the most effective. Then, again every single niche is different so it’s like asking which computer is the best? Different people use computers for different task so there can’t be a clear answer on that.

  5. This is great info Garen. As a newbie in internet marketing and SEO I don’t need to tell you I’ve heard all kinds of theories and stories about how to rank and what not. But what you’re saying here totally makes sense. I will tell you that this is good news to me because all I’ve been doing so far is focusing on quality content and engagement. Some social media too. To be honest, I don’t even know how these backlinks work. I won’t even worry about them too much then. Thanks for the “lesson”.
    Question, you mentioned one 1000-word quality content blog a week with high engagement. Will that do the work? I think I can do two of those you know

    • It’s a sad world, that the seo industry has seen in the last 5-7 years. Many people still try to game Google. Basically by purchasing links or coming up with links schemes. The list could go on and on.

      To answer your question. 2 1,000 word articles would be great, but make sure your consistent at it. Meaning, Google likes to see new content weekly and always steadily. One thing I have done over the years is schedule post to go live in advance. This helps when “life” gets in the way.

  6. This is a great article and very reassuring. Backlinks were something I use to try to deal with and it took up so much time that I didn’t have. I would rather focus on writing quality content for my viewers then build backlinks that an algorithm could punish me for later anyway. I love your tips about new content ideas also. I thank you for this info I know where my focus will be and this really helps keep me motivated. Thanks!

    • You’re not the only one that used to put too much emphasis on backlinks. I know lots of people that have tried to game Google for years. I’m not going to call any gurus out by name, but there are some really successful ones that still try to teach newer affiliate marketers, SEO’s, internet marketers, or whatever you want to call them dodgy technics.

      Seriously, they will try to show them how to build a private blog network which in the long run is going to eventually get your website in hot water with Google. Not to mention they charge their clients $5,000+ for their SEO services.

      It’s best to just focus on your website and providing the best content, user experience, and value to the internet that you possibly can.

  7. I am new to this and very glad to know that I do not need to worry about backlinks (especially since I had never heard of it before now or if I had, I do not recall it). Information overload at times. I look forward to following your posts and learning from you. Happy New Year.

    • I can certainly relate to information overload! I remember when I started out 9 years ago there is so much information online it can be very confusing to try to figure everything out. You have a lot of people telling you a lot of conflicting data. It makes it nearly impossible to wade through the junk, and what your reading actually has some merit to it.

  8. Ultimately, backlinks are far from the most important factor when it comes to gaining website traffic. As you mentioned, content and user engagement are far more relevant, and should be the main focus of your attention.

    However, gaining the attention of Google is an important factor if you really want to grow your online traffic and conversion rates. Although it’s not necessary, you’d be foolish not to consider it a relevant aspect of your business.

    • Don’t forget that persistence is also very important in the internet marketing and SEO business. While getting from traffic from Google does happen eventually, unfortunately, it’s a very slow process. For example, developing a website and then actually starting to see traffic from Google after 4 months can seem like a lifetime. But, as you do it more and more you learn to keep working and know that in time you will start to see some real gains on Google.

  9. Great article!
    I was really confused about the importance and relevance of quality back links.

    So far, I have been focusing primary on quality content that exceeds over 1200 words. I was going to go to one of those crummy services you described, but now after reading your article, I’ll take a hard pass lol

    Thanks again,

    -Mike

    • Yeah, there are a ton of “crummy” backlink services online. Like I said I don’t even worry about building backlinks anymore. If you just develop a good quality website, have lots of user engagement, it’s a matter of time before you will show up on Google.

  10. Oh wow, I’ve been online for about 2 years (though irregularly) but learned so much from just 1 post of yours! (Expect a lot of questions in my comment! Lol).

    Oh dear, backlinks is one frustrating topic and one of the greatest debates I kept hearing about since I joined the online business/blogging world.

    First of all, I am glad it’s not one of those articles that say “content + backlinks = 1st page of Google”. 😀

    Article marketing, social bookmarking links & high PR backlinks – something I am not quite familiar with but if you say there is no use to them, I am glad I didn’t waste my time on them!

    Another thing I took out of your article is that maybe learning how to do SEO for local business might not be the best option for me, since like you I don’t want to deal with customers who aren’t happy with the 8th spot in Google and compare themselves to the websites that are ranked #1.

    (I was considering doing SEO for local business part-time, but was a bit reluctant to learn and proceed with that).

    Also, I didn’t know that the businesses’ websites were mostly done using Wix and had 400-500 word articles. As far as I know that’s extremely bad in the content business? You mentioned that you yourself aim at least for 1,000-word articles.

    When you say “thin content” do you mean low-quality content or just small articles (in terms of word count)? English isn’t my first language, so there are still phrases/terms that I don’t fully understand.

    You mention blog commenting. I thought blog commenting was good!? How is it connected to backlinks? I feel there is a gap in knowledge here, so will appreciate clarification.

    (As I continued reading, my guess is that in the beginning you were referring to some spammy blog commenting strategies as opposed to real high-quality comments?)

    I hope you’ll find time to respond back and I look forward to hearing from you, Garen! Thank you for such a great info.

    • Yeah, article marketing has been dead for so long. If anyone tries to tell you that article marketing is a good way to go I would completely disregard what they have to say on SEO. As far as social bookmarking and high PageRank backlinks are concerned. Social bookmarking won’t do much for you. There are lots of services that offer tons of social bookmarking links. PageRank hasn’t been updated in quite some time either. I can’t believe people still talk about PageRank….enough said on PageRank.

      Don’t get me wrong you can make very decent money with SEO. But, for me, I don’t like always being tied to a business to make money. It seems like most of the consultations you give end up with broken promises, and a people are just looking for free information which they can just use to their advantage.

      No, I’m not stating that most businesses are done using Wix. That is a hypothetical scenario where in my head I am thinking this person can’t be serious about their business. I have nothing against Wix for just for the record 🙂 Also, the 400 to 500-word articles are not going to do much for your website. In fact, it usually just hurts it and most openly it’s just poor value content anyway. When I say “thin content” I mean rehashed content that has been on several other websites.

      Blog commenting is good for building connections. But, only if you are providing value to a blog if you’re leaving comments. But, there are a lot of different services where people will pay people to leave comments on various blogs to help build their backlinks. Again, it’s not really going to help you in terms of SEO. More than likely it creates a clear footprint which Google can easily detect.

  11. As someone relatively new to this game, I’m happy to hear your opinion that backlinks don’t matter, or at least don’t matter very much. What this means is that I can focus on what I can do/understand, which is generating content on my website.

    You also made me think about the value of including videos, in a new way. I haven’t yet done that, because it just feels “easier” to write, but my hunch is that if I include a video for the next time I review a product, for example, and demo it…people will likely watch that video and feel more “connected” to my brand, or at least think I have more reviewer credibility.

    • There are a lot of people that still believe backlinks are the way to go. To be honest with you I get so tired of the SEO industry. There are niches around gaming Google. Hell, there are even forums like Blackhatworld.com where people share their tactics to break the rules.

      Videos are excellent because they keep people on your website longer. This doesn’t mean you need to spend all your time creating videos, though. Instead, there are lots of quality ones already on YouTube that can embed within articles on your website.

      I would recommend putting your videos above the fold on your website, too. It drastically helps and it first thing people usually notice.

  12. My experience is exactly the opposite when publishing in the Dutch language. Without backlink from a reputable website you get nowhere. These backlinks are sold by these reputable websites for big money. Simply said, no money, no high ranking. You can make great content but it is willfully and actively ignored by Google. Only a reputable backlink (one is enough) will do the trick for your whole website. Or you need to have a network of people that visit the website, which is nuts in my opinion.

    SEO in holland is as dead as a doornail.

    • I get where you’re coming from. But for several years now I haven’t build one single backlink. I’m not gonna argue the fact that one high value backlink will boost your rankings in Google. However, focusing on high-quality content and user engagement is the way to go.

      For instance, let’s say you spend $1000 for a backlink. You could easily have 40 quality articles (at 25 dollars a pop). This would be a more effective approach to improving your SEO.

      Over the next couple years I believe backlinks will lose more and more value in terms of SEO.

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