Are backlinks still important for SEO today? Absolutely. We reveal why they’re still essential, offer proof they still work, and explain how to generate backlinks ethically to boost your site’s domain authority and traffic.

Are you making the same mistake many businesses make? If your only focus for your website is on-page SEO, then the answer is yes. You’ll only get so far with increasing your site’s authority and ranking power without off-page strategies like link building.

If your backlink profile is weak (or non-existent), you’ll struggle to gain and maintain ranking positions for tougher, competitive keywords.

Continue reading to learn why backlinks are still important for SEO and how to generate them naturally for your website.

Are backlinks still important?

The days of getting a copious number of backlinks from spammy, random, or irrelevant sites (just to show Google that you have links) are over. Now, all relevant backlinks must come from a trusted and credible source as a vote of confidence.

To get those viable and high-quality backlinks, ensure your content adds value for the audience and is likable and shareable.

As Google always says, focus on creating relevant content and the rest will follow. Before, backlinks were almost 50% of Google’s ranking factor. But, as Google continues to better understand content, backlinks account for just 15% of overall ranking factors, according to First Page Sage.

How backlinks boost your SEO

Yes, backlinks are still an important variable for organic rankings. Some say it’s a cornerstone of SEO practices. However, backlinks are losing relevance as a ranking factor in Google’s eyes.

The quality and quantity of inbound links from other reputable websites can drastically influence how you appear in search engine results pages (SERPs).

When ethically acquired, there are many benefits to backlinks. For instance, it:

  • Enhances search engine rankings
  • Increases website credibility and trust
  • Drives referral traffic
  • Improves domain authority
  • Supports brand building
  • Boosts content exposure and discovery
  • Offers long-term SEO value

Backlinks act as endorsements for your website. In theory, the more endorsements you have from authoritative websites, the better your site looks to Google. For this reason, link building should remain a part of your SEO campaign. At least for now.

“Companies who invest in a strategic and well thought out offsite SEO campaign that includes mobile SEO, local SEO, and link building techniques, see a significant uplift in their overall SEO success,” explains Sam Yadegar, CEO of HawkSEM. “We’ve seen companies like Easly get an increase of referring domains by 2,500% which led to the increase in its brand’s keyword portfolio by 1,500%.”

If you don’t have a marketing team to help with backlinking strategies, then consider partnering with a link building agency, like HawkSEM.

What does Google say about link building?

Many include link building as part of their SEO plan today, but Google professionals say the practice isn’t the highest priority anymore. In fact, Google doesn’t allow extensive link-building campaigns because its policy classifies them as link spam.

Does this mean you should cease your link building campaign? Not exactly.

Instead, it recommends brands and marketers to focus more on the authority backlinks generate for a website. For example, brands and marketers can naturally build their authority by providing genuine and valuable content that resonates with their audience.

So if your media is influential, factual, and impactful and generates a fair amount of organic traffic, you’ll likely get backlinks from high authority sites and bloggers.

Here are some other tips from Google to consider:

  • Natural link development: Google favors naturally developed backlinks based on genuine interest and relevance
  • Avoid manipulative tactics: Google discourages buying links, indulging in link schemes, or using automated programs for backlinking
  • Quality over quantity: Focus on earning high-quality backlinks through valuable content, rather than accumulating a large number of low-quality links
  • Ethical backlinking practices: Incorporate outreach strategies like guest posting on relevant sites and influencer collaborations using link building tools like Semrush
  • Regularly monitor and audit: Always check your backlink profile to keep up with Google’s compliance guidelines

Websites with unnatural backlinks may receive a Manual Action from Google, leading to significant website traffic loss and a challenging recovery process. Engaging in unethical backlink practices can reduce Google search rankings or removal from search results.

Good backlinks vs. bad backlinks

Here’s a breakdown of the differences between good backlinks and bad backlinks.

Good backlinks

When acquiring backlinks for web pages, look for the following qualities:

  • Relevance: Backlinks from quality websites related to your content or industry are great for SEO. This informs search engines your content is useful in a specific context.
  • Authority: Incoming links from high domain authority websites are valuable. Most likely, these are trusted sources in their field, so their backlink carries weight.
  • Organic nature: The best backlinks are earned without asking for them. This is possible when your content is highly valuable to other site’s audiences.
  • Diversity: Your backlink profile should have various domains. This indicates a natural link-building process.
  • Contextual linking: Backlinks that fit naturally into content are the best backlinks. They provide even more value and context to the user and don’t feel spammy.
  • Follow links: There are two types of backlinks: nofollow and dofollow. While nofollow links are necessary, they’re not ideal because they don’t boost your site’s domain rank. Dofollow links, on the other hand, passes more authority and are generally more beneficial for SEO.

Bad backlinks

Bad backlinks can negatively impact your website and tank your ranking. So it’s best to mitigate any risks of acquiring bad backlinks.

Here are the main characteristics of bad backlinks:

  • Irrelevant sources: If the link is unrelated to the content it’s linking to, it signals to search engines the incoming links aren’t defined by content quality.
  • Low-quality or spammy sites: Toxic backlinks from low-quality, spammy, or penalized websites can hurt your rankings and credibility.
  • Paid links: Penalties can arise from purchasing backlinks because it goes against Google’s guidelines.
  • Overly-optimized anchor text: Anchor text with excessive keyword use can often appear manipulative and unnatural to search engine algorithms’ parameters.
  • Link farms and schemes: Google penalizes websites using link farms or link schemes, which are black-hat SEO tactics.
  • Rapid acquisition: If you rapidly gain lots of backlinks over a short period of time, it can appear suspicious and inorganic to search engines.

Is buying backlinks a good idea?

If you’re feeling desperate for backlinks, one of the biggest SEO mistakes to make is buying them.

As Diana Zheng, Head of Marketing at Stallion Express says, “Not all backlink building is created equal. There are risks associated with backlink building, such as falling prey to black-hat techniques or prioritizing quantity over quality. We focus on ethical link-building, audit our backlinks regularly, and focus on relevance over quantity.”

A website with poor content and thousands of purchased backlinks will take less priority in search engines than a site with quality content and fewer but stronger backlinks.

Buying backlinks isn’t good several reasons:

  • Violates Google’s guidelines
  • Risk of penalties
  • Low-quality and irrelevant inks
  • Costly
  • Little to no guarantee of success
  • Reputation damage
  • Short-term gains with no chance for longevity

If you’re still considering buying backlinks, keep in mind you’re allocating digital marketing funds to a pursuit that won’t provide real results. Backlinks may offer a temporary boost in your ranking, but it’s very long-lived.

As long as you focus on creating quality content, people can’t help but link to. There are plenty of other healthy and legitimate SEO methods for improving your website’s ranking. Engage in practices like creating high-quality content, guest blogging on other sites, and working with influencers.

Proof that backlinks are still important + examples

There are a wealth of case studies and metrics supporting the positive impact of link building.

We’ll examine a few cases where link building helped companies boost brand awareness, increase organic search traffic, improve pagerank, and generate more revenue.

1. Backlinko


Backlinko maintains it saw search engine traffic increase by 110% in 14 days using The Skyscraper Technique. The technique popularized by Backlinko involves three steps:

  • Content research
  • Creating better content
  • Outreach

The case study explains how creating “linkable” assets increases your chances of other sites linking naturally back to yours. As long as the page is high-value, you can leverage those links in perpetuity.

Backlinko also emphasizes how exceptional content that acquires more quality backlinks is:

  • Longer
  • More current
  • Better designed
  • More thorough

For the final step, Backlinko recommends linking out to prospects already linking to similar content. The site you want a link from should already publish content relative to your industry.

Out of 160 emails Backlino sent to prospects, it gathered 17 quality backlinks — an 11% success rate.

2. Intergrowth


In this case study, Intergrowth demonstrates a client with a small presence in the highly competitive industry of website hosting. The hosting site client saw a 35% increase in growth in just 3 months.

Here’s how they did it.

Intergrowth established a good SEO foundation and created premium, high-quality, long-form content that other site owners couldn’t help but link to. With these two things in place, it could start its link acquisition using tools like Semrush and Ahrefs to identify great content.

Using these tools, it could filter out spammy and unrelated sites, which narrowed their backlink opportunities down to 1,000 bloggers. As a result, the hosting client received 43 quality backlinks from 15 referring domains, prompting a 55% increase in organic traffic.

3. LinkDoctor


LinkDoctor helped website design company Maxburst overcome its all time low SERP status.

The brand, which suffered low visibility, had a goal of getting more genuine leads while ranking for more relevant keywords. After performing a site audit, LinkDoctor suggested content updates, improving content score, being more active on social media, and implementing a better link building strategy.

Through outreach and active involvement in updating content, Maxburst saw a 156% increase in organic keywords and 452% increase in organic traffic.

13 steps to building a successful backlink strategy

When building a winning backlink strategy, take caution with your practices and do your research.

Take some time to understand the spam policy and what Google’s restrictions are on link building campaigns. Doing this preventa penalties or unnecessary instances that could negatively impact your website.

To help you get started, here’s some quick tips on building your backlink strategy.

  1. Create valuable content
  2. Guest blog
  3. Use influencer outreach
  4. Create and share informative infographics
  5. Find broken links
  6. Use social media
  7. Conduct competitor analysis
  8. Leverage local partnerships
  9. Produce research-based content
  10. Write press releases
  11. Monitor your backlink profile
  12. Build relationships
  13. Provide testimonials

1. Create valuable content

The foundation of a good backlink strategy, as many experts will tell you, is having excellent content.

“We’ve found that building relationships with industry leaders and collaborating on quality content increases our backlink ranking,” shares says Diana Zheng, Head of Marketing at Stallion Express. “Furthermore, producing shareable, quality content positions us as a leader in our industry, which naturally attracts quality backlinks.”

As we’ve emphasized throughout this post, content development is the key to getting better backlinks. The content must be long-form and excel in the topic to achieve overall website success.

At HawkSEM, we use Conversion IQ to provide AI insights on where to improve your landing page SEO so you can generate more conversions.

2. Guest blog

As our examples confirmed, guest blogging is a useful way to get great backlinks. Be sure you’re finding guest blogging opportunities on sites related to your niche. This can give you various platforms to showcase your expertise while earning valuable backlinks.

For example, if you’re a blog that sells stylish, comforter, designer shoes, find opportunities to guest post on sites that talk about fashion. There you can speak in detail about your designer shows, build a positive relationship with a site owner, and acquire a great backlink.

3. Use influencer outreach

Collaborate with influencers in your field to showcase your content’s value. When influencers share your content or mention your brand, you can generate high-quality backlinks.

To find influencers, identify which type of influencers you can work with — this may depend on your budget.

There are several types of influencers, including:

  • Mega influencers: More than one million followers
  • Macro influencers: Between 100,00 and one million followers
  • Micro influencers: Between 10,000 and 100,000 followers
  • Nano influencers: Between 1,000 and 10,000 followers
  • Social media influencers: Active on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or TikTok to engage
  • YouTube influencers: YouTubers cover a wide range of topics on entertainment, lifestyle, education, technology, and more
  • Podcast influencers: Can influence their listeners through discussions, interviews, and storytelling
  • Gaming influencers: They amass large followings on Twitch or YouTube gaming
  • Industry experts: Tend to be highly knowledgeable in topics and specific industries

ManyVwill have an influencer package prepared to provide pricing and website metrics. Take time to research each of these influencers and use Semrush or Ahrefs to gauge the legitimacy of their website and metrics.

4. Create and share informative infographics

High-quality visuals are attractive. Visuals with in-demand information are shareworthy. Having infographics that are entertaining makes acquiring backlinks easier. People are quick to share visual content that’s informative and resonates with their followers.

5. Find broken links

When you’re researching backlink prospects, search their existing content to Identify broken links. From there, offer your content as a more credible replacement.

Be sure to highlight the main points of your content so the prospect knows what their content is linking to. Transparency is always key when building relationships with site owners.

6. Use social media

Promoting your content on social media platforms can increase the likelihood of getting backlinks. If people find your content valuable and share it with others or use it in a future relevant blog post, we call that a win-win.

Share content on social media platforms where your audience is most engaged.

7. Conduct competitor analysis

Tools like Semrush offer link building tools that allow you to run a full analysis of your and your competitor’s backlink profiles. Some tools help investigate gaps in competitor’s current backlink profiles, which helps you decide which opportunities to go after.

Through these analyses, you’ll see which referring domains have the strongest authority. This data can help you find backlink opportunities that are comparable or better.

8. Leverage local partnerships

If you’re a local business, reach out to other local businesses about exchanging links to each other’s websites. Tourist sites are a great example of this. Local businesses can link to the tourist site’s pages for more info, and the tourist site can host an index of all the local businesses — including yours.

9. Produce research-based content

Many marketers search for data to support their content. Producing content with original research, surveys, and reports can be valuable for other sites looking for similar information.

For example, if you’re a website that’s about improving children’s education, publish content with statistics that talk about current literacy rates and its accompanying issues. If other sites are searching for similar statistics and your content is written well, they may link to you.

10. Write press releases

If you’re an IT company that releases many new product features and updates, you’re probably publishing press releases left and right. These major announcements can lead to backlinks from reputable news sites and industry blogs eager to share your news and updates.

Press releases work for large and small businesses, and there are sites like Newswire that help craft them effectively.

11. Monitor your backlink profile

In Semrush and Ahrefs, you can regularly monitor your backlink profiles to see how healthy it is. There, you can gather reports about overall backlink health and see which backlinks need to be removed or disavowed.

Do everything you can to resolve the backlink issue before resorting to removing or disavowing.

12. Build relationships

Sometimes, casually networking with other bloggers, journalists, and industry leaders can lead to more backlinks. You can find them on LinkedIn, through online forums and discussion boards, or at in-person events.

Even if you build a relationship with someone without the intention of acquiring backlinks, those connections will see you as a valuable resource they feel inclined to link to later on.

13. Provide testimonials

Being part of a case study or offering a testimonial for a product you use can generate a backlink. For example, let’s say you create blog posts on travel, and you have an incredible backpack you take everywhere with you.

Reach out to the website and pitch a testimonial about how this backpack revolutionizes your travel experience. Be sure they link back to your website and offer to link back to theirs in exchange.

The takeaway

Despite the Google algorithm’s reduced weight in link building, backlinks are vital to SEO practices.

But remaining ethical with outreach and acquiring natural backlinks remains key. Focus on creating exceptional content that’s authoritative and encourages organic growth all on its own.

For a measured and strategic approach to building your backlink profile, partner with an experienced link building agency like HawkSEM. Whether you need small business or enterprise SEO, we’ll be your guide through the complex world of link building.

We’ll keep your SEO tactics compliant so you have a higher chance of success. Request a free consultation with our experts today.

Kelly Branyik

Kelly Branyik

Kelly is a writer, author, and world traveler. She’s a published author of two books and several Colorado publications with experience in digital marketing, content creation, SEO, and website design. She writes about all the lives she could be living, speaks Mandarin Chinese, and reads anything she can get her hands on.