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Google Says: Backlinks are Safe… for Now

Photo credit: Robert Scoble via flickr

Matt Cutts, Google’s Distinguished Engineer, well known for coming down hard on link networks in a relentless effort to clean up the search process while improving Google’s accuracy has released a new video – one that quickly caught the attention of SEO experts, business owners and digital marketers. The new video relates to backlinks and the verdict is that they’re safe… for now.

Why it Matters

It’s no secret that lately, search giant Google has been increasing efforts to penalize many link building efforts – seen as critical to traditional SEO – including link networks and those individuals and companies who buy or sell links for SEO purposes.

Furthermore, with an effort on rewarding sites that feature regular, high-quality content through new algorithms like Hummingbird and Panda, questions have started to run rampant. Marketers and SEO professionals have begun to wonder whether links would lose importance as far as increasing search engine rankings with the new changes and the penalties in place. This led to Cutts’ latest video, sharing his perspective on the topic entitled “Will Backlinks Lose Their Importance in Rankings?”

The answer is clear – in a way.

“I think backlinks still have many, many years left in them,” he explained. “But, inevitably, what we’re trying to do is figure out how an expert user would say this particular page matched their information needs. And sometimes, backlinks matter for that.”

However, the next statement changes things.

“Over time, backlinks will be less important,” Cutts continued.

Google’s algorithms focus on the reputation of specific websites and pages. This is the determining factor when it comes to whether traffic stays on a page or bounces, indicating a failed search attempt. However, because of the fact that these algorithms still rely on links to help determine the authority or reputation of web pages, they are still contributing factors to web searches, whether Google would like to admit to it or not.

Next Step: Authorship

The rest of Cutts’ video gives insight into where brands, marketers and SEO pros should be heading in the meantime: toward authorship.

Google Authorship allows content creators and writers to link content to Google profiles, creating a byline for search results and increasing rankings while establishing credibility. According to Cutts, authorship may have a greater value in the near future.

“Google also wants to give more weight to pages written by experts in the field,” explained Cutts. “This means authority will become even more crucial for websites. Whether that means authorship or some other way Google can determine experts and authorities remains to be seen,” he added.

Authorship isn’t just a good way to increase rankings, as alluded to by Cutts, it’s also a solid move for anyone interested in increasing the value of their content. According to Social Media Today, it allows authors to build credibility by increasing reliability for search engine crawlers. Authorship increases visibility by giving personality to search engine listings, leading to better click through rates. It also ensures your original content is credited to you by pushing any posts with Authorship marking to the top of search results, reducing plagiarism attempts while generating interest.

Continuing to Use Links

While Cutts makes it clear that backlinks could be useful for years in the future, there’s no doubt that the video’s information alludes to something more, changes that anyone interested in SEO should be aware of.

In the meantime, links do continue to provide value. However, with the crackdown attempts forged by Cutts, it’s important to be sure any linking strategy is seen as beneficial, not threatening to Google and its search algorithms. Below are link building tactics to avoid to ensure your backlinks are safe yet still useful for establishing credibility, as explained in the video.

Links to avoid include:

Paid Links: In the past, buying and selling links was a popular tactic for increasing website rankings. With Google’s latest efforts to shut down and penalize not only the networks, but those using them, this practice should be avoided at all costs. Paid links don’t have to be an exchange of funds, they can include exchanging goods or even services for mentions and links.

Unnatural Link Exchanges: It makes sense that a website would be filled with links to other sites; this is normal and approved by Google. However, when a website links to a high number of “unnatural” sites – for example, a fitness blog linking to fast food restaurants – Google’s search algorithms will start to take notice. Make sure all link exchanges seem natural and match the content of your site.

Large-Scale Guest Posting Campaigns: Yes, a guest post can boost your visibility and help in your own marketing scheme. However, when guest posting becomes an obvious effort to accumulate backlinks, Google will probably take action. Just look at the link network busts of MyBlogGuest and PostJoint. Consider the value of content before posting, on your own site or any other site.

Tool-Generated Links: They’re everywhere: tools and services that are advertised to produce hundreds or even thousands of backlinks while increasing your traffic and search rankings. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Worse yet, it could result in your being penalized by Google or removed from its database all together. Work naturally for best results.

Cutts’ video makes it clear: backlinks are safe, at least for the time being. As search engine tactics continue to evolve, pay attention to how you use links, avoid tactics with negative effects and look for other ways to boost search rankings – like authorship. The end of backlinks may not be in sight, but it could be drawing near.

About the author


Adrienne Erin

Adrienne Erin writes twice weekly for SiteProNews about online marketing strategies that help businesses like Triple Crown Corporation succeed. Follow @adrienneerin on Twitter to see more of her work or get in touch.


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  • Link building is the only one and basic phase in off-page seo, may be we change the link building strategies but never stop link building in SEO.

  • I still believe content is king, no matter the content within the blog/website or content of the guest post. If the content has value, then it will be shared and have good rankings.

  • They’ve been saying that about backlinks for some years now, but as we’ve seen in the past, G will do away with one form of SEO strategy, realize that it made a mistake and then implement it back.

    In the meantime, many legitimate sites get taken out as collateral damage. The big thing for every webowner to realize is to focus not just on making G happy, but Bing, Yahoo and the other search engines since focusing on one thing can wind up hurting you if it falls apart.

    Leveraging your site with all the search engines will only help you bring in more than just one main traffic source sine you never know when G will turn on you.

  • In the meantime- while Google is trying to figure out how to work around not needing back links-they should be working around the clock to figure out what to do for Negative SEO in their war against unnatural link building. Anyone can be a victim of N.SEO. Call it corporate conscience.

  • Links still work, but on site optimization plays a major role, especially on long tail searches.
    I would really like Google to do something about negative SEOs though. it’s becoming a fast spreading disease…

  • I personally believe links will always be a vital part of SEO however time spent on building links should be also time spent on increasing your business or personal knowledge and hence expertise, this then goes hand in hand with Googles future outlook of rewarding experts in the field. We will then hopefull in the future see an end to the plethora of foreign link building companies who add no value to our business and actually put them in jepordy, a link building company is not an expert in any field and in time they will all be gone they do not understand your business. Concentrate on your own company and keep it within your business will reap much more reward than any oustourcing. If needs be employ and SEO for yourself.

    Northumberland and
    North East Wedding Photographers

  • If you run a specialist site there are only so many relevant links that you can use, so you have to use unnatural backlinks.

  • Nice article….its good to hear that backlinks are safe at present… we have to make best use of it… algorithm might change anything

  • Hi,
    Back link is not impotent if not relevant then why we are selling or buying links just have to learn basic seo and take some expert advice and wait for results.

    Sagar Ganatra

  • Backlinks could be useful for years in the future but as per concern of quality content that must understanding actual language, natural language, conversational search.

    And Now Google Panda 4.0 released

  • The internet is supposed to be a place where people can make money. Google do NOT own the internet and need to stop pretending they do! So if someone searches for something, the visits a site and clicks out on an ad or link and that is a low bounce rate that site should be punished? Absolutely despicable that’s what it is!

  • It will be interesting to see what Google comes up with other than back links for a physical metric on determining how popular or authoritative a site is. I see inbound links a dominating metric for quite a while.

  • Obtaining links to your site should be done the same way as obtaining friends in real life, you need to find people / links you like and that are relevant to you, or you could take your chance and go to a dating agengy / seo company who will know very little about you and probably get it completely wrong.

    The only correct back links are those that are put there because one business is related to and helping another and together they benefit.

    Eventually Google will weed out all back-link companies as none of them can truly understand the workings of ‘YOUR’ business not matter how large or small. Eventually also webmasters will be able to kill incoming links and stop the process from happening, this is already on the cards.

    True SEO = Common Sense, and eventually when it suits them Google will totally embrace the concept of real links and authorship as that is what will give the customer best result.

    Andrew Davies Photography

  • Now they are saying backlinks are save, later they will spam lot of sites due to backlinks :/

  • Sorry Bounce rates for some pages mean NOTHING . If you are searching for something specific that page you initially find may immediately meet your need and you are off the site. Google needs to come up with another measure of a site’s effectiveness because bounce rate doesn’t cut it.

  • Thanks for providing the valuable post regarding backlinks. Is there any problem when we get too many Nofollow backlinks?

  • Uh, yeah – I don’t buy it. Isn’t a page’s reputation based on the quality of the sites that link to it? Come on folks – Matt Cutts is the head of Google’s Webspam Team. Do you seriously think that Google wants to help SEO professionals know how their ‘system’ works?

  • It’s no surprise that authorship is going to be a big part of Seo in the future. The part that I find interesting is the whole “Over time, backlinks will be less important,” line which will have webmasters and seo “gurus” getting all fidgety and up in arms. I personally don’t think this will happen anytime in the near time future considering he just posted a video not too long ago discussing an internal google algo WITHOUT using backlinks as part of the criteria and it did not work out well and produced poor results.

  • Hi,
    This blog is so wonderful how to earn back links and how they safe till now and how can be useful do follow back links.
    Thanking you