Backlinks have been a cornerstone of SEO for over two decades. But with Google’s algorithms becoming more advanced, some have questioned whether backlinks still provide value in 2024. The short answer? Yes, high-quality backlinks are as important as ever for rankings.
Expert Opinions: What the Industry Says About Links in 2024
Before 2023, backlinks were considered one of the three most important ranking factors by many in the SEO industry. However, in a 2023 statement, Google’s Gary Illyes indicated that backlinks may not be as vital for rankings as previously thought:
“I think [backlinks] are important, but I think people overestimate the importance of links. I don’t agree it’s in the top three. It hasn’t been for some time,” Illyes said.
However, this does not mean backlinks are now irrelevant. As Google’s John Mueller has stated, backlinks are still important in terms of ranking in the SERPs.
Moreover, For building authority, backlinks can help you out which will eventually help you to increase the EEAT score that helps to rank your content! So backlinks will still provide value in 2024 and beyond.
Industry experts seem to agree backlinks remain important, though their role may be changing. The focus seems to be shifting to qualitative factors – earning links naturally through high-quality, engaging content rather than employing manipulation tactics.
But don’t just take our word for it. Here’s what SEO experts and industry leaders are saying about the effectiveness of backlinks in 2024:
“Backlinks remain one of the top three ranking factors in 2024. But it’s critical to focus on relevance and quality rather than quantity.” – Rand Fishkin, Co-Founder of Moz
“In 2024 and beyond, links will still work and provide tremendous value. But the focus needs to shift to user-centric linking and branding strategies.” – Aleyda Solis, International SEO Consultant & Founder of Orainti
“Google’s reliance on backlinks as a quality signal isn’t going away. But low-value links can actually damage a site. Strategic, relevant links are more critical than ever.” – Eric Enge, General Manager at Perficient Digital
“The role of backlinks might be resurgent, potentially gaining more weight than they currently hold. Websites with trusted brand signals will continue to dominate and even be preferred for most commercial queries. In response to these changes, we can anticipate a more stringent version of Google’s Penguin algorithm to regulate the quality and relevance of backlinks — whether or not Google announces this update.” – Roxana Stingu, Head of Search & SEO at Alamy
“Backlinks are still the SEO currency, but the exchange rate has fluctuated. Forget link spam and shady schemes. Google’s algo is a bloodhound sniffing out low-quality links. Focus on building genuine relationships with relevant websites. Create content so epic, people link to it naturally, like moths to a flamethrower.” – Brian Dean, Founder of BackLinko LLC
Backlinks Remain a Vital Ranking Factor
A recent analysis of ranking performance for over 28,000 new websites in 2023 by SEO platform Semrush further validates the ongoing importance of backlinks.
Their key finding? Domains with more backlinks consistently outperformed those without.
55.1% With No Links Didn’t Rank
Over half of the sites unable to attain a top 10 ranking in their target keywords had not built any backlinks at all.
* image from Semrush.com
This suggests that crafting compelling content is not enough alone to conquer competitive searches. Failing to complement great content with external signals like niche backlinks severely hinders ranking potential for the majority of keywords.
92.3% of Top Performers Had Links
Meanwhile, an overwhelming 92.3% of domains able to maintain top 100 positions month-over-month had managed to build at least one backlink – often substantially more.
This shows how vital links remain as endorsements to establish the authority and relevance required for those coveted spots. No backlink profile means extreme difficulty cracking the competitive frontier.
Correlation of +0.2 With Rankings
Perhaps most tellingly, Semrush found a definite positive 0.2 correlation between the number of backlinks and higher SERP positions.
*photo credit – Semrush.com
In other words, more links do tend to equate to better rankings – affirming that search engines continue to view backlinks as strong signals of usefulness and authority. Their ongoing influence is mathematically demonstrable.
Backlinks Build Domain Authority or Domain Rating
A recent analysis revealed top-ranking sites earned a domain authority/rating over 20 through wider, more diverse backlink profiles – over 2x higher than average. This quantifies links’ direct contribution to authority signals that propel competitive visibility.
*photo credit – Semrush.com
Current State of Backlinks
So industry experts agree that backlinks maintain immense value for SEO if utilized properly. But what’s the current state of backlinks? How have approaches, best practices, and goals shifted in 2024?
Quality Over Quantity
In 2024, backlink quality reigns supreme over quantity. One extremely strong, contextual backlink from a reputable source provides much more value than 10 weak links from spammy or irrelevant sites. Even, the Google guru, John Mueller says that, if a site has one quality backlink then it will surpass a site with 1,000 backlinks!
The days of link-building at scale through manipulative tactics are over. Google’s algorithms have grown extremely sophisticated and will likely identify and demote sites focused solely on amassing backlinks versus creating truly unique, excellent content.
Focus on Natural Links
Many of today’s most successful SEOs focus predominantly on earning links naturally rather than manual outreach. Tactics like viral content marketing, influencer partnerships, and building brand authority in your space can help content garner high-quality links without manual efforts.
Relevance is Everything
Backlinks derived from closely relevant sites within a niche provide the most SEO value in 2024. For example, a link from an industry-specific publication will likely count much more than one from a generic blog on a tangentially related topic.
User Experience Matters
With Google focused intensely on user experience as a ranking factor, links that send users to low-quality web pages removed from a site’s primary content can actually damage SEO. Ensure landing pages provide an excellent user experience aligned with what the linker intended to send users to consume.
Which Types of Backlinks will be Ideal for You in 2024?
There are certain types of backlinks that tend to be the most valuable for improving rankings and credibility with Google and users:
Natural Editorial Links
These occur when a website links to your content because it provides genuine value for its readers. Since they happen organically, editorial links signal trust and authority. Getting them should be a top priority through creating high-quality, unique content that sites in your industry would benefit from linking to. Stay on top of trends influencing your niche and provide truly useful resources.
Outreach for Links
You can generate relevant links through professional outreach. Identify sites related to your niche that might be interested in your content. Get in touch professionally and build relationships over time. If they find your expertise and content uniquely valuable, quality sites may link out to you. Avoid overly promotional language in outreach. Focus on contributing value vs asking for links.
Social Media Platform Expertise
Establishing yourself as an industry leader on sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook Groups, and Quora can lead to Q&A links back to your site. Answer questions and provide insights that get engagement and links. Be helpful and consistent over time. The goal is genuine expertise and community trust leading to influencer status.
Local Link Building
As local search gains more focus, earning links from regional directories, newspapers, chamber of commerce pages and niche city/town sites can matter. Create content optimized for your geographic area. Getting involved locally also leads to references. Provide value to your surrounding community through engagement and support.
How to Build a Strong Backlink Profile in 2024?
Given the above trends identified by industry experts, what is the recipe for building an effective, future-proof backlink profile? Here are the key strategic pillars to focus on:
Create Truly Useful, Engaging Content
Outstanding content that offers tangible value, entertainment or inspiration for your audience serves as “link bait”, organically attracting links rather than needing to pursue them. Invest in understanding users’ needs, then create content that meaningfully addresses them. Remember, quality articles are the best ways to avoid black hat SEO and sustainably build your backlink portfolio.
Earn Links Through Genuine Engagement
Comment on relevant blogs, share others’ content when it provides value for your audience, joint venture on co-marketing campaigns, or produce assets like guides or tools that sites are keen to host. By contributing value to spaces aligning with your niche, you can build recognition that converts to links.
Pursue Niche-Specific Site Links
Research which sites carry influence in your vertical, and consider contributing guest posts to them with useful, non-promotional information for their audience while linking back to your related content. Even one quality link from a recognized industry site can be highly advantageous.
Monitor Link Velocity and Anchor Text
Keep growth trajectory smooth and steady, mirroring that of other esteemed sites in your field. Use a variety of descriptive anchor text and “brand name” anchors while interspersing some category-based anchors occasionally where relevant. Avoid aggressive manipulation of velocity or overuse of commercial anchors.
Assess Context and Relevance of Linking Pages
Prioritize links from pages topically relevant to yours over tangential/unrelated pages on sites. Similarly, links from commercial pages focused on conversions (e.g. product category pages) tend to get discounted versus links from more informational contexts. Consider page-level relevance as well as domain-level.
Preserve Existing Links
Look after links you already have, e.g. by checking referring pages periodically to catch and fix any broken links leading back to your content. Losing existing links risks raising flags with Google, whereas preserving your natural links helps reinforce the stability and relevance of linking domains.
Recommended Tactics for Building Backlinks in 2024
Based on the expert input and strategic principles outlined above, here are some of the most advisable tactics for acquiring quality backlinks without risking penalties in 2024 while adding value:
Write Link-Worthy Content
Create content specifically designed to offer value, address pain points or satisfy needs/interests for your niche audience that inspires engagement and linking naturally without link requests. Feature roundups, comparisons, data studies, and guides are proven to attract links.
Guest Post on Niche Sites
Proactively research sites in your vertical that welcome contributors or allow guest posts. Pitch-focused, specialist articles that provide unique insights or data for their audience without heavy promotion, just a bio link. Securing niche links bolsters topical relevance signals.
Volunteer Expertise to Media
Position yourself as an expert source for mainstream media and trade publications by researching relevant story ideas, data, or commentary you can provide. Journalists are constantly searching for specialists to quote, which often leads to valuable backlinks.
Develop Relationships with Key Figures
Connect authentically with recognized authorities, creators, and community leaders in your space. Share their work when it’s helpful for your audience, engage thoughtfully, and collaborate on projects. Relationships drive word-of-mouth promotion.
Create Linkworthy Assets
Design resources like calculators, interactive guides, quizzes, or tools that solve problems for your audience. Reach out to relevant sites to invite them to host or link to your assets in their content if they find it useful, driving referral traffic.
The key is ensuring all link-building efforts ultimately serve users rather than search engines. The most effective approach for responsibly building your backlink portfolio is to consistently publish high-quality, useful content while also strategically contributing guest posts to reputable niche sites. This allows you to organically earn links without resorting to risky black hat tactics.
How Link Building is Going to Develop in The Near Future?
Backlink building is changing a lot, so we need to keep up with the latest trends. Here are some big things to watch out for:
Relevant Links Matter Most
Gone are the days of shotgun blasting links across the web. Topical relevance will become the holy grail. Links from websites within your niche or targeting similar audiences will carry much more weight than those from random corners of the internet. Invest in understanding your audience and tailoring your content to their needs, attracting organic links from relevant sources.
The Power of Relationships
Building genuine relationships with other websites and industry figures will become invaluable. Guest blogging, co-creating content, and participating in online communities will open doors to high-quality backlinks. Think of it as building friendships, not just acquiring links. The trust and authenticity you cultivate will pay off in spades.
Changing Metrics and Measurement
Measuring link-building success will go beyond raw numbers. Metrics like user engagement, time spent on the page, and brand mentions will gain prominence. Tools powered by AI and machine learning will provide deeper insights into the quality and impact of your backlinks. Understand that it’s not just about quantity, but the value and trust each link conveys.
Brand mentions without direct links, particularly on social media and authoritative platforms, will hold increasing weight. Building brand awareness and fostering positive online conversations will indirectly impact your ranking, even without explicit backlinks. Focus on storytelling, creating shareable content, and engaging with your audience to earn those coveted mentions.
Shareable Worthy Content
Interactive content like quizzes, games, and calculators will gain traction in attracting natural backlinks. Think outside the text box and create experiences that people want to share with their networks. Remember, virality can lead to a flood of valuable backlinks without chasing them directly.
Local Link Building
For brick-and-mortar businesses, local SEO will be crucial. Building backlinks from directories, community websites, and local influencers will be paramount. Get involved in your community, sponsor local events, and create content relevant to your area to establish your local authority and attract relevant backlinks.
Expect AI tools to play a bigger role in link building. They can help identify potential link opportunities, analyze the quality of existing links, and even personalize outreach emails. However, remember that AI is just a tool, not a replacement for human creativity and relationship building. Use it to guide your strategies, not replace your critical thinking.
Our Verdict on Backlinking in 2024
Backlinks remain crucial for search rankings in 2024. However, there has been a major shift in strategy to prioritize quality over quantity since Google’s link spam update of 2022. With increasingly advanced algorithms, the era of simplistic, mass, and low-value link-building tactics has come to an end.
Our focus should be earning trusted backlinks organically by consistently providing quality content, expertise, and reader value. This garners links showing hard-won respect. Buying links or manipulating anchor text now risks penalties. The way forward is building connections through substance over spammy tactics.
In 2024, valuable backlinks will reflect trust and engagement within niche communities rather than temporary tactics. As algorithms advance, earning sustainable links should focus on creating legitimate value for readers, not gaming metrics. The worthy goal is building connections through long-term respect and merit.
Expert SEOs firmly agree – that backlinks maintain tremendous value in 2024 for driving search visibility. However, the focus must shift toward building niche links transparently through the creation of genuinely useful resources rather than employing manipulative tactics. Links derived organically from value-driven content that addresses user intent and serves searcher needs will still pay dividends. But the days of quantity over quality are over.
By focusing on developing expertise and forging contextual links from recognized industry authorities, brands can harness the power of backlinks responsibly even as algorithms evolve. In 2024 and beyond, user-centricity is imperative – search engines and searchers alike must benefit for sustainable link-building success.