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Mythbusters: Getting Backlinks Is The Most Important SEO Factor


Written by

Danielle Strouther



Mythbusters: Getting Backlinks Is The Most Important SEO Factor


  • Backlinks are great for SEO, especially from trusted sources. But they shouldn’t be the primary focus of your strategy.
  • In the SEO hierarchy, on-page factors like technical SEO and content always come first. Backlinks are just the cherry on top.
  • The quality of your backlink’s anchor text can also affect your ranking.
  • It’s more important to create quality content and following EAT (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) than the number of backlinks.


If you want to increase your search engine rankings, there is one SEO tactic that you need to use: backlinks.

Backlinks are links on external websites that link back to yours. You might also know them as “inbound links” or “incoming links”. Every backlink acts as a “vote of confidence” from the referring site. If they’re linking to you, they’re showing that your content is trustworthy and will increase your rankings.

So, getting backlinks is the most important SEO factor you should focus on for your website.


If you search for anything to do with SEO, you’re bound to end up on some article on how to up your backlinks.

Hell, at the last Brighton SEO event, 5 of the talks were about link building. Even though it might have been practical and knowledgeable advice, there is a tendency to mislead with this information.

Which leads to the myth that ranking is all about the backlinks. 

And yeah, links do play a role. But they’re not the be-all and end-all. There are a ton of factors that will help your SEO – and there are plenty of things you should be focusing on instead of backlinks.

So, let’s get to work on debunking this myth.

Backlinks do have SEO value

The more quality backlinks you have (i.e. the more links to your website there are), the more credible your site appears. This can help boost your rankings and make your content appear higher in the results page.

Notice the emphasis on quality there. That’s because it’s not just about the number of backlinks you get. Where they come from makes all the difference.

Links from trusted websites is the bullseye you should be aiming for and will give you the biggest boost to your rankings. In contrast, if your backlinks come from low-authority websites, it can drag your website down with them.

That’s why black hat SEO tactics like paid links are a risky play. You’re buying links with no real insight into what kind of website they’re going on.

To get the most SEO benefit, you need backlinks from trusted sources.

Honestly, getting these backlinks is time-consuming. It can be a lot of hard work striking deals with these websites, and even expensive work with some people requesting to be paid for their links. 

And it might not be worth the work. There are other things you should put your time and attention into.

Great SEO means value first 

A great SEO strategy isn’t born out of thin air. It’s a combination of different factors working together.

Some factors are more important than others. Your SEO hierarchy should go like this:

  1. Get your technical SEO elements together
  2. Create valuable and meaningful content 
  3. Build your links 

For the purposes of this article, let’s say you’ve got a fair grasp on your on-site SEO.

From here, you shouldn’t be jumping to backlinks. What you should be focusing on is quality content that your readers are actually interested in.

Quality content is plastered over Google’s webmaster guidelines and at the forefront of their ‘Don’t Be Evil’ mantra.

It was also the focus of their Medic update and, in all likeliness, will influence future core updates.

It’s all quality, quality, quality.

In terms of SEO, your quality pages are the ones that satisfy the EAT acronym. For those unfamiliar, it stands for:

  • Expertise
  • Authority
  • Trustworthiness

In simple terms, you need to provide high-level content that’s accurate and puts your business as a leader in your field. In addition, it needs to be trustworthy and believable. Don’t mislead your visitors or sell them lies. It just doesn’t work.

It may sound hard, but it isn’t as difficult as it sounds. Research into what question your customers are asking – and give them the answers.

On the plus side, if you create content that people actually want to read – chances are they’ll share it naturally. So, you’ll still get your backlinks.

High backlink numbers don’t have a big SEO impact

Backlinks are important for SEO. But out of all the ranking factors out there, it’s not as impactful as you might think.

In Search Engine Land’s Periodic Table Of SEO Factors, they list backlinks as having a weight factor of +1. This means that although they have a positive impact on your SEO, the number of backlinks is not as impactful as other tactics.

Under the links section, it came third behind Value (+3) and Anchors (+2).

SEO value, anchors, and backlinks
SEO value, anchors, and backlinks

This tells us that like we’ve pointed out before, your content comes first. You need to make sure that you’re actually providing useful information that people care about, as this will score you the most SEO points.

Bare in mind, backlinks are ranked so low in this table based on the number alone. We’ve covered this briefly, but it’s a great reminder that getting backlinks anywhere and everywhere possible can have a detrimental effect in the long run if they’re not on high-authority websites.

That’s why the anchor text is more highly valued. This is the physical text that someone uses to link to your website.

So, let’s say Kimmy’s Salon has just released a piece of content on how to correctly balayage hair. The keywords they want to rank for are things like: ‘Balayage’, ‘how to balayage hair’ and ‘the right way to do a hair balayage’. You get the picture.

On another blog about summer winter trends, someone links to this content using the following text:

“Want to get this celebrity hairstyle? Find out how to perfect your balayage”. 

That text includes your keyword. This is good news because when the page is crawled, it gives the robots insight into where the page leads and the content on it. It’s so much more useful than just linking to a brand name like ‘Kimmy’s Salon’.

Having backlinks is great! But the anchor text that is used to link to your website, and the content itself will have a much bigger SEO impact. 

Backlinks aren’t the most important SEO factor

Backlinks are useful. They do help your SEO and should be used. The problem is that they shouldn’t be your only priority.

Backlinks are the cherry on the top of a great SEO strategy cake. But they are not your number one.

If you want to increase your rankings, work on providing valuable, quality content and building a sound SEO strategy.

For more information on backlinks and how they effect your SEO, check out Adzooma’s SEO Performance Report which analyzes your website and identifies immediate actions you can take to improve. The report will show you:

  • The total number of backlinks your website has
  • The number of websites that link to your website
  • Your website authority, which is a score out of 10 to measure the quality & quantity of backlinks to your website

The report is available to all Adzooma users, try the basic version for free to get a taste of what this report can offer. Not an Adzooma user? Sign up for free, here.

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