What does it take to rank well in Google?
Do backlinks matter anymore? Does it really matter if your content is good or not?
Not too long ago I read an exceptional blog post over on Moz.
It is titled:
I HIGHLY encourage you to read it.
The overall concept of the blog post is that it takes 2 things to rank well in Google.
Yes, of course there are what… 200+ ranking signals that Google uses to decide where in their search results to rank a web page for any keyword query, right?
But here’s the thing I think we all agree on:
Just thinking about over 200 things we have to get right is enough to make us crazy and VERY overwhelmed.
What if we only focused on TWO things to help us rank better?
Wouldn’t that be a LOT less overwhelming? I sure think so!
What ARE Those Two Things We Need To Worry About?
I Thought Links Didn’t Matter Anymore?
I know, I know…. there’s a whole lot of conversation going on around the internet stating that backlinks don’t matter to your ranking in Google anymore.
But… according to GOOGLE, that is not true.
What Did Google Say About Backlinks?
Here’s what Google Dublin’s Andrey Lippatsev said in a Hangout that I participated in on March 23, 2016. Also participating in the Hangout was Ammon Johns, who asked Andrey what the two most important ranking factors are:
Andrey Lippatsev (replied):
‘Yes. Absolutely. I can tell you what they are.
It is content and links going into your site.’
There we go, that’s a start. According to Google, it’s links and content that are the two biggest. source
This is the Google Q&A Video Hangout he was speaking of:
So, Links Alone Will Help Me Rank Better?
No, I personally don’t believe backlinks alone are enough.
I agree with this case study, and if your content quality score is low (or bad), there probably aren’t enough links in the world to help you rank really well…
or keep you ranking there.
On the other hand, good content with good links…. yep, now we’re moving up in the search results!
I also believe that Google gives some sort of “Ranking Score” to each document/web page online.
And that ‘Ranking Score’ takes into account both the “Score” of your content and your “Score” for your links that point TO that content.
A “Score” for your content?
Sure, why not? It kinda makes sense, doesn’t it?
Imagine that Google comes to crawl and index your page the first time and while there, it gives your content a “score” – and that score limits how well your content will ever rank as is – no matter how many backlinks you get.
That doesn’t sound too far-fetched of an idea to me.
The case study I read gave this example of 2 different pieces of content online.
Web Page #1:
Link Score of 100
Content Score of 70
Web Page #2:
Link Score of 80
Content Score of 90
With all else being equal, which page of content would rank better?
The one with a better backlink score or the page with the better content score?
According to the case study, the page with the better Content Score would rank better.
I absolutely agree.
Now, that’s not to say you can’t FORCE “bad content” to rank well for a brief time with tons of backlinks, but I don’t believe it will STAY ranking well.
How Can I Use This Info To Rank Better?
If you’d like a web page of yours to rank better, you probably need to either improve the quality of your content, increase your backlinks, or both.
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It’s a funny thing tho – when your content gets better and better, you start attracting better and better links.
But, just getting out there and accumulating all kinds of backlinks is not really the solution to improving your ranking in Google if your content doesn’t truly deserve those links.
What Kind of Backlinks?
Now please understand, I’m not talking about low-quality backlinks here that help your rank better.
I’m talking about those good, relevant, in-content links from reputable sources.
Yep, those types of links are tough to get…and they’re supposed to be hard to get.
However, if your content is really excellent, those links will come.
What About Social Media Links?
Will social media links from sites like Facebook and Twitter help you rank better?
They might in very low-competition markets where the current content is less than stellar and no one is really working to rank better and/or gaining backlinks in any form.
Personally, I don’t think of social media mentions as back links at all.
I call them “Flyer Links”.
What the Heck Are ‘Flyer Links’?
You know how in the “real world” (ie, the offline world), when you open a new business, you go OUT to where your target market is and hand out flyers to help spread the word about your business?
That’s what I think social media links are – Flyer Links.
I am getting out there online and going to where my target audience hangs out and handing out “flyers” to spread the word about my new content.
In the long run, I don’t think social media links directly help or hurt your ranking potential in Google.
BUT, they absolutely help gather traffic from targeted and interested readers.
The amazing traffic I’ve been getting from Pinterest alone has been staggering!
But I’ve never even wondered, or worried about, whether those links from Pinterest help my ranking in Google or not.
And I really don’t care – I’m simply LOVING all the free traffic I am getting!
Can Backlinks HURT Your Ranking in Google?
Let me answer whether backlinks can hurt your ranking in Google with a question.
If there really is a Content Score, and Google comes by, crawls your content, and gives it a BAD content score.
Don’t you think it would be really odd, ie, a RED FLAG, if that bad content suddenly gained all kinds of backlinks?
I sure do.
Don’t you think it would be VERY easy for Google to program a “LOW Content Score but lots of links” type of penalty?
Again, I sure do.
If you know how to pick a good, low-competition keyword to target, and your content is on a solid domain, really good content should be pretty darn easy to rank fairly well on its own.
Backlinks help, in my opinion, to push up good content in Google rankings.
What Do YOU Think?
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