SEO and backlinks go together like bread and butter.
You can’t have one without the other.
(Well, you can—but on their own, they don’t taste that great.)
For that reason, every conversation about SEO involves backlinks in one way or another.
It’s not ground-breaking news that it’s near enough impossible to rank without them.
But why are backlinks so important, exactly?
What makes these little virtual connections so critical to ranking in organic search—and how are they powerful enough to skyrocket a page from the unexplored depths of page 64 to pride of place on page one?
Luckily for you, I’ve got the answers.
I’ve got four of them, in fact.
Why Are Backlinks Important? 4 Reasons Why They’ve Got the SEO Juice
So, are you ready to get your learnin’ on?
No need to pencil in a two-hour chunk of your day to understand exactly why backlinks are important. You’ll only need a few minutes to get the lowdown!
1. Backlinks Are How Google Finds New Pages
The simplest explanation behind the “why are backlinks important?” question is this: They’re how Google spiders find new pages.
Just like we’d use a map to find our way to new cities, Google spiders use backlinks to find, crawl and index pages on your website.
Think about it: You’re much more likely to find a new city if it’s connected to other cities, right? A tiny city that sits in the middle of nowhere could take a while—if you manage to discover it, at all.
What does that mean? Well, lots of backlinks give you a better chance of being found quickly.
That leads to faster indexing, and higher rankings, in a shorter period of time.
Because backlinks are Google’s internet navigation tool, building a bunch of them to your website helps to boost the average time it takes for SEO to work.
(On average, that could be anywhere from 4-6 months.)
Not to cut corners, but we’d all like to see faster rankings, right? With high-quality, relevant backlinks, you can speed up the SERPs the right way.
2. Backlinks Are Google’s Reputation Management Tool
Unfortunately, Google isn’t human. Although the algorithm was created (and is manned) by actual people, the software doesn’t have a human brain.
Granted, that can have advantages—but they’re playing catch-up when determining which sites are worthy of high rankings.
You see, backlinks are important because they’re used as Google’s reputation tool. Since their main aim is to point searchers in the direction of the best possible result for their query, they won’t point searchers in the direction of a site that’s writing to crickets.
Instead, they want to point them to a popular website—because a popular website means it has a good reputation and can be trusted.
(Sorry, Joan Jett. You still need to give a damn about your online reputation!)
To put this into context, try it out yourself. Which of these sites would you trust more?
1. A site with three backlinks
2. A site with 300+ backlinks
I’ll bet you chose the second option.
I, the person reading this article after you, and Google would all have the same answer—simply because we all think of popular, backlink-rich websites as more trustworthy.
3. Relevant Backlinks Boost Your Credibility
Following on from the explanation of Google wanting to show the highest quality results for a user’s search query, backlinks are also important because they boost credibility.
Here’s what I mean:
If a car manufacturer has a backlink profile with inbound links from automotive blogs and car news sites, you’d think they were more credible, right? If others in their industry are linking to their content, it can be safely assumed that they must be sharing something of value.
However, if a car manufacturer were to fill their backlink profile with links from pet blogs and food stores, it’d have the opposite effect.
Google would think, “Hmm… Is this website really an authoritative source in the automotive industry?”—and that second-take is what could cost you those all-important rankings.
Remember: Google uses backlinks to determine your online reputation.
Collecting backlinks from any place you can get your hands on, especially if it’s not relevant, won’t do you any favors.
In fact, it could have the opposite effect—and see you penalized by Google.