Is Link Building Necessary To Rank High In The SERPs

- | 58 Aha! comments | Posted in category: Blogging

Graph showing rising SERPs by links earned with content

Is link building the most effective and powerful way of making a site rank high in the SERPs? I know many of you would say yes, and though I’d like to say no, I agree it is partly true, in the present scenario.

But may be not for very long.

I do not think links are the perfect criteria for site ranking. Having said that, I accept that we cannot ignore the reality that links are so important and valuable in today’s blogosphere.

I’ve often read people write that links are like votes and Google considers them as proof of the site’s authority and popularity.

Yes, that’s true. Google devised such a ranking system to make the quality blogs stand apart.

However, most of you also know that the ranking system based on links is abused and gamed by the experts.

Google is trying to clean and tame it, but you know people find their way.

So, what does a common and normal blogger do?

Should the blogger sacrifice the valuable time of creating useful content that could help many people, and instead indulge in the tedious and sometimes corrupt practice of achieving links from other sites and blogs?

I know there are many bloggers like Harleena, who just do not have the time to devote for link building.

They would rather spend that time writing an impressive post or promote the posts written by others and their own, on social media.

Besides, they strongly believe in blog commenting, and do that by responding to people who visit their blogs or visit other blogs to develop real relationships.

Do you think after doing this much you will have any time left?

So, where does the solution lie? Should a blogger then hire a SEO specialist or a link agent to build the links to his or her blog to make it in the top SERPSs?

“According to Wikipedia, a search engine results page (SERP) is the listing of results returned by a search engine in response to a keyword query.”

Some would say that link building is an integral part of the entire process of blogging and you cannot wish it away. You should consider it as one of the basics of blogging.

Is it so? Do you also think the same? Can’t we do without intentional and proactive link building to top the SERPs?

So, let’s just put it across simply – is link building necessary? Do more links make your site qualitative?

Let’s understand the whole affair before coming to any conclusions.

Link Building and the Democratic Process

Voting is inherently a democratic process.

You vote for the candidate who you think is the right choice. It is another thing that sometimes people vote in favor of a candidate to seek some personal benefit, so it more or less becomes a bargain.

The candidates too lobby and campaign to win votes. They try every trick in the bag to get on the top of the list.

So, in this entire democratic process, which seems and sounds fair, many undeserving candidates also make their way in the top list because of their money and influencing power.

I never liked such an election process that does not truly draw out the most deserving candidates.

The same happens in the blogosphere. Webmasters and bloggers can buy votes or links even if their content is not top notch, and rank high.

This is not fair.

Google tried to stop such linking malpractices through its various animal and other updates or reformatory measures, but it does not deny the fact the links still matter and they are in fact the indication of any site’s online reputation.

Decline of Link Building

You have to accept the fact that Google has in some way been successful in stopping the abuse of links.

Nobody wants to be penalized for giving a “dofollow” link for an advertisement or paid links, or include unrelated commercial links in the content, or use over-optimized anchor texts for links on the sites or blogs.

With the devaluing of links obtained through guest posts, press releases, forum signatures, and other various ways, you can see the decline in link building practice.

Check out this Google Trends graph about the interest over time of the term “link building”.

Google Trends is a public web facility of Google Inc., based on Google Search, that shows how often a particular search-term is entered relative to the total search-volume across various regions of the world, and in various languages.”

Basically, Google Trends is all “keyword” data but since it taps into the Google Knowledge Graph, it can provide a good idea about the real picture with near accurate results.

Link building Google trends

The decline of the search for “link building” around the world started somewhere at the start of 2012, when it had reached its peak in popularity.

You know that Panda was launched in last week of February, 2011 and the complete rollout took a period of about a couple of months. But the Panda devastating streak continued, and still continues!

Google Penguin was launched in last week of April, 2012 and that was the final blow. “Link building” was never the same and it began to lose its glory.

Link building regional interest

As you can see from the map, the term “link building” is very popular in the sub-continent, which is India and Pakistan. It is still of interest to people all around the world.

So, link building hasn’t completely vanished, it has just toned down a bit.

Let’s see the state of interest in another popular term, “backlinks”.

Backlinks Google Trends

You observe a high drop in its global interest since the latter half of 2011. This time Bangladesh and Pakistan top the trends for “backlinks”.

Okay, now if link building and backlinks are the global declining trends, then what is rising?

Rise of Alternatives to Link Building

Link building is an offsite phenomenon or part of the off-page SEO. This is something that you try to achieve on or from other sites.

The strict Google regulations and prevailing conditions made people pay more attention to the internal matters of their sites.

This gave rise to the importance of onsite factors or on-page SEO.

Onpage Seo Google Trends

Though the term “on page seo” has been in use for a long time and getting increasingly popular, the terms “onsite seo” and “on-page seo” gained popularity soon after mid-May 2011. That’s the Google impact.

The smart and wise bloggers and SEO experts understood the signals and took the lead to adapt to the new way to top the SERPs.

They started paying more attention to have quality content that served the visitors more than the search bots, and other on-site factors as well.

It was clear that if you wrote good and quality content, other bloggers or sites would link to you either by mentioning you or by giving reference to your articles. This was the new way of link building.

No, link building is not dead. Not for Google at least.

Even if it’s not for the sake of link building or SEO, the webmasters and bloggers will continue to use them.

That’s because they serve a good purpose of directing the users or readers to where they want them to go, giving a direction and meaning to their browsing experience. In other words, links are good for navigational purposes.

Nevertheless, there has been a change in the nature of links that site owners prefer now for SEO purposes.

Types and Priority of Backlinks

First, Google introduced the concept of “nofollow” links in 2005 to stop comment spam in blogs. From 2009 onwards, the “nofollow” links stopped contributing to the Google PageRank.

But even the “dofollow” links started to lose their gleam after the Google Panda update.

Dofollow Google Trends

Now, when you talk of dofollow and comments, how can I not mention one of the favorite plugin of many bloggers, CommentLuv.

CommentLuv plugin gives your visitors the option of including any of the two types of post links – nofollow backlinks and dofollow backlinks (if enabled or eligible), with their comments, besides the comment URL link.

With recent web developments, CommentLuv links are not much sought after and you can observe that from this Google Trends graph.

Commentluv Google Trends

Commenting is basically for relationship building and should not be considered as a link building activity.

CommentLuv links do help bring traffic to your site, but I’ve something else for you to consider for blog promotion and boosting site traffic at the end of the post. Read on!

The point here is that low quality backlinks are losing their importance and demand. The types of backlinks that can be considered as low quality are as follows:

  • Sidebar links
  • Footer links
  • Comment links
  • Profile links
  • Forum signature links

Since these types of links have been abused a lot, and now Google does not give much importance to them.

Here is a complete list of backlinks that can violate Google guidelines if you’re not careful with using them.

However, do remember to make the links “nofollow” if they are paid links or linking out to your advertisers. You are generally not at much risk using the “nofollow” links.

Read more about Google’s link scheme guidelines here.

So, which type of link is the “King of backlinks”?

Watch this short video of Matt Cutts, who tells you which links are important and which are not.


SEO Hosting – Matt Cutts on Quality Links & Link Building ~ YouTube Video

“Did you know that the number of linking root domains is stronger than the raw number of links your site has.”

Editorial Links

Okay, the king of backlinks are the backlinks that you get from within the content of the posts. That is the editorial links, and it should be your priority when you work towards acquiring links.

Comment links are worthless in comparison to editorial links.

Link agents and some SEO experts abuse the editorial links too by asking the bloggers to include their irrelevant links within the content of the post and with the anchor text of their preference.

Of course, they offer monetary compensation for this favor, so these become paid links. Bloggers need to be very careful and should avoid selling the editorial links if they are unrelated or purely commercial or use a keyword-rich anchor text that can invite Google’s wrath.

The reason being that Google is probably able to track such links as the same link agent approaches multiple blogs creating a pattern.

If this were a “dofollow” link, then Google might even serve a penalty to the blogger.

Instead of buying, these links can be easily earned. That’s right, the new alternative to link building is link earning!

“Did you know that site internal linking and hub pages can help sustain or boost the site’s rankings? Here’s a perfect study to help you learn the importance of internal link building.”

Blogger happy with rising SERPs

Link Earning – The Best Way of Link Building

Will you give your vote for a person who offers you money in exchange? Will you support a person who does not deserve to become a leader?

Of course not. You know you are a responsible person and it’s your responsibility to elect the right leaders for the betterment of the society.

You will vote for a person who you believe is capable and worthy to be a leader. The candidate has to earn your vote by proving his or her awesomeness.

Similarly, if you want to top the SERPs, you should earn the links.

How do you earn links?

That’s simple – create great content!

This content should be helpful and useful. It’d be even better if the content is impressive and awesome. It should entice the blogger, who in turn is compelled to mention you in his or her post.

Really, this is the way Harleena has worked her way up. She never indulged in link building. All she did was create awesome content.

She also built relationships, either through blog commenting or social media. So, that added up to make her content reach to masses and work wonders.

As a result, many bloggers mention her in their posts and you can check some of them in the About page of Aha!NOW.

Even unknown site owners and bloggers have included Harleena’s post in their articles as references because these articles are comprehensive – full of information and knowledge.

So, here’s the equation:

Awesome Content + Real Relationships = Links Earned (Mentions)

Believe me this is going to work. Link earning is becoming a popular term, see to believe it!

Link earning Google trends

These mentions are the natural or organic backlinks that Matt Cutts keeps talking about. This is what he says:

“The best way to obtain links to your site is through writing compelling content so that way others can write about it and ultimately link to it. A shareable experience can lead to a stronger presence in a SERP, something that we don’t think is stressed enough to new online marketers and business owners alike.”

I believe this is a hint that Matt gives us because he knows that eventually the links are going to go away.

That’s right. Haven’t you observed that links are becoming less important. To give another blow to link building, Google is bringing in the concept of “co-occurrence” and “co-citations”.


Let me explain this point to you through an example.

You want to buy a new mobile. You approach a friend and he mentions a brand to you. It is more likely that you’ll be influenced by the mere mention rather than the various Ads you see flashing around.

Mentions are powerful. These are like the editorial links, minus the “link”.

If you hear the same mention by more than one person, your trust towards the mentioned will grow- and why not? If many people tell you the same thing, they cannot all be wrong.

Obviously, that mentioned thing is important, relevant, and valuable.

You know Google has been developing the “Knowledge Graph” since 2012.

“The Knowledge Graph is a knowledge base used by Google to enhance its search engine’s search results with semantic-search information gathered from a wide variety of sources.”

Soon you’ll hear that Google has developed the capability, such that if you mention “Harleena’s blog”, it will understand this means “Aha!NOW” without having to follow any “link”.

More things that are interesting are going to happen sooner than we think. The mentions by others with or without links are going to go in your favor.

This makes content more relevant and important than anything else does.

While Google reinstated content as the “king”, and downgraded backlinks – the humble “jack”, the Russians got rid of this jack altogether and instead highlighted the “queen” – the visitor behavior.

Building a Linkless Web

Early this year in April 2014, the Russian search engine “Yandex” – decided to stop using links as their primary ranking factor.

Instead, they started focusing more on the user behavior and metrics. This includes the following:

  • The time a user spends on the site
  • Page views per user
  • Bounce rate
  • Click through rate

There are many ranking factors that completely define and track the user behavior to help list the sites that people like the most.

You also get such data from your Google Analytics or Alexa ranking stats too. However, Alexa has its limitations because it only takes data from users who’ve the Alexa toolbar installed in their browsers. Read this post to know more.

Did you know that Google considers more than 200 ranking factors and Yandex has over 800 ranking factors to facilitate in creating the SERPs.”

So again, the webmaster and bloggers become powerful because all the magic can be done on-page or onsite.

You can increase the chances of getting your site in the top ranks by making the visitor experience better. The user satisfaction as evident by your site metrics will be an important criteria.

However, the Russian experiment is still ongoing and limited to a small region, it still does not completely rule out the importance and use of links.

The world awaits the results of their experiment. There are contradictory reports from Google about the entire linkless affair.

Some posts report that Google thinks this experiment will be a failure, while some reports indicate that Google too is inching towards a linkless SEO and web.

Listen to what Matt Cutts has to say about links becoming less prominent in a few years.


Will backlinks lose their importance in ranking? ~ YouTube Video

One thing is sure that you can’t just depend on the links. Suppose you did a fabulous job at link building, but the visitors have a bad experience visiting your site.

This would directly and adversely affect your ranking, and make your link building practice turn futile.

Also, know that majority of site visitors are simply surfers and they do not own a website or blog. They have nothing to do with links.

All they are concerned with is quality content and good experience on the site.

Eventually it’s all about the visitors. Links may send the visitor your way, but your site’s awesomeness will be decided by user experience of the visitor.

“If you’re a beginner and want to know all about link building, especially what to do or not to do, here’s your resource.”

Broaded – Blog Traffic without Links

Talking of traffic, it reminds me of CommentLuv. Some bloggers use the CommentLuv links to drive back traffic to their site through them.

For this to happen, they have to visit blogs, leave comments and drop their CommentLuv links.

You have an alternate option to drive traffic to your blog.

Now you can use BroadedNet, which can bring traffic to your blog without any involvement of the search engines or social media.

Simply save yourself time, as you don’t even need to build links, practice SEO, or visit blogs to get visitor traffic.

Just download a plugin, place a widget in the sidebar or footer, create a campaign, and sit tight!

Broaded works on credit system. The more links people click on the Broaded widget on your blog, the more credits you gain. You can use these credits to create your campaign, and have your links on hundreds of other blogs. Sweet and simple. 🙂

It is an awesome plugin created by Enstine, the one who recently introduced the MyCommentAuthors plugin to honor the commentators on your blog.

Okay, here’s an illustration of how Broaded works:

Broaded Working

Say no to links and yes to traffic. Broaded aggregates the traffic from its huge network and delivers it to you based on your declared requirements.

So, leave you traffic and blog promotion worries and get down to creating awesome content and earn the golden editorial links!


You can also promote your blog posts at the Aha!NOW Blog Community (ABC) and get return visits from the community members and visitors of Aha!NOW.

A new feature is going to start at the blog, especially for the ABC members. It is called the GEMS of Aha!NOW, where GEMS stands for “Gregarious and Engaging Member Spotlight”.

gems of different colors

Every month, we’ll identify the most engaging and interactive community members and mention them in a special post.

We love giving and this is yet another way to give back to our wonderful community members. 🙂

Now that you made so much of effort to read the entire post, you deserve something special. Here’s is MOZ’s All-New Beginner’s Guide to Link building.

It’s a complete step-by-step guide to earn backlinks. If you’re an linkbuilding enthusiast, you’re going to love it.

Last word from me – links may not always be there. So prepare yourself to make your blog valuable and rank high in the SERPs in the linkless web of the future.

Write content that solves problems, answers questions, helps people, and makes you an expert. A perfect mix of authority and popularity along with great visitor experience at your blog will enable you to seek higher ranks.

Now, even the common and normal bloggers can make the best of their time and even earn quality backlinks by creating great content without having to worry about link building.

I can vouch for this because I’ve seen Harleena successfully do it.

Are you ready to take the challenge?

Share Your Thoughts –

What are your thoughts about link building? Do you think links will always be necessary to rank high in the SERPs? How would you earn your backlinks? Do you believe a linkless web is possible and practical?

Photo Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos

Show Comments

58 Comments - Read and share thoughts

  1. Fat Lester

    2017-02-15 at 6:32 am

    Google has been using CTR and bounce rate for years now in addition to links and on-page factors. I can’t prove it, I have no “sources,” but that said I’ve seen enough anecdotal evidence first-hand to determine that this is in-fact the case.

    Links are nowhere nearly as important as they once were, but relevant and authoritative links most certainly are still important. IMO, visitor behavior (CTR, bounce rate, how much time a user spends on a site, whether they hit the “back” button or not, etc.) is one of the more important factors involved.

  2. LH Louis

    2016-11-18 at 7:20 am

    There are definitely many factors combined in order to improve SERPs, and it’s a good balance use of every single ranking factors also. Link building works well to Brian Dean. Making site nature and friendly to users could definitely get a boost.

    Very often if we’re too caught up with ranking on Google and we might need to focus on producing content that brings result to readers.

  3. mitesh bairwa

    2015-05-25 at 12:14 am

    this is very valuable content as blogger i really appreciate it its really helpful

  4. Ashvin

    2015-04-03 at 8:22 am

    This is an excellent post on Link building. Just like you said Google has changed it method on ranking websites. Google’s favorite sites are those that educate and engage users

  5. Bo Tipton

    2015-01-27 at 9:23 pm

    It only makes sense that search engines evolve so that good content becomes king. I have been online since Google first came along and I remember when people would put up content that made no sense at all, get a bunch of links and get ranked because of the link. They had a product to sell and made money getting ranked doing that as content was not important popularity was.

    I even remember when people would put content on their website using white colored font on a white background to fool the search engines. The only thing that actually showed was whatever product was being sold but the search engine saw the writing that was in white.

    The evolution to search engines looking at content has been long and is worth it. What good is information on the Internet if it is junk. Sites like this that have good helpful ever-changing information will not have to worry no matter how search engines change.

    Do I think that having a link free site is practical? No! I do believe that links need to be built organically and not by someone selling links or a piece of software.

    I for one like the changes in the search engines and think they were necessary. Have good content and quality back links into your site and search engine updates will only help you as it removes competition that are trying to game the system.

  6. siddaiah Thirupati

    2015-01-27 at 2:50 pm

    Hi Vinay,
    I never heard of today i am going to check it, GEM program for Aha-Now users is great idea, link earning is important rather than trying link building.
    lot of people are trying to get traffic by commenting on commentluv enabled sites, anyway this is good article about link building VS link earning thank for sharing this article.

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Is Link Building Necessary To Rank High In The SERPs

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