Is inbound links the #1 ranking factor?

28 replies
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I have been over several lists of factors that influence the rank of any particular keyword. Lets use Google as an example. It seems that their PR value is based on a number of things like traffic volume, keyword density, age of domain, inbound links, and the list goes on. Which is the most important ranking factor?
#factor #inbound #links #ranking
  • Profile picture of the author WPMaker
    If anybody would know that then they would be working for google or something
    All of the factors are important, some maybe more some maybe less but I can say that one of the most powerful ranking factors are high PR relevant links from content related to your website topic/keywords you want to rank for.
    Keep in mind that PR itself don't guarantee that you will rank high.
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  • Profile picture of the author aliduncan
    Originally Posted by AndrewAdamSmith View Post

    I have been over several lists of factors that influence the rank of any particular keyword. Lets use Google as an example. It seems that their PR value is based on a number of things like traffic volume, keyword density, age of domain, inbound links, and the list goes on. Which is the most important ranking factor?
    The PR of a webpage is based purely on inbound links.

    Where your site appears in the SERP is what takes many different factors into account.
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  • Profile picture of the author LiftMyRank
    Yes I would say inbound links are the #1 ranking factor as you can have the best site in the world, but with no links are you aren't going to rank high for any decent term, on the other hand you can have a half baked blog but with good links you'll rank...
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  • Profile picture of the author TomerN
    in my experience the most important ranking factor is domain trust and domain authority. if google trusts your domain all your pages will be a lot easier to rank. think of how often you search for a keyword and a high authority page ranks even though they don't really do a lot of on-page SEO optimization.
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    • Profile picture of the author micksss
      Originally Posted by TomerN View Post

      in my experience the most important ranking factor is domain trust and domain authority. if google trusts your domain all your pages will be a lot easier to rank. think of how often you search for a keyword and a high authority page ranks even though they don't really do a lot of on-page SEO optimization.
      And those two factors are determined by inbound links.
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      • Profile picture of the author danparks
        Originally Posted by TomerN View Post

        in my experience the most important ranking factor is domain trust and domain authority. if google trusts your domain all your pages will be a lot easier to rank. think of how often you search for a keyword and a high authority page ranks even though they don't really do a lot of on-page SEO optimization.
        Originally Posted by micksss View Post

        And those two factors are determined by inbound links.
        Correct. A Google staff member isn't looking at each site and determining if it's trustworthy. It's all algorithmic. If you believe in something like "trust" here, then it has to be based on a forumula, or certain factors. The PR of a page might be thought of as Google's trust in it, and PR is based on inbound links. So, a page's PR is based on incoming links.

        Search rankings for a page aren't determined by that page's own PR, but are determined in large part by the PR of the pages with incoming links.

        So, too a large extent, a lot depends on getting incoming links from high PR pages.
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  • Profile picture of the author smodha
    Links to your site with relevancy and trust is the number #1 ranking factor in my opinion. It outweighs content every time. Using this method will future proof your sites against G updates.

    At this moment in time, you can rank with non relevant links but that could change.
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  • Profile picture of the author Wesley Atkins
    Links are the most important when it comes to ranking your sites, but it needs to be the right links.

    Authority and Trust is what wins in the search algorithm, and this can only be gained by getting the right links.
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  • Profile picture of the author InitialEffort
    All these are important in getting to the number 1 spot. Having valuable and unique content, diversified keywords (to avoid overoptimization), acquiring links from various authority domains with low OBL, etc. are one of the key factors for higher ranking.
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    • Profile picture of the author scottmacair
      You should re-phrase your question a little -

      Are authoritative inbound links the #1 ranking factor? Yes

      Are a inbound links the #1 ranking factor? if they're authoritative then yes and if they are considered part of a link scheme then they are the #1 reason for not ranking.
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  • Profile picture of the author Justin Says
    In my opinion links are BS in most cases...

    The onsite optimization is the #1 ranking factor in almost every scenario.

    With onsite optimization you can have barely ANY links at all and still rank high versus competitors who have poor onsite optimization and thousands of links. I've done it hundreds of times.

    The beauty of this though.. is that most people are so focused on getting backlinks they don't even care about their onsite optimization or anything really.. So it gives us legit website masters an upperhand

    Now if you combine the 2, of course you're going to get an even better outcome, but the only real instances I see backlinks playing a MASSIVE factor is when you search terms like "Click Here" and see adobe.
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    • Profile picture of the author rjames
      Originally Posted by Justin Lewis View Post

      In my opinion links are BS in most cases...

      The onsite optimization is the #1 ranking factor in almost every scenario.

      With onsite optimization you can have barely ANY links at all and still rank high versus competitors who have poor onsite optimization and thousands of links. I've done it hundreds of times.

      The beauty of this though.. is that most people are so focused on getting backlinks they don't even care about their onsite optimization or anything really.. So it gives us legit website masters an upperhand

      Now if you combine the 2, of course you're going to get an even better outcome, but the only real instances I see backlinks playing a MASSIVE factor is when you search terms like "Click Here" and see adobe.
      meh...cant totally agree really. While I will agree that onsite optimization is important (which can literally be learned in 20 minutes...all you need is the basics to tell Google what your site is about...super super simple...not rocket science like most try to make it on here), the most important thing to getting a FAST ranking (as in a few days max) is back links...thats what moves your site immediately.

      backlinks is a broad generalization...all backlinks arent equal...what Im talking about is high PR relevant backlinks...

      but like you said, doing both (backlinks and on-page) is the most optimal for achieving great results, but if I had to say which is the most important, its backlinks...especially for a competitive keyword...

      Now, on site optimization alone CAN work...but in most cases you will work your ass off for weeks and weeks on one site and hope it ranks eventually.

      For me, Id rather have my brand new site on the first page of Google in a week tops with nothing on the page but 2 sentences, a picture, a youtube video, a link to an authority site, and some basic on-page factors...then when it ranks, build out the site with great content to make visitors stick around...no sense in wasting hours and hours building the site until it proves it can rank...
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      • Profile picture of the author Justin Says
        Originally Posted by rjames View Post

        meh...cant totally agree really. While I will agree that onsite optimization is important (which can literally be learned in 20 minutes...all you need is the basics to tell Google what your site is about...super super simple...not rocket science like most try to make it on here), the most important thing to getting a FAST ranking (as in a few days max) is back links...thats what moves your site immediately.

        backlinks is a broad generalization...all backlinks arent equal...what Im talking about is high PR relevant backlinks...

        but like you said, doing both (backlinks and on-page) is the most optimal for achieving great results, but if I had to say which is the most important, its backlinks...especially for a competitive keyword...

        Now, on site optimization alone CAN work...but in most cases you will work your ass off for weeks and weeks on one site and hope it ranks eventually.

        For me, Id rather have my brand new site on the first page of Google in a week tops with nothing on the page but 2 sentences, a picture, a youtube video, a link to an authority site, and some basic on-page factors...then when it ranks, build out the site with great content to make visitors stick around...no sense in wasting hours and hours building the site until it proves it can rank...
        Yep and I wasn't saying that onsite is the only thing you should focus on, if anything you should focus on traffic versus just the backlinks themselves anyways.

        But I will say that I have built plenty of websites that have ranked #1 or in top 5 within less than 2 hours with no backlinks whatsoever and they have stayed in that position.

        Proper onsite optimization can go a lot further than many think And you might say "it can be learned in 20 minutes" but let's be real... people don't use common sense. Common sense is less common than anything from what I see. So although you might think it can learned in a few minutes, most people just don't and then put all their eggs into backlinking which they waste their time at versus spending time into building direct traffic (which btw builds a backlink anyways).
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        • Profile picture of the author rjames
          Originally Posted by Justin Lewis View Post

          And you might say "it can be learned in 20 minutes" but let's be real... people don't use common sense. Common sense is less common than anything from what I see. So although you might think it can learned in a few minutes, most people just don't and then put all their eggs into backlinking which they waste their time at versus spending time into building direct traffic (which btw builds a backlink anyways).
          true brotha!
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    • Profile picture of the author paulgl
      Inbound links are not the #1 thing. Period.
      That myth ranks link sellers rich.

      Relevance, authority, trust, etc. rank much higher than inbound links.

      Sometimes page SEO matters, but not always. Wikipedia, craigslist,
      yahoo answers, are all full of crap. Okay, one could argue the site structure
      is SEO optimized. Maybe. Ditto the WF. These threads have zero links,
      crappy text, junk links, and yet, continue to rank high. Why? It aint
      the inbound links. That should get people thinking. I talk about it all
      the time: Internal linking, loads of content, site structure (which, I
      admit, includes a little SEO like title optimization).

      If your site exists and is indexed, it's fair game for google SERPs.
      Nobody searches exactly the same way, at exactly the same time,
      from the same place, for the exact same thing. I check my cpanel
      stats. I see that 100 latest visitors searched for 75 different phrases.

      Paul
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      • Profile picture of the author nik0
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        Originally Posted by paulgl View Post

        Relevance, authority, trust, etc. rank much higher than inbound links.

        I talk about it all the time: Internal linking, loads of content, site structure (which, I admit, includes a little SEO like title optimization).
        Lol, where do you think the authority & trust signals come from? Right, inbound links. Internal links aren't worth sh!t when there is no link juice from outside.
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    • Profile picture of the author pixelrage
      Originally Posted by Justin Lewis View Post

      With onsite optimization you can have barely ANY links at all and still rank high
      If this was early 2012 the latest, I'd totally agree. As for the current day, I completely disagree.

      Any *new* website -- optimized, content rich and looking/functioning well, newly released and starting from square one on the internet, has little to no chance of being seen in Google because of what Google has become.

      Backlinks are always the #1 most exploitable factor, I've seen it with my own two eyes doing consulting jobs for companies looking to rank for certain keywords, and performing reverse analyses on their competitor's sites.

      TextLinkAds & other "paid dofollow link" services, closed-off blog farms run off of different C-class servers, various other black hat linkwheel methods, you name it. Want the rankings? Shell out the $1,000s/mo for the good links...big brands can do it - at-home entrepreneurs can't.

      Unfortunately, that's the name of the game, and Google, for the most part, still does nothing about it even though they so vehemently preach against it.
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      • Profile picture of the author Justin Says
        Originally Posted by pixelrage View Post

        If this was early 2012 the latest, I'd totally agree. As for the current day, I completely disagree.

        Any *new* website -- optimized, content rich and looking/functioning well, newly released and starting from square one on the internet, has little to no chance of being seen in Google because of what Google has become.

        Backlinks are always the #1 most exploitable factor, I've seen it with my own two eyes doing consulting jobs for companies looking to rank for certain keywords, and performing reverse analyses on their competitor's sites.

        TextLinkAds & other "paid dofollow link" services, closed-off blog farms run off of different C-class servers, various other black hat linkwheel methods, you name it. Want the rankings? Shell out the $1,000s/mo for the good links...big brands can do it - at-home entrepreneurs can't.

        Unfortunately, that's the name of the game, and Google, for the most part, still does nothing about it even though they so vehemently preach against it.
        Yea..

        See you are immediately stating that it's nearly impossible, yet I did it just the other day..

        I think above anything you might just be thinking that suddenly Google changed massively and nothing went back?

        The reason for huge updates in many cases is to scare the hell out of SEO's and get rid of junk content. But many of those updates also get reversed.

        I'm not saying I'm some SEO genius that figured out the perfect solution, but I am saying that you are giving far too little credit to this specific method. It still works.
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        • Profile picture of the author pixelrage
          Depends what it's for - if we're talking about targeting some 4 or 5 word longtail, sure, it's possible. If you're looking to go after a 2 or 3-word keyword (a significant one that converts sales), there isn't a chance in hell that it can be done, even with the best brand new site on earth.
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      • Profile picture of the author thenewseo
        Originally Posted by pixelrage View Post

        If this was early 2012 the latest, I'd totally agree. As for the current day, I completely disagree.

        Any *new* website -- optimized, content rich and looking/functioning well, newly released and starting from square one on the internet, has little to no chance of being seen in Google because of what Google has become.

        Backlinks are always the #1 most exploitable factor, I've seen it with my own two eyes doing consulting jobs for companies looking to rank for certain keywords, and performing reverse analyses on their competitor's sites.

        TextLinkAds & other "paid dofollow link" services, closed-off blog farms run off of different C-class servers, various other black hat linkwheel methods, you name it. Want the rankings? Shell out the $1,000s/mo for the good links...big brands can do it - at-home entrepreneurs can't.

        Unfortunately, that's the name of the game, and Google, for the most part, still does nothing about it even though they so vehemently preach against it.
        Hi, PixelRage - I just started a group/discussion along the lines of what you are talking about or experiencing - that Google is still, as it seems, not truly or 100% following what it preaches - as you say... on another relevant topic, I was wondering if you could share anything about that at WarriorForum - Internet Marketing Forums - Solving SEO -- would really appreciate that. Tnx in advance!
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  • Profile picture of the author patco
    Yes... and those links are our success! They help us the most for SERP!
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  • Profile picture of the author thenewseo
    Niko - is on the dot! An additional comment I would like to add to Niko`s is that inbound links aren`t everything like it used to be; internal links, when played correctly perform a certain optimization task- (like a farmer would irrigate his field to bring more water into important areas/pages), but without some good inbound links, the site would go unnoticed because it proves that you may have good content but where is the human network?.. ..
    In other words there is no water supply from an external environment. (hope it makes sense with all this farmer and water irrigation analogy).

    I would also like to add that inbound links aren`t the #1 factor currently. Its a mixture of inbound links, page load and other on-page issues, content and content recognition. And if I had my choice I would choose content and its recognition anytime than inbound links, inbound links do come organically but it takes a lot of time and a tremendous amount of follow through. But once its there - that's when magic happens!
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  • Profile picture of the author Slin
    In my experience links are a huge factor. They aren't the only one, but yeah, I don't think I could get the traffic that I do without building links.

    They aren't the only factor, but they make a huge difference, I mean when I look at my competitors, all of them build links, it's just a part of SEO that you have to deal with.

    But if you also think you can rank only with links...well then I have a bridge to sell to you
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  • Profile picture of the author alvinchua91
    Inbound links definitely is the most important, assuming you don't other SEO mistakes elsewhere.
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  • Profile picture of the author Backlinko
    The simplified Google algorithm:

    Trust + Authority + Relevancy

    All 200 Google ranking factors revolve around those three things.

    Inbound links falls under the "authority" category. Definitely a factor -- and at one point it was #1 -- but I think that trust signals and the authority/relevancy of your linking domains may be #1 and #2 right now.
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    • Profile picture of the author Justin Says
      Originally Posted by Backlinko View Post

      The simplified Google algorithm:

      Trust + Authority + Relevancy

      All 200 Google ranking factors revolve around those three things.

      Inbound links falls under the "authority" category. Definitely a factor -- and at one point it was #1 -- but I think that trust signals and the authority/relevancy of your linking domains may be #1 and #2 right now.
      I seriously respect the fact that your username on the forum is Backlinko and yet you aren't just promoting backlinks as the #1 factor. Most people are biased into thinking whatever they want in order to promote their signature in forums, so I give a lot of respect for that.
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      • Profile picture of the author Backlinko
        Originally Posted by Justin Lewis View Post

        I seriously respect the fact that your username on the forum is Backlinko and yet you aren't just promoting backlinks as the #1 factor. Most people are biased into thinking whatever they want in order to promote their signature in forums, so I give a lot of respect for that.
        Thanks Justin!

        I should point out that a lot of the trust and authority I spoke of is via links.
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  • Profile picture of the author Demetrius
    Inboudn links are still a very important ranking factor. It builds the reputation of your website in the eyes of search engines. I would say content and inbound linking both are equally important ranking factors. Though sometimes, for some special keywords content beats linking .
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