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Backlinks, The Red-Headed Step Child – Are They Still Good for SEO in 2018?

Poor SEO. Over the last few years consumer behavior has tossed it around like a red-headed step child. Back in the day good search engine optimization resulted in both organic ranking and more sales.

Why? Because ranking landing pages that put buyers in touch with sales teams or that presented great offers was enough to get buyers to part with their cash. Those days are long gone.

2017 saw a massive shift in the way buyers engaged with brands and products. According to a May 2017 study by Retail Drive, more than 65% of buyers engage in online product research before entering a physical store.

The study also found that of those buyers who solely make in-store purchases, two-thirds engage in thorough online research before making a purchase. The majority of these people are male shoppers between the ages of 25 and 34 years.


This data goes to show there is an amplified need for businesses to optimize their digital experiences. So, people can find them and get all the information they need to make an educated decision.

Buyers also need to be nurtured with customized content that speaks to the pains behind their need to make a purchase. The best inbound certified digital marketing agencies stress that SEO is the first step in this process. Moreover, backlinks are still paramount for a winning organic search optimization experience.

Backlinks Are Less Important But Still Matter

Red-headed step children may not be the pride of the household, but they still matter, and so do backlinks. Backlinks used to be the trust signals for search engines. They are the one that digital marketing agencies spent the most time having their SEO experts invest in.

Five years ago Google bots looked for sites with backlinks that had high domain authorities and follow links. A few years later the search engine focused more on domain subject relevancy.

Today, likeness mentions could become an off-page signal of equal importance. And if they do equally matter, when will likeness mentions matter the most and all backlinks will be regarded as spam? Dare we wish it?

Bing has confirmed that it uses likeness mentions as a ranking factor. As Google is notorious for letting very little out of the bag when it comes to how to get more rank sauce, one can assume the search engine has already onboarded this factor (I for one believe it) or there are near-future plans to do so.

In the meantime backlinks still offer SEO value, so don’t stop using them. Just be sure to optimize the content holding the backlink with likeness mentionings as a booster. As a safety net in the event you have to run a future disavow on all backlinks because Google comes out to say they are spam.

Relevancy Is Still Key

SEO is still heavily centered around semantic indexing. That said, backlinks coming from domains with relative content will help improve semantic search. Google’s bots still scan millions of terms and look for relevancy.

With RankBrain’s AI and machine learning components, pinpointing relevancy between backlink cradled off-site content with onsite landing page text is second nature to the search engine’s discerning eye.

How To Make Backlinks Work For You?

Although their importance has diminished some, a solid backlink portfolio still adds tons of SEO value. And if you build backlinks in a smart way, your search optimization efforts will turn over even greater organic results.

We already talked about relevancy. Make sure your referring domains are directly relevant to your brand’s products and services. It is perfectly acceptable to have some referring domains cover broad topics so long as the majority of your domains are directly related.

For example, if an auto transmission company site has a link from Car and Driver, a general mechanics site and an auto shop directory it is fine so long as there are enough links from sites dedicated specifically to transmissions. Play around with the ratio; in my experience a 60/40 balance has worked well for our clients.

Acquiring backlinks is time consuming, and if you dedicate too much time that doesn’t pay off your ultimate goal to grow your client’s business will be negatively impacted. Look for software that can help.


Pitch Box is one option that allows a backlink builder to discover relevant opportunities, manage communications with domain administrators, and nurture those relationships through an automated process that adds personalization.

Don’t Neglect The Red-Headed Step Child

2018 is going to be an exciting year for SEO. Digital marketers are already creating strategies to rank content for smart home devices. More businesses are discovering the value of inbound marketing. They are working with certified agencies to roll out winning workflows built on flawless SEO strategies. And even though backlinks are going to take a back seat in our new year, they still add value as a component of a cohesive strategy that helps Google see authority.

Just remember to add likeness mentionings on your off site content. Continue using keyword variations in natural language, be smart regarding the time you invest in building your backlink portfolio. Let your referring domains reflect the context and topics on your landing pages.

You will also need to do monthly backlink audits, and if you find an unruly troublemaker, do a disavow and send it to bed without dinner.

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