Up until a few years ago, backlinks were the number one tactic when trying to rank a website high in search engine rankings. Google and other search engines used the sheer number of links pointing to a website as evidence of its overall importance to the Internet community. Owners and operators of websites that wanted to rank high would just have thousands if not hundreds or thousands of backlinks pointed to their sites, often done through link exchanges or pyramids of blog networks. Google updates changed this drastically, leaving many website owners wondering if backlinks are still important for SEO purposes.
The answer is yes, backlinks are still crucial for search engine optimization, but the ways they are important have changed drastically. Google and other search engines now stringently punish the mass backlink approach, going as far as blacklisting websites that are deemed to have low quality or even duplicated content that used to proliferate for the sole purpose of just throwing up backlinks. Instead, search engines now look for relevant content on the source page and prioritize links from one website to another when it appears the subject matter of the sites is very similar. Beforehand, this was not checked for.
Something else that new search engine crawlers, spiders, and algorithms look for is the authority level of the site with the backlink. SEO Sheffield tell us this is crucially important. A WordPress blog that no one hardly visits and is a low page rank level with little-documented history is not going to get its backlinks taken seriously. On the other hand, the most prized backlinks (and the notoriously most difficult to get) come from educational institutions with .edu domains. In keeping with a quality over quantity approach, search engines now look at the site as much as the links.
Another factor that now counts in backlinks is how recent they are. Google in particular not only favors relevant content from authoritative websites but also chooses to place an emphasis on websites that have recently updated content. This opens up a new area of backlink generation for website operators to explore, as links from Tweets, Facebook posts, and other forms of social media can now be continuously manufactured on a daily or even hourly basis and keep a steady stream of backlinks for Google to take note of.
Backlinks are still useful in search engine optimization, but the old school methods of creating a hundred bare-bones websites just to dump links into or floating out a thousand copies of the same, even if spun, the article just does not work anymore. In fact, continuing the traditional tactics can actually backfire and hurt a website. On the other hand, getting quality links from established sites, such as news sites or niche-specific blogs, can be of tremendous benefit. Complementing these high-quality links with recent and fresh links via social media gives search engines the idea that your site is fresh and worth keeping at the top of listings, more so than static sites that sit dormant for long periods of time.