SEO – that magic sauce that somehow miraculously moves your website from complete obscurity to top of the first page of Google’s search results (SERPs). No doubt you’re keen to make that happen for your website (and if you don’t already have a site, we have very affordable website packages to get you started), but SEO just feels too much like hard work, and the agencies that supposedly specialise in this black art tell you that you need backlinks, and lots of them, and that they can do it, but it’ll be expensive.

But do you really need backlinks to move up in the search results? Traditionally, backlinks have always been a key part of any SEO strategy, and, if you have been doing SEO yourself, you might have memories of sending out “begging” letters asking high profile websites to link to you. I don’t know about you, but I don’t miss those days!

Recent updates about SEO backlinks

In September 2023, at a Pubcon Pro in Austin, Texas, Gary Illyes, a rep for the Google Search Team, made it clear that backlinks weren’t a top-3 ranking signal. As reported by SEL, he is quoted as saying:

“I think they are important, but I think people overestimate the importance of links. I don’t agree it’s in the top three. It hasn’t been for some time.”

This was put to the test by SEL, coming to the conclusion that there wasn’t a high correlation between keyword ranking and backlinks. In fact, in one segment “there were keywords and groups that, when the number of links increased, rankings actually decreased.”

The main takeaway is don’t stress too much about getting backlinks, concentrate on the user experience, or in Google parlance: the E-E-A-T.

Backlinks are fine, but focus on EEAT

Backlinks are fine (and I’m referring to organic backlinks that occur naturally because you have great content other people are linking to, not the links some agencies buy, or even worse reciprocal links) but what it’s better to concentrate on is developing a great website that represents your business as an industry leader, a specialist in your field.

With recent announcements, Google are once again emphasising the importance of good content, instead of looking for shortcuts and hacks to game the search results. This focus on a great user experience is represented in Google’s E-E-A-T framework: Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness.

Google’s E-E-A-T framework is a concept designed to ensure that the content you find on the internet is reliable and credible. While it may sound technical, it’s actually quite straightforward.

1. Expertise: When Google talks about expertise, it means the content should come from knowledgeable and credible sources. It means content is created by people who know what they’re talking about. Make sure to include your qualifications, credentials, or experience in whatever content you create. For example, health advice is better if it’s written by a doctor or a reputable health organization, not just anyone.

2. Authoritativeness: Google wants to see that the content is coming from authoritative sources. You can think of this as “trustworthy.” To target this aspect, add content that’s backed by reliable references and sources. A well-researched article with citations and links to respected websites can be more authoritative.

3. Trustworthiness: Trustworthiness is all about ensuring the content can be relied upon. To target this, pay attention to your website’s design and reliability. Check if the website looks professional and well-maintained. Be cautious of websites that seem outdated or untrustworthy. Additionally, look for privacy policies and contact information to ensure transparency.

4. Content Quality: Remember that good spelling and grammar matter. Clear and well-structured content is easier to trust. Avoid websites with lots of ads and pop-ups, as they can reduce trustworthiness.

5. User Reviews: When looking for products or services, consider user reviews. These provide real-world experiences and can give you an idea of the quality and trustworthiness of a business.

6. Avoid Clickbait: Be wary of sensational headlines or articles that seem too good to be true. They may not be trustworthy.

Essentially, Google’s E-E-A-T is about making sure the content you consume online is coming from reliable sources, is well-referenced, and can be trusted. By paying attention to the expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness of content and sources, you can improve the experience of anyone visiting your website, and this can send signals to Google that your content is worth ranking higher in the search results.

Help to improve your E-E-A-T

We’ve always believed the key to a successful website – and better Google search rankings – is delivering a great visitor experience, giving your visitors answers to their questions, and making everything easy for them.

If you need help developing your website’s user experience just get in touch. We can help with a range of upgrades from improving the readability of your website’s text, fixing design issues (especially for mobile users) or adding new features, such as online payments and purchases. We can also adapt to businesses on a budget, with our range of very affordable, mobile-friendly websites.

SEO – Do backlinks still help you get better rankings?
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