Here’s the simple answer to the above question: for the foreseeable future, backlinks are indeed here to stay. Now, if you want to know why they’re here to stay, it’s important to take a look at how SEO works and why backlinks are still so important. It’s also important to consider why some people think that backlinks may start taking a back seat to other kinds of SEO work (I disagree with them). Here’s what you need to know:
Why Backlinks Became Popular
Back in the early days of the Internet, search engines would all work pretty much the same way – they’d look to the meta tags and try to figure out based on that what your site was about. This worked reasonably well when there were thousands of web pages on the Internet because searching for the subject would return reasonably appropriate results.
It wasn’t until later that the issue of rankings became important. At this point, porn operators learned that they could improve their rankings for all kinds of words by stuffing their meta tags with unrelated keywords (the idea being to attract those who weren’t searching for it but who were curious). This meant that searching for meta tags wasn’t a particularly useful thing to do anymore.
Google, which was just starting out then, decided to try looking at the number of backlinks to a site to decide where a site ought to rank – thinking of these links as basically being a kind of a “vote” for your site.
Another bit of old history which is important to remember for this discussion is the idea of relevant links (and anchor text for that matter). In both of these cases, the links need to be more than just a link – they need to be relevant to your website. Now even though I’m assuming most readers of this blog know this, I’m mentioning this because this is the crux of the reason why I believe that backlinks are here to stay.
The reason that so many people seem to think that backlinks are starting to fade into the night is that social media has become so much more popular today. Facebook Likes, Google +1, Twitter retweets and more all seem to point to the idea of links being less important.
The thing is though, all of these systems still rely on backlinks to show what they consider important. Therefore, even if we relied exclusively on social media for SEO, backlinks would be here to stay. And this is also important regarding the issue above, about relevant links and anchor text – the links that people put on social media obviously need to be important to the topic at hand in order to be useful and generate traffic.
Even Regular Links Are Here to Stay
However, even regular backlinks, the variety which are so popular on the web and amongst SEO experts are here to stay as well. The reality is that while social media can be useful to a point, many people still prefer to read a real review of a site or of a product, by a professional. This means that just because social media has become so popular doesn’t mean that ordinary backlinks aren’t here to stay.
In the Future
Now, all this isn’t to say that six months or a year from now something won’t appear which makes backlinks obsolete. The reality is that the Internet is constantly changing and as a result, we can’t simply sit on our laurels and assume that worked today will work in the future. However, for the time being at least, until something happens which makes us assume otherwise, backlinks are here to stay.