I’m sick of reading articles about the death of backlinks – everywhere from Moz to Search Engine Land have stories written up about the imminent death of backlinks and what’s next for SEO.

Please, for the love of all things holy, just stop being stupid. SEO is not dead. Backlinks are not dead. Backlinks will never be dead, because there simply isn’t a better way of gauging votes like you can with backlinks right now. “But it’s going to be about social signals” – no, it’s not, just stop talking.

The Future of SEO (without stupidity)

Google’s ranking factors and the way in which we do SEO are definitely going to evolve – they have to because we understand how to manipulate their results too well and many people are abusing it beyond what Google want us to do in order to assist them in understanding and indexing our pages.

For me, backlinks will always be the underlying foundation for a site’s ranking and anything else which comes along and is introduced as a ranking factor will simply become an additional beyond backlinks. Maybe the points distributed for backlinks will lower as each additional signal is introduced, but I can never see them going away completely – it’s too dangerous given that links are the basis of all real and valuable connections between websites on the internet and, until this changes, backlinks will rule the rankings.

I’m not saying it couldn’t happen, but definitely not in the next 10 years.

Social Signals

Social signals are already considered a factor, albeit fairly small, in Google’s search results, but I think this is definitely going to become stronger as time goes by and more data is collated.

The problem with social media is that people usually only share single pieces of content – is it worth providing extra ranking points to a single piece of content which was shared 2,000 times over a 3-day period before dying out? Probably not. Now if that same piece of content was shared 2,000 times over a period of 3 months, maybe there’s cause for extra ranking points because of the consistency in sharing and thus importance.

Another thing to consider are the accounts sharing such links because these are obviously open to manipulation. If they’re Twitter accounts – how many followers vs. following do they have? Are they verified? How old is the account? What is the percentage of normal tweets vs. tweets containing links?

I simply don’t think social signals can work on their own, but they will definitely work well by complimenting backlinks to work out which pieces of content / pages should be given more ranking points.

Authorship

Authorship is a brilliant way to connect authors to websites and specific pieces of content in order to build trust for visitors and make it easier for Google to rank great content by reputable writers.

At the time of writing, I didn’t actually have Google Authorship on my own blog, but I did set it up right after this post was published. Now, if I continue to write great posts and people begin sharing, or +1ing, my content then Google will see that I’m providing useful content that is worth ranking in their search results.

Authorship isn’t just a great signal for search, but also a great way to build a relationship straight from the SERPs before a visitor even lands on your website. Once they have read a piece of your content and recognise your face, they’re more likely to remember you and give any future posts by you extra consideration when deciding which result to choose following their search. This can be extremely powerful.

Again, I really don’t believe that this is something which can work without backlinks. It’s just another signal which works well to compliment backlinks to work out which pages deserve more ranking points.

Content

Content is already considered king following all of the recent Google updates, but is it really?

Yes, because it genuinely will help you to rank if you focus on writing great, useful and compelling content as often as you can. Not only that, but your visitors will love it and share it – and that leads to genuine social signals and, hopefully, additional backlinks to your website and content. Bonus!

No, because great content alone won’t get you ranked for any meaningful keywords, although you would likely see some traffic flowing in from specific long-tail searches after some time of frequent writing.

Again, content isn’t going to be as effective as it could be without backlinks.

Backlinks

You didn’t think I’d leave this out of the future of SEO did you?

I’m sorry, but I disagree with anybody who says that backlinks are dead or will be going away. At least anytime soon. It’s just not feasible in my eyes – nothing else will work (yet) without this foundation first.

The entirity of the internet is connected by links and, whether you like it or not, it is still the best and most effective way to work out which websites deserve ranking points based on votes from others. It’s also the only way to vote with anchors and thus provide ranking value for terms and topics. This could, of course, be done in other ways with social media, but it would rely more on on-page SEO factors and be far less effective.

Sure, backlinks are manipulated on a large scale, but there are still millions of websites out there which aren’t being manipulated and are providing genuine votes to others. Plus, the recent introduction of the disavow tool has meant that big cleanups have begun taking place on a large scale – great news for all.

R.I.P. Backlinks – The Challenge

Do you still believe that backlinks are dead or soon will be? Take this challenge right now.

I want you to go register yourself a domain suitable for a web hosting business. I then want you to focus on writing exceptional content, social media and authorship instead of those silly backlinks. Let me know if you’re in the top 10 pages for ‘web hosting’ in the next 10 years – good luck, you’re really going to need it.

Do you still think backlinks are dead? No – I didn’t think you would.

Final Thoughts

To get the best results from your website, you need to be implementing everything mentioned in this post and more. Variety and diversity are the keys to success in Google – that I can promise you!

Please stop listening to garbage. Backlinks are not dead, nor are they dying.

I don’t work for Google – this post is written based entirely on opinion and should be taken as such.