First, just a little context...
SEO professionals create links on other websites, so that their website ranks higher in Google.
That is the way the Google search algorithm works.
More high quality links pointing at your website mean better rankings in Google (basically).
But, Google will reduce your rankings in the search engine if you secure links in a way that is against their guidelines. In some cases, they will penalize a portion of your site, or the entire thing.
Although the latest Google update (Penguin update) just devalues links rather than penalizing entire sites, there's no guarantee that Google will stay with that policy forever.
Google will likely penalize sites for backlink spam again at some point in the future.
So it's best to err on the side of caution and adopt an SEO strategy that's not going to cause your site to fall out of favor with the Big G.
Here's what you need to know about the dangers of building backlinks and how you can score a top spot in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
The Latest Penguin Update
If you missed the news, Google released Penguin 4.0 last Fall. That algorithm is designed to prevent websites from manipulating the search engines to achieve a high rank.
In other words, it's the enemy of black hat SEOs worldwide.
However, there was a big change with the latest update. Instead of penalizing entire sites that break the rules, Google now just devalues spammy links.
Before the 4.0 release, Penguin was used to penalize sites that used backlink spam to achieve rank. Webmasters that were caught red-handed saw their sites delisted from the SERPs until they disavowed the offending links.
Now, the new and improved Penguin just devalues the spammy links. That means that they effectively act as no links at all and don't pass any page rank.
A New Dawn
Some SEOs welcomed that change.
Why? Because they no longer ran the risk of incurring a Google penalty if they happened to post a few spammy links on other websites.
Instead, those bad links just wouldn't pass along any link juice. Meanwhile, all the good links would help the site gain rank.
So the perception now is that backlink building is a risk-free strategy and that there's nothing to lose if Google discovers a few bad links among all the other valid links.
That's an incorrect way to look at the situation.
We've Seen This Movie Before
This isn't the first time that SEOs thought they could outwit Google and manipulate the search engines to achieve a great rank. We've been here before.
But webmasters who thought they've finally found the Philosopher's Stone only ended up with fool's gold.
Sure, they might briefly land a top spot in the search results. But once Google catches on to what they're doing, they get delisted.
If you think that you can push and shove your way to Page 1 of the SERPs by building a backlink profile, think again. You won't be able to game the system against one of the most prominent software companies on the planet.
The folks at Google are always looking out for cheaters. If you're engaged in some shady practices, they will find out what you're doing and they will delist your site
Yes, that's even the case after the latest Penguin rollout.
Remember, Google is under no obligation to keep the policy as it currently stands. Any moment, the company could go back to penalizing sites that use backlink spam. Also, the manual review team can still slap you with a penalty.
If you want to achieve a high rank, it's best that you do so without breaking the rules.
How to Get a Great Rank
If you're convinced that you should avoid using backlinks to boost rank, then you're probably wondering what you should do to get to the top of the SERPs.
Here's the answer: post some outstanding, relevant content.
Yes, even after all these years, it's still true that content is king. I can tell you this first-hand based on the results we have seen for clients.
Remember, Google is obsessed with practicing outstanding customer service. That means the company wants to display relevant, informative links in response to search queries.
What Google doesn't want to display in the SERPs is links to sites that are just interested in getting some clicks.
That's why Google, like almost all other software companies, is constantly looking for ways to improve its search algorithm.
How does Google crawl the web to find the best content? With artificial intelligence (AI).
Google has been using AI as part of its search algorithm for some time.
Google's deep learning technology can "read" your content like a human being (or at least it digests how humans interact with the content and then makes decisions based on that). It can also determine if the content that it's reading is relevant to a particular search query.
If you want to rank well, you should keep in mind that Google is smart enough to determine if your content is worth a high rank.
Give 'Em What They Want
So the solution to achieving a spot at the top of the SERPs without backlinks is to produce the kind of content that's informative, timely, and relevant to the keyword you're trying to rank for.
That might seem like a no-brainer, but it's surprising how often SEOs forget that basic principle.
Instead of trying to get to a top spot in the SERPs with a backlink profile, stay in the good graces of Google by getting there with high quality content. Some people have done that with a content marketing strategy that involves creating "10x Content."
What does that mean? Just as the name implies, it means creating content that's ten times better than what your competitors are posting.
That's going to require an investment in time and/or money, but it's a great way to land a spot at the top of the SERPs without breaking Google's rules.
One More Thing
Everyone reading this should know that Google is moving away from backlinks as a ranking signal.
So when you build spammy backlinks you are really doing two things.
First, you're investing in a ranking method that is on the decline.
Second, if you are not doing it the right way, you are putting your website at risk for a penalty!
The decision is yours.
But I will tell you this...
We are currently increasing client traffic and revenue in the 30% to 100% range annually by just creating great content and very little link efforts.
This is the way Google wants you to do it and it works very well.