Don’t trust what you’ve heard — links are still king when it comes to search engine opti­miza­tion.

Every­one wants to get a high click-through rate and a good spot in Google’s search algo­rithm. But, when it is gen­er­al­ly accept­ed in the indus­try that Google uses approx­i­mate­ly 200 rank­ing fac­tors to rank web­sites — and some of these are proven, some are con­tro­ver­sial and some are pure­ly nerd-based con­jec­ture — it can be hard to know which fac­tors to focus on when it comes to your search engine opti­miza­tion (SEO).

So, what is most important to Google?

It is con­tent,” said Google Search Qual­i­ty Senior Strate­gist Andrey Lipatt­sev. “And, it’s links point­ing to your site.”

I’ve heard peo­ple fool­ish­ly sug­gest links aren’t impor­tant any­more. There’s a new way of doing SEO, with­out links. This is wrong, and it’s dan­ger­ous advice. Keep in mind what Andrey Lipatt­sev said.

We tend to almost always come back to links, as they fea­ture large­ly and very impor­tant­ly in the 200 or so rank­ing sig­nals, such as:

  1. The vol­ume of exter­nal links you have. The more, the bet­ter.
  2. The anchor text of the exter­nal links. Links with SEO-focused anchor text need to be rel­e­vant to the tar­get page.
  3. The qual­i­ty of exter­nal link sources. It’s bet­ter to get a link from a rep­utable news source or aca­d­e­m­ic jour­nal than an unknown blog.

Links have always been a valu­able aspect of an SEO strat­e­gy, and many SEO agen­cies focus on build­ing rel­e­vant links to get first page search results on Google. That’s because there is a strong cor­re­la­tion between great SEO results (specif­i­cal­ly key­word ranks) and the qual­i­ty and vol­ume of links to a site.

Keep in mind, how­ev­er, that while links may lead the pack, con­tent, Moz Author­i­ty and page author­i­ty have sig­nif­i­cant val­ue and must be con­sid­ered for any SEO strat­e­gy to be suc­cess­ful.

Content marketing and SEO

SEO and con­tent mar­ket­ing are dis­tin­guished from one anoth­er in sev­er­al crit­i­cal areas, but you can’t sep­a­rate the two entire­ly. SEO is gen­er­al­ly nar­row­er, and more tech­ni­cal, while con­tent mar­ket­ing is broad­er and more holis­tic — kind of like how a square is a rec­tan­gle, but a rec­tan­gle is not nec­es­sar­i­ly a square. Here’s how they con­verge:

You can apply SEO more broad­ly by chan­nel­ing its spe­cif­ic tech­ni­cal endeav­ors into con­tent mar­ket­ing.
The only way to ensure the suc­cess of con­tent mar­ket­ing is to apply SEO tech­niques.
Anoth­er way to look at it is like this: SEO makes demands. Con­tent mar­ket­ing ful­fills those demands. SEO states the require­ments. Con­tent mar­ket­ing ful­fills them.

2017 algorithm updates

In Jan­u­ary, Google start­ed rolling out a penal­ty to pun­ish aggres­sive inter­sti­tials and pop-ups that might dam­age the mobile user expe­ri­ence. Google also pro­vid­ed a rare warn­ing of this update five months in advance.

There will no doubt be many fur­ther algo­rithm updates through­out 2017, but the suc­cess of your SEO cam­paigns will large­ly be gov­erned by how focused your SEO strat­e­gy is on links and con­tent.