I have been asked quite a lot recently by current and potential clients if links are still important for SEO due to Penguin. There seems to be a lot of mis-information out there that implies that link building for SEO is dead and that websites should purely be concentrating on content. Content is king right?
While content is undoubtedly important and publishing well written content on your website and then pushing that content through other marketing methods such as social media should be part of your SEO strategy links still are extremely important.
The Google Penguin update, initially launched back in 2012 was created to counter web spam. A lot of websites were cheating the system by sourcing 1000’s of low quality links from, adult, foreign, pharmaceutical etc… type websites. This at the time told Google that this site must be important as lots of other websites were linking to it.
When it became apparent that this was not the case, and these websites had 1000’s of links to them that were low quality and had nothing to do with the topic of the website in question then something had to be done. Hence Penguin.
Penguin initially targeted spammy links but as it has developed a lot over the past few years and is now able to identify link networks and link farms as well as unnatural link growth. For example, if a website goes from having 10 links and then the next month has 700 then there looks to be something dodgy going on here and they may well address this.
Now, rather than Penguin rolling out every few months/years which meant that if your SEO company had been using poor tactics and your website received a penalty that you had to wait a long time i.e the next update to be released from this penalty. Nowadays, if your SEO agency uses poor tactics that results in a significant drop in rankings, then you can clear your link profile up and the next time your website is crawled any penalty incurred should be lifted.
The latest edition of Penguin also seems to only penalise guilty pages. Previous editions penalised the whole website so you couldn’t even be found for your company name. Nowadays the pages of your website that have either good SEO or no links should not be affected, only the pages that have poor link building to them.
So, Penguin was put in place to stop websites cheating the system, not to penalise websites that build links. Google say that link building should be part of your strategy. Sourcing links from trusted sources that are relevant to what your business does will grow your websites presence and coupled with other SEO elements will assist in increasing rankings.
In summary Penguin is good for SEO, it makes the playing field a lot more level and ensures that if you follow Google guidelines that your website will over time naturally increase its visibility in the search engines and contribute significantly to the success of your business.
I hope this clears any confusion as to whether links are still important as part of an SEO strategy.