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Links or content - which is the most powerful search ranking factor?

With Google introducing more and more ranking signals that can diminish the ultimate impact of links, there is a growing perception that links are losing their mojo as content marketing, in-depth articles, and a slew of different ranking factors may be taking precedence. However, a recent study that calculated correlation data, case studies and Google's stated directive that links and content are the most important ranking factors found that links do matter, but also that good content helps links matter more.

"We looked at the statistical significance. We found that links are really powerful because there is a nearly perfect correlation between links that show us - like clockwork - how content can really raise a company's rankings," noted Per Enge, who was involved in the conducting of the study.

The team used the quadratic mean calculation to simplify results from two prior groundbreaking studies by Moz and Searchmetrics and determined that content quality was definitely a key factor in ranking and that there was a strong argument, according to the study, that content scores ranked more highly than link scores. As the report suggests, "if the content isn't relevant, it shouldn't rank. If content is not relevant or competitive, links won't help ranking. If it is, links will make the difference."

Yet, the data also suggests that links continue to play a major role in rankings in interesting ways. The study found that links can rescue poor quality content, or cause low relevance content to rank even amongst high authority sites. Further, the case study data implied that minus page relevance and/or quality issues, links were still a very powerful ranking factor. The report indicated that it was the quality of the links that mattered over the quantity and that buying links was not as much of a factor in this equation.

Building great content and user experiences and proactively marketing a business so that more news sites write about it and shared links was one of the key findings of the report. Further, SEO marketers can’t function as a one trick pony with just links, or with just great content. Both were deemed necessary in order to prevail over the competition.

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