Goodbye backlinks, hello inferred links

September 22, 2021

Most people in our marketing community have probably, at one time or another, deliberately pursued backlinks – usually by emailing other sites and asking for them. Google says it doesn’t like this, but it’s probably fine, unless you’re pursuing a link scheme. (Cue the dramatic hamster.)

For certain sites, backlinks still have a place. Probably. We would never tell you not to pursue backlinking.

But we will tell you not to prioritize backlinking. There are so many reasons, including the huge amount of time it takes to get even a small number of relevant, high-quality links – time you could be spending creating excellent content. And another argument is becoming increasingly strong for deprioritizing backlink strategy – inferred links.

Inferred links are, basically, mentions of a brand or page in the text of other sites – no hyperlink required. The hope is that this is a more accurate measurement of a page’s usefulness. Google is placing more and more emphasis on these, as the eminent Rand Fishkin noted earlier this year.

🏄 What you can do

There’s no hack for inferred links (yet). The way to start building inferred links is by investing in a useful, authentic, content program:

  • Focus on PR, not backlink acquisition
  • Be generous, not transactional (i.e. be part of a community)
  • Create more truly useful content, not clickbait
  • Distribute your own content, don’t guest post

You can keep spending time on backlinks, but it’s going to be diminishing returns. An investment that results in inferred links is really just an investment in better marketing.


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