Are Backlinks still important? Your SEOers said Google says No! LOL! Did They Call Google Directly For It?



u/IMADC
Are Backlinks still important? Google says "No"?
OK, we previously had a great website, and ended up ranked really high for keywords in our hometown (frequently #1 or 2), then we switched to a new company to do additional content for FB, blog, newspaper, etc., and we watched our page slowly drop, and now we are on page 5 for our keywords.
We called our company out on it finally, and they say that on their searches that we are #1 for hundreds of keywords, and we are #3 when they search for our specific keyword that we want. So with him on the phone I did two searches that we should be #1 for, or in the top 5 for. We weren't there. He discussed with us that our browsing history may affect this, or settings through Google. So I signed out of myself on Chrome, and went incognito; no change.
So we reached out to a couple of companies to do some looking into our problems. (I have learned a TON looking through various resources on here btw, this subreddit is great even if you know nothing about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and just want to understand basics so you can choose the appropriate company.) A few companies promised fluff, and then I had a few mid-level companies actually look at our page and analyze it. They said our number one problem was 16K spammy backlinks that we had not previously purchased or worked with an SEO company to develop.
So I emailed our current company and discussed this with them. They called the next day and said that they called Google and Google told them that backlinks do not matter to your page ranking. (Which is not what I am reading here). Additionally they discussed with us that they can put those pages on a disavow list, though they don't think that it will make a difference at all.
The other three companies said it was our #1 problem and one said they wouldn't even take us on as clients us until we fixed those backlinks (or chose a new domain). I'm sorry for never contributing anything here, but I have to know from people who are neutral – who is in the right? Thank you for taking the time to look at my post.
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ctrl-brk
Lost me at "they called Google, and Google said" πŸ˜€

poisondonut
Looooooool yea I'm sure the SEO they hired has got that magic direct line to the guy who just tells you what the algorithm considers important. It's not like that algorithm is their bread and butter or anything like that. They hand it out to Mom and pop business like turkeys at thanksgiving

robohaver
Rolling On the Floor Laughing (ROFL)

dickralph
I LOLed at "They called Google"
U/IMADC if you want to know just how full of crap your SEO provider is try it yourself. Seriously, give Google a call LOL.
anax44
said that they called Google and Google told them that backlinks do not matter
What I find funny is the fact that he just believed it.

IMADC ✍️
Ouch! Once he called me back and mentioned this, I pretty much lost all respect for him and their company. I truly am not that much of an idiot. πŸ˜›
anax44
Glad to hear that! Honestly though, believing it wouldn't even have made you an idiot.
I know really intelligent people who have created and managed wildly successful companies who would have believed that. They just figure something like talking to Google on the phone might be a possibility.

IMADC ✍️
Yeah, I really didn't believe that, I just figured you guys would find it hilarious.

raginghamster
Well with penguin 4.0 spammy links supposedly don't have as high a negative effect. But they still f up your anchor text profile on a per-page basis, which IS a very important ranking factor for penguin.
Backlinks in general are the most important ranking factor… your SEO buddies lied or are incompetent.

IMADC ✍️
This makes my heart simultaneously good and bad. Let's call this emotion happy-sad. Thanks for the reply!

Intensly_Meh
A) no they didn't call Google. Fire them and don't do business with them ever again
B)There is some truth to what they be said, though not about the links. Eyeballing ranking on your device means nothing at all anymore. Best to use a tool like SEMrush for that so you can get consistent uniform reports going.
Links do matter, not as much as they used to and you can rank with fewer than before, but they do matter. Still a top 3 signal
My top three :
Content
Links
Rankbrain.
edit: phone autocorrected

IMADC ✍️
This is great for me to know too! Thank you for the tip, I think that we need to be able to have benchmarks that aren't as simple as, "hey look we are here (or there)". Thank you for the reply, I will be looking into as many tools as you guys suggest, we need to have some way of evaluating how well our new company is doing for us. Thanks! (Also I noticed links are #2; hmmmmm…)

Intensly_Meh
I put links 2 for now because you cant link to nothing. You need great content.
Well there is a way to create links to non existent pages, but I'm not going to tell you how :-)
Eventually, links will drop in factoring. Rankbrain will rise, and eventually Google will figure out a way to not worry about them.

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im_pulsing
Like so many people already said, you basically got scammed. Not sure how much you've paid for it, but it was most definitely not worth it. They probably have "SEO experts" with a mindset of "I will buy these lowest quality links from Fiverr for $10 every month, ask a client $200/month and make $190/month from it." And then legit companies come in, ask you for $2k/month minimum and clients think they are crazy for charging as much.
You need to fire them right away and get someone legit to work on it (if they will be willing to work on the website). If you read this subreddit enough, then you have quite a few ideas on what to look for. You need to constantly ask companies for monthly reports and dedicate at least a couple hours a month going over it, so you're not put into a spot where it's too much work to fix for most companies or will cost you a fortune to do so.
The biggest issue – Google demands to contact webmasters before using disavow. Contacting webmasters of 13k backlinks will take quite a while. There's no such thing as mass-disavow and if you attempt to disavow as many backlinks at a time, your request will be denied. This is the reason some companies wouldn't even take you as a client.
For the future, I'd always ask for the companies portfolio, testimonials. I wouldn't trust what was said on their website and research the people, companies, contact them and just ask them what their experience was with that company. For example we have over 250 projects on our portfolio and over 100 video testimonials, but a lot of our clients still prefer to contact previous businesses we have worked with and we even help them get in touch.

gnayug
If it's so hard to disavow spammy links, what exactly is stopping me for buying those links for all my competitors? I'd never do it, but I sure want to know why everybody doesn't do it…

im_pulsing
No one is stopping you really and a lot of people do it. They also push their competitors through their own Private Blog Networks (PBN)s, do quite a lot of this stuff that isn't allowed by Google just to hurt their competitors. Of course if Google finds out, you won't have the best outcome, but there's still a lot of people doing this. Some even buy them links from legit websites and then report it for link-buying after a couple of weeks, acting as if they just came across it randomly while analyzing their competition.
webbyyy
With the latest version of Penguin the lowest quality links are not being counted at all in relation to which links would affect your sites authority. This is a filter which is applied on a rolling basis, not just once every so often like it used to be.
You can buy as many crappy links as you like pointing to your competitors but Google have already anticipated this, which is why they simply won't count them.
IMADC ✍️
OK, this is honestly what someone we talked to at another firm mentioned, is that they suspected a competitor was/is purchasing those links FOR us. What a nasty tactic.
This is pretty much what I needed to know too, it's not just as simple as using disavow, and they SHOULD have noticed it previously so that we can NOT have to contact these companies. Thanks for the reply!

writeryumna
Fire this company as they are cheating on you. Yeah backlinks are not worthy but still they affect your ranking in a bad way. The company who said that get rid of the spammy backlink is spot on. In 2017 you have to earn backlinks with great content and helping your customers and readers. Check Brian Dean, Rand Fishkin and Neil Patel's blog. You will get much help from there. Lastly, don't fall for quantity always go quality. That's why good companies are costly but they deliver quality.

IMADC ✍️
Thank you for the names and blogs to look into. We won't be doing it in house, now we just need to find a company that delivers quality content and results, and not just "hey custom Facebook posts!" facepalm

writeryumna
Well, I also do this. You can contact me if you like.

thomasmagnum
Google and get access to "Google search console". you'll find all the answers your company is lieing about

IMADC ✍️
To Google my noble steed! (Seriously thanks for the reply!)
I went ahead and did this and verified that we do own it through GoDaddy via Google. Where can I go from here? Does doing this change anything that our current company is doing? My biggest fear is changing something in a setting and then them blaming ME for having problems.

thomasmagnum
Search Console is just a read only tool. You can see how your search terms rank, where you are getting clicks from, and a lot of other things. Too many to write here there's plenty of guides on the web.
Good luck!
IMADC ✍️
I'll start looking, thanks!

spraif
Yes, 1) Fire the company immediately 2) Disavow the spammy backlinks 3) If you can't do your own SEO, I wish you good luck in finding a good SEO company, you can test them by giving them the 'ultimate SEO interview question – oap.ninja'

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AnotherSEOGuy
PSA. Google don't give out any information regarding their algorithm, their Search team is actually incredibly hard to even speak to unless you actually know people as the majority of it now is Machine Learning rather than manual. Ignore anyone who claims to have confirmation from Google about anything to do with the algo, they don't. You get your information from constant testing, trials and by breaking shit occasionally.
Drop them ASAP, go to somebody who actually knows what they're doing (unfortunately easier said than done in SEO currently) and get those links disavowed, check if you have been penalized and start building up your profile again.
Best of luck!

IMADC ✍️
Thank you very much! It's kind of crazy that they don't give any direction, but in my mind, it also makes sense as well. What about companies that are "Google Partners"? We looked at a firm that said they are one of 33 companies that are a Google Partner. Is that just paying to say that or does it mean anything?

AnotherSEOGuy
I can assure you, they are not one of 33. All a Google partner means is your company spends surplus Β£10k p/month on Pay Per Click (PPC) and you meet a few requirements, any semi-decent Small and Medium-sized Enterprise (SME) Agency can do that. It bares absolutely no relevance to your competency whatsoever.

clevermiss
Disavow makes a difference but it can take time. If this current company is buying links on an ongoing basis for you, even after you fire them you have to keep an eye on it and maybe do it more than once.
If you have analytics access I can teach you how to disavow this stuff yourself its not hard. PM me if you want me to walk you through it. People like this that take money from business owners who don't know better really piss me off.
tahir21
"they called Google" That's all you need to know about the SEO firm your hiring. No one knows what Google's algorithm is or when it is going to change. There are not Guarantees in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), my lost friend. Fire the company and hire someone who knows what there doing. Get good links by creating good content and marketing it to the right people. Good links will soon follow. REMEMBER, this is not an overnight process. Results will take a good 6-8 months.
Good, luck

IMADC ✍️
Thank you for the timeframe. I would imagine it would be easier to get ahold of the President than it would be to call Google and actually get answers. Unless you're Batman…he's always got a direct line…

ivapelocal
" called Google and Google told them" – I picture your shady SEO company with a red phone on their desk with a direct line to Google.

IMADC ✍️
Look, all I'm saying is that Batman had one too. He seems like a nice guy…

robohaver
That company is full of Shit They did not call Google Links are extremely important. (good quality links) Listen to my show I have some episodes that will educate you on links and everything else to do with Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Just Google Search Talk Live. That company is a scam
se_coach
Hi IMADC,
With the penguin real-time update, this shouldn't be an issue. If the links are dangerous, the algorithm wouldn't give them any weight. That's why "Google" said that adding them to a disavow wouldn't do anything (I'm with the rest of the crowd when they are skeptical about someone calling Google).
And if the links aren't dangerous, and they're actually high quality Private Blog Network (PBN) links or something that aren't being filtered out by the Project Review Team (PRT) part of the algorithm, then your site is just being tanked a little bit for building links so quickly. Giving the site some time after the rapid link building will allow it return to where it "deserves" (I use this term lightly) to be. I've been in this situation before.
Someone did bring up a good point though, depending on the anchor texts, if the links were sneaky high quality PBN links that messed up the anchor texts in your backlink profile, you might actually need to get your hands dirty with a disavow file.
I'd definitely halt all services from the current company though. Wait three months before you resume services with them, or anyone else. See if your site starts to rebound. It could have been a well disguised negative SEO attack, and not your SEO company buying crappy links, so be careful of firing them too quickly.
Sorry about your situation.

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