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7 Successful B2B Content Marketing Examples You Can Learn From

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7 Successful B2B Content Marketing Examples You Can Learn From

There is no one right way of doing content marketing.

Depending on their goals, resources, target audience, and so on, different companies do content marketing differently. 

In this post, we’ll share seven inspiring B2B content marketing examples, why they’ve done well, and how you can replicate their success.

Shopify is an e-commerce platform that helps businesses sell online.

Shopify's free tools

Key stats

Number of referring domains: 9,000

Estimated organic traffic: 1,700,000

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Number of keywords the tools rank for: 121,000

Key statistics for Shopify's free tools page, via Ahrefs' Site ExplorerKey statistics for Shopify's free tools page, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

What it does well

When it comes to content marketing, Shopify has gone the whole hog. It’s invested in almost every type of content marketing: blogs, podcasts, free courses, free guides, and more.

The different types of content marketing Shopify has invested inThe different types of content marketing Shopify has invested in

But I want to drill down into one aspect of its content marketing: free tools. Shopify offers over 20 free tools:

A sample of the free tools offered by ShopifyA sample of the free tools offered by Shopify

These tools have two things in common. First, they solve problems for budding entrepreneurs. For example, you’ll need a business name for your new company. Shopify solves that by offering a free business name generator:

Shopify's business name generator toolShopify's business name generator tool

Second, these queries have thousands of monthly searches on Google. For example, the term “business name generator” gets 81,000 monthly searches in the U.S.:

Search volume for "business name generator", via Ahrefs' Keywords ExplorerSearch volume for "business name generator", via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

That’s why its tools page—and each individual tool—is getting hundreds of thousands of search visits:

Key statistics for Shopify's business name generator toolKey statistics for Shopify's business name generator tool

How to replicate its success

Tools are content too. Consider creating a free tool if you have the ability or resources. This is especially applicable if you’re a software company.

However, don’t just create any free tool. Create those your potential customers are searching for. 

Here’s how to find them. You can:

  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer.
  2. Enter one or a few broad keywords related to your industry (e.g., if you have a real estate website, these might be mortgage, rent, and down payment).
  3. Go to the Matching terms report.
  4. In the Include filter, add words like calculator, tool, tools, and, checker.
  5. Choose Any word and click Apply.
The Matching terms report with tool-type words filtered, via Ahrefs' Keywords ExplorerThe Matching terms report with tool-type words filtered, via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

Look through the list to see if there are any relevant tools you can create.

Make sure you review the top-ranking results to see if you can “beat” them. Ask yourself:

  • What’s good about them?
  • How could they be improved?

When you’ve created your free tool, know that you’ll likely have to acquire links to rank. There are many ways to do this, but the best starting point for tools is to use the Skyscraper Technique. 

Read this post or watch the video below to learn more:

Ahrefs is an all-in-one SEO toolset that allows you to research your competitors, study what your customers are searching for, optimize your website, and more.

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Ahrefs blogAhrefs blog

Key stats

Number of referring domains: 33,400

Estimated organic traffic: 645,000

Number of keywords the blog ranks for: 107,000

Key statistics for Ahrefs blog, via Ahrefs' Site ExplorerKey statistics for Ahrefs blog, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

What we do well

Our content strategy is simple. We target topics that have:

  1. Search traffic potential – Topics that our potential customers are searching for on Google.
  2. Business potential – Topics where we can pitch our product.
  3. Ranking potential – Topics where we can rank in the top three with our current resources.
The best keyword strategies prioritize keywords with traffic, business, and ranking potentialThe best keyword strategies prioritize keywords with traffic, business, and ranking potential

Doing this consistently allows us to rank high for keywords that are relevant to our customers and pitch our product as the best solution to those problems. 

This no-frills SEO content strategy has helped grow our annual recurring revenue (ARR) consistently over the years.

How to replicate our success

Use the same process in example #1 to find keywords with search traffic potential:

  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer
  2. Enter one or a few broad keywords related to your industry
  3. Go to the Matching terms report
  4. Filter for keywords with Traffic Potential (TP)
Matching terms report with Traffic potential filtered, via Ahrefs' Keywords ExplorerMatching terms report with Traffic potential filtered, via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

Eyeball the list and note down all relevant keywords. 

From there, you’ll want to assign a “business potential” score to each keyword. Here’s the cheat sheet we use at Ahrefs:

Business potential chartBusiness potential chart

You’ll also want to give each keyword a “ranking potential” score. We can check each keyword’s ranking difficulty by scrolling to the SERP overview section and analyzing the metrics shown for the current top-ranking pages.

SERP Overview for "how to grind coffee beans", via Ahrefs' Keywords ExplorerSERP Overview for "how to grind coffee beans", via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

What should you look out for? There are many factors involved in assessing ranking difficulty. But broadly speaking, you’ll want to pay attention to:

  • Quantity and quality of backlinks – Links are a Google ranking factor. So the more high-quality backlinks the current top-ranking pages have, the harder it’ll be to compete. Check the Domains column to see how many websites are linking to each top-ranking page. To understand link quality, click on the number in the Backlinks column and review each page’s backlink profile
  • Website authority – You can use a proxy metric like Domain Rating (DR) to gauge a site’s authority. If the DR scores of the top-ranking pages are all higher than yours, you may want to prioritize other keywords.
  • Search intentSearch intent is the why behind the query. You’ll want to make sure you’re able to fulfill the search intent for the keywords you want to target.
  • Content quality – Can you beat the top-ranking pages on content quality? This is subjective. But if the #1 ranking page reviewed 47 air purifiers for its blog post, can you do the same or more?

To go in-depth about how to assess ranking difficulty, I highly recommend reading our keyword difficulty guide.

After reviewing the keywords for the four attributes, give them a “ranking potential” score:

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How to score a keyword's ranking potentialHow to score a keyword's ranking potential

Learn more: How to Create an SEO Content Strategy (Follow the Ahrefs’ Framework)

Slidebean is a pitch deck design platform for startups and small businesses.

Slidebean's YouTube channelSlidebean's YouTube channel

Key stats

Number of YouTube subscribers: 401,000

Total views: 27,325,552

What it does well

I reached out to Slidebean’s CEO, Caya, to find out more. From what he told me, the platform’s approach is twofold.

First, it started with a recurring video series known as Startups 101. For this series, it mainly targeted startup-related keywords on YouTube.

Slidebean's playlist for Startups 101Slidebean's playlist for Startups 101

However, it exhausted its list of topics in about a year. This was when it decided to move up the marketing funnel into TOFU-related topics.

Since we had found a “YouTube formula,” we decided to apply it to other kinds of content, and one of them was this idea of exploring failed companies. The first one was WeWork, which was just the right bridge between a startup-focused company and a widely known brand. At this stage, the series was called “Startup Forensics.”

However, there were only so many tech startups to explore, so we quickly opened that up to “Company Forensics” to broaden our horizons. 

Jose CayassoJose Cayasso
Slidebean's Company Forensics seriesSlidebean's Company Forensics series

Slidebean’s goal was to get as many eyeballs as possible. Thanks to the mere exposure effect, people would think of Slidebean in the future if they were ever looking for pitch deck software. 

How to replicate its success

Predicting what kind of videos will take off on YouTube is difficult. You could launch a well-produced, expensive, and entertaining video to crickets. 

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That’s why Caya started his YouTube journey by initially targeting topics his target audience was searching for. Only when he built an audience did he move to other types of content. 

Here’s how to find topics people are searching for on YouTube:

  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer
  2. Enter one or a few broad keywords related to your industry
  3. Select YouTube in the search engine dropdown
  4. Go to the Matching terms report
Matching terms report for YouTube, via Ahrefs' Keywords ExplorerMatching terms report for YouTube, via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

Go through the list to find relevant keywords for your YouTube channel. 

Then, watch this video to learn how to create videos that will rank on YouTube:

Founded in 2014 by Laura Roeder, MeetEdgar is a social media automation tool.

MeetEdgar's homepageMeetEdgar's homepage

Key stats

Number of referring domains: 7,300

Number of backlinks: 40,300

Key stats for MeetEdgar, via Ahrefs' Site ExplorerKey stats for MeetEdgar, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

What it does well

Appearing on podcasts helped MeetEdgar grow into a thriving business. From 2014 to 2017, founder Laura Roeder appeared on an estimated 100 podcasts.

A podcast interview where Laura Roeder, the founder of MeetEdgar, was the guestA podcast interview where Laura Roeder, the founder of MeetEdgar, was the guest

According to Jen Carvey, a former employee, this strategy helped MeetEdgar reach 1.25 million website visitors, 100,000 email subscribers, and $329,000+ monthly recurring revenue (MRR).

How to replicate its success

There are more than 850,000 active podcasts today. Plenty of them will need guests. So if you can find podcasts with your target audience, you can appear on them. Not only will you generate brand awareness, but you can also get links back to your site.

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The easiest way to find podcasts to appear on is to simply search for “best [niche] podcasts”:

SERPs for "best investing podcasts"SERPs for "best investing podcasts"

Keep in mind that many of them will be popular podcasts that can be challenging to pitch for. So if you’re starting out, try this method:

  1. Find a prolific podcast guest in your industry (e.g., Laura Roeder)
  2. Enter their website into Ahrefs’ Site Explorer (set it to Exact URL)
  3. Go to the Backlinks report
  4. Filter for results with “episode” in the Referring page title
Backlinks report for MeetEdgar, filtered for Laura Roeder, via Ahrefs' Site ExplorerBacklinks report for MeetEdgar, filtered for Laura Roeder, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Once you’ve gathered a list of potential podcasts, find the emails of the hosts and reach out to see if they’re willing to interview you. 

Learn more: How to Use Podcasts for Link Building 

First Round Capital is a seed-stage venture capital (VC) firm.

First Round's The ReviewFirst Round's The Review

Key stats

Number of referring domains: 9,900

Estimated total visits: 368,900

Estimated organic traffic: 43,500

Newsletter subscribers: 127,000

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Key stats for First Round Review, via Ahrefs' Site ExplorerKey stats for First Round Review, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

What it does well

At the time, most VC firms were either blogging about market trends or opinion pieces from their partners. First Round decided to position itself differently and focused on writing stories about the operator side (i.e., startups).

With a portfolio of startups it had already invested in, First Round was in a unique position to interview and tell never-seen-before stories.

This was perfect for attracting its target audience too. New or potential founders aren’t interested in market trends; they want content that solves real problems—product development, hiring, marketing, and so on.

How to replicate its success

Camille Ricketts, the ex-editor of First Round Review, started by asking: 

What is the number one thing that all of these early-stage founders want?”

Her answer? To be able to go to coffee with somebody who has done the thing they’re trying to do. That was how The Review was born: a magazine-style blog of “coffee meetups at scale.”

Before you create any content, make sure you know exactly who you’re targeting and what problems they’re facing. If you haven’t created your buyer personas yet, follow this guide on how to do it.

Learn more: Why You Shouldn’t Try to Be the First Round Review: 3 Content Lessons From Camille Ricketts

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Kinsta is a managed WordPress hosting provider.

Kinsta's blogKinsta's blog

Key stats

Number of referring domains: 15,900

Estimated organic traffic: 1,600,000

Number of keywords the blog ranks for: 330,000

Key stats for Kinsta's blog, via Ahrefs' Site ExplorerKey stats for Kinsta's blog, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

What it does well

Like us, Kinsta follows a keyword-driven content strategy. However, what makes its approach unique is what SEO Glen Allsopp calls “error message marketing.”

Here’s the gist of how it works:

  1. You’ll inadvertently face issues when doing something technical or using a technical tool.
  2. You’ll probably Google how to solve it.
  3. Kinsta specifically targets those keywords.

This way, Kinsta builds brand awareness among its target audience—developers, webmasters, site owners, etc.—people who basically fix such technical issues regularly.

Top pages for Kinsta's blog, via Ahrefs' Site ExplorerTop pages for Kinsta's blog, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

How to replicate its success

If there are tools regularly used by people in your niche, determine what problems their users have and target those topics.

For example, let’s say you’re a U.K.-based company that targets boiler engineers. Here’s how to find these topics:

  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer
  2. Enter the names of tools/products your niche uses (e.g., Intergas, Vaillant, Vokera, Worcester Bosch)
  3. Go to the Matching terms report
  4. In the Include filter, add words like fault, error, code
  5. Choose Any word and click Apply
Matching terms report with error-type words filtered, via Ahrefs' Keywords ExplorerMatching terms report with error-type words filtered, via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

Eyeball the list and find those topics that are relevant to your site. 

YouGov is a market research and data analytics firm. It provides a few services, including custom data and research, audience profiling, segmentation, and brand tracking.

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YouGov's blogYouGov's blog

Key stats

Number of referring domains: 29,900

Estimated organic traffic: 497,000

Number of keywords the tools rank for: 175,000

Key stats for YouGov's blog, via Ahrefs' Site ExplorerKey stats for YouGov's blog, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

What it does well

YouGov makes money by providing custom data and research. Therefore, its marketing strategy aims to achieve two main objectives:

  1. Build brand awareness among companies who may need its services
  2. Show that it has high-quality data

YouGov achieves this by publishing content using data on “hot topics.” These articles then get linked to by trusted news organizations like the Guardian, L.A. Times, and The New York Times that are looking for data to support their conclusions:

Links to YouGov, via Ahrefs' Site ExplorerLinks to YouGov, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

How to replicate its success

The key idea is to use data to create interesting articles or answer interesting questions in your niche. 

If you’re part of the industry, chances are you already know what those questions are. For example, in the SEO industry, many people wonder about how long it’ll take to rank on Google. However, the answers were always based on conjecture and not data. 

So we attempted to study this objectively with data. The result? 4,000 backlinks from 2,200 unique websites.

Stats for our blog post on how long it takes to rank on Google, via Ahrefs' Site ExplorerStats for our blog post on how long it takes to rank on Google, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

If you’re out of ideas, you can try to recreate popular but outdated studies. Here’s how to find them:

  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Content Explorer
  2. Enter a search term like [industry] + “study,” [industry] + “survey,” [industry] + “research,” or [industry] + “data”
  3. Set the filter to an In title search
  4. Set the Published filter to an older date range (e.g., 2010–2015)
  5. Sort the results by referring domains
Finding outdated but popular studies, via Ahrefs' Content ExplorerFinding outdated but popular studies, via Ahrefs' Content Explorer

Once you’re done with the study, you’ll need to reach out and introduce it to people who may be interested. Follow our blogger outreach guide to learn how to do it. 

Learn more: Blogger Outreach: How to Do It At Scale (Without Feeling Like a Jerk)

Final thoughts

As you can see, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to content marketing. Depending on your goals, there are a variety of strategies you can use for maximum effectiveness.

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If you’re just getting started with content marketing, I recommend reading this comprehensive guide.

Did I miss out on any amazing B2B content marketing examples? Let me know on Twitter.

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Measuring Content Impact Across The Customer Journey

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Measuring Content Impact Across The Customer Journey

Understanding the impact of your content at every touchpoint of the customer journey is essential – but that’s easier said than done. From attracting potential leads to nurturing them into loyal customers, there are many touchpoints to look into.

So how do you identify and take advantage of these opportunities for growth?

Watch this on-demand webinar and learn a comprehensive approach for measuring the value of your content initiatives, so you can optimize resource allocation for maximum impact.

You’ll learn:

  • Fresh methods for measuring your content’s impact.
  • Fascinating insights using first-touch attribution, and how it differs from the usual last-touch perspective.
  • Ways to persuade decision-makers to invest in more content by showcasing its value convincingly.

With Bill Franklin and Oliver Tani of DAC Group, we unravel the nuances of attribution modeling, emphasizing the significance of layering first-touch and last-touch attribution within your measurement strategy. 

Check out these insights to help you craft compelling content tailored to each stage, using an approach rooted in first-hand experience to ensure your content resonates.

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Whether you’re a seasoned marketer or new to content measurement, this webinar promises valuable insights and actionable tactics to elevate your SEO game and optimize your content initiatives for success. 

View the slides below or check out the full webinar for all the details.

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How to Find and Use Competitor Keywords

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How to Find and Use Competitor Keywords

Competitor keywords are the keywords your rivals rank for in Google’s search results. They may rank organically or pay for Google Ads to rank in the paid results.

Knowing your competitors’ keywords is the easiest form of keyword research. If your competitors rank for or target particular keywords, it might be worth it for you to target them, too.

There is no way to see your competitors’ keywords without a tool like Ahrefs, which has a database of keywords and the sites that rank for them. As far as we know, Ahrefs has the biggest database of these keywords.

How to find all the keywords your competitor ranks for

  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Site Explorer
  2. Enter your competitor’s domain
  3. Go to the Organic keywords report

The report is sorted by traffic to show you the keywords sending your competitor the most visits. For example, Mailchimp gets most of its organic traffic from the keyword “mailchimp.”

Mailchimp gets most of its organic traffic from the keyword, “mailchimp”.Mailchimp gets most of its organic traffic from the keyword, “mailchimp”.

Since you’re unlikely to rank for your competitor’s brand, you might want to exclude branded keywords from the report. You can do this by adding a Keyword > Doesn’t contain filter. In this example, we’ll filter out keywords containing “mailchimp” or any potential misspellings:

Filtering out branded keywords in Organic keywords reportFiltering out branded keywords in Organic keywords report

If you’re a new brand competing with one that’s established, you might also want to look for popular low-difficulty keywords. You can do this by setting the Volume filter to a minimum of 500 and the KD filter to a maximum of 10.

Finding popular, low-difficulty keywords in Organic keywordsFinding popular, low-difficulty keywords in Organic keywords

How to find keywords your competitor ranks for, but you don’t

  1. Go to Competitive Analysis
  2. Enter your domain in the This target doesn’t rank for section
  3. Enter your competitor’s domain in the But these competitors do section
Competitive analysis reportCompetitive analysis report

Hit “Show keyword opportunities,” and you’ll see all the keywords your competitor ranks for, but you don’t.

Content gap reportContent gap report

You can also add a Volume and KD filter to find popular, low-difficulty keywords in this report.

Volume and KD filter in Content gapVolume and KD filter in Content gap

How to find keywords multiple competitors rank for, but you don’t

  1. Go to Competitive Analysis
  2. Enter your domain in the This target doesn’t rank for section
  3. Enter the domains of multiple competitors in the But these competitors do section
Competitive analysis report with multiple competitorsCompetitive analysis report with multiple competitors

You’ll see all the keywords that at least one of these competitors ranks for, but you don’t.

Content gap report with multiple competitorsContent gap report with multiple competitors

You can also narrow the list down to keywords that all competitors rank for. Click on the Competitors’ positions filter and choose All 3 competitors:

Selecting all 3 competitors to see keywords all 3 competitors rank forSelecting all 3 competitors to see keywords all 3 competitors rank for
  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Site Explorer
  2. Enter your competitor’s domain
  3. Go to the Paid keywords report
Paid keywords reportPaid keywords report

This report shows you the keywords your competitors are targeting via Google Ads.

Since your competitor is paying for traffic from these keywords, it may indicate that they’re profitable for them—and could be for you, too.

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You know what keywords your competitors are ranking for or bidding on. But what do you do with them? There are basically three options.

1. Create pages to target these keywords

You can only rank for keywords if you have content about them. So, the most straightforward thing you can do for competitors’ keywords you want to rank for is to create pages to target them.

However, before you do this, it’s worth clustering your competitor’s keywords by Parent Topic. This will group keywords that mean the same or similar things so you can target them all with one page.

Here’s how to do that:

  1. Export your competitor’s keywords, either from the Organic Keywords or Content Gap report
  2. Paste them into Keywords Explorer
  3. Click the “Clusters by Parent Topic” tab
Clustering keywords by Parent TopicClustering keywords by Parent Topic

For example, MailChimp ranks for keywords like “what is digital marketing” and “digital marketing definition.” These and many others get clustered under the Parent Topic of “digital marketing” because people searching for them are all looking for the same thing: a definition of digital marketing. You only need to create one page to potentially rank for all these keywords.

Keywords under the cluster of "digital marketing"Keywords under the cluster of "digital marketing"

2. Optimize existing content by filling subtopics

You don’t always need to create new content to rank for competitors’ keywords. Sometimes, you can optimize the content you already have to rank for them.

How do you know which keywords you can do this for? Try this:

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  1. Export your competitor’s keywords
  2. Paste them into Keywords Explorer
  3. Click the “Clusters by Parent Topic” tab
  4. Look for Parent Topics you already have content about

For example, if we analyze our competitor, we can see that seven keywords they rank for fall under the Parent Topic of “press release template.”

Our competitor ranks for seven keywords that fall under the "press release template" clusterOur competitor ranks for seven keywords that fall under the "press release template" cluster

If we search our site, we see that we already have a page about this topic.

Site search finds that we already have a blog post on press release templatesSite search finds that we already have a blog post on press release templates

If we click the caret and check the keywords in the cluster, we see keywords like “press release example” and “press release format.”

Keywords under the cluster of "press release template"Keywords under the cluster of "press release template"

To rank for the keywords in the cluster, we can probably optimize the page we already have by adding sections about the subtopics of “press release examples” and “press release format.”

3. Target these keywords with Google Ads

Paid keywords are the simplest—look through the report and see if there are any relevant keywords you might want to target, too.

For example, Mailchimp is bidding for the keyword “how to create a newsletter.”

Mailchimp is bidding for the keyword “how to create a newsletter”Mailchimp is bidding for the keyword “how to create a newsletter”

If you’re ConvertKit, you may also want to target this keyword since it’s relevant.

If you decide to target the same keyword via Google Ads, you can hover over the magnifying glass to see the ads your competitor is using.

Mailchimp's Google Ad for the keyword “how to create a newsletter”Mailchimp's Google Ad for the keyword “how to create a newsletter”

You can also see the landing page your competitor directs ad traffic to under the URL column.

The landing page Mailchimp is directing traffic to for “how to create a newsletter”The landing page Mailchimp is directing traffic to for “how to create a newsletter”

Learn more

Check out more tutorials on how to do competitor keyword analysis:

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Google Confirms Links Are Not That Important

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Google confirms that links are not that important anymore

Google’s Gary Illyes confirmed at a recent search marketing conference that Google needs very few links, adding to the growing body of evidence that publishers need to focus on other factors. Gary tweeted confirmation that he indeed say those words.

Background Of Links For Ranking

Links were discovered in the late 1990’s to be a good signal for search engines to use for validating how authoritative a website is and then Google discovered soon after that anchor text could be used to provide semantic signals about what a webpage was about.

One of the most important research papers was Authoritative Sources in a Hyperlinked Environment by Jon M. Kleinberg, published around 1998 (link to research paper at the end of the article). The main discovery of this research paper is that there is too many web pages and there was no objective way to filter search results for quality in order to rank web pages for a subjective idea of relevance.

The author of the research paper discovered that links could be used as an objective filter for authoritativeness.

Kleinberg wrote:

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“To provide effective search methods under these conditions, one needs a way to filter, from among a huge collection of relevant pages, a small set of the most “authoritative” or ‘definitive’ ones.”

This is the most influential research paper on links because it kick-started more research on ways to use links beyond as an authority metric but as a subjective metric for relevance.

Objective is something factual. Subjective is something that’s closer to an opinion. The founders of Google discovered how to use the subjective opinions of the Internet as a relevance metric for what to rank in the search results.

What Larry Page and Sergey Brin discovered and shared in their research paper (The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine – link at end of this article) was that it was possible to harness the power of anchor text to determine the subjective opinion of relevance from actual humans. It was essentially crowdsourcing the opinions of millions of website expressed through the link structure between each webpage.

What Did Gary Illyes Say About Links In 2024?

At a recent search conference in Bulgaria, Google’s Gary Illyes made a comment about how Google doesn’t really need that many links and how Google has made links less important.

Patrick Stox tweeted about what he heard at the search conference:

” ‘We need very few links to rank pages… Over the years we’ve made links less important.’ @methode #serpconf2024″

Google’s Gary Illyes tweeted a confirmation of that statement:

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“I shouldn’t have said that… I definitely shouldn’t have said that”

Why Links Matter Less

The initial state of anchor text when Google first used links for ranking purposes was absolutely non-spammy, which is why it was so useful. Hyperlinks were primarily used as a way to send traffic from one website to another website.

But by 2004 or 2005 Google was using statistical analysis to detect manipulated links, then around 2004 “powered-by” links in website footers stopped passing anchor text value, and by 2006 links close to the words “advertising” stopped passing link value, links from directories stopped passing ranking value and by 2012 Google deployed a massive link algorithm called Penguin that destroyed the rankings of likely millions of websites, many of which were using guest posting.

The link signal eventually became so bad that Google decided in 2019 to selectively use nofollow links for ranking purposes. Google’s Gary Illyes confirmed that the change to nofollow was made because of the link signal.

Google Explicitly Confirms That Links Matter Less

In 2023 Google’s Gary Illyes shared at a PubCon Austin that links were not even in the top 3 of ranking factors. Then in March 2024, coinciding with the March 2024 Core Algorithm Update, Google updated their spam policies documentation to downplay the importance of links for ranking purposes.

Google March 2024 Core Update: 4 Changes To Link Signal

The documentation previously said:

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“Google uses links as an important factor in determining the relevancy of web pages.”

The update to the documentation that mentioned links was updated to remove the word important.

Links are not just listed as just another factor:

“Google uses links as a factor in determining the relevancy of web pages.”

At the beginning of April Google’s John Mueller advised that there are more useful SEO activities to engage on than links.

Mueller explained:

“There are more important things for websites nowadays, and over-focusing on links will often result in you wasting your time doing things that don’t make your website better overall”

Finally, Gary Illyes explicitly said that Google needs very few links to rank webpages and confirmed it.

Why Google Doesn’t Need Links

The reason why Google doesn’t need many links is likely because of the extent of AI and natural language undertanding that Google uses in their algorithms. Google must be highly confident in its algorithm to be able to explicitly say that they don’t need it.

Way back when Google implemented the nofollow into the algorithm there were many link builders who sold comment spam links who continued to lie that comment spam still worked. As someone who started link building at the very beginning of modern SEO (I was the moderator of the link building forum at the #1 SEO forum of that time), I can say with confidence that links have stopped playing much of a role in rankings beginning several years ago, which is why I stopped about five or six years ago.

Read the research papers

Authoritative Sources in a Hyperlinked Environment – Jon M. Kleinberg (PDF)

The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine

Featured Image by Shutterstock/RYO Alexandre

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