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Back-links – are they the number one ranking factor? No content is but back-links are still important and always will be. But there are many other ranking factors so let’s put it into perspective.
Search Metrics monitored 10,000 keywords, tracked 5,300,000,000 back-links & 19,044,500,000 social signals throughout 2013.
Using the Spearman Correlation model, Search Metrics were able to determine that the top search engine rankings factors in 2013 were the following:-
The above would not have been the case previously has back-links did, in fact, use to be the number one factor in ranking websites well in Google. Back-links used to be a more important ranking factor than even on-page content and site architecture. Quality back-links are still very important but less so than before.
Obviously this order of importance doesn’t take into account highly important ranking factors such as site content and information architecture because the focus is the off-site ranking factors.