FOR SEO, ARE BACKLINKS OR CONTENT KING?
There is currently, and for a long time been, a debate among people who are interested in ranking sites in Google as to which is more important: including great content on one's website, or gaining backlinks to one's site. People who side with great content like to say "Content is King," while people in the backlink camp say that accumulating backlinks is much more important (that second group rarely says "Backlinks are King" simply because it doesn't have a catchy ring to it like "Content is King" does, I suppose).
Why Content Is Important
Content, from a website standpoint, is simply the material, or information, that appears on a web page. Content is assumed by many to be the text that "says what a web page says," and that's true. But content can also be images and videos and whatever else conveys information to the visitor.
Quality content serves two purposes. First, there's content's role in SEO. One web page doesn't rank in Google searches for any and every search term. If a web page ranks at all in Google searches (and many web pages don't show up in search results, for any search terms), it will show up for search terms (keywords) directly related to what that web page is all about.
If you put up a post on your website about dog training, that post certainly won't rank in Google searches for keywords such as presidents of the united states or best smartphone to buy. Google is looking for relevancy — Google wants to display web pages that are relevant, or suitable, to the keyword, or search phrase, a user enters. Google might include that web page for a user who types dog trainingin the Google search box — because your post is relevant to that search.
Notice I said that Google might include your dog training web page in a Google search for the phrase dog training. Why might, and not for sure? Because there are millions of web pages that have something to do with dog training. Your web page needs to stand out from those many other similar pages in order for Google to include it near the top of the search results listing.
What will make Google deem your post worthy of inclusion in search results for one particular search? Good, or optimized content is one of several factors. A web page that is relative to a search term (keyword), is informative, and, in short, satisfies the user's query is considered good content. You want to write good content to help your post rank in Google search. Good content is one factor in SEO.
Another reason good content is important is conversions. Ranking in searches will bring traffic, but all the traffic in the world is useless if those visitors aren't buying. Keeping visitors on your site, and eventually opening their wallets to you, results from good content.
You can find much more on writing good (optimizing) content for your website in the article OPTIMIZING WEBSITE CONTENT FOR SEO PURPOSES.
Why Backlinks Are Important
Bravo for good content! It helps in SEO, and it's responsible for making sales.
But good content is not enough to rank your site (your page, or post) in Google searches. It's not nearly enough.
There are a lot of web pages on the internet with really, really, bad content. But there also a lot of web pages with really, really good content. That includes pages that are targeting the exact same keywords your post is targeting. Even with optimized, brilliant content, your page has strong competition in the ranking department. Google needs to take other factors into account to determine which pages will appear near the top of the search results for any keyword.
Backlinks are one very big factor Google relies on to determine the worth of any one web page as far as being displayed in search results for a particular search term. When Site A includes a link to Site B, that's considered a backlink — Site A is linking back to Site B.
Why does Google give importance to backlinks? To Google, a backlink is a form of an up vote, or Like (to use social media terminology). Consider this. If the New York Times website posts an article about dog collars and that post includes a backlink to your site's dog collar post, it's obvious that the New York Times thinks your post is a good one. A very good one. They could have linked to any of thousands of dog collar-related articles, but they chose your article, your website, to acknowledge.
In the above example I didn't randomly choose the New York Times website as an example of one website supplying a backlink to another website. I selected that website because the New York Times website is big. Yes, in size, in that it has thousands of web pages. But more so in that it is big in an authoritative sense. The New York Times is a world-renowned newspaper, with a website that gets thousands of visitors every day. To Google, the New York Times website is a trusted website with authority.
What does that mean, exactly? It means that you shouldn't think in terms of a backlink is a backlink. You shouldn't think that all backlinks are the same, that all backlinks carry the same weight, or importance.
When it comes to backlinks, all are not created equally. While in general, more backlinks are better than fewer backlinks, quantity is not always better than quality. Not at all. A big part of Google's algorithm (Google's highly complex, software-controlled way of determining where a web page ranks for any one particular search keyword) is dependent on the strength, or authority of the source of each backlink. A backlink from an established, trusted, noteable website is worth far, far more than a backlink from a website that John Doe just started up and has almost no content and almost no visitors.
The takeaway from this backlink discussion? You want other sites linking to your site. Google gives weight to that — Google sees that as the internet world having confidence that your site (or at least, some pages of your site) as having worth. Of being of value to people searching the internet for answers to their questions (which is really all Google is about). However — and this is a big however — all backlinks are not the same.
When it comes to backlinks, you want 'em. But more importantly, you want backlinks from websites that have some value in the eyes of Google. When it comes to backlinks, Google without a doubt feels quality trumps quantity. If you're looking into buying the services of an SEO provider, you want to keep that in mind, and find an SEO provider that has SEO plans that are set up following that philosophy.
When working to rank your website in Google searches, creating optimized content and building backlinks does not come down to an "either-or" situation. It's not like a person has to pick one and neglect the other. In the end, great content and building backlinks are compatible SEO strategies. While establishing quality backlinks seem to have a greater effect on raising rankings in search results, good content does contribute to higher rankings, and is a necessity in getting visitors to convert to buyers. So don't settle for one or the other techniques — choose both.