By Andrew Dennis
11 Dec 2014

If Links Had Zero SEO Value, They’d Still Be Valuable Online

Link Building

If Google never existed, or gave no weight to links as a ranking signal within search, links would still have tremendous value online.

Links remain at the very core of the internet. Links mattered before Google came around, and links would continue to matter if Google went away. As SEOs we often have a jaded view of the web, and we tend to overlook the importance of links outside of our own field of search engine optimization.

While real and worthwhile links are still essential to visibility in search, there are also numerous reasons links are useful outside of search rankings. Some of the ways links are valuable online include:

  • Navigation
  • Driving referral traffic
  • Contributing to branding strategies
  • Creating online connections

Often SEOs and marketers focus so intently on how links impact search visibility, they forget they serve various other functions and can provide numerous benefits distinct from SEO.

Navigational Uses

First and foremost, links are the primary means of navigation online.

If the internet were a physical place, links would be the highways that connect the cities (websites).

If the web  was a physical place

Links interconnect websites and pages and allow people to get from one place to another online.

Links also provide a means of navigation from social media, and yes, search. In fact, Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs) are simply a collection of links, intended to take you to helpful websites.

Links are the very foundation of the web, and regardless of their importance within Google’s search rankings algorithm, links will continue to connect websites and content online.

Driving Referral Traffic

Links can also provide value by driving referral traffic to your site.

Being that links are the primary means of navigation online, they provide a way for people to get to your site. Navigation would be impossible without links, so even if they had zero SEO value links would still be useful in terms of getting traffic to your website. Links would still need to be an important consideration.

A perfect example of how links can be helpful outside of SEO would be social media links. The large majority of shares on social media are essentially links. When someone finds content they want to show their friends, they share a link to make it easy for their followers to find said content.

Google has stated they do not account for social links in their algorithm, but these links will still drive a substantial amount of qualified traffic. Even links that are completely void of SEO value can still help improve the visibility of your site through social sharing.

Contributing to Branding Strategies

There are numerous ways that links can contribute to your existing branding strategies as well.

Links can be particularly helpful in terms of brand exposure. In fact, links are essentially tiny online billboards for your brand. The primary way links help increase brand exposure is through tapping into new audiences.

As mentioned before, people typically use links to share content on social media. When someone shares a link to your site or content, your brand is exposed to that person’s unique audience. Links can be extremely valuable for helping new audiences find your branded content and furthering your brand exposure goals.

Links can also be useful for cultivating brand authority. Links are often used to indicate a public endorsement of a person, site, or piece of content. Whether you link out to another’s work in a blog post or simply list them on a resource page, by linking you are showing you endorse this person’s content and/or site.

As you build more and more links to your website you are also building credibility and a positive reputation for your brand. Links from niche influencers in particular can be beneficial as endorsements from these authority figures can pass authority along to your brand. This is true whether the link is on social media or on a relevant website.

Similar to endorsements from industry leaders, citation links can also help develop brand authority. Links are often used as citations online to attribute proper credit, and when others cite your work via a link it demonstrates your authority.

Strong branding is essential to any business’ success, and links can help aid and bolster branding efforts.

Creating Online Connections

Regardless of SEO value, links are still valuable in terms of the online connections they create.

Links form online connections that can lead to meaningful relationships. Relationships and links go hand-in-hand, and the relationships you build through your links can be beneficial in a number of ways.

Building strong relationships will help your marketing initiatives be more successful. Some ways these positive connections can assist your marketing strategies include:

  • Opening doors that lead to new opportunities and new audiences
  • Increased amplification and assistance with promotional efforts
  • Discovery of mutually beneficial partnership and collaborative opportunities
  • Acceptance into high-profile and respected associations
  • Strengthening brand trust within industry/niche
  • Etc.

Links not only create online connections between websites, but they also create online connections between webmasters that can lead to meaningful and mutually beneficial relationships. There is tremendous value in fostering these positive relationships.


Links remain at the core of Google’s search algorithm and are immensely important in terms of search visibility. However, links also provide value online in a number of different ways, which is why Google was so successful - they realized how important links are to the web and built an search algorithm around that fact.

Specifically, links are valuable in terms of:

  • Navigational uses
  • Driving referral traffic
  • Contributing to branding strategies
  • Creating online connections.

Even if links had absolutely zero SEO value, they would still be immensely valuable online.

Andrew Dennis

Andrew Dennis is a Content Marketing Manager at Shopify. Andrew is an alumnus of the University of Idaho and consequently a lifelong Vandals fan. You can connect with Andrew on Twitter or LinkedIn.