As we’ve expanded the agency, I used to be finally able to use our internal resources to create out & rank our projects. I’ve always had the mindset of “drinking our Koolaid”, so that as we’ve gone down this path, I recently stumbled in to a rabbit hole that provided me with a tremendous burst of excitement and a rise in expectations for the purpose we could do in the near future. Nevertheless it came in a cost: paranoia.
When the dust settled on the improvements we made, I took a major step back and discovered that whatever we were building was basically on the fault type of a tectonic plate.
It could possibly all come crashing down in an instant, all because of one critical assumption that I’ve intended to date: that links continues to matter.
I quickly found that I needed to get a better gauge in the longevity of links beyond the tweets I happened to read on that day. I’ve never had much cause of concern through the years regarding this issue (proof of why is listed later), however if I was going to create a major bet across the next 12-24 months, I found it necessary to be aware of parameters of what might go wrong, and that was one of many items on top of a list.
I ended up being discussing things over with just a few trusted colleagues of mine, as well as contacting several other experts that I trusted the opinion of with regards to the future of SEO. And So I wanted to express my thinking, along with the overall conclusions I’ve drawn based off the information available.
The principle way to obtain “facts” that the industry points to in general are statements from Google. Yet, there were numerous instances where what Google is telling us is, at a minimum, misleading.
Below are a few recent examples to illustrate as to what way they can be misleading:
1. In their “Not Provided” announcement post in October 2011, Google stated that “the change will affect just a minority of your own traffic.” Not actually 2 yrs later, Danny Sullivan was told by Google they had begun work with encrypting ALL searches. The others is history.
My thoughts: regardless if we get the simple truth from Google, it ought to be labeled with huge, red letters of the date the statement was developed, because things can change very, quickly. In cases like this, it had been probably their intention all along to gradually roll this out to all searches, to be able to not anger people too greatly at one time.
2. Google’s John Mueller made this statement a couple of weeks ago about 302 redirects passing PageRank. It implies that 302 redirects are OK for SEO. As Mike King quickly noted on Twitter, that’s very misleading based off most SEO’s prior experiences.
My thoughts: is it hard to assume that 302 redirects pass no less than .01% of the PageRank from the page? I don’t think so. So really, this statement isn’t saying much. It’s a non-answer, as it’s framed compared to a 404 (no PR passes) rather than 301 (~90% of PR passes), the direct alternative in this instance. So really, it doesn’t answer anything practical.
Take the two examples & recognize that things can transform quickly, which you should try to decipher exactly what is actually, concretely being said.
So, knowing that, here are some recent statements on the topic with this post:
1. March 24, 2016 – Google lists their best 3 ranking factors as: links, content and RankBrain (even though they didn’t state your order in the first couple of; RankBrain is unquestionably 3rd, though).
My thoughts: this isn’t anything new. This list lines up with anything they indicated in the RankBrain initial news article in Bloomberg whenever they stated RankBrain was #3. All that was left to speculate, up to now, was what #1 and #2 were, though it wasn’t too difficult to guess.
2. Feb 2, 2015 – Google confirms which you don’t necessarily need links to rank. John Mueller cites an illustration of this friend of his who launched a nearby neighborhood website in Zurich as dexhpky71 indexed, ranking, and receiving search traffic.
My thoughts: this isn’t very surprising, for 2 reasons. First, the queries they’re ranking for are most likely very low competition (because: local international), and furthermore, as Google has brought much better through the years at checking out other signals in places that the hyperlink graph was lacking.
3. May 5, 2014 – Matt Cutts leads off a video by using a disclaimer stating “I think quality link building have lots of, many years left in them”.
My thoughts: the maximum amount of of your endorsement as that may be, a haunting reminder of methods quickly things change is Matt’s comments later within the video discussing authorship markup, a project which was eventually abandoned within the following years.
4. Feb 19, 2014 – Google’s Matt Cutts stated that they tried dropping links altogether from the ranking algorithm, and located that it is “much, much worse”.
My thoughts: interestingly enough, Yandex tried this starting in March 2014 for specific niches, and brought it back annually later after finding that it is unsuccessful. Things change awfully quick, however, if there’s any evidence for this list that could add reassurance, the mix of two different search engines trying & failing this is probably best. With that in mind, our main concern isn’t the whole riddance of links, but, its absolute strength being a ranking factor. So, again, it’s still not every that reassuring.