As we’ve expanded the company, I used to be finally able to utilize our internal resources to develop out & rank our very own projects. I’ve always had the mindset of “drinking our Koolaid”, and also as we’ve gone down this path, I recently stumbled into a rabbit hole that gave me a tremendous burst of excitement and an increase in expectations for which we could do in the future. However it came at the cost: paranoia.
As soon as the dust settled in the improvements we made, I took an important step back and discovered that what we were building was pretty much located on the fault line of a tectonic plate.
It could possibly all come crashing down immediately, all due to one critical assumption that I’ve designed to date: that links continues to matter.
I quickly saw that I needed to experience a better gauge on the longevity of links past the tweets I happened to read on that day. I’ve never had much reason for concern over the years regarding this issue (proof why is listed later), but if I was going to create a major bet across the next 12-24 months, I found it necessary to understand the parameters of the things could go wrong, and this was one of many items near the top of the list.
I finished up discussing things over with just a few trusted colleagues of mine, in addition to contacting a couple of other experts i trusted the opinion of in regards to the way ahead for SEO. And So I wanted to discuss my thinking, along with the overall conclusions I’ve drawn based off of the information available.
The principle method to obtain “facts” how the industry points to as a whole are statements from Google. Yet, we have seen numerous instances where what Google is telling us is, at a minimum, misleading.
Here are some recent examples to illustrate in what way they can be misleading:
1. Inside their “Not Provided” announcement post in October 2011, Google stated that “the change will affect simply a minority of your own traffic.” Not even 2 yrs later, Danny Sullivan was told by Google that they had begun work on encrypting ALL searches. The rest is history.
My thoughts: even though we get the truth from Google, it should be labeled with huge, red letters in the date the statement is made, because things can transform very, very quickly. In this case, it was probably their intention all along to gradually roll this in the market to all searches, as a way to not anger people too greatly all at once.
2. Google’s John Mueller made this statement several weeks ago about 302 redirects passing PageRank. It implies that 302 redirects are OK for SEO. As Mike King quickly stated on Twitter, that’s very misleading based off most SEO’s prior experiences.
My thoughts: would it be tough to assume that 302 redirects pass at the very least .01% in 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 when compared with a 404 (no PR passes) rather than a 301 (~90% of PR passes), the direct alternative in such a case. So really, it doesn’t answer anything practical.
Take the two examples & realize that things can alter quickly, and that you should try to decipher what is actually, concretely being said.
So, bearing that in mind, here are several recent statements on the topic with this post:
1. March 24, 2016 – Google lists their top 3 ranking factors as: links, content and RankBrain (while they didn’t state the transaction in the first two; RankBrain is unquestionably 3rd, though).
My thoughts: this isn’t anything new. This list lines on top of anything they indicated within the RankBrain initial news article in Bloomberg after they stated RankBrain was #3. Everything was left to speculate, so far, was what #1 and #2 were, though it wasn’t too hard to guess.
2. Feb 2, 2015 – Google confirms which you don’t necessarily need links to rank. John Mueller cites an example of friend of his who launched the local neighborhood website in Zurich as dexhpky71 indexed, ranking, and getting search traffic.
My thoughts: this isn’t very surprising, for just two reasons. First, the queries they’re ranking for are most likely suprisingly low competition (because: local international), and since Google has become significantly better over time at looking at other signals in locations where the website link graph was lacking.
3. May 5, 2014 – Matt Cutts leads off a relevant video by using a disclaimer stating “I think seo link building services have lots of, many years left in them”.
My thoughts: just as much of any endorsement as that may be, a haunting reminder of how quickly things change is Matt’s comments later inside the video referring to authorship markup, a task which had been eventually abandoned inside the following years.
4. Feb 19, 2014 – Google’s Matt Cutts stated which they tried dropping links altogether from their ranking algorithm, and located so 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 on this list that could add reassurance, the mixture of two different search engines like yahoo trying & failing this is probably best. With that said, our main concern isn’t the entire riddance of links, but, its absolute strength being a ranking factor. So, once more, it’s still not all the that reassuring.