As we’ve expanded the company, I had been finally able to use our internal resources to develop out & rank our own projects. I’ve always had the mindset of “drinking our own Koolaid”, so when we’ve gone down this path, Not long ago i stumbled right into a rabbit hole that gave me a tremendous burst of excitement and a rise in expectations for what we could do in the future. But it really came at a cost: paranoia.
After the dust settled on the improvements we made, I took a significant take a step back and realized that what we should were building was pretty much sitting on the fault brand of a tectonic plate.
It could all come crashing down right away, all because of one critical assumption that I’ve made to date: that links continues to matter.
I quickly saw that I needed to possess a better gauge around the longevity of links beyond the tweets I happened to see that day. I’ve never had much cause for concern over the years in regards to this issue (evidence of how come listed later), however if I was going to make a major bet within the next 12-24 months, I needed to understand the parameters of what may go wrong, and also this was one of several items on top of the list.
I ended up discussing things over with just a few trusted colleagues of mine, as well as reaching out to a couple of other experts which i trusted the opinion of with regards to the way ahead for SEO. So I wanted to discuss my thinking, and the overall conclusions I’ve drawn based off of the information available.
The key way to obtain “facts” the industry points to overall are statements from Google. Yet, there were numerous instances where what Google is telling us is, at least, misleading.
Below are a few recent examples to illustrate as to what way they are misleading:
1. With their “Not Provided” announcement post in October 2011, Google stated that “the change will affect only a minority of the traffic.” Not even a couple of years later, Danny Sullivan was told by Google they had begun work towards encrypting ALL searches. The rest is history.
My thoughts: even when we get the reality from Google, it needs to be labeled with huge, red letters of the date the statement is made, because things can change very, rapidly. In this instance, it was actually probably their intention all along to gradually roll this in the market to all searches, to be able to not anger people too greatly all at once.
2. Google’s John Mueller made this statement a few 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: will it be challenging to feel that 302 redirects pass a minimum of .01% from the PageRank of the page? I don’t think so. So really, this statement isn’t saying much. It’s a non-answer, as it’s framed in comparison to 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 those two examples & know that things can change quickly, and this you need to decipher what is actually, concretely being said.
So, knowing that, below are a few recent statements on the topic of the post:
1. March 24, 2016 – Google lists their best 3 ranking factors as: links, content and RankBrain (even though they didn’t state the order from the first couple of; RankBrain is certainly 3rd, though).
My thoughts: this isn’t anything new. This list lines up with the things they indicated inside the RankBrain initial news article in Bloomberg when they stated RankBrain was #3. All of that was left to speculate, up to now, was what #1 and #2 were, while it wasn’t too hard to guess.
2. Feb 2, 2015 – Google confirms that you don’t necessarily need links to rank. John Mueller cites an example of friend of his who launched a local neighborhood website in Zurich as dexhpky71 indexed, ranking, and obtaining search traffic.
My thoughts: this isn’t very surprising, for just two reasons. First, that the queries they’re ranking for are most likely really low competition (because: local international), and because Google has become significantly better over the years at taking a look at other signals in places that the web link graph was lacking.
3. May 5, 2014 – Matt Cutts leads off a relevant video by using a disclaimer stating “I think link building agency have several, quite a few years left in them”.
My thoughts: just as much of the endorsement as which is, a haunting reminder of how quickly things change is Matt’s comments later from the video talking about authorship markup, a task which was eventually abandoned inside the following years.
4. Feb 19, 2014 – Google’s Matt Cutts stated they tried dropping links altogether using 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 per year later after finding it to be unsuccessful. Things change awfully quick, but if there’s any evidence about this list that can add reassurance, the mix of two different search engines like yahoo trying & failing this is probably best. Having said that, our main concern isn’t the entire riddance of links, but alternatively, its absolute strength like a ranking factor. So, once more, it’s still not all the that reassuring.