As we’ve expanded the agency, I had been finally able to use our internal resources to develop out & rank our projects. I’ve always had the mindset of “drinking our own Koolaid”, and also as we’ve gone down this path, I recently stumbled in to a rabbit hole that gave me an enormous burst of excitement and a rise in expectations for which we might do in the future. Nevertheless it came at the cost: paranoia.
When the dust settled about the improvements we made, I took a serious take a step back and realized that what we should were building was pretty much on the fault line of a tectonic plate.
It could possibly all come crashing down right away, all as a result of one critical assumption that I’ve designed to date: that links continue to matter.
I quickly realized that I needed to experience a better gauge on the longevity of links past the tweets I happened to see that day. I’ve never had much cause of concern throughout the years in regards to this issue (evidence of the reason why listed later), but when I was going to make a major bet over the next 12-24 months, I needed to know the parameters of the things could go wrong, and this was one of many items at the top of this list.
I ended up discussing things over with just a few trusted colleagues of mine, in addition to contacting several other experts that I trusted the opinion of in regards to the way forward for SEO. Therefore I wanted to share with you my thinking, as well as the overall conclusions I’ve drawn based off the information available.
The key way to obtain “facts” how the industry points to overall are statements from Google. Yet, there has been numerous instances where what Google is telling us is, at least, misleading.
Here are several recent examples to illustrate in doing what way they may be misleading:
1. In their “Not Provided” announcement post in October 2011, Google stated that “the change will affect only a minority of your own traffic.” Not really 2 years later, Danny Sullivan was told by Google they had begun focus on encrypting ALL searches. The remainder is history.
My thoughts: regardless if we receive the facts from Google, it needs 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 in the market to all searches, as a way to not anger people too greatly at the same time.
2. Google’s John Mueller made this statement a couple 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: could it be challenging to believe that 302 redirects pass no less than .01% in the PageRank of your page? I don’t think so. So really, this statement isn’t saying much. It’s a non-answer, as it’s framed as compared to a 404 (no PR passes) instead of a 301 (~90% of PR passes), the direct alternative in this case. So really, it doesn’t answer anything practical.
Take those two examples & know that things can transform quickly, and therefore you need to decipher exactly what is actually, concretely being said.
So, bearing that in mind, below are a few recent statements on the topic on this post:
1. March 24, 2016 – Google lists their top 3 ranking factors as: links, content and RankBrain (though they didn’t state an order of the first couple of; RankBrain is definitely 3rd, though).
My thoughts: this isn’t anything new. This list lines on top of whatever they indicated from the RankBrain initial news article in Bloomberg once they stated RankBrain was #3. All of that was left to speculate, so far, was what #1 and #2 were, while it wasn’t too hard to guess.
2. Feb 2, 2015 – Google confirms which you don’t necessarily need links to position. John Mueller cites an illustration of this friend of his who launched a neighborhood neighborhood website in Zurich as dexhpky71 indexed, ranking, and having 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 also since Google has got a lot better over time at considering other signals in locations where the link graph was lacking.
3. May 5, 2014 – Matt Cutts leads off a relevant video using a disclaimer stating “I think seo link building service have lots of, several years left in them”.
My thoughts: all the of your endorsement as that is certainly, a haunting reminder of how quickly things change is Matt’s comments later within the video speaking about authorship markup, a task which had been eventually abandoned from the following years.
4. Feb 19, 2014 – Google’s Matt Cutts stated which they tried dropping links altogether off their ranking algorithm, and discovered that it is “much, much worse”.
My thoughts: interestingly enough, Yandex tried this starting in March 2014 for specific niches, and brought it back a year later after finding so that it is unsuccessful. Things change awfully quick, however if there’s any evidence for this list that will add reassurance, the mixture of two different search engines like google trying & failing this is probably best. With that in mind, our main concern isn’t the entire riddance of links, but, its absolute strength like a ranking factor. So, once more, it’s still not all that reassuring.