As we’ve expanded the company, I had been finally able to use our internal resources to construct out & rank our projects. I’ve always had the mindset of “drinking our very own Koolaid”, and as we’ve gone down this path, I recently stumbled into a rabbit hole that provided me with a tremendous burst of excitement and a rise in expectations for what we might do in the near future. But it came at a cost: paranoia.
Once the dust settled around the improvements we made, I took a serious step back and saw that whatever we were building was pretty much sitting on the fault line of a tectonic plate.
It might all come crashing down right away, all as a consequence of one critical assumption that I’ve made to date: that links continue to matter.
I quickly saw that I needed to possess a better gauge on the longevity of links beyond the tweets I happened to see that day. I’ve never had much cause for concern over time in regards to this issue (evidence of exactly why is listed later), however, if I was going to make a major bet on the next 12-24 months, I required to understand the parameters of the things might go wrong, and this was one of many items near the top of their list.
I finished up discussing things over by incorporating trusted colleagues of mine, and also reaching out to several other experts that we trusted the opinion of with regards to the future of SEO. And So I wanted to share with you my thinking, as well as the overall conclusions I’ve drawn based away from the information available.
The principle way to obtain “facts” that the industry points to overall are statements from Google. Yet, there have been numerous instances where what Google is telling us is, at the very least, misleading.
Here are a few recent examples to illustrate with what way they may be misleading:
1. Within their “Not Provided” announcement post in October 2011, Google stated that “the change will affect simply a minority of your respective traffic.” Not 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 receive the truth from Google, it must be labeled with huge, red letters from the date the statement was developed, because things can transform very, very quickly. In such a case, it absolutely was probably their intention all along to gradually roll this in the market to all searches, in order to not anger people too greatly at the same 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 stated on Twitter, that’s very misleading based off most SEO’s prior experiences.
My thoughts: could it be challenging to think that 302 redirects pass at the very least .01% of your PageRank in the 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 such a case. So really, it doesn’t answer anything practical.
Take the two examples & realize that things can transform quickly, and that you need to decipher what is actually, concretely being said.
So, with that in mind, below are a few recent statements on the subject of the post:
1. March 24, 2016 – Google lists their best three ranking factors as: links, content and RankBrain (although they didn’t state the transaction of your initial two; RankBrain is certainly 3rd, though).
My thoughts: this isn’t anything new. This list lines on top of what they indicated within the RankBrain initial news article in Bloomberg once they stated RankBrain was #3. Everything that was left to speculate, so far, was what #1 and #2 were, while it wasn’t too difficult to guess.
2. Feb 2, 2015 – Google confirms that you simply don’t necessarily need links to position. John Mueller cites an illustration 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 two reasons. First, how the queries they’re ranking for are probably really low competition (because: local international), and since Google has got significantly better over time at checking out other signals in places that the web link graph was lacking.
3. May 5, 2014 – Matt Cutts leads off a relevant video with a disclaimer stating “I think quality link building have several, a long time left in them”.
My thoughts: as much of any endorsement as that may be, a haunting reminder of methods quickly things change is Matt’s comments later in the video talking about authorship markup, a project which had been 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 found that it is “much, much worse”.
My thoughts: interestingly enough, Yandex tried this starting in March 2014 for specific niches, and brought it back each year later after finding that it is unsuccessful. Things change awfully quick, but if there’s any evidence for this list that will add reassurance, the mixture of two different search engines trying & failing this might be best. With that in mind, our main concern isn’t the complete riddance of links, but instead, its absolute strength as being a ranking factor. So, yet again, it’s still its not all that reassuring.