As we’ve expanded the agency, I had been finally able to utilize our internal resources to create out & rank our own projects. I’ve always had the mindset of “drinking our very own Koolaid”, and also as we’ve gone down this path, Recently i stumbled in to a rabbit hole that provided me with a massive burst of excitement and an increase in expectations for what we could do soon. But it came with a cost: paranoia.
Once the dust settled on the improvements we made, I took a serious step back and discovered that whatever we were building was basically on the fault collection of a tectonic plate.
It may all come crashing down instantly, all because of one critical assumption that I’ve intended to date: that links will continue to matter.
I quickly realized that I needed to get a better gauge about the longevity of links past the tweets I happened to read through that day. I’ve never had much reason for concern over the years in regards to this issue (proof of exactly why is listed later), but if I would make a major bet on the next 12-24 months, I found it necessary to be aware of parameters of the things could go wrong, which was one of several items on top of the list.
I ended up being discussing things over by incorporating trusted colleagues of mine, along with reaching out to a few other experts that we trusted the opinion of in regards to the future of SEO. Thus I wanted to express my thinking, and the overall conclusions I’ve drawn based away from the information available.
The main source of “facts” the industry points to as a whole are statements from Google. Yet, there have been numerous instances where what Google is telling us is, at least, misleading.
Here are several recent examples to illustrate in what way these are misleading:
1. With their “Not Provided” announcement post in October 2011, Google stated that “the change will affect merely a minority of the traffic.” Not two years later, Danny Sullivan was told by Google that they had begun work on encrypting ALL searches. Others is history.
My thoughts: regardless if we get the facts from Google, it needs to be labeled with huge, red letters of your date the statement is made, because things can alter very, rapidly. In this case, it was probably their intention all along to gradually roll this to all searches, as a way 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: could it be challenging to believe that 302 redirects pass a minimum of .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 compared 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 the two examples & recognize that things may change quickly, and that you should try to decipher precisely what is actually, concretely being said.
So, with that in mind, here are some recent statements on the subject with this post:
1. March 24, 2016 – Google lists their top three ranking factors as: links, content and RankBrain (though they didn’t state the transaction of your first two; RankBrain is without a doubt 3rd, though).
My thoughts: this isn’t anything new. This list lines track of whatever they indicated inside the RankBrain initial news article in Bloomberg when they stated RankBrain was #3. Everything was left to speculate, up to now, was what #1 and #2 were, even though 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 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 2 reasons. First, that this queries they’re ranking for are probably very low competition (because: local international), and because Google has gotten much better over time at looking at other signals in places that the web link graph was lacking.
3. May 5, 2014 – Matt Cutts leads off a relevant video having a disclaimer stating “I think link building agency have lots of, several years left in them”.
My thoughts: as much of any endorsement as which is, a haunting reminder of methods quickly things change is Matt’s comments later inside the video talking about authorship markup, a project which was eventually abandoned inside the following years.
4. Feb 19, 2014 – Google’s Matt Cutts stated they tried dropping links altogether from the ranking algorithm, and discovered it to be “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 it to be unsuccessful. Things change awfully quick, however, if there’s any evidence about this list that may add reassurance, a combination of two different search engines like google trying & failing this might be best. With that in mind, our main concern isn’t the entire riddance of links, but instead, its absolute strength like a ranking factor. So, once again, it’s still its not all that reassuring.