As we’ve expanded the agency, I was finally able to utilize our internal resources to construct out & rank our very own projects. I’ve always had the mindset of “drinking our personal Koolaid”, so that as we’ve gone down this path, Not long ago i stumbled into a rabbit hole that gave me a massive burst of excitement and a rise in expectations for what we could do soon. However it came in a cost: paranoia.
As soon as the dust settled around the improvements we made, I took a significant take a step back and saw that whatever we were building was basically located on the fault brand of a tectonic plate.
It may all come crashing down immediately, all as a result of one critical assumption that I’ve designed to date: that links will continue to matter.
I quickly realized that I needed to possess a better gauge on the longevity of links past the tweets I happened to read on that day. I’ve never had much cause of concern over time in regards to this issue (evidence of why is listed later), however, if I was going to create a major bet within the next 12-24 months, I found it necessary to are aware of the parameters of the items could go wrong, and this was one of the items at the top of their list.
I finished up discussing things over with just a few trusted colleagues of mine, along with contacting a couple of other experts which i trusted the opinion of in regards to the way forward for SEO. Therefore I wanted to express my thinking, and also the overall conclusions I’ve drawn based off the information available.
The principle source of “facts” that the industry points to in general are statements from Google. Yet, we have seen numerous instances where what Google is telling us is, at the very least, misleading.
Below are a few 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 towards encrypting ALL searches. The rest is history.
My thoughts: even though we have the truth from Google, it ought to be labeled with huge, red letters from the date the statement was created, because things may change very, rapidly. In cases like this, it was probably their intention all along to gradually roll this out to all searches, to be able to not anger people too greatly all at one time.
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 pointed out on Twitter, that’s very misleading based off most SEO’s prior experiences.
My thoughts: would it be difficult to feel that 302 redirects pass at the very least .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 as compared to a 404 (no PR passes) rather than 301 (~90% of PR passes), the direct alternative in this case. So really, it doesn’t answer anything practical.
Take the two examples & understand that things can alter quickly, and this try to decipher precisely what is actually, concretely being said.
So, bearing that in mind, here are a few recent statements on the topic with this post:
1. March 24, 2016 – Google lists their best three ranking factors as: links, content and RankBrain (while they didn’t state the order of the initial two; RankBrain is unquestionably 3rd, though).
My thoughts: this isn’t anything new. This list lines with anything they indicated in the RankBrain initial news article in Bloomberg when they stated RankBrain was #3. All 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 just don’t necessarily need links to position. John Mueller cites an illustration of this 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 extremely low competition (because: local international), and also since Google has got significantly better over time at looking at other signals in areas where the website link graph was lacking.
3. May 5, 2014 – Matt Cutts leads off a youtube video by using a disclaimer stating “I think effective link building service have lots of, a long time left in them”.
My thoughts: as much of the endorsement as which is, a haunting reminder of how quickly things change is Matt’s comments later within the video speaking about authorship markup, a project which was eventually abandoned from the following years.
4. Feb 19, 2014 – Google’s Matt Cutts stated they tried dropping links altogether off their ranking algorithm, and located it to be “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, but when there’s any evidence for this list that could add reassurance, a combination of two different search engines like yahoo trying & failing this might be best. With that said, our main concern isn’t the entire riddance of links, but rather, its absolute strength as a ranking factor. So, again, it’s still not all that reassuring.