As we’ve expanded the company, I found myself finally able to use our internal resources to create 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, Recently i stumbled in a rabbit hole that provided a massive burst of excitement and an increase in expectations for the purpose we could do in the near future. But it came in a cost: paranoia.
As soon as the dust settled on the improvements we made, I took a significant step back and realized that whatever we were building was more or less sitting on the fault brand of a tectonic plate.
It could all come crashing down instantly, all because of one critical assumption that I’ve created to date: that links will continue to matter.
I quickly saw that I needed to get a better gauge around the longevity of links past the tweets I happened to learn on that day. I’ve never had much cause for concern through the years in regards to this issue (proof of how come listed later), however, if I was going to make a major bet on the next 12-24 months, I required to be aware of parameters of the items may go wrong, and this was among the items near the top of a list.
I ended up being discussing things over by incorporating trusted colleagues of mine, in addition to contacting a few other experts i trusted the opinion of in regards to the way forward for SEO. And So I wanted to express my thinking, and also the overall conclusions I’ve drawn based off of the information available.
The primary way to obtain “facts” that this industry points to overall are statements from Google. Yet, there has been numerous instances where what Google is telling us is, at the minimum, misleading.
Below are a few recent examples to illustrate as to what way they can be 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 really 2 yrs later, Danny Sullivan was told by Google they had begun focus on encrypting ALL searches. The rest is history.
My thoughts: even if we get the facts from Google, it ought to be labeled with huge, red letters in the date the statement was developed, because things can transform very, quickly. In cases like this, it was actually probably their intention all along to gradually roll this over to all searches, in order to not anger people too greatly all at one 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 noted on Twitter, that’s very misleading based off most SEO’s prior experiences.
My thoughts: is it difficult to believe that 302 redirects pass at the very least .01% in the 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 compared to a 404 (no PR passes) rather than a 301 (~90% of PR passes), the direct alternative in this instance. So really, it doesn’t answer anything practical.
Take the two examples & recognize that things can alter quickly, and that you need to decipher what exactly is actually, concretely being said.
So, with that in mind, here are several recent statements on the topic on this post:
1. March 24, 2016 – Google lists their top 3 ranking factors as: links, content and RankBrain (although they didn’t state an order in the first two; RankBrain is without a doubt 3rd, though).
My thoughts: this isn’t anything new. This list lines with what they indicated in the RankBrain initial news article in Bloomberg after they stated RankBrain was #3. Everything that was left to speculate, up to now, was what #1 and #2 were, although it wasn’t too hard 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 a neighborhood neighborhood website in Zurich as dexhpky71 indexed, ranking, and obtaining search traffic.
My thoughts: this isn’t very surprising, for just two reasons. First, how the queries they’re ranking for are most likely very low competition (because: local international), and furthermore, as Google has brought considerably better over the years at looking at other signals in places that the hyperlink graph was lacking.
3. May 5, 2014 – Matt Cutts leads off a video using a disclaimer stating “I think quality link building have several, a long time 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 in the video referring to authorship markup, a task which had been eventually abandoned in the following years.
4. Feb 19, 2014 – Google’s Matt Cutts stated which they tried dropping links altogether using their ranking algorithm, and located that it is “much, much worse”.
My thoughts: interestingly enough, Yandex tried this starting in March 2014 for specific niches, and brought it back annually later after finding it to be unsuccessful. Things change awfully quick, however if there’s any evidence on this list that can add reassurance, a combination of two different search engines trying & failing this might be best. Having said that, our main concern isn’t the entire riddance of links, but, its absolute strength like a ranking factor. So, once again, it’s still not every that reassuring.