As we’ve expanded the agency, I was finally able to use our internal resources to build out & rank our personal projects. I’ve always had the mindset of “drinking our very own Koolaid”, and also as we’ve gone down this path, I just stumbled in a rabbit hole that provided a tremendous burst of excitement and a rise in expectations for the purpose we might do soon. However it came at the cost: paranoia.
Once the dust settled around the improvements we made, I took a serious step back and realized that everything we were building was basically on the fault brand of a tectonic plate.
It could all come crashing down immediately, all because of one critical assumption that I’ve created to date: that links will continue to matter.
I quickly realized that I needed to possess a better gauge in the longevity of links beyond the tweets I happened to read through that day. I’ve never had much cause of concern through the years regarding this issue (proof of why is listed later), however if I was going to come up with a major bet on the next 12-24 months, I necessary to are aware of the parameters of the items might go wrong, and also this was one of many items at the top of this list.
I wound up discussing things over by incorporating trusted colleagues of mine, in addition to contacting several other experts which i trusted the opinion of in regards to the way ahead for SEO. Therefore I wanted to discuss my thinking, as well as the overall conclusions I’ve drawn based off of the information available.
The main way to obtain “facts” that the industry points to in general are statements from Google. Yet, there were numerous instances where what Google is telling us is, at a minimum, misleading.
Here are some recent examples to illustrate as to what way these are misleading:
1. In their “Not Provided” announcement post in October 2011, Google stated that “the change will affect simply a minority of the traffic.” Not actually a couple of years later, Danny Sullivan was told by Google that they had begun work with encrypting ALL searches. Others is history.
My thoughts: even though we get the reality from Google, it ought to be labeled with huge, red letters from the date the statement is made, because things can alter very, rapidly. In such a case, it absolutely was probably their intention all along to gradually roll this over to all searches, so that you can not anger people too greatly all at once.
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 revealed on Twitter, that’s very misleading based off most SEO’s prior experiences.
My thoughts: would it be challenging to assume that 302 redirects pass a minimum of .01% of the PageRank from 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 cases like this. So really, it doesn’t answer anything practical.
Take the two examples & realize that things may change quickly, and that you need to decipher what is actually, concretely being said.
So, with that in mind, here are several recent statements on the topic of the post:
1. March 24, 2016 – Google lists their best 3 ranking factors as: links, content and RankBrain (though they didn’t state the order of the first two; RankBrain is definitely 3rd, though).
My thoughts: this isn’t anything new. This list lines track of the things they indicated inside the RankBrain initial news article in Bloomberg when 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 which you don’t necessarily need links to rank. John Mueller cites a good example of friend of his who launched a nearby neighborhood website in Zurich as dexhpky71 indexed, ranking, and getting search traffic.
My thoughts: this isn’t very surprising, for 2 reasons. First, the queries they’re ranking for are probably suprisingly low competition (because: local international), and because Google has gotten significantly better over the years at looking at other signals in locations where the web link graph was lacking.
3. May 5, 2014 – Matt Cutts leads off a youtube video having a disclaimer stating “I think link building firm have many, a long time left in them”.
My thoughts: the maximum amount of of the endorsement as that is certainly, a haunting reminder of how quickly things change is Matt’s comments later inside the video referring to 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 off their 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 a year later after finding so that it is unsuccessful. Things change awfully quick, however if there’s any evidence about this list that can add reassurance, the mix of two different search engines like yahoo trying & failing this is probably best. With that said, our main concern isn’t the total riddance of links, but instead, its absolute strength being a ranking factor. So, again, it’s still not all the that reassuring.