Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s SEO spam team, did a test where back-links were removed from the search algorithm. This test returned negative results in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), proving that: links are highly relevant, still play an important role in SEO, and are useful as a ranking element (for now). Without doubt, links carry a lot of weight and have done so for a long time. The are partly responsible for rankings, driving traffic, and indexation. The question that comes to mind is, why would Google perform this type of experiment? Are links going to lose importance in the next several years and will they be as important as they are now? There are two schools of thought being discussed in the SEO community, regarding the power of relevant links, that I am aware of.
Links Are Still Valuable Assets To Go After
If certain links were to be removed from the web (those that are not relevant and are of low-quality), the remaining quality links would grow in relevance and authority. As links become rare they become more precious and that may not be that bad. Another way of looking at links is to consider how earning editorial links has become very difficult since the Panda and Penguin algorithm updates made by Google. Website are not nearly as eager to have links posted on their site from people they don’t know because, they don’t want to take a chance on being penalized. As a result, social media channels, such as Google+, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, seem to be a safer form of sharing content. Therefore, earning back-links to your site still suggests that there is a greater value being placed on links that are earned in accordance with the Google guidelines.
… But Maybe Links are Loosing Value?
Other authoritative SEO professionals have made other suggestions, claiming that links are continually decreasing in value and that’s why Google seems to be creating so many penalties against websites. Google’s ranking system consists of many elements that are constantly changing depending on items such as relevance, popularity, utility, and value. As these element constantly increases, the value of links decreases. There are many link replacement algorithm signals that Google uses such as social signals, traffic, and data usage, which can be used in Google’s link graph. Context and information can be sought from the link graph about other useful SEO signals. Even though links are very important right now, with opportunities like these being made available, they may not be as necessary for building rankings and authority.
What Should Online Businesses Do?
Are links on a downhill path or are they worth the struggle to attain? No marketer will ever say links are the only way or that links are dead. Times change and as marketers, we need to adjust with the times committing to digital marketing as a whole and ensuring different forms of value. As the saying goes, don’t put your all of your eggs in one basket. We need to focus on delivering organic traffic, growing the social networks, building authority, and establishing brand exposure. Links are not going anywhere soon and Google still places a large value on them, but we need to be prepared to adapt and start practicing other methods, besides link building, so that all of the hard work in developing the website credentials are not lost when Google makes another change to its search metrics.