|Can Google Keep Depending On Links For Relevant Rankings?|
Once upon a time, the mantra of "build quality sites and links will happen naturally" actually had some basis in fact. Those days are long gone, and anyone who still spouts that is on holidays from Xanadu. Link acquisition has become one of the most contrived, polluted, untruthful and downright dishonest parts of web development you will ever come across.
Ever noticed how may posters in here, and on other forums, say they have given up on link building, or send their link building offshore. Some are turning to social media in hopes that they are somehow going to stumble on the next magic bullet.
All this comes about because Google's success has turned links into the currency of the web development marketplace. The never ending efforts of SEO "specialists" fill our inboxes, trying to entice the gullible into hopelessly irrelevant link swaps.
We are beseeched to buy links from the Acme Link Selling Corp who's slogan is "Google Will Never Know". We are asked to sell links for use on websites who promise "we'll Never Share Your Ugly Secret". We see large families of sites that interlnk the bejesus out of each other in hopes of gaming Googles SERP's. Whether that works or not is not the point, it's yet another sign that links do not happen naturally and some folks will do whatever it takes to create link affluence.
In the minds of most web developers, Page Rank and Trust Rank came to symbolize link success and acceptance into the Google fold. By linking to other sites there is a perception that you are somehow giving away some of your affluence so it doesn't happen. Be honest, how many of you with successful sites are still actively involved in link exchanges with start-up sites?
So as more and more start-up websites keep bursting forth into the web environment, there is a dwindling number of links (and sources of links) that will do those sites any good in Google's eyes. So the older, established sites start to become the holders of all primary currency that Google recognizes.
How long can Google keep generating the best SERP's if the indicators that it relies on become less and less and the natural competition between sites becomes more stifled?
I think Google moved on from depending on links quite a while ago. Some of the new signals they use may also correlate with links, but the final ranking scores go well beyond.
This doesn't mean links don't matter at all - they still do. But links are clearly a smaller share of the whole pie than they used be. In fact, I think some of the businesses who are heavily engaged in a kind of arms race around backlinks would be embarrassed if they saw how little effect their efforts are having today. But it's become almost a habit, like a ritual that they can't stop doing.
|but the final ranking scores go well beyond |
That's a given.... we know the algos factor in a whole bunch of different criteria but without a critical mass of decent links, a site is never going to be get the opportunity to perform in a competitive search area.
I like the analogy of links being like votes. If you vote for yourself (directory submissions, guest books, forums, articles, blogs, link farms etc etc) you are supposedly wasting your time. It's only when you can get votes from sites that have some level of authority that a site is allowed off the leash.
Comments about "links given freely" still persist as a rationale for assessing site worth. A savvy webmaster links out to authority sites because its in their best interest to do so. They don't/can't link out to start-up sites because they don't know they exist. Catch 22 that reinforces the points in the OP.
austtr I agree with everything you've said..almost. I've never outsourced my link development, have stayed oldschool whitehat on my main site, and it mostly works. I got disheartened last year, but I'm re-energized with a new project that I think is going to give me plenty of new links by leveraging social media. All I did was twist what I've been doing before - answer the question 'why would someone give me a link'.
It's either harder than it used to be for sure, or maybe one just has to keep coming up with new ideas. My old stuff wasn't working anymore is all.
I think that links are still the most important offpage factor for Google and other search engines.
As You said, new ranking factors are STILL correlating with links. The link theme has just been diversified and became more complicated with the emerge of e-shops, social networks, benchmarking, etc.
Itīs impossible to numeralize ... we are told that they are about 200 ranking factors but if link building had a weight, letīs say, of 25% per cent for offpage optimization it would still be the most important factor and it would still justify to focus on it.
I still believe in the power of links but Google has to improve fine tuning algo factors for trust and authority.
And there's the correlation - trust and authority have something to do with links, too. Just not the kind of links you can directly generate.
Most likely what Google has done is to give very little weight to links like those from from directories, blog comments, and article farms. But links from authority sites still get a lot of weight.
|But links from authority sites still get a lot of weight |
But the number of these that are "freely given" as a percentage of the total links that get generated is like comparing a grain of sand to Mt Everest.
As fewer and fewer web owners/developers are willing to link out from their quality sites, fewer and fewer sites are going to have this indicator that Google needs to determine ranking.
Hence the OP
You're right about Google giving less weight to links now than in the past. You've already given several reasons why they were forced to do this.
In the domestic service and information categories I would say more than a few links were indicative of "illegal" link building. Most people browsing sites in those categories simply do not have a web site to put links on, so discounting FB/Twitter as "real" links there could not really be more than a few links to those sites. Hence if they have thousands or more G should certainly be looking closely at how they came to get them. That IS spam.
Google screwed up links as a currency anyway: it used to be "I like your site, I will link to it: if you like mine please link back." In recent years I've been spammed senseless with "Link to us three ways" and "We will build links for your site".
Links mean "authority"? Links usually, in my view, mean "spam".