I think it depends on how competitive the niche is. Within some not so competitive niches, you can rank with on-page SEO alone. For competitive niches you still need links.
I don't think links make so much of a difference anymore. In fact, I believe that user metrics have far more weight than anything else.
My opinion is based on a very large amount of empirical data.
Could you please share the weight on each of the user metrics? Maybe at least share a few that you think weigh the most?
Ps. I agree with the user metrics. Good user metrics is key to obtain higher long term exposure and visibility. Although, have you compared data with good metrics versus bad metrics? How did they fare with each other? How did you come to this conclusion?
I have always thought to myself that user metrics is gaining more and more weight as time goes on, from further personalization to SERP CTR loyalty. But I do not have data to back it up, other than my ever growing traffic in selected niches which only seems to be anecdotal experience. So I have kept it hush to myself.
It does feel that user metric is hard to improve, rather than having good useful content and easy to use interface. Other than that I really have no clue.
Are there specific areas or layout that you try to aim for with your sites?
I think it's a transitional period. Links still have some effect but advances in the algorithms mean user metrics and content is actually a viable alternative and, as time goes on and the tech improves links will become all but irrelevant in SEO terms.
Right now, I see that you can even rank for relatively competitive terms without a significant number of external links if you have the content right.
Links still have some impact but I see them as a short-term strategy. Every iteration of Penguin is another line of writing on the wall.
2014+ Build links for relevant traffic, convert that traffic, everything else will fall into place.
"build"- buy, beg, trade, doesn't matter, links should be for traffic.
"anchor text"- whatever entices the view to click through to your site.
"no-follow"- makes no difference, has nothing to do with the viewer clicking the link.
"page rank"- doesn't matter, page views matter.
"bad neighborhood"- can you convert traffic from bad neighborhoods?
I wish it were true that backlinks have no effect. Then people wouldn't be able to get top rankings by buying links. And most of the sites demoted by Penguin would be free to rank on their merits.
We've been talking about user metrics for many years, and I've always believed that this would be a better way to go if done properly. But to me, the only real evidence that Google has switched to user metrics as the main ranking factor would be if their search results begin to improve, and I haven't seen any signs of that yet.
|But to me, the only real evidence that Google has switched to user metrics as the main ranking factor would be if their search results begin to improve, and I haven't seen any signs of that yet. |
There's no reason to assume that Google will "switch" to user metrics or anything else. With 200+ factors built into its ranking algorithm, changes aren't likely to be as simple as "yesterday we relied on links, today we're relying on user metrics." (And even if it were that simple, the question of "which user metrics, and in what way?" wouldn't be answered.)
Even if Google did decide to throw out links and rely on a carefully-chosen assortment of user metrics, that wouldn't guarantee good search results. It could easily lead to far worse search results during the transition period, thanks to the law of unintended consequences.
While user metrics may be playing an increasingly important role in the algorithm, links are still a critical component and will be for a long time to come (EditorialGuy brings up some very good points). I'd guess your site's authority is what's causing your posts to rank without links, or it may be a relatively uncompetitive niche as aakk9999 mentioned.
I'm still seeing sites rank for highly competitive kw's solely off link networks, sitewide links and comment spam- things that the original panda/penguin updates should have taken care of. Obviously these strategies aren't sustainable, but you might be surprised to see how others rank if you sit down and take a look (I know I have been).
It would be great to hear others thoughts on this and what they see happening in the future.
|It would be great to hear others thoughts on this and what they see happening in the future |
My only additional thought is that anything that a webmaster can do to manipulate ranking, aside from providing valuable content obviously, has to be a target for Google. Therefore, how you see the future importance of links (that is to say, links that you or someone you employ can influence) will reflect your general opinion as to whether Google can get where it needs to be without the need to factor them in.
If you build a website whose position in SERPS is reliant on links that you have paid for, exchanged, created, hired someone to do or in some way manipulated, IMO you'd perhaps be a little naive if you don't expect there to be a reasonable chance that one day your site will be demoted.
|Do backlinks matter as much anymore |
answer is yes:
Simsi made a valid point but missed one important revelation. Show me a site in a competitive nich that isn't dependent on links to rank.
Google/Bing have had 12+ years of data to understand natural verses manipulated links. If you don't know the difference and how these links can be generated (or a better term created) then the web is going to a hard place to make a living.
Yes, links do matter. Matt Cutts posted a video on YouTube yesterday talking about link building.
Just a few months ago Matt posted a video about Unnatural Links warnings:
The day links don't matter is the day Google stops sending unnatural link warnings.
There is no doubt or question about it. Links DO matter.
Danny Sullivan asked Matt Cutts that question a few months ago at SMX West. Here is the article. [searchenginejournal.com]
|New discussion topic from Danny: Shifting to links… Now that we’ve gone through penalty linking through advertorials. Is the world of linking going to break down? Shouldn’t we all just shift to social? |
Matt: Links in his opinion have many many many more years ahead of us as valuable. Black hat tactics that were used in the past are getting less and less successful. Google’s put a lot of time and energy into shutting down link networks etc. Thus, good links that are built naturally will still provide value for a long time.