smithaa02 - 5:25 pm on Nov 19, 2011 (gmt 0)
"Links are still the best way to achieve page one results, right?"
I'm more in more getting into this camp... Sure, on-site factors are very important for non-competitive links and are somewhat a factor (as long as you have the basics covered) for competitive links but I would suspect it is like 90% link power, 10% on-site factors.
The emphasis google puts on curtailing fake links indicates IMO what they're trying to protect. Also, the core page rank algorithm I think is too ingrained into google's system architecture. Sure, google probably ignores/sandboxes/penalizes a large number of links, but as long as your links look organic, have natural accumulation rates and are diverse, I think this is the key.
Is google not happy about the emphasis they put on links? Yeah...Page has indicated so, but says he doesn't see a great alternative. I think to this end google is working on PR alternatives like manual reviews and behavioral data (probably the real reason they are so obsessed with hoarding user data).
In 2009 (which wasn't too long ago) there was a big deal raised about a leaked google memo talking about why a site dropped...and basically the reason was it was mostly about the links (interesting as this engineer didn't know what he was stating would go public):
The main issue is the dramatic decline of backlinks (which is likely causing the PageRank issue). The duplicate content issue isnít that there are lots of pages that are exactly the same, but that each page isnít unique enough (too much boilerplate that is the same from page to page and not enough content that is different). But fixing that is not going to help too much. Itís mostly the backlink problem.
If the issue on backlinks is that other sites are linking to 404 pages and not actual pages, putting in 301 redirects for every incorrect link (which they can get a list of in webmaster tools crawl errors) will help.
Iíll see if I can find out if the # of backlinks actually did drop or if we just changed our algorithms to discount many of them. Iím not sure what, if anything, weíll be able to tell him about what I find out though.
Supplemental results arenít results that donít change much, they are results that donít have enough PageRank to make it into our main index (we canít tell him that, of course).