Welcome to WebmasterWorld Guest from

Message Too Old, No Replies

Google changes ranking advice. Quality not Links.



12:05 am on Jun 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member whitey is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month


Sites' positions in our search results are determined based on hundreds of factors designed to provide end-users with helpful, accurate search results. These factors are explained in more detail at http://www.google.com/competition/howgooglesearchworks.html [google.com].

In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by creating high-quality sites that users will want to use and share. For more information about improving your site's visibility in the Google search results, we recommend visiting Webmaster Academy which outlines core concepts for maintaining a Google-friendly website

Previously, the article had a line that read:

In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by increasing the number of high-quality sites that link to their pages.
We’ve bolded the key part, which was changed on May 27th to say:

In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by creating high-quality sites that users will want to use and share.
You can see the old version on The Wayback Machine; [web.archive.org...] the change was spotted yesterday by Erik Baeumlisberger. [twitter.com...]

The change is consistent with a message that Google’s been pushing recently, to focus people less on link building and more on building quality content. The head of Google’s web spam fighting team, Matt Cutts, spoke about this in a video to publishers on April 29 .... see article for more details : [searchengineland.com...]

[edited by: phranque at 11:33 am (utc) on Jun 20, 2013]
[edit reason] fixed url [/edit]


6:53 am on Jun 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member


"improve the rank of their sites"

Perhaps a person can improve the rank of their sites without blindly following the FUD which is both Google generated and widely repeated.

Robert Charlton

8:34 am on Jun 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator robert_charlton is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

bluntforce - Regarding the example you cite... strategies for ranking throwaway domains/subdomains, which generally also involve hacking trusted sites to gain backlinks for temporary rankings, are not strategies I'd follow if I valued a domain and wanted it to last.

I see no relationship between the point you're making and the longterm strategy that Google is recommending. I believe that Matt Cutts is trying to do us a favor by emphasizing the quality content.

Martin Ice Web

8:43 am on Jun 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

First: So we should make good Quality content that poeple link to, yet all the links we gain may cause a penalty. Cause no one knows which links Counts for good or bad we disavove these.

Second: All the pages the user liked and did link to did suffer from penguin or panda?!

Third: I can´t believe that the Spammers site, the low Content sites and the scrapped site are beeing linked from users!

I don´t know which ape did bite them but this is logical complete madness.


8:43 am on Jun 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tigger is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

I believe that Matt Cutts is trying to do us a favor by emphasizing the quality content.

how can you say that Cutts is putting emphases on quality when the serps look worse now than they have in months with domain crowding and spammers winning.. I just checked a term that I was 2nd, I'm now 9th and 1-8 all the same site THAT is not quality..

Before he starts preaching about quality he should be looking closer to home


9:05 am on Jun 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

Top Contributors Of The Month

Interesting. With Google, you always have to think "why are they saying that?" rather than take it at face value.

Google - at face value - seem to think links serve no purpose other than to try and game search engines. Heaven forbid that a link serves the purpose of someone traversing from one website to another! The very thought of it. No, links are there for Google spiders to inspect and categorise as "organic" or "inorganic". Google hate the idea of referral traffic. A link that drives traffic outside of Google? That's competition to Google. And yet, the best thing any webmaster can do to cement the popularity of their site is to win great referral traffic from targeted sites. Google's "webmaster advice" always suits Google, not the webmaster.

Why don't Google just say "create great content that will win natural links, and also build nofollow links for referral traffic to market it" - they don't say that because Google love the idea that people think they're the only game in town, and Google love the idea of all web traffic routed through their search engine. When Google talk to webmasters, the assumption is ALWAYS that Google are the only game in town. We find everything through Google. Your favourite site that was "disappeared" by Google? It probably got too much direct and referral traffic. Use Google to find a similar site. The site that DRIVES a lot of referral traffic? That got "disappeared" by Google too. Don't drive too much traffic or you'll be seen as a nuisance by Google.

That's why they say "don't build links, build quality content". They will pretend it's "build great content and people will link to it", but we know it rarely works that way. You build great content, then you market it. Great products and services rarely sell themselves alone - marketing does. Heck, marketing sells average to lousy products. That's just the way it works. For Google to dictate to us and tell us essentially not to market (outside of their Adwords) is....very bad advice to follow.


9:27 am on Jun 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

Trying to avoid being judgmental, but Payday Loans is not exactly a quality sector. That it is dominated by churn and burn sites is hardly a surprise. It is hard to think of a sector more suited to rampant short-termism than Payday Loans.

Google does not advise on how to build Churn and Burn (C&B) sites. They try and suppress them (at which point they are "burnt"). If a sector is dominated by C&B, ply your trade elsewhere.

Also note, C&B is the opposite end of the spectrum to the "only Brands rank" problem. You can supress C&B by requiring (not just favouring) Brand signals. And dialing down "Brandiness" means more C&B.

Personally, in the narrow terms of defining a viable business, I see no problem with a business model based on C&B. Just don't expect the same techniques to work for anything that isn't going to get burnt.

In fact, the more "legitimate" businesses move from aping C&B techniques, the more its only the C&Bers using them. Which means they can be suppressed without collateral damage.

Saying you're ALWAYS outranked by SPAM isn't the same as saying the same SPAM always outranks you. It's constantly being burnt, but replaced by more churn. The only way to climb out the mire is to use techniques that C&B don't. Google is trying to talk about what that might be. It's not advanced stuff, and many of us have a better idea than you can glean from official advice. But moving newbies away from trashy link building is part of a long term strategy for cleaning the SERPs

ETA - I realise I'm mixing threads here, but the content of previous posts is also heavily influenced by the parallel Google Payday Loan [webmasterworld.com] thread.


9:40 am on Jun 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

by creating high-quality sites that users will want to use and share.

Ahh I get it - they want the spammers to all start 'sharing'. If I was a more cynical person I would think they are trying to refocus the spammers who have destroyed their link based algo and index on the social sharing sites like facebook.

Google want to sabotage facebook with spam to make room for g+? No, never.

Sorry, but come on Matt Cutts - fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.


9:51 am on Jun 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

Thanks to Whitey to discuss this important info related to Google changes ranking advice, but there you create a link for more detail that link is not running, if may be possible to update that link for more detail.I am interested to read detail because I want to know more about this.


9:58 am on Jun 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

I don't think this wording change alters anything. I can see why they changed it, the original wording sounds too much like they're encouraging link building. But the underlying mission remains the same.....you need high quality links.

However, acquiring really high quality links requires (some) high quality content (note 'some', not the whole site, a few pages will do, the rest just has to be good enough to support the credibility of the great content from what I've seen). Sites like the BBC, The Times, Telegraph etc. won't link to you for no reason and most certainly won't link to you if they don't know you exist.

I think Google realise sites don't accumulate links in a vacuum, some sort of promotion is needed. They just don't want people acquiring links by arrangement (e.g. I'll link to you if you link to me, or I'll pay you X amount to feature our link embedded article). The sort of sites that will link to you on that basis will probably be useless these days (long term).


11:34 am on Jun 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator phranque is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

bhushansharma :
Thanks to Whitey to discuss this important info related to Google changes ranking advice, but there you create a link for more detail that link is not running, if may be possible to update that link for more detail.

it works now...


1:51 pm on Jun 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member whitey is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Ryan Moulton , Engineer @ Google :
A large part of SEO is just making it obvious what your page is about. This helps both the user and the search engine. A lot of it is just usability, but usability specifically for a user who is coming from a search engine.
It might be worth reflecting on the above and this statement, I referred to in another thread, in the context of the OP :

So you can spend money on all the best UI and content and it's worth zip, without people talking via signals to Google. There's limited ability to [ old style SEO ] manipulate Google's keywords without that. [webmasterworld.com...]
If I were to speculate on the weighting of ranking factors [ others may disagree ], in the order of importance it would be:

1. Brand Signals
2. UI
3. Content
4. Links [ essential for some sort of indexing ]

With better control over links with Penguin, I think Page Rank may have some chance of influence, if not now, sometime in the future, as link equity will be more scarce for sharing, raising it's validity again, now that many penalized sites and publishers have been squashed.

I just wonder where folks requiring links are going to get any link equity from across the net, in general terms, that doesn't run the risk of being penalized. Links require a lot more effort and risk now with siteowners /SEO's being discouraged from participating in this space.

There's definitely an aggressive stance by Google to eliminate the influence of links, but every now and then Google continue to say that links are an essential part of the web and the way a search engine works. MC reiterated that on a video a few weeks back.

I don't think the latter statement by MC should be seen to override the OP though. Not sure how SEO's feel about launching new sites if they can't get a link to kick off the indexing. The above ranking factor order [ speculative ], get's thrown about a bit when many sites rely on those factors being engineered by SEO's in reverse.


2:07 pm on Jun 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Can someone explain what a brand signal is?


2:49 pm on Jun 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

Google has been signaling in many different ways that the importance of links in their algo is waning while user experience is becoming more important. This change is just one more signal trying to get webmasters to stop placing so much importance on links and link building. I personally know of sites and pages that are ranking for terms of over 100,000 searches per month with less than 100 links pointing to them. Their on page SEO is not optimized however they are getting good user metrics. The pages and sites are on page 1. So I think this is less about subterfuge and conspiracy theories and more about a change in direction concerning how they are ranking sites.


3:09 pm on Jun 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

Can someone explain what a brand signal is?

Any signal that shows that people are looking specifically for your site or your product. The most basic example would be, how many people are going to Google and searching for your specific domain name or brand name?


3:11 pm on Jun 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I think the problem is that many of us who've religiously followed the guidelines (specifically in terms of quality) have been burnt badly recently. *I can see blank pages ranking above me.

If blackhat works perfectly in highly contested results, imagine the overall effect in the billions of non-contested results!

I recently allowed my site to be examined by SEOs and Google under a very bright light I can do that safely because 'I followed the guidelines'. Some of the people who are replacing me now, did not.

I will no longer consider their guidelines sacred, or useful. I think they're more 'What we wish for' rather than 'What we can achieve.' This is not bitterness, or resentment - it's the way I'll manage to survive from here on.

My guess is that other whitehat webmasters, will be affected by this soon. That is what the pattern suggests. They'll be here wondering why, just like the rest of us. Not cool, as they probably don't deserve it either.


3:24 pm on Jun 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

blackhat works perfectly

BH works perfectly for a very short time.

You can maintain BH rankings by a system of Churn andd Burn.

You CANNOT maintain a single domain by BH tactics.

If you try to copy the tactics of a site that has been DESIGNED to have temporary rankings, you will succeed in having temporary rank. Then you will have nothing.

Embrace or shun Churn & Burn tactics, but don't mix and match.


3:35 pm on Jun 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Does this change in wording mean that Google has finally realized that backlinks are no longer a reliable ranking signal, either positively or negatively, due to rampant artificial manipulation? If so, then they should throw Penguin into their garbage pile.


3:50 pm on Jun 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

@Shaddows - Sorry, I should have made this clear:

The webspam team are not focusing on quality, they are focusing on removing SPAM. Two very different things.

One promotes growth and allows for a certain degree of error. The other bombastically attacks error, with disregard for growth.

The harder they're hitting BH, the harder and bigger it's rebounding - meanwhile the storm creates a toxic condition for 'regular' dwellers - and more patterns for BH to adopt. The cycle must continue, until BH wins outright. (Many more of them, growing due to toxic conditions, and they're insanely smart)

SMEs cannot really use BH, because the model is different. So they lose.

This a tragic mistake to make when designing an organising principle.


3:55 pm on Jun 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

The key is to determine how google determines user metrics. Add that with the direction that people are using more mobile. I personally applaud Google for heading in this direction.

I do think google is gradually shifting towards that direction, at least in the niche that I am playing in. But then again I do not play in top commercial terms, but microniches that I can easily become the top and easily used resource. I have content only sites and don't sell stuff, other than affiliate links and ads.

My pv's have hit an all time high. Some sites lose and some sites win. My first income maker has been going downhill since last october, I conclude that it simply has too much "gunk" or unfocused topics and I have slowed any update with it. I have worked on other sites and my other sites have picked up.

I use the ideas and concepts that I have learned in terms of conversion and user experience to create even better sites. - and copy that experience that across my holdings, rinse and repeat with a few differences in terms of keywords, link placements, and user interactions. Then I analyze to see which sticks. The "only" metric that I really look is "traffic" and "income". Then I compare why certain sites have traffic and some don't, I look deeper after that.

It is not a 1 button process and there are many factors such as the "background" search volume and interest. But the tests have been paying off. I can narrow down what Google and users really want in the niche that I play in. Never really did any "blackhat" stuff.

Advertisement income and pageviews have both hit all time high. However, I am still trying to diversify between different income streams at the same time.

I think every niche and "user groups" all behave differently. By tailoring to the specific user behavior, you can bring out the metrics that Google wants your users to have.

In short, a long term business is to know your users, tailor to them, then think about how to make your sites better in google's eyes. Instead of thinking about Google first, then the users.

Content is NOT king. Getting your users to actually use your content is. Look deeper into who your audiences are, where they are, how they are using your site, and when they are using it, and what they find valuable. Value is not just sticking some related posts or related items on your site and call it good, and it's not just writing a 1 million word essay from a $100 /hr writer neither.

By definition of design, many of the "major" players will lose even more traffic in the long run. Many "minor" sites will raise up when they can serve specific types of users. "Mega" sites like amazon and such will even become bigger as Google cannot 100% serve the needed users, and the broad users need a "trustable" source and they can trust. And the "major" players will still be clueless as to why those weaker "blank" pages serve users well. Just Maybe, A blank page is what a particular user is looking for (Sarcasm). Google still has a long way to work in this direction, it's not easy neither.

It's starting. The question is, who is ready for the change.


6:39 am on Jun 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

@frankleeceo - that's a great piece of advice, the same advice a lot of us have followed for a long long time.

Are your sites relatively new? What sort of niches are you in? What are your pageviews? What is your medium? - If you trip an invisible wire, you're gone.

For me: 12 years, education, 110k a day now, forum/UGC.

I sincerely hope your 'theory' is correct - but the evidence suggests it's not. The evidence suggests we are experiencing a multitude of overly aggressive signals designed to combat SPAM, not designed to reward quality.

Again, just our limited perspective. But if I show you my site, and the sites of my competitors. You'll have a very hard time proving your case. We've spent 12 years creating an AWESOME community with a bounce rate of 12% - that's a heavy metric. We're not being rewarded for that work, we're being punished aggressively.

I hope you're never on this side of the fence. Either way, may your winning streak continue. Just don't fall into the trap of thinking it's all about reasonable metrics - it probably is 'up to a point' - then it's suddenly not.


4:56 pm on Jun 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

My sites are relatively new about 3 years or so compared to many of the people here. Entertainment / leisure information niche.

Semi original content, I edit, compile, and create my editorial opinion and voice to be a information resource. Almost most of my information can be found at other resources, but I make sure that my information is the most complete and useful. (You could even say concise in some situations, as I take out the fluff). And my users do appreciate my work.

My first serious original site had 60k pv daily at the peak, I couldn't break through the "glass ceiling". I realized that my new content continuously pulled my traffic from my previous content. I couldn't figure out why, and I couldn't fix it no matter how hard I tried. At the moment this site stables at roughly 30k.

What I did is that I branched out and refocused my topics, ie still working on the original site with mini information, and made focused mini authority whereever is applicable. (When I have enough to say and if the need is enough) Which I think improved user metrics and CTR on the SERP itself.

My entire network rests about 100k pv at the moment. But I see very interesting movements on a small scale with how indexing is done, and how traffic is rewarded after a given time, especially for new domains.

Lastly, because entertainment niche is not "evergreen", I expect a 30%~50% average dropoff if I stop working on sites long enough. But I see that as a cycle of the business, I love what I do so I don't mind. I had a microniche that got popular with 24k pv's and now sit at roughly 2k 2 month later.


Back to the signals, what I am suggesting is that google is not doing a good job determining quality. Spam sites may actually have "better" user metrics in Google Eyes where they don't and should not in our eyes. In my space, I see a site that simply copy off 100% of forum posts, it ends up getting many links pointing to it, (and subsequent visitors from active forums). From forum posters who complain that their posts have been copied. And from other websites that simply don't know where to point to the original. The site has raised quite a bit and is at all time high. (Google see that people go to it and discuss on forums?)

I also see another competitor who has a forum page, with useless posts with exact duplicate wording, but different keyword titles. It tricks visitors into the site, click a bunch of stuff trying to find information that do not exist. I bet that site has like 5% bounce rate, it's designed to generate CTR's and further clicks while offering no observable value. This competitor is at all time high too and 5 times my size. This forum is only 1 year old.(Google see insanely low bounce?)

These two "bad" competitors beat out my SERP ranking quite often. I actually attribute some of my traffic loss to them. I do hope that Google gets them somehow in the future. Examples like them really kill the motivations.

I agree with the invisible wire, the metric may be something completely crazy and don't make sense. And I agree that I can be gone instantly. That's kinda why I am on here trying to avoid ever tripping it myself. I find learning from other people's experiences very helpful. It is a very stressful job after all, I understand what everyone goes through. I am one of the people that check ranking and earnings every couple of hours haha.

Back to your perspective, do you notice that your competitor is gaining the traffic while you are losing? Would you be able to deduce the difference between you two? For example, if your competitor is crappy and bad community, but they give out quick answers to the education questions. Users may stop looking, and Google may rank that as satisfactory for a certain query.

"Better" user metrics does not simply mean bounce rate, but a "imaginary" ranking score derived from google's black box. That's my conclusion from observing everyone's comments on the forum.

If it's not user metrics, it must be something else that trips. I think if anything, I believe any change has a reason behind it, whether or not it makes sense to us. That's how I make sense of why my competitors are beating me where they shouldn't.


9:21 pm on Jun 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

So does this change in wording imply a shift away from backlinks to user metrics as the most important ranking signal? If so, has Google already made this shift? Or are they currently in the process of making it? Or are they preparing to make it in the future? Or are they not planning to make it at all? What's the final conclusion?


9:35 pm on Jun 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

Top Contributors Of The Month

I'd really like to see Google paying no attention to links. Good or bad.


9:38 pm on Jun 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member Top Contributors Of The Month

But is does pay attention to links, both good and bad.


9:41 pm on Jun 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

Top Contributors Of The Month

I find it extremely frustrating because I do think that links can be manipulated. People buy links, people spend enormous amounts of time trying to "swap links", you have no control over the so called bad links.

As a site owner, I'd still like to be judged on my content and not who is or isn't linking to my site. I think it is too easy to abuse and it is too easy to be penalised (for dodgy links you didn't ask for).

I know they do pay attention, but I just don't like the idea.


9:45 pm on Jun 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Maybe its time for a new search engine...... [webmasterworld.com...]


4:00 am on Jun 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

@Robert Charlton

I'll agree that Matt Cutts might be trying to provide what assistance he can, and that site quality isn't something to scorn.

My point was that Google is stating webmasters should build sites users want to use and share while their algorithm puts a site on a very competitive page 1 that most likely got there through machine placed comment spam.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with building a site users want to actually use and share, but a strong backlink profile will certainly help with expanded exposure. An environment where webmasters can't or won't link as they see fit due to fear of a search engine's possible reaction isn't a healthy environment for the internet. IMO.


10:48 am on Jun 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member lucy24 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time Top Contributors Of The Month

#1 World's leading search engine says Links Are Important.

#2 Web site owners scramble to acquire links, by fair means or foul.

#3 World's leading search engine discovers that everyone has links, independent of site quality.

#4 World's leading search engine says Links Aren't As Important As We Thought.

Given #1, is there any possible universe in which #2-4 would not happen?


12:40 pm on Jun 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

Top Contributors Of The Month

Given #1, is there any possible universe in which #2-4 would not happen?

Exactly. It's laughable to think that any valuable commodity (links) wouldn't be sought after. Now we're in the silly situation of having someone else roll the dice to determine our business futures. Bad links? Down the snake you go. Good links? Up the ladder you go..... for now. And of course, doesn't matter if YOU built those good links or not. Doesn't matter if you built those bad links or not.

I would add to #2:-

#2 Web site owners scramble to acquire links, by fair means or foul, because very few sites win natural links because of the nature of their content

I would also add :-

#5 When searching for a service or niche (non commodity) product, searchers primarily care how GOOD that service or product is, not how great the brochure is that describes it.
This 34 message thread spans 2 pages: 34

Featured Threads

Hot Threads This Week

Hot Threads This Month