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What would you do if Google's next algo update stopped counting links

     
2:16 pm on Feb 5, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Imagine Google releases Update Possum. After reverse engineering this update, we realize that links no longer directly impact rankings. Update Possum means Google no longer cares about pagerank, anchor text, dofollow vs nofollow.

How would you change your SEO plan?

Would you focus on social?
Would you improve your content?
Would you still work on links for the traffic and usage they drive?
2:45 pm on Feb 5, 2014 (gmt 0)

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What would you do if Google's next algo update stopped counting links

I would rejoice. Google's current algorithm focuses on brand weighted signals and not the depth, clarity and usefulness of content. Cancer will never be cured if only the symptoms are treated. The same goes for search. As long as signals determine rank, and not the actual content itself, search positions will still be manipulated and the proliferation of spam shall continue.
2:45 pm on Feb 5, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I don't work on incoming links now, so... no change for me.
2:50 pm on Feb 5, 2014 (gmt 0)

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The way things are going they won’t have any do follow links to count in a couple of years anyway lol

If they started rewarding proper lean standardized coding, fast download speeds, graphics properly optimised and sunk into icon sheets reducing the round trips, mobile friendly with non-copied text all my sites would rank number one.

I don't want to suck up to people to get links anymore, pay people for links or "socialise" to get links, I want to spend all my time building better, faster, prettier sites that have usability, accessibility and standards, all of the design 101 stuff that was rammed down our throats in university, sites that work across all browsers and devices, sites that work with and without JS enabled, sites that work for visually impaired people and disabled people. I want all of that to stand for something and not be ranked on the DOFOLLOW backlink profile that a new site cannot build in the current atmosphere of nofollow fear! A link less future? Bring it on!
3:05 pm on Feb 5, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Great comment mrengine.
3:44 pm on Feb 5, 2014 (gmt 0)

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External links linking to you or internal links?
3:48 pm on Feb 5, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I'd probably stop selling links since no one would buy them. It'd be huge if G decided to stop weighting those factors, there must be a good number of jobs hooked entirely on the peg of link building for search engines.

I can't see them doing it anytime soon.

RE: focus on content

That's what set google apart in the first place, they took SEO "off the page".
3:50 pm on Feb 5, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I'd continue doing what I already do: Creating content of intrinsic value to users. I don't do link-building now, so in terms of my work, nothing would change.

(Search rankings would probably change quite a bit, of course. On balance, I think I'd probably benefit if links played a smaller role in Google's ranking algorithm, but I also think Google will be relying heavily on links for the foreseeable future.)
4:41 pm on Feb 5, 2014 (gmt 0)

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So if Google actually did this, what would happen to the huge amount of spam on the web -- articles, splogs, directory networks, etc, -- that backlink building has already created?
5:13 pm on Feb 5, 2014 (gmt 0)

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@goodroi... as if.

Would you focus on social?

Only if my upper lip was stapled to a passing train. I may be one of the last dinosaurs but I see little connection between a search medium that serves my informative and transactional needs and a medium used mainly for interpersonal sharing... photos, recipies and viral, odd-ball videos. Yes... I do know about Facebook business pages (I have one) but I refuse to pester people by rattling a "likes" begging bowl in hopes of getting enough traction for anything to happen.

Would you improve your content?

I'd be able to expand my content because I'd no longer have to spend countless manhours:

a) trying to keep abreast of the edicts that Google flings down from the mountain.
b) trying to escape the regular avalanches of collateral damage
c) trying to find and "fix" some perceived transgression that happened years ago when Google had different rules for protecting/generating its revenues.

Would you still work on links for the traffic and usage they drive?

From a usage perspective, I'd continue to use internal links the way they are intended ie.. a facility that allows my readers to see additional sources of information related to the topic they are currently reading.

I'd place external links in places where it makes sense to be seen. In the same way that a B&M business promotes itself on roadside billboards, a website can promote itself to its passing traffic by arranging exposure in logical places.
5:17 pm on Feb 5, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I would rejoice.

That was the exact comment I was going to make!

I would also spend less time dealing with e-mails from clueless people asking for link removals because their new SEO company told them all the links their old SEO company helped them get were bad.
5:50 pm on Feb 5, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Only if my upper lip was stapled to a passing train.


LOL. That's probably the most colorful line I've ever read in the Webmaster World forums.
6:53 pm on Feb 5, 2014 (gmt 0)

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if they got rid of links search would be back in the 90's and the search engines wouldnt even know what was useful and what is just rubbish. :) thanks goodness for that.
6:57 pm on Feb 5, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Ultimately google wants results that please visitors. I'm in agreement with their goal, I want the sites and information I produce to please visitors too. Their content is search and find sites on the internet.

Looking and working at building links, removing spam links, and all this effort around links ... while it is important for natural traffic from across the internet, to much importance is given to links.

To the extent that links don't bring in traffic the time and effort of these links takes away from the time needed to create more awesome content. If they can come up with a better way to reach the common goal of pleasing visits with awesome content I'm all for it.

I'll still work at getting links that actually refer traffic. But, I'ld feel a lot better about it, if I didn't think competitors where taking an easier method of getting spam links, which are below the radar.
7:38 pm on Feb 5, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Looking and working at building links, removing spam links, and all this effort around links ... while it is important for natural traffic from across the internet, to much importance is given to links.


Well, links are the glue that makes the World Wide Web the World Wide Web. IMHO, the problem isn't so much that "too much importance is given to links," it's that too much importance is given to the wrong kind of links (i.e., to links that aren't really "citations").

Side note: If Google is someday able to do a better job of differentiating between links that have citation value and links that don't, maybe it will be able to make intelligent use of "nofollowed" links on UGC megasites like Wikipedia and TripAdvisor that nofollow their external links by default. (Just because a link isn't followed by a crawler doesn't mean it has to be ignored.)
8:23 pm on Feb 5, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Just because a link isn't followed by a crawler doesn't mean it has to be ignored.

The "who links to you" section of wmt includes no-followed links.
11:45 pm on Feb 5, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Ultimately google wants results that please visitors. I'm in agreement with their goal, I want the sites and information I produce to please visitors too. Their content is search and find sites on the internet.


Please. Cough, gag...It's only a matter of time you'll see the big picture. It was fun in the old days to actually believe them. Heck I even liked Mikey...Ummmm I mean Matt.
11:48 pm on Feb 5, 2014 (gmt 0)

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The "who links to you" section of wmt includes no-followed links.


Perhaps I should have been more specific:

Just because a link isn't followed by a crawler doesn't mean it has to be ignored by the algorithm.
12:43 am on Feb 6, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Just because a link isn't followed by a crawler

I think this wording is confusing. A crawler never follows a link; it just collects information and reports back.

In any case, I know by direct observation that marking a link as nofollow doesn't mean "pretend you haven't seen this"; at most it means "don't tell them I sent you". Recently when I moved 6/8 of my site, I removed some robots.txt blocks that no longer applied. Within days, the major search engines were asking for pages that they could only have known about from nofollow links.
2:13 am on Feb 6, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Lucy24, we're getting way off track here. I'm talking about how the algorithm treats (or should, or could, treat) nofollowed links.

To put it in even plainer language:

Just because a link has the rel="nofollow" attribute doesn't obligate a search engine to ignore the link when calculating search rankings.

To use a hypothetical example, Google could conclude that, even if it doesn't pass PageRank, a "nofollow" link citation in Wikipedia has some value as an indicator of quality or relevance. At the same time, Google might also conclude that a "dofollow" link from petes-personal-blog dot com to cheap-counterfeit-little-blue-pills dot com is worthless as an indicator even if it does pass PageRank.
4:59 am on Feb 6, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Google might also conclude that a "dofollow" link from petes-personal-blog dot com to cheap-counterfeit-little-blue-pills dot com is worthless as an indicator

Worthless is one thing. Actively harmful is an entirely different thing. Suppose that Pete, who doesn't know from algorithms and just included the link in case his readers wanted to investigate, gets an irate e-mail from the new owner of low-priced-generics-identical-to-the-brand-name dot com, telling him to Do Something about the link.

I detoured here to check the obvious. websitesthatyou-know-what dot com uses nofollow. But that's at the extreme end of the Link Quality spectrum.
6:59 am on Feb 6, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Would you focus on social?


No. Can't stand social sites. There are a number of people who do that for me - without asking.

Would you improve your content?


Unless there us a typo, no, and why should I? Sure, there are some people who write any old tosh and upload it, but I am not one of them.

Would you still work on links for the traffic and usage they drive?


I will link out to a related site, if I think it will be a benefit to my visitors. If a related site asks for a link (and pass my criteria) then I will link to them, and in most cases I will get a link back.

I cannot see what the problem is with people and linking these days. Have people forgotten that it is the world wide web - there is a clue in the title... web. It is not known as the world wide place of isolated islands.

If you are going to link out - or swap links - willy-nilly, then sure, you are going to have a problem with Google. Plus, you won't get any real traffic.
5:43 pm on Feb 6, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Update Possum means Google no longer cares about pagerank, anchor text, dofollow vs nofollow.


I think all the search results will collapse. G search is built on links. There's no other way for them to recognize which page is popular.
7:37 pm on Feb 6, 2014 (gmt 0)

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There's no other way for them to recognize which page is popular.

I think the idea behind ignoring links is that they shouldn't care whether a page is popular. They should only care whether it's good.

Now, if it turns out that after all these years, search engines have absolutely no idea how to recognize a good page, so they're forced to fall back on "popular = good" ... that's a whole nother issue.
8:16 pm on Feb 6, 2014 (gmt 0)

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There's no other way for them to recognize which page is popular.


Popularity is only one part of the equation. Back in 1996, when Larry Page and Sergey Brin devised the PageRank formula, they took a step beyond mere "link popularity" by giving certain links more weight than other links. Over the years, other factors have come into play (anchor text, for example). So the notion that Google's search results are based on "which page is popular" is an oversimplification at best.

Also, let's be realistic: Google isn't likely to abandon links as ranking factors. Google's algorithm has more than 200 ranking factors (maybe a LOT more than 200--we don't know), and it's reasonable for citations (a.k.a. links) to be an ingredient in the recipe. As the algorithm evolves (and, one can only hope, improves), it's likely that the way Google uses links in ranking will evolve and improve, too. Just because a bunch of low-lifes try to game the system with junk links doesn't mean Google has to write links off altogether as a useful ranking signal.
9:45 pm on Feb 6, 2014 (gmt 0)

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To the OP: I might celebrate. But I think, unlikely. We know Google currently focuses on popularity. So please note fyi that the world's most "popular" restaurant is McDonalds, hardly a ringing endorsement for gastronomic excellence. Ergo, Google = McDonalds.

My hunch would be Google is perfectly aware of this and probably has teams of propellorheads already looking at this. But the flipside is if they measure success by pleasing the greatest number of people then really populist McDonalds result sets is where it's at. Ie links, in some fashion, together with other signals that indicate user satisfaction.
9:55 pm on Feb 6, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Continue with Fork-proof link building. The notion that link building is exclusively an SEO activity is false. This discussion is proof of how ingrained this false notion is. I did a guest post over at someone else's blog about that but I guess I shouldn't link to it here. But I have to say it's a thousand times more useful than the feeble-minded advice to be awesome.

Ha! ;)
11:22 pm on Feb 6, 2014 (gmt 0)

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The notion that link building is exclusively an SEO activity is false.
I know, I never thought - or said - it was. Sure, it helps/helped with ranking, but it helps bringing more visitors. No point having a link from a non-related site, or a link right at the bottom of a page where you'll have to scroll past lots of fricking blank space to see it.

Waste your time on twitbook or whatever. Some people prefer to do other things.

And FYI, I haven't done any link building in a long time but that's because people are linking to me anyway, and I have more important things to do.
1:24 am on Feb 7, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Now, if it turns out that after all these years, search engines have absolutely no idea how to recognize a good page, so they're forced to fall back on "popular = good" ... that's a whole nother issue.

Just because a bunch of low-lifes try to game the system with junk links doesn't mean Google has to write links off altogether as a useful ranking signal.

i for one actually believe that

a) after all those years google's algorithms still can't measure content quality - at least beyond the obvious (spelling, repetition etc). they simply can't detect if content is good or bad. semantic search my a$$. especially they have a very hard time to detect if the compilation of contents on a page is of added useful value or inferior.

b) i'm also a strong believer that there is absolutely no way for them to detect if a link is provided freely or for a favor (for example money changed hands). why? because an algo can't read my mind. they can't possibly know it. they'd have to ask me personally and even then i could lie about it.

so all these instructions with nofollow, don't do this and don't do that is a sign of powerlessness and ultimately desperation.

what they actually can detect is if and which webmasters respond to their directives. and here comes the third thing:

c) because of that, i believe if you follow their instructions, you're more subject to suspicion than if you *only build for the user*, just do your own thing and completely ignore all that crap coming from them lately. that still won't get you far but so be it.

[edited by: moTi at 2:08 am (utc) on Feb 7, 2014]

1:37 am on Feb 7, 2014 (gmt 0)

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LW, I wasn't remarking on anything you said. I was simply stating the fact that link building is traditionally associated with SEO and ranking.

I call bull on useless platitudes
Some people are advising that we should build a brand, that we should be awesome. That's useless advice. I call bull on those platitudes. It's the same as patting me on the head and advising me that the way to get rich is to make a million bucks. Really? Oh gee, thanks for nothing.

Actionable advice
Yes, building a brand is part of the process. But there's so much more and you know, it can even be done without building a brand. <snip>

The gist of it is: Forget SEO. Take it off. Take it all off. Slap on the link condom and promote your site with abandon, without worrying about Google. Focus on the promotion. You'll jump ahead while everyone else is standing around blubbering that it's about being awesome. ;)

[edited by: goodroi at 9:39 am (utc) on Feb 9, 2014]
[edit reason] TOS [/edit]

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