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Many people often ask me if links are still important today. Perhaps you are wondering the same thing. I’m here to definitely suggest that yes, indeed, links are VERY important. But let’s take a look at the theory as to why.
How often have you been able to determine that a website is worthy without some sort of social indicators?
If you struggle, how do you expect Google to figure out that a site is authoritative when you remove the brand name? Is it just because they’ve optimized their content correctly, is it just because they’re exactly matching your keyword search, or is it because they truly are an authoritative website?
Really it’s all about who said the website is important, who actually refers to the website, how they refer to it and how many people are talking about it. These factors are what I talk about when I discuss authority indicators, links, backlinks and referring domains. There are lots of different ways to call these out to explain them but Google has to have some way to determine that one website is more important than another website.
So what would you do if you were Google? We’ve seen them try different things in the past.
They had an agreement with Twitter, and were able to get a lot of social signals. They also tried to conquer the social signal problem through G+ but that failed and Twitter stopped the agreement with Google. Professionally they’ve never had a good relationship with Facebook, but they’re constantly looking at social signals and using other tools and other techniques in other countries to make improvements. However, ever since Google was founded in 1998, they have used backlinks, sourcing, and citations to determine authority of a specific site, page or piece of content. Social Media changed that for a bit but we’re now back to just referring domains as a significant authority indicator.
10 years ago I talked to a lot of people about social media and how that was indicating an influence on people’s website because the more you were talked about on social media the more Google would see this as a relevant important quality website.
Back in the day, I actually named my company Connex Social for this reason, even though we didn’t offer social media management. We instead offered SEO services and yes, social media was to be the next authority signal for Google and SEO. However things have changed a lot since then. We’ve discovered that fundamentally, links are the way to achieve higher ranking within Google.
Google fundamentally has three audiences. The first audience is the users who search on it’s search engine. Because this is their primary audience they need to keep the searcher happy. Therefor, everything to do with search ranking is aimed at providing the user with the best answer right away. If they can’t do that, if they don’t make a pleasant experience for users, Google will fail so one of their goals is to make sure that they have the right answer at all times for user queries. It’s also why they try different things, to put the content and answers right on the Google results page.
Their second audience is advertisers. They want to keep their advertisers happy because they bring the money in and so they want to provide that space for those advertisers to get in front of users. This is really a whole other topic and I will write another blog post about advertisers and their working relationship with Google. Check out our Dialed in PPC service if you want to know more about that.
The third audience is actually you, the content producer – Somebody who has a website who wants to rank well in Google. Now, you’re actually what Google is offering to its users so as far as a client goes, they’re not going to bend over backward, but they do listen to you. So as they look at the three audiences, if they keep their first audience happy (the user) everything else will fall into place. Advertisers will come to have access to the primary audience of users who are searching the web for looking for something.
It’s ironic that users are looking at Google search results to help them figure out what they want.
Back in the day, the way to determine if a website was an authority was if it was linked to from other websites. Currently that’s a gross oversimplification of the algorithm.
However, after all the years of developing the 200 factors of the algorithm, they still boil down to three categories or buckets. Those buckets are Content, Links, and Code. Of these three, where should you spend the most effort? Which of these three move the needle and increase traffic/rank? Notice how “keywords” are not one of the main buckets that the 200 factors fall into. Yes “keywords” are some of the factors, but they fall into each of these three buckets, and are not the bucket themselves. If you’ve been paying attention to the updates of the algorithm over the years, you’ll have seen how Google has steadily moved away from keywords and will continue to do so with verbal search becoming present.
So, how are these buckets weighted?
- 45% of a page’s rank has to do with the content of the page.
- 45% of a page’s rank has to do with backlinks (internal, external, to the page, and to the domain).
- 10% of a page’s rank has to do with code and structure.
Take a moment and reflect on your SEO efforts, are you spending 45% of your effort on content and 45% on acquiring links with the remaining 10% of your effort focused around optimizing everything? Thinking of the Pareto Principle, if 20% of your effort goes into creating the content, 80% of your effort should go into marketing the content and one aspect of marketing is outreaching to influencers, outreaching to other website owners, to their social media users and requesting links and shares.
Yet most people focus on code, image alt tags, making sure the code and templates are coded correctly, checking their SEO Audits and verifying that everything is “optimized.” However they are missing the mark. They’re not able to find success and move the needle. They may be producing great content, but they neglect 45% of the factors. Mostly because it’s too hard.
What would life look like if for every article that took 4 hours to create you spent 4 hours acquiring links to it?
I’m here to tell you that your domain rank (DR) and moz Domain Authority (DA) would dramatically increase over the course of 6 months. And of course that would have a huge impact on your organic rank and organic traffic.
So yes, without a doubt links are still important today!
So, if you now know that links are so important and if you know that you should be marketing your concept better than you are today, I leave you with this question: What exactly are you doing about it?