In search engine optimisation, we obviously have to base our practices on what we observe from ranking shifts and, equally importantly, from what search engines are willing to tell us. And what Google and Bing had been saying for a while, was that link signals in SEO were going to get valued less and less with time.
Now, with the recent fluctuations caused by Google Penguin and their subsequent advice to audit link profiles to recover, it seems they may be as important as ever. Be it by the links you have or the links you need.
Link Removals: The New Link Building?
Google’s recent warnings concerning link profiles, sent to webmasters, have sparked a link deconstruction movement across the web. As hard as people used to for years try building links with charm, persistence and good old-fashioned currency, they are now trying to get websites to take them down with threats, demands and good old-fashioned currency.
But isn’t this still SEO? Links are still affecting the rankings just as much as they always did; now it’s just by detraction rather than addition. This led many SEO practitioners to believe that Google and Bing still weighed links as a primary ranking factor but just weren’t publicising how exactly.
Search Engines Say Links Seem Here To Stay
Heads of Search and Webspam at Google have confirmed that although they would constantly be looking into more sophisticated ways of detecting unethical linking, links would always be one of strongest ranking elements.
Because content can indicate the intellectual value of website and what new aspects it brings to the table but links have the unparalleled ability to measure a site’s authority.
We as people are heavily influenced by public opinion. So although we may know that a piece of content is interesting and valuable, we want to know if any other person or body who matters believes the same.
Social Signals: Organic Link Building
Bing, as well as Google, has indicated that social signals may overtake the importance of link signals. A link signal is created when someone shares, likes or forwards a piece of content on a social media website. The closer that person is too you as a user (friend, mutual friend, same networks, interests in common), the stronger that social signal is, as it relates to you.
Of course that presents problems itself. One has to wonder how much a web-user would want the results of their search query dictated by the interests of the people in their social environment. After all, a lot of people go on the internet to access opinions and resources more diverse than they would find in their communities.
Content vs. Links
At the end of the end of the day, it seems to be a battle between those on top who have been building links for years, and don’t want their massive efforts and authority suddenly trivialised, and those who have unique and valuable content to offer, but can’t seem to get any attention because they’re being choked out by deeply-rooted competitors.
One can only hope a fair middle ground will be found eventually. But until then, we can only expect the SEO battle to continue.