Blog Post

Do Links Still Matter?


Gaining links to your website is a key ingredient in helping people discover your site in the search engines. As with any SEO strategy, however, it has been abused, and Google has had to draw a line of separation between good and bad SEO link building. With SEO changing with every new Google algorithm, and the actual recipe hidden away, industry experts have really questioned the value links still have in search engine optimization. Watch today's Daily Brown Bag to learn about a recent survey that asked the question of whether links still matter for SEO, and hear what we think about the matter.

TRANSCRIPTION:

Hello and welcome to the Daily Brown Bag. Today we're going to be answering the question of whether or not links still matter. I'm Chad Hill and I'm joined by Adam Stetzer.

Hey, good afternoon Chad. The issue of SEO link building and backlinking is a primary concern to those people in the white label SEO community and all SEOs for that matter. And today we're talking about some interesting survey results Chad and I think that we could have a good discussion around this for our community. Hopefully we'll continue on in our forum. Search Engine Roundtable did a survey at about 330 people responding and the question was, If Google eliminated links as a ranking factor, how would you feel? No more links, how would you feel?

Survey Results

And here are the results, Chad. There was about 35% said they would be excited which is interesting. That's a little more than a third. Another third, 32% said they'd be curious. True, I don't know how I'd feel but I'd want to find out what's going to happen. Eighteen percent said they'd be very concern, 8% said they'd just be whatever, don't really care, and 6% says they're over and done with links.

So that's the response to the Search Engine Roundtable, so I'd like to push this discussion along for our folks in our S.E.O. community. What's going on here Chad?

Yeah. Those are good ones, Adam, and I'm kind of like when I first read those site, can I answer yes to all of those because they all are good answers. But I think one of the comments in the post was really saying, "Hey look, if you don't use links and I've tried this, I tried building websites without any links, just writing great high quality content, my website never ranks." So how was that, how can we get away from links if it's so ingrained in the algorithm as the question is asked.

I think even Matt Cutts recently came out one of his Webmaster Tools videos and said that Google has tested this and the way they're able to provide the highest quality search results is by using links and in fact it's a foundation of their entire business and what they brought that was noble to web search.

So I think Adam, yeah, the clue questions is like I don't think we can get rid of links, can we?

Can we get rid of SEO link building?

No, I think what Cutts said is pretty telling. He said, "If links went away today, the search results would not be as good for end users." And that's a clear setting all talking about signals that there's still primary and the algorithm and I agree with what you said Chad in some of those comments you said. The first couple of years, I wasn't on in the internet. I wrote and wrote and wrote, poured my heart out into my blog. PhD trained writer, peer-review published writer for a lot of time and energy into it and nobody came. Very frustrating, until I understood how you had the position and market normal links and those backlinks are really, really important and then things started to talk around.

So I think there's this dichotomy between sort of what Google says and then kind of what's happening out there and I think it's frustrating for folks, particularly for us Chad, we're trying to stay on the right side of the line and do things right and earn backlinks and really promote our clients to things that are quality. But if you listen to what Google is telling you, they really tell you just build and they will come to work, we all know this is not true and I think that's why so see this mix results on the search engine round table survey. Some saying curious, some saying yeah, I actually just like to get rid of this whole headache. That's probably why they're excited Chad because it just seems like you can think you're doing everything right and maybe you fall in the wrong set of the tracks.

Yes, I think really where does that leave us? And then we talked about this little bit, I'm curious why you're opinion is about what is this mean, this is mean to run away from links and just create blog content again or does that mean...what do you need to do?

What constitutes a good link for SEO?

Yeah. Well that's fascinating. Here's another cool, familiar blog we've been tracking Chad that addresses just that, and they're talking about...and they say here in this quote, "Well constitute a good link is getting to be a smaller and smaller target from what it used to be and while this load iteration of bad links can erode some marketers confidence in all SEO links, it is in fact making the good links even better." I think people should reflect on that. It's the proverbial don't throw the baby out with the bad water. Yes, things have changed and Google is getting smarter and their guidelines are getting stricter and their panelist are getting firmer, but that doesn't mean the entire activity of promoting your good content and earning good backlinks and doing the occasional guest blog post and putting out press releases even if you do follow links is off-limits.

And if you listen carefully to what Cutts says, everything in moderation usually ends up being okay and when you listen carefully and read deeply into where they've taken action, that really slap some sites around, some communities around and almost always comes down to really, really large scale of very, very low quality. So I know we all wish it was little clearer but I do think that there is an angle there Chad which comes back to a lot of things we talked about everyday here.

Yeah, and I think there was another blog post that we were following last week from Cory Collins and he's the owner of Page one Power and he basically said that yes, links should continue to be editorial vote more now that ever and his really reasons for that was that Google has gotten better despite I think people's concerns, they have gotten better at really telling what's the high quality and what's a low quality SEO link building. He believes that web masters have gotten smarter about when to link and when not to link, just meaning that there's more editorial thought that goes into links and that for some of these reasons, he believes that links are here to stay and that while we're in this kind of tumultuous time right now that we'll come out on the other side as you said, Adam with what basically being fewer but better links which really will make the search results even better.

Earn links the right way

Right. So editorially place links I think are going to become more and more valuable as long as they stay in that algorithm and all data points to they will and see if they earn them the right way. And the good news is you need a lot of it than you used. You don't need to do as much link though and the bad news is the effort that goes into getting those few really good editorially placed links is going to be quite a bit higher.

Well, we'd like to hear your comments on this debate. This is one that I'm sure will not be settled in 2014 but this is the latest iteration. Join us in our forum, drop a comment and please subscribe to our videos.