Link building is getting tougher these days as the world’s biggest search engine is evolving at a breakneck speed. Even 2-3 years ago, link building strategies were pretty basic, but now Google knows how to treat links based on their quality and trust. Does that mean link building is dead and no SEO company should spend any time on it? Well, the answer is both yes and no. Its yes, because the future of SEO is not just about links, it is much bigger and broader than that. At the same time, link building is and will not be dead because links will always be a factor for Google to decide the ranks of a website. However, links won’t enjoy the supremacy as they enjoy today because Google is always looking for more data and more signals to decide whether a page deserves a position on SERP at a certain point of time. Yes, you read it right! “Time” is very important for Google and what your search queries may show you today may not show you tomorrow because of various related factors. I will discuss them a bit later, but let’s first talk about links. In future, Google will value the backlinks that you will get by having a great product and doing your marketing the right way. In short, links will be an outcome of amazing marketing.
As an online marketer you need to see the bigger picture. There are many more signals, besides links, that Google can use and you need to utilize those signals for your own advantage. Google is changing and you can’t act like an ostrich!
You must update link building strategies to avoid any punishment from Google.
Link building strategies: What we noticed in the past?
The core issue that Google had with links is that they did not understand links properly and SEO experts always took advantage of this flaw to get the best ranks on SERP. Google did not understand the following things.
- How much trust a link deserves?
- Is a backlink really given by the editor of the site?
- Is it a paid link?
- What is the actual quality of a link (not the PageRank)?
- Is a link relevant to the user’s query?
Google still needs to work on these factors as black hat SEO experts are exploiting some of them even today, but there is no doubt that Google is becoming more sensible these days. There was a time when if your site had the maximum number of backlinks, you could surely get the number one position on SERP.
Google was trying desperately to understand the true value of links and their executives realized that there was too much noise in the backlink segment. So, they released Penguin algorithm update. Instead of finding the “good” links, they decided to identify the “bad” links and punished the sites for using black hat link building strategies. Penguin did not fix everything, but at least it warned webmasters that Google is watching and any link spamming activity will get noticed. This fear of punishment compelled SEO experts to move away from certain techniques. As a result, Google is now facing less noise than it used to a couple of years ago.
So, what is happening now?
Google Understands Human Language:
Google is getting smarter and understanding the queries users are typing. The search engine giant is looking beyond keywords and deciphering the actual intention of the web users. Hummingbird update was just the beginning of what Google wants to achieve in this field. Take this query for example- “that movie where Angelina Jolie searches for treasure” Is there any keyword? Not at all, but Google understands that you are looking for “Lara Croft” movie.
Google is becoming more aware of the users, not just the searches:
Google is learning more about us every minute and although it may seem creepy the search engine believes that it needs as much data about the end users as possible to show the most relevant results. Google understands that sometimes what we type may not be the exact thing we are looking for. For example, if you search for “restaurants in London”, you may not look for a place to eat. It is also possible that you want to gather information about established restaurants as you want to be their meat supplier. How is this relevant for link building? Well, when Google is using other signals and not links, your links may not be as beneficial as you think.
What the future holds for SEO company?
Here are some predictions. You may find them interesting because it is important to understand how Google works in order to sustain in the SEO business.
# Anchor text won’t make much difference:
Google still gives importance to anchor text, but the situation will change in the coming years. If you have many commercial anchor texts in your link profile, then you can get hurt pretty badly. In future Google will not only understand the content of a page, but context of the page as well.
# Deep linking will lose its importance:
Suppose you have an ecommerce website that sells smartphones. So, you have many product pages, featuring different smartphones. Now, there are other ecommerce sites out there that sell the same smartphones. So, how does Google understand which site deserves the top spot on SERP? Links to the products pages are crucial, but it is just one of the many signals that Google will consider.
Google already understands that when a user types “smartphone reviews” it means “I want to buy a smartphone, but I am not sure which one should I pick.” On the contrary, when someone searches for “Samsung vs. Lenovo mobile”, it means “I am confused. I like both. So, I need more information to make the final buying decision.”
In future, Google will use several other signals to understand what a user exactly needs. Let’s consider these factors.
- Location: The GPS in the user’s phones tells Google that he is in a bus roaming around New York. So, he may not want to buy a $500 smartphone, but he would love to read its features.
- Device: The user owns Galaxy S5, so he can afford a costly phone. The search results he gets should feature premium phones.
- Search history: The user searched for smartphones before, but he always visit a particular ecommerce site because he bought other products from that site. Hence, for that user that specific ecommerce site should get the top position on SERP.
Remember I said “Google is always looking for more data and more signals to decide whether a page deserves a position on SERP at a certain point of time.” Now you know why the time factor is so crucial. When you are in car and use iPhone6, you may get completely different result for the same search query typed by a person sitting inside a bus and using a basic Java based phone.
Besides the aforementioned signals, there are many more that Google may pay attention to. For example, site security features, user feedback, third party reviews etc. So, as you can understand, links to a particular product page is not the most crucial factor.
# Small companies will be able to compete:
People working in a SEO company will accept the fact that organic search is not a level playing field anymore. Now, there are some industries where you don’t even dream of competing with the big brands unless you have a huge marketing budget and a great product.
In future, we will notice a shift to the other direction and smaller companies with fewer links will start getting a place on SERP. Google will understand that context is the key and showing the page links of only the big brands may not meet the expectations of the users. Sometimes a smaller company may meet the expectations of the users, if it does something specific and better than the big corporate honchos.
What does this mean for people working in a SEO company and their link building strategies?
Ask the tough questions:
Online marketing is a tough job and if you want to compete with the big brands, you must ask some serious questions. Here are some of them.
# Why does the company exist?
# Why your site should get a good rank on Google?
# What makes your business unique?
# If your site vanishes from search results, will anyone notice?
# Why should you get backlinks?
# What value can you provide to the end users?
Stop going for scalable link building strategies:
Anything that can be scaled loses its quality and there is a huge possibility of attracting penalty from Google. If you write a great article, let it attract the visitors naturally. You can do some promotion, but don’t extend its outreach by heavily investing in email marketing or other propaganda technique. If it’s good, it will get links naturally.
Your marketing style should impress the web users:
You may not have the money to hire the best celebrity for a video ad, but you can use your brain to project your product in such a way that will engage the viewers. When you do the cool stuff, you don’t have to worry about link building because you will automatically get it.
Here is the last suggestion for people working in SEO company. Do not ignore the changes taking place in the field of SEO and online marketing. User expectations and behavior are changing, Google is changing and more importantly, the search engine optimization industry is changing. Links are not going anywhere, but building the types of links that Google likes is really hard. So, rethink your link building strategies to get the top rank on search engine result pages.
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