Google Says Stop Focusing So Much on Links

I watched a hangout with Google’s John Mueller recently and have since looked into some of the follow up articles and discussions that have taken place as a result of the discussion. SEO and better understanding how search engines work is always a hot topic as it is so crucial to survival for many brands, so these interviews always seem to get a big reaction. This one was no different, but I was particularly interested to hear the remarks made about link building.

In short, Mueller was challenged to explain how new sites and businesses are expected to rank when they are unable to achieve dofollow links. The main thrust of the question was that most site owners recognise the value of a link and know that they could risk the potential depreciation of their own site’s SEO power as a result of linking out to a third-party site.

It was a bit of a bitter question and you could tell the person asking was a little salty that their site wasn’t ranking. That said, the question isn’t without merit. Mueller’s response was very interesting and reminded me of a conversation I myself have had with clients many times in recent years. Let me break the response down…

Stop Discounting NoFollow Links

Mueller suggested that nofollow links do still have some value and will play a part in SEO ranking signals. He acknowledged that search engines would be remiss not to recognise relevant and valuable inter-site linking through nofollow links. This of course includes links produced through social media platforms. The takeaway is that don’t discount a link because it is nofollow. It could still help from an SEO perspective. Importantly, any link is a pathway into your site so, that link may well deliver good quality traffic to your door – something that you are chasing through SEO anyway.

You’re Placing Too Much Emphasis on Links

Mueller’s response also suggests that businesses and web masters are still putting far too much emphasis on obtaining links in order to rank. This is another personal bug bear of mine when it comes to businesses who approach us for SEO support but seem to have an unhealthy obsession with link building or other areas like unique content production. Yes, there was a time when linking was a pinnacle part of organic search rankings and while they are still significant, I can’t help but feel that the evidence we have seen from our clients and the words of search engine Gurus like Mueller, reinforce that they aren’t the be all and end all. Perhaps over obsessing with links is a detrimental mindset and one we need to work away from. We need to keep in mind that SEO is a vast area and encompasses many things. The ranking algorithms are complex and they don’t solely revolve around links, so why are we ignoring other equally important elements to focus on just one thing?

Excuses Are Getting in the Way of progress

This point really hit home for me given that again I’ve had similar feelings, particularly when it comes to links. Many business owners or marketing leads who have an SEO agenda seem to have an obsession with issues. Now I’ll tread carefully because naturally you don’t want SEO issues, you want a nice smooth sailing ship when you attack this competitive channel but when I say issues I guess I mean more, excuses. There will be one area and it is usually something to do with links, which they use as an excuse to justify their poor performance.

For example: “a competitor has more dofollow links and I can’t seen to obtain more at a fast enough rate this is why I don’t rank.”

Yes, links have an impact but it’s not enough to look at a competitor and simply say they rank better because of link quantity. It’s a drop in the ocean as to what really propels a site up to position 1 and keeps it there. The sooner we can look at the broader SEO approach and stop getting hung up on linking as the only metric of importance, the sooner we can make progress.

As an agency, our mantra is that SEO is a broad subject and requires a broad approach. Part of this is also thinking more about what your website has to offer. How much unique and compelling content do you really have? How often do you add to it? Is the content and the website structured well? Are you creating all the right social media signals to help your cause?

A strong and consistent approach to creating unique content with multi-media considered and an offsite outreach strategy which has meaning, will work. You’re better off investing in your content on-site than you are obsessing purely about off site factors. For us, content, site structure and consistency wins the day for our clients.

Need help with your SEO efforts? Contact us to find out how we can drive performance improvements with a well-rounded SEO strategy.

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