Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has always been a tricky game filled with speculation and increasingly abstract tactics to keep up with Google’s increasingly sophisticated algorithmic changes. Although Google always keeps the exact details of its updates secret, industry experts can make reasonable assumptions about the nature of each change based on information provided by public updates and details found in patents. recent. Although these assumptions are often just speculations based on individual interpretations, they play a major role in the progress of the industry.
One of the most recent patents filed in March 2014 was related to Google’s Panda algorithm, in a particularly in-depth article published on Moz. Experts everywhere have tried to decipher exactly what this means for companies trying to improve their search engine rankings. General trends in the SEO world have indicated a growing favor for high quality content strategies, and it looks like this trend will continue, but link building is still important as inbound links remain the most important factor in Google’s ranking algorithm. Combining content marketing with link building was the subject of my article, “The Two Things You Need to Boost Your Search Results”.
But how Google defines a link can change, depending on how one interprets the patent; The way Google views and uses links in its ranking algorithms could undergo a major change that could impact the search visibility of every site on the web. This article explores my interpretation of the patent.
The problem with “authority” and old-fashioned link building
In order to rank well for a search query, your site needs a high level of “authority,” an abstract, subjective term indicating how credible and influential your site is relative to others in your industry. Many SEO companies have defined this differently, calling it “domain authority” or “brand authority”, and calculated a number on an arbitrary scale to measure the relative “authority” of a given site at a given time. given.
In theory, authority is a great way to determine how high a site ranks in a search engine results page. Search engines want to provide users with the most relevant and trusted content possible, and using authority as the primary determinant is a surefire way to give people authoritative content. The problem, of course, is that authority is subjective (some would say incalculable), and using a mathematical algorithm to define it will lead to unpredictable results and many strategic loopholes that can be exploited.
Link building, as a tactic, has risen to prominence because having more links pointing to your site once meant instantly having higher authority. Since Google caught on to these “black hat” schemes, these old-school link building tactics are now detrimental to your authority. Instead, modern link builders ensure that links look natural, from a wide range of sources, and preferably ones that already have high authority.
But even this approach may no longer be sufficient to serve as a viable link building strategy, especially in the long run. Based on the latest information we have, it looks like Google is completely changing the way it views links, closing the door to certain link building strategies while opening the door to developing new ones.
Referral Queries and Implicit Links
Previously, “links” meant explicitly posted URLs that pointed to a page on your website. They can be published in full, like https://www.google.com/, or embedded as hyperlink anchor text, like Google. Either way, a link was a link, and the more links you had, the better. As you can imagine, this has led to many people spamming links to their own pages with reckless abandon, polluting the web with self-interested fluff and compromising the entire authority system used by Google’s algorithm. .
Now, as noted in the recent Panda patent, Google distinguishes between what it identifies as “express links” or conventional links, and “implied links”. Implicit links are references or mentions of a brand and/or a website without an explicit link. These references can be in the body of a blog post, citing another brand’s expertise on a specific topic, in a comment referencing another brand’s coverage of a topic, or under another form as long as the name of the site is specifically mentioned.
Implicit links, also known as “brand mentions” or simply “mentions”, are becoming relevant new ways for brand authority, challenging the entire link building system and demonstrating another major technological breakthrough in the sophistication of Google’s measure of authority.
In addition to this complexity in calculating authority, Google also seems to place greater importance on what it identifies as “referral queries”. Referral queries are historical instances of individuals using a specific query and ending up in a specific location, which gives Google an indication that a given site offers what a user is looking for. Referral queries help understand the popularity (or authority) of a site relative to similar results for a given query. In other words, the better your site is at giving people what they’re looking for, the better your rankings for relevant searches will be.
Links to citations
It’s clear that brand mentions are becoming very important to a site’s authority, but it seems that traditional links aren’t obsolete. Express links and implied links are now used to calculate authority, so it’s important to include both in your link building strategy. While right now there isn’t a definite relationship between links and mentions that has proven to be ideal for building your authority, here are some things to consider when dividing your link building strategy between: express links and implicit links:
- Having a high link-to-mention ratio can imply a level of spamming, which can lower your authority
- Viral content, especially through visual content like infographics, could be an easy way to facilitate a natural ratio of links to mentions, and natural is always better in the eyes of Google.
- Guest blogging is a perfect opportunity to build your mentions (especially if your guest blog is syndicated). For help getting started with guest blogging, check out my article, “The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide to Growing Your Guest Blogging Business.”
While it’s easy to buy brand mentions in the same way that many businesses currently buy external links, the best long-term strategy is to produce high-quality content that can facilitate both linking and mentions. As described in 10 Reasons Your Content Strategy Is More Important Than Link Building, a solid content strategy has far more long-term potential and immediate value than any gimmick that relies on exploiting a hole. perceived in the system.
How to adjust your SEO strategy
Although link building is undergoing great changes, it is not obsolete.
- Build links responsibly. Now more than ever, it’s important to keep your link building tactics ethical and as natural as possible. If you want to learn more, check out my articles on 6 Dead Link Building Tactics You Should Avoid and 4 Post-Penguin Link Building Tactics Every Business Should Do.
- Keep mentioning. Do whatever you can to encourage brand mentions, through guest blogging, syndicating shareable content, or directly mentioning your brand on a wide range of sites.
- Give your users what they want. While measuring user satisfaction can still grow in complexity, Google cares about who finds your site useful after searching for specific terms. Make sure your site appears authoritative and valuable to your users.
This patent is likely just the first change in a series that will redefine how Google measures and ranks site authority. Keep writing and delivering great content to stay ahead of the game and protect yourself against future algorithmic changes. The more valuable and respected your site is to your users, the more Google will reward you with their updates.