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As we’ve expanded the agency, I found myself finally able to use our internal resources to create out & rank our own projects. I’ve always had the mindset of “drinking our personal Koolaid”, and as we’ve gone down this path, I just stumbled into a rabbit hole that provided a tremendous burst of excitement and a rise in expectations for the purpose we could do anytime soon. But it came at a cost: paranoia.

Once the dust settled in the improvements we made, I took an important step back and saw that what we were building was pretty much located on the fault brand of a tectonic plate.

It could possibly all come crashing down instantly, all due to one critical assumption that I’ve intended to date: that links continue to matter.

I quickly discovered that I needed to experience a better gauge around the longevity of links beyond the tweets I happened to read on that day. I’ve never had much reason for concern over the years regarding this issue (proof how come listed later), but when I would make a major bet on the next 12-24 months, I found it necessary to understand the parameters of the things may go wrong, and that was one of several items on top of their list.

I ended up discussing things over with some trusted colleagues of mine, and also reaching out to several other experts which i trusted the opinion of regarding the way forward for SEO. And So I wanted to express my thinking, along with the overall conclusions I’ve drawn based off the information available.

The principle method to obtain “facts” the industry points to by and large are statements from Google. Yet, we have seen numerous instances where what Google is telling us is, at the very least, misleading.

Below are a few recent examples to illustrate with what way they can be misleading:

1. Inside their “Not Provided” announcement post in October 2011, Google stated that “the change will affect simply a minority of your respective traffic.” Not actually a couple of years later, Danny Sullivan was told by Google that they had begun work towards encrypting ALL searches. The others is history.

My thoughts: regardless if we receive the reality from Google, it should be labeled with huge, red letters in the date the statement was created, because things can alter very, in a short time. In cases like this, it had been probably their intention all along to gradually roll this in the market to all searches, to be able to not anger people too greatly at one time.

2. Google’s John Mueller made this statement a couple weeks ago about 302 redirects passing PageRank. It implies that 302 redirects are OK for SEO. As Mike King quickly pointed out on Twitter, that’s very misleading based off most SEO’s prior experiences.

My thoughts: is it difficult to assume that 302 redirects pass no less than .01% of the PageRank in the page? I don’t think so. So really, this statement isn’t saying much. It’s a non-answer, as it’s framed in comparison to a 404 (no PR passes) instead of a 301 (~90% of PR passes), the direct alternative in this case. So really, it doesn’t answer anything practical.

Take the two examples & know that things can change quickly, which you need to decipher what is actually, concretely being said.

So, bearing that in mind, here are a few recent statements on the subject of this post:

1. March 24, 2016 – Google lists their best 3 ranking factors as: links, content and RankBrain (although they didn’t state the transaction from the first two; RankBrain is definitely 3rd, though).

My thoughts: this isn’t anything new. This list lines track of whatever they indicated within the RankBrain initial news article in Bloomberg when they stated RankBrain was #3. All that was left to speculate, up to now, was what #1 and #2 were, although it wasn’t too difficult to guess.

2. Feb 2, 2015 – Google confirms which you don’t necessarily need links to rank. John Mueller cites a good example of friend of his who launched a nearby neighborhood website in Zurich as dexhpky71 indexed, ranking, and getting search traffic.

My thoughts: this isn’t very surprising, for just two reasons. First, that the queries they’re ranking for are probably suprisingly low competition (because: local international), and since Google has become a lot better through the years at looking at other signals in areas where the website link graph was lacking.

3. May 5, 2014 – Matt Cutts leads off a video by using a disclaimer stating “I think link building company have many, quite a few years left in them”.

My thoughts: as much of the endorsement as that is, a haunting reminder of how quickly things change is Matt’s comments later from the video speaking about authorship markup, a project that was eventually abandoned in the following years.

4. Feb 19, 2014 – Google’s Matt Cutts stated they tried dropping links altogether using their ranking algorithm, and discovered that it is “much, much worse”.

My thoughts: interestingly enough, Yandex tried this starting in March 2014 for specific niches, and brought it back each year later after finding that it is unsuccessful. Things change awfully quick, but when there’s any evidence about this list that will add reassurance, a combination of two different search engines trying & failing this might be best. With that said, our main concern isn’t the complete riddance of links, but, its absolute strength as being a ranking factor. So, once more, it’s still not all the that reassuring.