How long will links be part of seo?
A week barely seems to go by without Google cracking down on another link network or “link system” and it’s made a lot of seo people wonder just how much longer search engines can rely on links. It’s no secret that there’s plenty of ways to get lots of links (of varying quality) quickly and relatively cheaply but wouldn’t this be true of any metric that Google uses to determine quality? Won’t there always be someone who finds a way to automate the signals Google is looking for?
“My mom thinks the internet is Google”
More and more people are talking about the potential impact “social” is going to have on the search results, i.e. crowd-sourcing real people’s opinions of whether a site is good or not. There’s a fundamental problem with this idea though and it’s that apart from a small minority or reddit & Digg users most people have no interest in rating websites. Even if it benefited them down the line by having “cleaner” results 99% of people on the web just want to find what they want and are happy to just keep clicking until they find it. It’s an issue with the “geek” community that we assume everyone is like us, i.e. my mom thinks the internet is Google!
Any time search engines add a new factor they always have to work out how easy it would be to cheat, SEO isn’t called an arms race for nothing. The problem with social and other potential authority signals is that you always need to have them in volume in order to trust them. But that isn’t going to put off anyone trying to spam the results, if you can create a program to post on millions of different message boards with a spam comment then you can surely make one that hits “like” on a webpage. To me the more you look at this problem the more complex it gets, no-matter what you do it seems like someone will find a way to exploit it.
There’s also quite a big problem with “social signals” that I don’t think anyone else has mentioned and it’s that all users are treated the same. If we look at links its relatively easy for Google to work out which ones are more important because those links in turn have lots of other links pointed to the page they are on. However when it comes to users it’s really difficult to work out if one users opinion has more authority than another’s because users don’t “link” to each other like web-pages do. This means Google has to rely on volume to use this signal and as mentioned there’s nothing a spammer loves more than volume!
“No-matter what you do it seems like someone will find a way to exploit it.”
With all of this in mind it seems like Google is taking the safest route they can at the moment, integrating as many signals for authority as possible and trying not to give any one too much value. The more signals the harder it is to game since there’s no “all in one” package you can buy, and I suppose that’s Google’s main concern. There will always be a percentage of people who manage to cheat the system but it’s when everyone is able to do it with an “off the shelf” product/system that Google has real problems.
There has always been plenty of panic in the seo community in general, every time Google makes a change you have thousands of webmasters talking about the sky falling. But the thing is someone always has to be No1, for every person you see complaining that their site dropped there is someone else opening a champagne bottle! In conclusion I don’t see links disappearing any time soon from the SEO process but if and when they do I’m sure many of the same rules are going to apply.