Ever since the dawn of Google there has been a single constant of SEO and that is that we must build links. Quite simply, when you put all the other minutiae aside, links are what make the difference between a #1 ranking and search engine obscurity.
Naturally, then, when Google first pioneered this thing that we call “Page Rank,” the world of SEO quickly adopted it as the litmus against which all potential link prospects should be measured…
The thing is, Google has gotten a little more sophisticated these days. Links still matter, no doubt about it, but how much each link matters has become a complex thing indeed. So, the question arises then: Is page rank still the best thing to consider when doing your own link building? I say perhaps not.
The Dreaded Panda
If you know anything at all about SEO then I will assume you have heard of the recent “Panda Update.” In simple terms Google has declared a new effort in the war against spam.
Content farms are the primary targets, and for this reason, many big sites with less than great content have been slapped back down the rankings. But the real casualties as far as I can see are not restricted just to these “farmers”…
For every content farm that’s been all but eradicated from the index, there are probably hundreds or even thousands of links which effectively don’t even count anymore.
That’s right, if you have been overdoing it on the article submissions etc… there’s a good chance that many of your links are almost worthless now. It’s the link builders equivalent of a stock market crash.
What Google Wants
The simplest way to figure out what Google really looks for in a link is to think about what Google wants to achieve. After all, as Matt Cutts put it in one of his videos on webmaster help:
“Webmasters should be chasing after what the user wants (rather than just chasing the algorithm).”
The Ideal Scenario
What Google really dreams of (I wonder if it has started to dream
yet…?) is that we, as web masters, simply focus on building better sites and focusing our marketing efforts on our users and not on what the algorithm wants.
Logically then, Google is going to try to single out the pages which are popular with the humans who are viewing them. As a corollary to this, wouldn’t it make sense that Google would also care more about links which are more important to the user too?
So if not page rank…
How can you tell then which links you should and shouldn’t bother with? If you can’t chase after that old idol of page rank, then what should you look for in a link?
The answer is simple: Imagine for a minute that Google didn’t exist (scary thought right?), and for that matter search engines in general were unheard of… How are you going to get free traffic to your website now?
That’s right, logically, shouldn’t the most important links be the ones which you would build even if you didn’t care about SEO? i.e. the ones which will bring you the most traffic?
Link building has been heading this way for a while, and OK we’re not quite there yet, but logically; if a link gets you oodles of relevant traffic, that has to be considered a good link right?
Let’s stop chasing this silly algorithm and adding more and more useless content and poor quality links to the internet. Let’s start focusing on getting more traffic and happier users – Google is bound to catch up with us before too long!