How Important are Links for SEO?

Is Link Building Dying?

I often get asked by clients about link building and the most effective way to go about it. Similarly, we also get lots of requests to create a supplier profile across the AZoNetwork of sites (a bulk link building tactic). The thinking for both instances is that being linked to from a reputable authority will pass on more "link juice" and help with their overall SEO. As little as two years ago they would have been correct in their thinking:

But two years is like a lifetime in the digital age— links are getting less important. The big drop-off in link importance may be just around the corner.

That’s straight from the mouth of Matt Cutts, one of Google’s top search engine experts. Here is what Matt says is replacing backlinks as the key to better search result placement -

Verifiable expertise in your topic domain.

That doesn't just mean churning out commercial content about your company and products. Take press releases as an example, businesses were continuously looking for the next trivial occurence to announce in a press release in the hope of harvesting some of the intangible "Link Juice". The Google Panda update quickly put an end to this by devaluing the link building tactic which reduced the traffic to press distribution sites by up to 85%.

Instead, try and provide insight and useful content on subject matter related to your customer's interests:

So if you manufacture equipment or provide a scientific product or service, talk about the recent developments in related applications and interesting areas. Your readers will keep coming back for more because you are addressing topics directly related to their line of work.

One fantastic example of a company establishing themselves as the reader's go to trusted content authority is Bruker Biospin who manufacture pre-clinical Nuclear Magnetic Resonance equipment (heavy, complicated stuff!) - Their readers are not only fascinated by the technique (NMR), but also by the range of cutting-edge applications (inhibiting HIV, Cancer Research, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Diabetes) and what can be achieved using the technique.

Therefore, we ran a series of Thought Leader interviews with key opinion leaders (and daily users of the equipment) who are well known within their respective fields of expertise.

The resulting content provided lots of in-depth traffic, engagement and leads which would have never been captured without the right informative content.

Links are still part of the picture, but now and in the future, expert content is quickly overtaking them in importance.

According to Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines released to the public in late 2015, content authored by known experts gets better placement in search results. Links are still part of the picture, but now and in the future, expert content is quickly overtaking them in importance.

It’s as simple as this—good content makes your site more search-engine friendly. Rand Fishkin sums up link building with one general rule of thumb: "If you can't find anyway to justify how something that you're doing for SEO also benefits a visitor, maybe you should reconsider it..." Basically, it should be less about SEO and more about User Experience.

What can you do with this information today to improve your online visibility?

Let’s look at how content strategy comes together to strengthen your digital marketing efforts.

Create a Reputable Website to Get Referral Visits and Build Traffic

If expertise will define search success in coming years, it makes sense to start building your platform. Instead of thinking of your site as an online brochure, consider the questions your core customers are dealing with and how you can answer them. Timely, relevant, helpful content is the key to repeat visits and social shares. These, in turn, strengthen search placement.

Develop Quality Content Across Different, Trustworthy Platforms

Google’s big mobile-friendly update rolled out in April 2015, asserting the brand’s commitment to promoting sites with robust mobile support. Mobile can help you reach more prospects where and when they are, including the 70% of B2B decision-makers who say they use a mobile device for initial product research.

Scientific brands should also look for ways to leverage authoritative sites outside their own network—not only for links, but for hosting quality content to draw visitors in. Example: Google's property YouTube is now the world’s #2 search engine, perfect for your short-form video content.

Think about your presence across Linkedin, Youtube, Twitter and even more specialist, industry focused sites like AZoM, AZoNano and News-Medical

Find Quality Third-Party References to Reinforce Your Expertise

In Google’s original implementation, a link from one site to another was seen as an “editorial vote” endorsing that site’s quality. In hindsight, the problem is obvious: Anyone can make a website and not every editor is well-informed. By generating expert content, you’ll be more likely to get noticed by the trusted brands and influencers in your field.

The more specific and sophisticated the content you create is, the more valuable it will be. When that content is shared out to an interested audience by a trusted authority from your industry, the results are far more worthwhile than anything a static link is likely to yield—even over the course of a whole year.

The Bottom Line: Expertise, Not Links, is the Currency of Tomorrow’s Web

Google changes its algorithm 500-600 times a year, and every change impacts how companies can succeed on the modern Internet. Although every one of these changes is different in its intent and impact, the long-term pattern is clear: There are no shortcuts to results, but great content delivers them over time.

When it comes to digital marketing, even the best links can disappear overnight as sites change, businesses fold, or Google adjusts its standards. Your brand’s own digital platform is its greatest asset, and committing to develop expert content is its best use. The fact that it's labor-intensive makes it worthwhile - You can't fake being an expert!

Get in touch if you would like to discuss your content strategy and see how we can help today!

Posted by Frank Barker

Having spent his younger years playing Rugby in the sunny climes of Spain and Western Australia, Frank graduated from Loughborough University with a BSc in International Business. Over the past 4 years, he has since forged a career in Digital Marketing and developed a passion for combining big data with great content to deliver messages that resonate with specific audiences. A sportsman at heart, Frank still enjoys lacing up the boots for his beloved Macclesfield 1st XV Rugby or pulling on the whites to represent the more serious Macclesfield 3rd XI Cricket team.

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