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As we’ve expanded the agency, I had been finally able to use our internal resources to build out & rank our own projects. I’ve always had the mindset of “drinking our very own Koolaid”, and also as we’ve gone down this path, I just stumbled in a rabbit hole that provided me with a huge burst of excitement and a rise in expectations for the purpose we might do in the near future. But it really came at a cost: paranoia.

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

It may all come crashing down right away, all as a result of one critical assumption that I’ve intended to date: that links continue to matter.

I quickly found that I needed to have a better gauge about the longevity of links past the tweets I happened to read through that day. I’ve never had much cause of concern over the years regarding this issue (proof of why is listed later), however if I was going to make a major bet across the next 12-24 months, I required to understand the parameters of what may go wrong, and that was one of several items at the top of this list.

I ended up discussing things over by incorporating trusted colleagues of mine, as well as contacting a number of other experts i trusted the opinion of with regards to the way forward for SEO. Therefore I wanted to express my thinking, and also the overall conclusions I’ve drawn based off of the information available.

The main method to obtain “facts” that the industry points to in general are statements from Google. Yet, there have been numerous instances where what Google is telling us is, at a minimum, misleading.

Below are a few recent examples to illustrate in doing what way they are misleading:

1. Inside their “Not Provided” announcement post in October 2011, Google stated that “the change will affect simply a minority of your own traffic.” Not actually 2 years later, Danny Sullivan was told by Google that they had begun work towards encrypting ALL searches. The remainder is history.

My thoughts: even when we get the simple truth from Google, it should be labeled with huge, red letters of the date the statement was created, because things can alter very, in a short time. In this case, it had been probably their intention all along to gradually roll this to all searches, as a way to not anger people too greatly at the same 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 stated on Twitter, that’s very misleading based off most SEO’s prior experiences.

My thoughts: would it be challenging to think that 302 redirects pass no less than .01% from the PageRank of your page? I don’t think so. So really, this statement isn’t saying much. It’s a non-answer, as it’s framed as compared to a 404 (no PR passes) rather than a 301 (~90% of PR passes), the direct alternative in cases like this. So really, it doesn’t answer anything practical.

Take the two examples & realize that things can transform quickly, and this you should try to decipher what exactly is actually, concretely being said.

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

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

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

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

My thoughts: this isn’t very surprising, for a couple of reasons. First, that the queries they’re ranking for are most likely extremely low competition (because: local international), and furthermore, as Google has got significantly better throughout the years at checking out other signals in areas where the link graph was lacking.

3. May 5, 2014 – Matt Cutts leads off a relevant video using a disclaimer stating “I think one way link building have lots of, several years left in them”.

My thoughts: the maximum amount of of the endorsement as that is, a haunting reminder of how quickly things change is Matt’s comments later in the video discussing authorship markup, a task which was eventually abandoned within the following years.

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

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