To my surprise, there are still people out there who question why Google and other search engines use links to rank pages in search results – and some of them even call themselves SEO specialists!
I know, this is ridiculous. The other day I was leafing through an SEO forum and spotted someone asking why doesn’t Google just stop using links as a ranking factor to avoid all the confusion caused by fluctuations in rankings and so on. And yes, the person behind this ingineous question called himself ‘SEO King’…
First, before I even start – if this is the kind of guy you hired to take care of your SEO, you’re in deep trouble, and the main reason for that is a good SEOer needs a global understanding of Search engines and the eco-system surrounding them. Only then will an SEO specialist be proficient enough to deal with the constantly-changing landscape of Search and online marketing. Unless you’re negligent enough about your SEO, of course.
But let’s get back to the very beginning, and namely to the question of why does Google use links as a ranking factor. The shortest answer to that is links are seen as third party votes for a site or page. As things stand, there are no other more accurate metrics, despite the fact that link quality metrics are very complex and not completely accurate.
Social signals – they are growing in importance as a ranking factor, but for the near future links will remain the main algorithmic indicator of a site’s value. It is quite possible to see a change in the landscape once algorithms become sophisticated enough to incorporate quantitative and qualitative metrics for social signals, until then SEO is dead – long live SEO!
As an example, let’s say 2 sites have 1000 Facebook Likes each – for the sake of the argument – how would we and indeed the algo differentiate between the two? Metrics for social profiles etc will no doubt become more targeted and accurate, but even then I can see a mixture of links and social signals used to rank internet entities.
In a way, links and SEO is like democracy – it’s far from ideal and has many deficiences, but it’s the best system we’ve invented so far and until we come up with something better, we’ll have to work with what we’ve got – lots of complexity and many opinions on how to SEO. And next time someone presents themselves as an SEO specialist and then asks you why does Google need links, Google ‘SEO specialist’.