Yes, Links Still Have a Huge Effect on Ranking!

Stone Temple Consulting released a study concluding that links still are a major ranking factor.

If you’ve listened/read/watched any of my previous content you would see that this aligns well with what I’ve been saying in the past and what I expect into the future.  In other words, “duh!”

There are still some huge flaws in the methodology of the SEO study.  Off Page SEO is critical, but there are some common SEO thinking mistakes made in the article that I describe in the video below.

Watch the video for more details and fun:

Links Matter in Ranking Study by Stone Temple Consulting.jpg

More about the Dallas SEO Geek:

Approximate Transcript:

Hi, David Hood here, the Dallas SEO Geek. This video is about a study by Stone Temple Consulting where the conclusion is essentially links remain a very powerful ranking factor. You can see the link right there, and my first response is “Duh.” Okay, I mean based upon my experiences, this is absolutely 100% true. Links have always been, and I think that they always will be, a major rank factor. It’s a core part of Google’s algorithm. It’s what differentiated them in the late 90s, that they looked at links better and more.

I think a lot of search engines didn’t even look at them at all, and the quality of the results improved. The exact way in which they look [about 00:00:56] the links is slightly different today, but they still look at links. They even stated that they’ve tested, in-house, search algorithms that don’t include links and the results are terrible. Also, just based upon my experience when you don’t do links, you don’t get results for anything competitive. It’s pretty well … It’s extremely, extremely unlikely.

This is really consistent with what I’ve been saying and telling potential clients for years. Links are here to stay, it’s a huge part of Google’s algorithm. It’s a huge part of determining the quality of a website.

There is a large contingent on the internet, SEO people, who are constantly talking about “Well, you just build the content. Build great content over and over again, and that’s how you’re going to rank.” That’s kind of what Google wants you to believe, but that’s not really based upon reality for pretty much any business. Maybe like really big companies that already are doing a ton of other marketing, and can afford to hire large teams of writers that could work for … even then, I think it’s the most inefficient path to success.

Let’s say you’re trying to go from Dallas to New York. You could fly. You could get on a plane and fly, or you could crawl. Is crawling going … technically crawling can get you there. Is it the most accurate form? Could you get run over while you’re trying crawl? Yes, but it’s … So, technically there’s a little bit of truth to that. There’s a little bit of truth to content marketing, it can rank you, but it tends to be the most inefficient way, takes the longest, and it’s most expensive. A lot of times, you could it for years and get no results.

As I’ve been saying, off-page SEO and link building is a part of any winning formula for any business that’s trying to rank for anything relatively competitive, with any competition. Even low competition, sometimes you still need some links. You still need some authority for Google to say, “This is a trusted site that other people on the internet trust.”

What I’m going to talk about now is it comes down to not trusting a lot of the inner parts of this study, because this is sort of separate from my main point that links are still really important. There’s a ton of studies out there, and I want you to be able to view them with the right amount of skepticism. Okay, and the inner part of this study is full of … inaccuracies, and inappropriate thinking, in my opinion. I’m going to go over that now.

First of all, a lot of these ranking factors or studies imply that there’s one path to SEO success. That’s certainly not true. Even within my winning formula, there’s multiple paths you can take. There’s a lot of different ways to rank a website, and there’s a lot of the best people in the world that I know SEO, they each go about SEO a little bit differently. There’s a few guys that go about it completely differently and in a way that … it’s just kind of wow. I mean, it’s kind of amazing that they can rank that way, and that’s fine.

That’s one of the implications of a lot of these studies. It’s like, “Okay, ranking factors, so you need to do this, this, and this.” Well, that’s not always true. It’s a balance of all the factors, and if you do this over here then you kind of do this. But, if you do this over here, then you need to do this. There’s just a lot of different things that you’re balancing.

Now, having high quality, relevant, trusted authoritative links pointed back to your site is going to make a big … it’s going to help, okay? That’s definitely going to … As long as it’s not over-optimized. As long as you’re not making certain type … there’s not certain types of mistakes with those links. I do want to point out, again, that there’s not necessarily one path to ranking a website.

Here’s where it starts to get really funny. [The where 00:04:54] of mixing bad data with bad data, and reaching what I would call very conclusive conclusions, for lack of a better term, based upon that data. First of all, there’s using [Moz 00:05:07] data, which is the most inaccurate data out there now. Their crawler is just wildly slow. It misses so many things, and the things it does find, it takes a long time. I don’t really even use it anymore because it’s just not very useful. They were bought by another company, and as a lot of times what happens when a company is bought, the parent company strips funding. Their crawler was already slow, and now it’s even slower. You’re starting with bad data, right, and [he 00:05:40] mixes it with other data.

Then, we go down here, and well, you probably look at this and you go “Wow. It just looks like clearly he knows what he’s talking about because, well, you know, there’s fancy math. Wow, this is …” Again, you’re putting garbage in, garbage out type stuff here. Just because there’s fancy data, it doesn’t mean that it’s really inclusive. I did math competitions in high school. I have an advanced engineering degree. I’ve spent a lot of time … I think everyone should learn calculus, but when I see this, I just think … my BS detector just goes “Woo, woo, woo!” Goes off like crazy.

Not only are they using [Moz 00:06:24] data, but they’re using total links, which is a really inaccurate form of calculation. Links by themselves … I think I’ve got link delta. One link can be worth trillions of other links. It’s not even like that. This trillion links could be negative, and this one link could be super, super positive. It’s like literally candle and sun orders of magnitude. A link on the front page of versus a link on a hacked Russian site with no authority, no trust, what’s the difference there? It’s just wildly different. These 12 links right here could be way better than these 147 links.

Again, bad data with bad data into a relatively meaningless calculation. I mean, I’m sure that there’s some sort of [reasonable to this 00:07:16] and if this data was perfect, maybe this would have meaning. Even if the data was perfect, it’s still working off of sort of the idea that there’s one path, and that there’s kind of one way to go about things.

Okay, here we go, his content score. Again, you see links [per 00:07:32] URL, he’s pulling the data from the highly inaccurate [Moz 00:07:36]. Let’s see … Hold on. Then, I can’t believe they do this. It goes into this mythical scenario where they use link score and content score. The content score isn’t based upon anything, so it’s not really useful. There’s not a metric out there where you pull and say “This is how high quality the content is.” Also, it’s sort of implies that there’s no other form of on-page SEO. As I’ve said in my other videos, your title, your URL, and your linking are highly relevant, are what Google decides … is most relevant to your site.

Ultimately, I think they judge your content by engagement. If they’re sending visitors to your site and people are staying a long time, that’s good. If they’re sending visitors to your site, and people are just bouncing right away and going back to the search results, that’s bad. There’s no really no way for us to look at this. If your content is not relevant or competitive, whatever competitive means, links won’t help your ranking. Well, that’s not true because you can have … I’ve seen pages rank where there’s no content on it, or there’s basically just the sidebar and the top parts, so technically there’s not no content, but it’s just the title, the URL, the [inter-linking 00:08:57] are done right. The client hasn’t put up the content yet, and it still ranks.

Links definitely will help your ranking, no matter what. Your content can be highly irrelevant. There’s been times when things rank that just have images. There’s no content on the page that Google can read, and it still ranks. This is pretty bad, and it kind of reflects a lot of what these big authoritative sources talk about, like Search Engine Land, and Stone Temple Consulting, and [Moz 00:09:28].

It goes back to one of their main fallacies, which is about content. Content is important, but the way in which they approach it, I believe, is extremely incorrect for most businesses. It is inefficient, and it’s kind of what Google wants, though. That’s the kind of regurgitating what Google wants people to believe, but that isn’t really based upon reality, in 100%, in ways. Like I said, you can crawl from Dallas to New York, and so technically you could do that, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the right way to go about things. The same thing comes with content marketing, and SEO is not content marketing, much to … very well disagree with … very highly disagree with a lot of what the big names out there are talking about. There’s a lot of people blogging about SEO who’ve never actually ranked their website.

Okay, if you’d like me to take a look at your website and do an analysis of that for free, you go, and you click on ‘Get Free Analysis,’ or click on the discovery form and fill that out. I will take a look at that, and we’ll go forward from there. Thanks for watching, and let me know if you have any questions. Have a great day, bye.

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