In the Moz 2013 Search Engine Ranking Survey, it was released that links are still considered the most important ranking factor in Google’s algorithm.
A combination of domain-level authority and page-level link metrics make up the highest ranking factor: roughly 40% of the algorithm. The second seemingly most important factor is content and keywords. Surprisingly, the SEO respondents did not consider social signals to be a big part of the algorithm in 2013.
Despite the lack of algorithm weight, the Moz study did discover that social signals are growing in correlation. For instance, Google+ was highly correlated with Facebook and Twitter – demonstrating that social networks are growing in importance even if they aren’t quite there yet in the search world.
When it comes to the future of ranking factors, a further shift from traditional marketing is expected. The analysis of a site’s perceived value to users is predicted to be the most increased, with authorship metrics and structured data close behind.
In the 2011 version of this study, it was predicted that social signals at both a page-level and domain-level would greatly increase. As mentioned above, that isn’t exactly the case. Furthermore, advancements and additions have altered how this is defined in the latest study. For instance, Google+ is now its own category – and its influence is predicted to be the fourth highest increase in the future. Social signals such as “likes” are just below (a definite drop from 2011).
To sum it up: links still matter. And not just any links – high-quality, relevant ones. Putting in the effort to build authoritative links and quality content is certainly worth it for long-term digital visibility. In fact, as our knowledge and capabilities increase, link building is actually evolving into a complex form of “relationship building.”
As best described by Search Engine Land, “The goal is to build links of the highest quality, using the most future-proof tactics that we can find… That means doing a lot more of what Matt Cutts told us all along: create great content that leads to — you guessed it — natural links.”
Search Engine Land also has an excellent resource for learning more about building links for longevity here: The Future-Proof Link Building Strategy.
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