On June 15, we held our seventh installment of #LinkaratiChat. Time goes by fast, doesn’t it?
This time, the title for our chat was “The Value of Links on the Web.” And who better to talk about that topic than our featured guest, the brilliant Tadeusz Szewczyk. Szewczyk is one of the more popular bloggers and consultants within our industry, and his writings can be found on blogs such as Ahrefs, Positionly, and his own blog SEO 2.0. He’s been writing about link building since the 90s.
According to data found using Tweet Binder, this was our most active chat yet. We are incredibly appreciative of everyone who continues to join our chat week-after-week.
Without further ado, let’s get to the answers!
How do You Explain the Value of Links to People With Little Understanding of Search?
Szewczyk started us off in the most common sense way possible:
A1: Without links there would be no interconnected Web. #linkaratichat
— Tad Chef (@onreact_com) June 15, 2015
A1: Without links we would just have random scattered documents on servers. #linkaratichat — Tad Chef (@onreact_com) June 15, 2015
Imagine trying to navigate the Internet without links. It’s tough to fathom, isn’t it? The Internet would practically be impossible to navigate if it wasn’t for the <ahref> code we’ve all become accustomed to. Google itself is ultimately just a page of links.
This was Anthony D. Nelson’s response:
A1: Links are indicators of trust and popularity for the search engines. You won't compete for competitive terms without them #LinkaratiChat
— Anthony D. Nelson (@anthonydnelson) June 15, 2015
This is also a simple, straightforward response, and completely accurate as well. Google uses links as a signal of popularity. It’s their form of digital democracy.
Nicholas Chimonas offered the, well, most Nicholas Chimonas answer possible:
A1: Links are a lot like the force. There is a dark side, and a light side, and they bind the galaxies together. #linkaratichat — Nicholas Chimonas (@NChimonas) June 15, 2015
May the links be with you Nicholas. He’s right: there are good links and there are bad links. There are links that better the user experience and there are links that exist for the sole purpose of manipulating algorithms. All of these links, good or bad, build the foundation of the world wide web.
Why do You Believe Google Based Their Search Algorithm on Links?
This is what Julie Joyce had to say:
Q2: it was the smartest idea at the time and they had no idea how brilliant/manipulative we'd all become. #linkaratichat
— JulieJoyce (@JulieJoyce) June 15, 2015
Back when Larry Page and Sergey Brin wrote the code for BackRub, it made waves. Every prior search engine model centered on keyword usage in content to determine relevance. BackRub put a primary emphasis on inbound links, and became a smashing success. BackRub became Google, and no one has been able to devise a better algorithm since.
Cody Cahill said:
Q2: Google has always and will always base their algo on whatever provides the best SERP results for the user. #LinkaratiChat — Cody Cahill (@Pleasant_Pen) June 15, 2015
For all of the talk that Google is a different, more progressive corporation than most, it is still a corporation, one with investors and a bottom line to protect. Google’s revenue stream depends on advertising, which means their ability to generate revenue is based on people using their search engine. It’s in their best financial interest to provide the best search experience possible.
This was Kate Smith’s answer:
A2: Because Google is only an expert at FINDING information, not determining its validity. Links do that for them. #LinkaratiChat
— Kate Smith (@SmittyQ14) June 15, 2015
Google can make self-driving cars and anthropomorphic robots, but they can’t do EVERYTHING. They recently announced they would like to introduce factual accuracy as a ranking signal, but that could be a long time coming still. For now, Google can only determine who is linking to whom.
What Value do Links Provide Beyond Search?
Dan Shure started off by answering:
A3: Beyond search links provide referral traffic and also give clues to context/quality of how people view your site/brand. #linkaratichat — Dan Shure (@dan_shure) June 15, 2015
While I would never advise only chasing referral traffic in a link building campaign, it can be an added perk. You can also learn about the strengths and weaknesses of your site by figuring out who links to you and why. Why are your most popular pages your most popular pages? How can you replicate that success in the future?
Our featured guest responded:
A3: Links help structuring, organizing and archiving large amounts of information. Think databases and libraries. #linkaratichat
— Tad Chef (@onreact_com) June 15, 2015
If the Internet is the new library, then links are the Dewey Decimal System and the card cabinets.
Here's what Jeremy Rivera had to offer:
A3. Links are a portal from one established audience to yours. A link is better than a billboard, because it's contextual #linkaratichat — Jeremy Rivera (@JeremyRiveraSEO) June 15, 2015
Links are better than billboards in a plethora of ways. When you see a billboard on the side of the freeway, all you can do is call the number at the bottom… if you were able to catch all of it while you sped past the billboard at 75 mph. When you see a link on a website and want to know more, all you have to do is click.
How Has Penguin Impacted the Value of Links?
Rohan Ayyar answered:
#Linkaratichat A4. Nothing can impact the true value of links. Penguin just hoovered the crap. @Linkarati
— Rohan Ayyar (@searchrook) June 15, 2015
There’s a misconception that Penguin killed links and link building. Nothing can be further than the truth. Penguin’s mission was to kill bad, spammy links and link building. Links are just as powerful as they’ve ever been.
Our featured guest dropped an unfortunate truth bomb here:
A4: People are now afraid to link out. Genuine webmasters refrain from voting for their favorite sites now. #linkaratichat — Tad Chef (@onreact_com) June 15, 2015
While the fear is slowly starting to die off over the course of the last year, there’s no question that Penguin left a ton of webmasters and SEOs quivering in their boots. In the wake of Penguin, there were plenty of webmasters who were afraid to publish completely natural, relevant links. And if they did decide to link out, they would implement the nofollow tag.
Callis knows of one Penguin perk though:
A4: It's certainly made people value quality of links over quantity. #linkaratichat
— Callis (@callis1987) June 15, 2015
Prior to Penguin, spammers took advantage of Google’s algorithmic loopholes by building a bevy of unnatural links. Even if the links had no contextual purpose, the more links built, the better the chances of ranking. While Penguin hasn’t completely killed the problem, Google is better than ever at catching spammers engaging in this practice. It’s now more important than ever to focus on the quality of the links you build, rather than the quantity.
How do You Determine the Value of a Link? What Tools do You Use?
Here was Colin Eggleston’s answer:
A5: I ask, "would my mom click that link?" If yes, then good link! Just kidding... kind of. #linkaratichat — Colin Eggleston (@DJColinSick) June 15, 2015
Even if he’s “kind of” kidding, he’s actually right in a sense. If you build a link that any human of any relation to you would be compelled to click, it’s a valuable link. It’s a link that makes contextual sense and betters the online experience. Another way of thinking about this is if it’s a link that you would be proud to report to your client. If the answer is yes, it’s a valuable link.
Annie Singer said:
Q5: I start with the "smell check" - does it look good and work well? - then Moz bar, and OSE if I want to dig deeper #linkaratichat
— Annie Singer (@singerswings) June 15, 2015
There’s really no better tool in SEO than the human eye. That said, tools like the Mozbar have features like domain authority, which generally reflects the ranking power a particular site has in search engines. Open Site Explorer--another staple of Moz--will provide you with a backlink report that will list the characteristics of your links as well.
Anthony Randall responded with:
A5: intuition mostly, i just use the numbers for a bit of support when necessary. a good link is usually pretty apparent. #linkaratichat — Anthony Randall (@tonyxrandall) June 15, 2015
Again, the human eye and instinct are two of the most undervalued tools an SEO has. If a link looks right on a page, and it links to a page that makes sense to you, it’s most likely a valuable, natural link.
What is Your Prediction for Links Moving Beyond 2015?
Szewczyk started off our final question by saying:
A6: We will witness a renaissance of links soon. Social Media are already turning rogue. Links are free and open source. #linkaratichat
— Tad Chef (@onreact_com) June 15, 2015
In my opinion, the renaissance of links and link building is already underway. As someone who never stops scouring the web for link building content, I can tell you that there’s been a steady, noticeable increase of content in the last six months. Social media is undoubtedly valuable, but Google still directs the majority of online traffic.
Linkarati’s managing editor Cory Collins responded with:
A6: no new signals means links will come back into the spotlight. Online marketing should consider & value links. #LinkaratiChat — Cory Collins (@Coryrcollins) June 15, 2015
In the last year, Google has introduced SSL and mobile-optimization as new signals, but even in their own words those signals are not meant to be weighted heavily. Nor will factual accuracy when it’s introduced, if ever. In our present day, it’s readily apparent that there’s no better ranking signal for the foreseeable future than links, and marketing departments are taking notice.
Our last response came from Devin:
A6: I think content links are going to eventually be looked at more heavily and website won't allow you stuff an article #linkaratichat
— Devin (@DevDawg) June 15, 2015
Despite the fact that link building is a cleaner practice than it’s ever been, the fact of the matter is that some abuse still remains. I still see ridiculous link stuffing from time-to-time. It’s entirely possible that Google will one day try and figure out a way to minimize this.
So those were just a few of some of the amazing answers we had in our latest #LinkaratiChat. As I said earlier, it was our most popular chat, and we can’t wait to do it again. As of right now, it is slated for Monday, June 29 at 1:00 PM EST. No featured guest at the moment. We will let you know more from the Linkarati twitter feed when know more ourselves.
Finally, to all of you who participated, we’d like to say: