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As we’ve expanded the company, I had been finally able to utilize our internal resources to create out & rank our very own projects. I’ve always had the mindset of “drinking our Koolaid”, so when we’ve gone down this path, Not long ago i stumbled into a rabbit hole that provided a tremendous burst of excitement and a rise in expectations for what we might do in the near future. But it came at a cost: paranoia.

After the dust settled in the improvements we made, I took a major step back and saw that what we should were building was basically located on the fault line of a tectonic plate.

It could all come crashing down instantly, all as a consequence of one critical assumption that I’ve designed to date: that links continues to matter.

I quickly found that I needed to experience a better gauge on the longevity of links beyond the tweets I happened to read through on that day. I’ve never had much cause of concern over time regarding this issue (proof of exactly why is listed later), but if I would create a major bet over the next 12-24 months, I necessary to be aware of parameters of the could go wrong, and that was one of the items at the top of the list.

I ended up discussing things over with a few trusted colleagues of mine, in addition to reaching out to a couple of other experts that I trusted the opinion of with regards to the way ahead for SEO. Thus I wanted to mention my thinking, and the overall conclusions I’ve drawn based off of the information available.

The principle method to obtain “facts” 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.

Here are several recent examples to illustrate in what way they may be misleading:

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

My thoughts: even though we have the facts from Google, it needs to be labeled with huge, red letters of the date the statement is made, because things can change very, quickly. In this instance, it was actually probably their intention all along to gradually roll this out 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 of weeks ago about 302 redirects passing PageRank. It implies that 302 redirects are OK for SEO. As Mike King quickly revealed on Twitter, that’s very misleading based off most SEO’s prior experiences.

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

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

So, bearing that in mind, below are a few recent statements on the subject of this post:

1. March 24, 2016 – Google lists their best 3 ranking factors as: links, content and RankBrain (though they didn’t state your order from the first two; RankBrain is certainly 3rd, though).

My thoughts: this isn’t anything new. This list lines with what they indicated within the RankBrain initial news article in Bloomberg when they stated RankBrain was #3. Everything that was left to speculate, until recently, was what #1 and #2 were, while it wasn’t too difficult to guess.

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

My thoughts: this isn’t very surprising, for 2 reasons. First, the queries they’re ranking for are most likely really low competition (because: local international), and furthermore, as Google has become much better through the years at looking at other signals in areas where the website link graph was lacking.

3. May 5, 2014 – Matt Cutts leads off a video having a disclaimer stating “I think link building company have several, quite a few years left in them”.

My thoughts: all the of your endorsement as which is, a haunting reminder of how quickly things change is Matt’s comments later from the video speaking about authorship markup, a project which was eventually abandoned inside the following years.

4. Feb 19, 2014 – Google’s Matt Cutts stated they tried dropping links altogether from the ranking algorithm, and discovered it to be “much, much worse”.

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