A few months ago, Google tested a version of its search engine which didn’t use links as a ranking factor. Needless to say Google was less than impressed with the results.
The thing is; That isn’t surprising given Google hasn’t fully developed an alternative to links as a barometer of authority / popularity.
Yesterday, Google’s web spam chief Matt Cutts announced that over time, links will decrease in their importance.
It makes perfect sense: Googles system is currently flawed (but obviously it works). It’s flawed because links can be easily manipulated and whilst Google has dishing out penalties to sites that do engage in “Link Schemes” It’s not a perfect solution.
Google is clearly working towards a future with less links. With “signals” of authority appearing in new forms such as: Social, citation based (unlinked mentions of your website) or user behaviour based (e.g. How long someone stayed on site), links are starting to look primitive.
Let’s be honest, you don’t feel compelled to link to every great website you visit (you might not even have a website!), but you might mention it on Social Media and surely, you staying on the site longer and converting is a much better signal of user satisfaction than a link from another website.
In the coming months and years, the SEO professional that treats SEO as an actual marketing channel rather than a shopping list of criteria you must meet to rank well, is going to reap the rewards..BIG TIME.