I’ve been reading a lot lately about how Google is changing and the semantic web is coming and that links with anchor text are dying and that pretty soon you won’t need to get links and that you’ll just need to create content with a lot of words related to your topic in it and customers will come flocking.
Links are going nowhere, mainly because links are a fundamental building block of the web and quite frankly, a site that discusses a person, place, or thing without linking to it creates a poor user experience. So even if there is no ‘perceived’ SEO benefit, links will always exist on the web for usability, users will click them, search engines will find them, and therefore links will have SEO benefit.
Also, this whole concept of Google being able to judge the relevancy of a document simply based on the ‘co-occurence’ of other terms is a fantasy in my opinion. If that’s the case, then cue up the bulk LSI article creators on Fiverr! If Google doesn’t look at links, and just looks at co-occurence then there will be millions of LSI-optimized (lsioptimization.com is available …) horrible articles about everything under the sun and Google will have no way to tell which ones to rank.
I’m not ragging on co-occurence but writing using related terms isn’t new, and no matter how large a signal it is there will always be an even larger ‘popularity’ score involved based on how users can ‘vote’ for sites.
Before Facebook and Twitter the only way users could ‘vote’ on the web was by linking to an article from their website. Therefore, links were a proxy for popularity, and quantity/quality of links was a proxy for how popular something was.
Today Google has many other ways to tell how users ‘vote’:
1) What they click on in the search results
2) How long they stay on a site and what they do
3) How many Facebook likes, retweets, Google +’s, etc. a page has
4) How many links a site has
5) How many people search for a subject/person/brand/entity
6 – Infinity) Other stuff
They also have tons of other ways to judge links:
1) How long has it been on the web
2) What is the anchor text
3) How often is it clicked
4) Where is it on the page
5) You get the idea …
But keep in mind that users and search engines still arrive at pages via …. LINKS! Whether they click on it from Facebook, or Twitter, or from an email, people click links, and the quantity and quality of those links out there will always be a vital factor in how your page ranks in search engines. Sure over time certain attributes of the link will change in value (the authority of the page/site the link is on, the anchor text, the usage metrics of the URL the link is pointing to, a lot of stuff mentioned here) but links are here to stay.
For those that hate reading and want the 8 second summary I’m basically saying that as long as people use links to surf the web they’ll always be a very valuable signal for search engines to determine how to rank sites.