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What You Need To Know

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What You Need To Know


Inbound links, or backlinks as they’re commonly referred to, have mattered to SEO for as long as Google has been using an algorithm to rank search results.

Historically, having a greater number of inbound links has increased a website’s chances of earning high rankings in search results.

Links continue to be important to Google, but there’s more nuance to it compared to the days of PageRank.

Let’s look at the claims surrounding inbound links as a ranking factor, followed by evidence that either supports or debunks those claims.

The Claim: Inbound Links Are A Ranking Factor

Inbound links refer to links pointing from another domain to your website.

There are a number of claims surrounding inbound links as a ranking factor.

The first is simply that inbound links are ranking signals for Google’s search algorithms.

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In other words, Google assesses the links pointing to a webpage when determining how to rank it in search results.

Other claims about inbound links relate to the strength of the ranking signals generated by the links.

Quantity is said to be one of those factors, with more links creating stronger signals.

The referring domain is said to be another factor, with high authority and relevant sources creating stronger ranking signals.

The next section dissects these claims and goes over what matters to Google when it comes to inbound links.

The Evidence For Inbound Links As A Ranking Factor

Google’s algorithm is founded on links.

PageRank, the algorithm on which Google’s search engine is built, depended solely on links to rank content when it was first introduced.

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Describing to the public how its algorithm works, Google once stated:

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“PageRank works by counting the number and quality of links to a page to determine a rough estimate of how important the website is. The underlying assumption is that more important websites are likely to receive more links from other websites.”

Google’s algorithm has since been updated to consider other factors, but inbound links remain an important signal.

The company says as much on its How Search Works microsite, which describes how Google’s algorithms assess webpage quality:

“We look for sites that many users seem to value for similar queries. For example, if other prominent websites link to the page (what is known as PageRank), that has proven to be a good sign that the information is well trusted.

Aggregated feedback from our Search quality evaluation process is used to further refine how our systems discern the quality of information.”

There’s no doubt that inbound links are a Google ranking factor. Now let’s look at the next claims.

Does the quantity of inbound links matter to Google?

The claim that the quantity of inbound links is a ranking factor has been refuted by Google.

Google’s John Mueller states that the total number of inbound links pointing to a website is “completely irrelevant” to search rankings.

Mueller explains why link quantity is not a factor, saying it’s a signal that can be easily manipulated.

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He advises site owners not to focus on how many backlinks they have. Google may even choose to ignore most of a site’s inbound links and only look at the ones that are relevant. Mueller said:

“We try to understand what is relevant for a website, how much should we weigh these individual links, and the total number of links doesn’t matter at all. Because you could go off and create millions of links across millions of websites if you wanted to, and we could just ignore them all.

Or there could be one really good link from one website out there that is, for us, a really important sign that we should treat this website as something that is relevant because it has that one link. I don’t know, maybe from like a big news site’s home page, for example. So the total number essentially is completely irrelevant.”

In that statement, Mueller confirms that the authority and relevance of referring domains are taken into consideration, as well.

Inbound Links As A Ranking Factor: Our Verdict

 

To recap, here are the verdicts on all claims based on the evidence we’ve presented:

  • Yes – Inbound links are a ranking factor.
  • No – Quantity of inbound links is not a ranking factor. To be clear, this means just increasing your raw number of backlinks won’t help you, especially if the links are low-quality. However, there is one way that quantity can matter: having a large number of great links is always better than having a small number of great links.
  • Yes – Relevance and quality of the referring domain is a ranking factor.

Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal

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SEO

How Data Is Reshaping The SEO & Digital Marketer’s Landscape

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How Data Is Reshaping The SEO & Digital Marketer's Landscape

There is a new data revolution happening, and it’s sweeping across the industry so quickly that many SEO and digital marketers are struggling to make sense of the insights and intelligence at their disposal.

To utilize this opportunity, marketers need to evolve their mindsets and use technology to analyze multiple data formats and understand the new opportunities it can bring.

SEO marketers of today and digital marketers of tomorrow will need to extract, structure quickly, and manipulate data to drive the most critical business outcomes.

Data has always been mission-critical to digital decision-making.

The Economist, back in 2017, declared it the world’s most valuable resource.

Fast forward to today and the future, and we can see that the exponential growth of data fuelling this revolution is staggering.

According to the IDC, the amount of digital data created over the next five years will be greater than twice the amount of data made since the advent of digital storage.

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Think about that for a second!

Flash drives, for example, were introduced in 2000.

This means that in the next five years, marketers will have to analyze and make sense of 2x the data created in the last 22 years!

The Data Revolution Means More Sources & Complexity For SEO

The data revolution has gone on for some time now, and it’s changed our concept of what counts as “data,” rightfully so.

In the past, we thought only numbers mattered.

But, in this new digital world where everything is converted into ones and zeros, data is broader and contains text, audio, and visual information – all bits waiting to be processed!

  • Machine-based and human-generated data are growing at a rate of 10x faster than conventional business data.
  • Machine-created data is increasing exponentially at a 50x the growth rate. This data revolution is primarily marketing-driven and consumer-oriented who are “always on.”
  • In just the last 18 months, the volume of site processing data we have been generating at BrightEdge has increased by 11x!
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As a result of these increasingly demanding trends, SEO and digital marketers need to adapt and become more like data analysts and scientists in approaching the extraction of structured data insights and business intelligence – without adding more manual work.

Fortunately, SEO is well-positioned to take advantage of this new data revolution.

  • Increasing your keyword universe – More keywords mean more data points to look at with reporting and fuelling insights. While focusing on conversion rate metrics is very important, it wouldn’t be possible without opening the scope of your audience and getting more people in the door. SEO has drifted away from writing for a primary dedicated keyword and is now way more advanced with advancements in search engines like Google’s understanding of intent of searches through RankBrain and BERT.
  • Increasing your search footprint – will also help you discover unexplored of informing your future content strategy or ideate new keyword ideas. However, sometimes you might miss the boat, like the transition of Content Management Systems slowly turning into “Experience Platforms” as they offer more functionality to meet the needs of today’s webmaster or marketer.

Read More On SEJ

Data Is The Currency Of An Accelerated SEO & Digital Age

By 2025, Worldwide data will reach 175 zettabytes.

But unfortunately, the human brain can’t process, structure, and analyze all that data.

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So technology engines have to help, and digital marketers should be the driver.

There is a massive opportunity for companies that can utilize data to create more engaging experiences.

A recent study showed that 95% of business leaders recognize this as their biggest growth lever over the next three years, which means there’s plenty at stake here!

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Robust data analysis ensures decisions are evidence-based and have more accountability.

Drawing on existing and new data sources to fully integrate business acumen and analytical skills into decision making, sourcing, managing, and analyzing large amounts of unstructured data will ensure continued use and success.

SEO began with data and has evolved.

From the introduction of real-time SEO in 2019 and Page Experience Updates in 2021, SEO’s future lies again with data and the creation of intelligent systems. Here marketers can leverage combined data sources that structures data for them.

As a result, they can achieve business objectives and stay ahead during all data and digital transformation stages.

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Technology & AI Are Helping SEO Evolve

Advancements in technology and, in particular, AI and Natural Language Processing has meant that SEO and digital marketers can become data analysts without having to become an actual data scientist.

This is key to unlocking structured insights from your company’s big data to make more precise predictions about what is coming next based on existing information.

Digital marketers can evolve, understand key trends, and learn in new areas such as:

  • Predictive modeling of future trends and forecasting based on multiple types of data.
  • Real-time identification of opportunities and intelligence.
  • Digital research at scale with both historical and real-time data.
  • Leveraging automated visualizations for various stakeholders.
  • Improved data security and compliance.
  • Market and business intelligence at a macro level.
  • Consumer behavior at the most granular level.

SEO and digital marketers can learn critical skills such as statistics, data analysis, data visualization, and strategy.

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AI, NLP, and machine learning are helping them do this without needing expertise in computer programming and software applications.

What digital marketers must do is combine their communication skills and analytics skills with stakeholders who cannot think outside of the advertising box.

Read More On SEJ

Data Analysis & Intelligence As Competitive Advantage

The application of technology will be the driving force behind the next generation of data analysis technology.

Therefore, SEO and digital marketers of today should learn how to better utilize insights from data analysis.

It’s becoming more apparent that the marketing platforms of tomorrow will require the capabilities of data analysis and science infrastructure at their core.

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The future of marketing will blend technological know-how, business sense, and an understanding of data analysis.

The next generation of SEO will touch all components of marketing, from video, email, and voice, to digital performance of content.

SEO and data science will converge into one evolved discipline that drives omnichannel acquisition and democratizes data.

Marketers who embrace this new era of SEO will be well-positioned to succeed in the years to come.

Data is reconfirming its role as the new competitive advantage, and as SEO and digital marketers, you must evolve if you want to be part of the future.

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Featured Image: ra2 studio/Shutterstock

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