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Google Says Links Have A Lot Less Significant Impact For Ranking Today

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Google Says Links Have A Lot Less Significant Impact For Ranking Today

Duy Nguyen from Google’s search quality team said in the Google office hours video that “backlinks as a signal has a lot less significant impact compared to when Google Search first started out many years ago.” Duy said this at the 6:08 mark in that video.

I mean, this comes as no surprise to most of you. We recently covered that Google said links would likely become even less important in the future. And even Matt Cutts, the former Googler, said something similar about eight years ago and the truth is, links are weighted a lot less than it was eight years ago and that trend continues. A couple of years ago, Google said links are not the most important Google search ranking factor.

The question asked that generated this answer was from Adrea, who asked, “why does Google keep using backlinks as a ranking factor if link-building campaigns are not allowed? Why can’t Google find other ranking factors that can’t be easily manipulated, like backlinks?”

Duy answered, “First, backlinks as a signal has a lot less significant impact compared to when Google Search first started out many years ago. We have robust ranking signals, hundreds of them, to make sure that we are able to rank the most relevant and useful results for all queries.”

Then Duy gave the line about how these efforts are a waste of time and money, he said “link building campaigns, which are essentially link spam according to our spam policy. We have many algorithms capable of detecting unnatural links at scale and nullifying them. This means that spammers or SEOs spending money on links truly have no way of knowing if the money they spent on link building is actually worth it or not, since it’s really likely that they’re just wasting money building all these spammy links and they were already nullified by our systems as soon as we see them.”

Here is the video embed:

Duy was asked a similar question like this later on in the video at the 19:39 mark, in which he gave a similar answer. So here is the question and answer:

“I’m new to SEO and I see many websites or videos suggest that I should buy backlinks. Are backlinks as powerful or should I focus on maximizing quality of my site?”

There are always people seeking shortcuts or tricks to manipulate, search, ranking, or spend money to make their sites appear more authoritative to search engines. Link spam is an example of these tricks. We no longer use links predominantly compared to 20 years ago, for example. And also launched many algorithms to nullify links spam, and you probably should not waste your money in spamming links. That money is much needed in creating a great website with great user experience and helpful content.

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Google Clarifies JSON-LD, Microdata & RDFa Are All Supported For Structured Data

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Google Schema

Google has clarified in its search developer documents that JSON-LD, Microdata and RDFa are all fully supported forms for structured data and Google Search. Google wrote, “all three supported formats are equally fine for Google, as long as they are valid and implemented properly per the feature’s documentation.”

The old paragraph in the documentation read:

Google Search supports structured data in the following formats, unless documented otherwise:

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The new paragraph in the documentation now reads:

Google Search supports structured data in the following formats, unless documented otherwise. In general, we recommend using a format that’s easiest for you to implement and maintain (in most cases, that’s JSON-LD); all 3 formats are equally fine for Google, as long as the markup is valid and properly implemented per the feature’s documentation.

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This was updated because Google’s Ryan Levering spotted the embedded tweet below, that shows there is confusion on which Google may or may not prefer. Ryan said, “We might need to tweak the wording for Google’s main structured data page.”

He said that Google “primarily recommend JSON-LD because sites screw up Microdata a lot more than they do JSON-LD because it’s embedded. We don’t have some secret plans to remove support for Microdata. Particularly for schema that is either very annotation/text heavy or very simple (so you don’t need to do meta tag gymnastics), Microdata can make more sense.”

So Lizzi Sassman updated the docs to reflect this.

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February 4th Google Search Ranking Algorithm Update

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Google Algorithm Update

There may have been another unconfirmed Google search ranking algorithm update – this one also on the weekend, around February 4th, maybe kicking off on February 3rd. I am seeing signs from both chatter within the SEO community, and also, some of the tools are showing big swings around February 4th.

The previous updates we reported about was an unconfirmed update around January 26th, then on January 18th, then January 14th – you can see the full list här.

SEO Chatter

Let’s start by looking at some of the chatter within the SEO community. There is chatter both at WebmasterWorld och här in the comments areas:

Global site traffic continued firm all day Thursday for me and ended at 140.3%. Today has started ok for a Friday.

Seeing some sharp increase in traffic as well. Tech based sites are performing really well. Around 40% increase overall. Although a good share of Chinese bot like traffic is also present.

So, my site got a lovely boost a couple of weeks ago. Keywords I hadn’t ranked for in years plus some I had never ranked for particularly well were appearing. Two weeks later and google have yanked the rug out from under me again. A keywod I was on page 1 for is now bottom of page 4. Another that I was page 1 for – page 8 now.

I’m seeing ranking hold relatively steady, but traffic has been much worse this week. The previous two weeks were unusually high though. Yesterday search was down 17% and the day before that it was flat, but traffic to my home page has dropped considerably again. Most of the decline is USA traffic

Feels like Google released another update on Saturday 4th, no?

I noticed big changes on all my websites around 4 pm GMT onwards.

Massive volatility spotted. Seeing crazy fluctuations in rankings too.

Maybe a G Update is just around the corner?

Got hammered yesterday – almost as bad as any core update.

The fluctuation that started 24-36 hours ago is increasing gradually.

Traffic was up this morning, up until 6am UK time, then zero traffic for 4 hours. 4 hours?? How is that even possible if throttling isn’t the case?

All this chatter was between February 3rd and February 5th.

Google Tracking Tools

Here are what the tracking tool are showing:

RankRanger:

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Cognitive SEO:

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Mozcast:

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SERPmetrics:

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Advanced Web Rankings:

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Semrush:

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Accuranker:

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Algoroo:

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Have you seen any big swings in rankings or traffic with your site since the weekend?

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Jeff Ferguson On Issues With SEO Studies & Ranking Factor Studies

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Jeff Ferguson

In part one, we go through Jeff Ferguson’s long history in search marketing. In part two, we pick up with him starting his own agency. Then in part three we talk about the state of SEO studies.

In short, he goes off on his rant on SEO studies done on ranking factors and other areas. In short, he was not a fan of those studies and he wrote a lot about how they were done wrong. He wasn’t saying the intent was wrong, the companies that made these studies really wanted to help. But doing ranking factor studies are just too hard and really hard to prove.

Of course, it ruffled a lot of feathers in the SEO community. But he goes through more on why he did what he did and what he wanted to get out of it.

You can learn more about Jeff Ferguson at Amplitude Digital and follow him on Twitter @CountXero.


You can subscribe to our YouTube channel by clicking here so you don’t miss the next vlog where I interviews. I do have a nice lineup of interviews scheduled with SEOs and SEMS, many of which you don’t want to miss – and I promise to continue to make these vlogs better over time. If you want to be interviewed, please fill out this form with your details.

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