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Google Ranking Factors: Will Links Diminish in Value?

It is normal that any individual signal to lose over time its value in the search engine algorithm, as more variables are added into the mix. This is also the situation for links, which have been losing value for about five years now, due to the increasing manual and algorithmic penalties and adding in of other metrics.

Some of the Google queries have paid vertical adds, some are localized, some have lots of usage data, some are using Google’s new knowledge graph, some are mobile centric. All these variations of queries impact different areas of SEO, to different degrees. SEO might still be profitable for another five years or a decade, for small businesses.

There are other search engines, such as Russian search engine Yandex, that work without links. Google can also use some vertical bases metrics to replace links, such as Google+ activity, search history, location, YouTube usage data, and others means.

Crackdown on Low-quality Links

Low-quality links are slowly replacing links-in-general in the Google search algorithm. There are already in place policies for massive manual and algorithmic penalties that have the effect of having the links not count for some websites. The Google’s Webspam policy filters out the link value through spam filtration systems or algorithms like Penguin, that remove low-quality links or spam.

Matt Cutts, the Google’s head of search spam, declared that, over time, backlinks will lose their value but they still have many years left in the Google ranking algorithm. See video here.

Google is focusing now especially on finding ways to evaluate whether or not a web page meets an expert user’s expectations. This is currently performed by evaluating the page’s links, the quality of the content provided, and the overall reputation of the website and pages.

Google made progress in understanding the natural language, which you can notice in their conversational search. In the near future Google will improve its understanding the queries made by expert users and will be able to provide better answers to those queries.

In order to achieve that, Google tries to evaluate whether or not the content on a page is written by an expert in a certain niche. Google is also working to boost the rankings of expert authors. Until new progress is to be made in improving Google’s search algorithm, they are using natural languages on a page by page basis in order to determine if the author is an expert on the subject query.

The conclusion is that it might be wise for webmasters and online business owners to focus their efforts in creating quality content and building just a few links that really matters rather than building all kind of links in great numbers.

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The Social Influence On Search: Insights From SMX London

SMX LondonThere's a great deal of speculation in the SEO community on the influence that social media has on the overall ranking/indexing on search engines. Most SEO experts believe that though Google and Bing have both denied any impact on the “natural selection” algorithm, there is great likelihood that social media has a part in the process.

The number of likes, tweets, pins, +1's, and shares should, to an extent, influence the indexing. John Mueller (Google) and Duane Forrester (Bing) recently responded to these uncertainties during the London SMX that took place on the 13th May 2014. Although their explanations still maintained social media activities are not part of the ranking reckoning, they did provide useful insights on possible influence. This is how they broke it down:

Definite Reasons for Likes/Tweets/Pins/+1's/Shares

Both Bing and Google explained that there has to be a definite reason why people would share, tweet or like a given page in larger numbers. This naturally attracts the search engines attention which they maintain is purposefully for evaluation meaning; the system will be interested in the content in these pages.

If the content is relevant, there is a great chance of a higher ranking for the pages. This is a basic explanation to address how social media can influence ranking. It is acceptable that where there are more shares, likes, pins, tweets and related socail activities, people must be to some extent realizing usefulness and search will close down on the same. In simple terms, more social activities combined with information relevance may increase your rankings.

Links & Socail Signals: Evaluation Mechanism

Usually Google and Bing rank sites that have been evaluated and determined to provide useful and relevant information according to the search. The two greatest search engines explained how social indicators are used in link evaluations rather than ranking. When webpage content receives a lot of social activity, it should be obvious that some people will make links to that content and include them in their sites/blogs or pages permanently.

This reshapes the idea behind links and introduces a new definition as well as evaluation, which search engines use to evaluate “credibility” and actions taken may include penalization. What this means is that a new content with over 100 links should exhibit correspondence in the number of shares it receives.

If say it only gets three shares, that situation would arguably be very abnormal insinuating less relevance and subsequent low rating. If it receives 1000 social shares on the other hand, that makes more sense and could influence indexing although this was not proclaimed in the event.

Conclusion

For any keen SEO expert, social indicators certainly do have an indirect influence on indexing which is entirely aimed at providing the most relevant and informational result as per the search. Search engines use social media to some extent in determining how quick content is indexed and whether the permanent links pointing to such content are valid.

However in conclusion, social media does not form part of the search engine algorithm, bet rather content relevancy and links still remains the strongest consideration.

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Could Structured Data Be a Future Ranking Factor in Google?

Google Strictired Data Ranking FactorCurrently, Google denies any claims that it could be using structured data to rank websites on the World Wide Web. The search giant’s denial contradicts with most an SEO professional’s beliefs that structured markup does affect how well a website ranks.

So, even though Google is currently in denial, will it give in in the future? We cannot be sure but there is enough evidence to support a positive for the hypotheses. Below is information which keeps you in the light of what is going on.

Google Hints

As Google puts it, structured data is all about helping its engines better understand your content, which is imperative to actual ranking. Although using Schema and structured data markup does not have a direct correlative effective on how well your site ranks, you may want to anticipate this to change in the near future.

Although informally, Googler John Mueller said that structured markup is something that might be integrated into Google’s ranking algorithm could be in the near future. He continues in the company’s assertion that it is currently not using it for ranking purposes but there is a high likelihood of that Google has an intention of using it in the future. See more about this at Search Engine Land's post on this topic. Or see the video Google Hangout below on his thoughts about this.

Avoid Google Guessing What Your Site Is About

So how would structured data improve the experience of people who use Google to search for information on the Internet? In Mueller’s view, structured markup is integrated into a website to make it easier for their search engines to understand its content.

If someone is browsing for information about a car on the Internet and Google happens to 'know’ pages which are marked up with data for the same car, it will bring up these pages assuming that they will be useful to the querying user. Unlike what they currently do, structured data markup eliminates chances that the search algorithm will guess that a certain page is about the car for which a user needs information.

Better Answers to Search Queries

Mueller however continued to assert that they will not favor pages with great markup technicality at the expense of pages which carry useful content. You might want to recall that useful content in Google’s perspective points out to that which gives the best answer to a web visitor's queries.

All in all, it does not hurt to be in the light. If they are going to throw in structured data, you would better begin tuning up your pages else you will be caught unawares. Think about your competitors; if they have got wind about this development, they are probably adding structured markup to their pages or planning about doing it soon.

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