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SearchLeeds 2017 - Paul Madden - Co-Founder, Kerboo - Links as a metric in 2017, are they still relevant and how do we ensure value?


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As one of Google’s most important ranking signals, links have seen a huge number of changes in how they are viewed and how they apply. As an industry, we have been encouraged to learn that the power of links as a signal has decreased in favour of other metrics, but is that actually the case? Paul, with access to the link profiles of thousands of sites and literally billions of links, takes us through the arguments for how we should really view our links in 2017 and beyond.

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SearchLeeds 2017 - Paul Madden - Co-Founder, Kerboo - Links as a metric in 2017, are they still relevant and how do we ensure value?

  1. 1. Links as a metric in 2017 Are they still relevant and how do we ensure value?
  2. 2. Who ?
  3. 3. •  1997 Started as a web designer •  2006 Moved through to the darker parts of the web •  2010 Transitioned to affiliate marketing •  2011 Grew into a link building agency •  2012 Helped found Kerboo
  4. 4. Lets talk about links
  5. 5. Do links still count?
  6. 6. Yes
  7. 7. Thankyou and goodbye!
  8. 8. Why am I qualified to have an opinion on links?
  9. 9. I’ve spent 15+ years making my living from links and SEO
  10. 10. •  At Kerboo our team has scored more than 8 billion links for their LinkRisk •  We have helped thousands of sites understand and solve their link related issues •  We have the biggest disavow database outside of Google
  11. 11. Links have become a confusing and complex topic in SEO
  12. 12. The industry has many opinions
  13. 13. Tom Capper SearchLove San Diego 2017
  14. 14. Rand Fishkin Mozcon 2016
  15. 15. Agencies and brands have mixed experience
  16. 16. “We get mixed results”
  17. 17. “We hear mixed advice”
  18. 18. “We don’t advise trying to get links”
  19. 19. “Links will just come from what we are doing with other marketing”
  20. 20. “But we got all that coverage and it didn’t change our ranking performance that much?”
  21. 21. “I worry about what we did in the past”
  22. 22. “Google have sorted all this out for us now”
  23. 23. Lets try and get some clarity on the true picture for 2017
  24. 24. Where are we today?
  25. 25. Links once dominated how we did SEO
  26. 26. Google began and to some degree remain a LINK BASED SEARCH ENGINE
  27. 27. PageRank
  28. 28. The PageRank (x) of the linking page is shared across the number of links on that page 0.85 represents a dampening factor to allow PageRank to decay and represent the likelihood that a human user may stop clicking
  29. 29. For years links and their PageRank dominated how rankings were calculated
  30. 30. In recent years that picture has developed somewhat
  31. 31. Key changes
  32. 32. 2012: The change in stance on links
  33. 33. Before 2012 links were mostly positive for a site
  34. 34. So it became a volume game
  35. 35. I placed countless paid links
  36. 36. good-idea-at-the-time-24-pics/
  37. 37. good-idea-at-the-time-24-pics/
  38. 38. good-idea-at-the-time-24-pics/
  39. 39. good-idea-at-the-time-24-pics/
  40. 40. good-idea-at-the-time-24-pics/
  41. 41. •  Penguin •  Manual actions (Link penalties) •  Methods of link value negation
  42. 42. 2016: a change in how search is actually delivered
  43. 43. Amit Singhal resigns
  44. 44. John Giannandrea Replaces him
  45. 45. The rise of the machines
  46. 46. It is BEYOND complicated now *image stolen with no attribution at all
  47. 47. 2017
  48. 48. We have to now question how and if links count the same way
  49. 49. Don’t believe the hype
  50. 50. Links haven’t gone away
  51. 51. Their role has shifted
  52. 52. Qualify a sites trust and intent
  53. 53. Qualify a page is worthy of consideration by the machines
  54. 54. Provide trust and relevance
  55. 55. Confirm the user data they already have
  56. 56. Proof that links still count
  57. 57. Google keep telling us to stop abusing them
  58. 58. Kerboo client experience
  59. 59. An increase in links seems to still provide improved visibility
  60. 60. Longer tail terms move quicker than competitive terms
  61. 61. Links are one of the signals Rather than dominating the signals
  62. 62. Tests that strongly suggest links still contribute to ranking
  63. 63. It is VERY rare we get to test signals by turning them on and off
  64. 64. Disavow
  65. 65. Kev Gibbons
  66. 66. blog/removing-disavow-file-seo- test/
  67. 67. Turning links back on improved visibility
  68. 68. Not brand signals Not domain authority Not anything else LINKS
  69. 69. And we have done many of these projects now
  70. 70. Reavow as an SEO tactic
  71. 71. •  45 million links + in the profile •  28,000 entries in a disavow file •  Previously penalised domain mostly recovered now
  72. 72. We removed some disavow lines and submitted the trimmed disavow file again
  73. 73. With no other significant on-site or marketing
  74. 74. Links were the factor that changed the ranking
  75. 75. It is clear that links help boost visibility
  76. 76. So why aren’t they as reliable as they once were?
  77. 77. Factors affecting the ability of links to pass their value
  78. 78. Google either penalise or ignore bad links
  79. 79. Google have added protection from link manipulation to the core ranking algorithm
  80. 80. What does Google target?
  81. 81. INTENT
  82. 82. If you want to educate yourself on what Google considers ‘intent to manipulate’ link-schemes-explained
  83. 83. Manual actions
  84. 84. Over 9 million webspam actions sent in 2016 webspam2016
  85. 85. Link penalties are still a thing Brands are still at risk
  86. 86. It is important to know your link profile and take steps to avoid a penalty
  87. 87. Review your links and add a disavow to insure against penalty IF you have a pattern of manipulation
  88. 88. Ignoring bad links
  89. 89. Penguin is how Google ignore links they don’t trust
  90. 90. Penguin explained
  91. 91. Penguin was created to help dampen the manipulation of search results
  92. 92. Penguin used to penalise the whole site and was run occasionally
  93. 93. Penguin 4 Part of the core ranking algorithm Real-time and a real problem
  94. 94. “Penguin 4 hasn’t really made much of an impact”
  98. 98. •  Penguin 4 operates at page level •  It removes the ability for problematic links to pass their value •  By removing that equity the ranking signals for the page are reduced
  99. 99. Google say it operates in ‘real-time’
  100. 100. Its NOT real-time Its progressive
  101. 101. •  It relies on the bad links being assessed during Google’s crawl •  And that will have taken some time to complete and each change they make will take a while to apply
  102. 102. Penguin is felt slowly and on a page by page basis
  103. 103. Penguin is eating bits of your link profile
  104. 104. Review your links and think about the intent and quality in the profile
  105. 105. It is important to know your link profile and what might not pass value anymore
  106. 106. What else might be dampening the effect of your links?
  107. 107. Google might not be trusting the sites as much
  108. 108. Disavow weight
  109. 109. We have given Google a LOT of disavow data
  110. 110. At Kerboo we try to use PropensityToDisavow
  111. 111. It is clear that the same thinking could be used to provide trust signals at domain level
  112. 112. All of which makes links harder to understand
  113. 113. Obfuscation of the link graph
  114. 114. We never have all the links
  115. 115. We can’t see the disavow activity of other sites
  116. 116. We can’t see what is being negated by Penguin
  117. 117. We can’t see what sites aren’t trusted by Google
  118. 118. Comparisons between link profiles are now hard *possibly impossible
  119. 119. So what do we need to know to make sure we get and keep the right links?
  120. 120. We have forgotten how equity actually flows
  121. 121. Since the middle of 2016 we have been working on defining the value of a link
  122. 122. Building a new link metric
  123. 123. We have a unique set of modifiers for that value
  124. 124. Caveat This is an attempt to derive a link equity value and doesn’t take into account all the other factors that could cause a page to succeed or fail
  125. 125. Building a new link value metric
  126. 126. I asked people to vote on what links they thought were ‘best for SEO’ in a profile I then ran our new link value metric It made me think about the value we have been chasing
  127. 127. Score: 7.50
  128. 128. Score: 92.49
  129. 129. So why the big difference?
  130. 130. •  Massive site with lots of equity •  Most pages share their own equity across LOTS of links out from the page •  The nature and pace of content being published to the site means that equity gets buried very quickly
  131. 131. •  Big, well trusted site •  Pages have fewer outbound links •  Structure of the site remains fairly consistent so equity continues to flow down from the root
  132. 132. At least have one eye on the equity a link may pass if its trusted
  133. 133. “What about the domain authority though?”
  134. 134. “we don't have anything like a website authority score.” John Mueller - Google
  135. 135. Authority comes from the flow of link equity and a raft of other factors (inc relevancy etc)
  136. 136. How do we maintain and build link value in 2017?
  137. 137. Know your link profile
  138. 138. Reduce your LinkDebt
  139. 139. Protection and general link hygene
  140. 140. Beware the cycle of intent
  141. 141. What is ideal today could be LinkDebt tomorrow
  142. 142. good-idea-at-the-time-24-pics/
  143. 143. Links still count
  144. 144. You need links that will send traffic
  145. 145. But you also NEED links that pass equity
  146. 146. That are trusted by Google
  147. 147. And that will remain that way for the long term
  148. 148. •  Accept that many of your links may no longer pass value •  Avoid ANYTHING that could demonstrate intent •  Remove or correct any blatant intent in your profile •  Make sure you maintain a clean and relevant link profile
  149. 149. •  Keep one eye on how link equity passes •  Aim for links from trusted sites that are relevant and will always pass value •  Make sure you know every link that you get
  150. 150. Its not a volume game now
  151. 151. It’s a quality and relevance game now
  152. 152. Those who adapt
  153. 153. Are the people who will win
  154. 154. And YOU can win
  155. 155. Because...
  156. 156. SEO’s adapt
  157. 157. Thanks for listening @pauldavidmadden