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SearchLove San Diego 2017 | Tom Capper | Does Google Still Need Links?

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Google now has a whole host of signals to choose from, and while links still seem to correlate with rankings, the relationship is more complex than ever. In this presentation, Tom will explore whether and when links still count, what might replace them, and how SEOs should build site equity in 2017 and beyond.

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SearchLove San Diego 2017 | Tom Capper | Does Google Still Need Links?

  1. 1. Does Google Still Need Links? Off-Site Ranking Factors for 2017
  2. 2. MozCon, September 2016 @THCapper
  3. 3. http://dis.tl/RandTipping @THCapper
  4. 4. http://dis.tl/RandTipping @THCapper
  5. 5. PageRank & links were a proxy for user behaviour @THCapper
  6. 6. Google doesn’t need a proxy anymore @THCapper
  7. 7. Google is a browser @THCapper
  8. 8. Google is an ISP @THCapper
  9. 9. Google is, of course, a dominant search engine @THCapper
  10. 10. & links have become a dirty signal @THCapper
  11. 11. (Rand says) Build links that might genuinely drive high quality traffic @THCapper
  12. 12. Today, taking this further @THCapper
  13. 13. I’m going to try to present both sides of this argument @THCapper
  14. 14. & I have some data to share with you @THCapper
  15. 15. Don’t tweet this: @THCapper
  16. 16. Do tweet this: @THCapper
  17. 17. Over the next 30 minutes: @THCapper
  18. 18. Has it already happened? What could replace links? What should you do next?
  19. 19. What could replace links?
  20. 20. What would you do? @THCapper
  21. 21. Machine learning
  22. 22. @THCapper http://dis.tl/LarryCTR
  23. 23. Brand
  24. 24. What if you could find a way to measure brand? We all struggle with this. @THCapper
  25. 25. This is elementary for Google. @THCapper
  26. 26. All of the above & much more besides
  27. 27. @THCapperhttp://dis.tl/CuttsPorn
  28. 28. All of these factors correlate with each other, and links @THCapper
  29. 29. Has it already happened? What could replace links? What should you do next?
  30. 30. Has it already happened?
  31. 31. What does Google say?
  32. 32. @THCapper https://youtu.be/l8VnZCcl9J4
  33. 33. @THCapper “And I can tell you what they are. It is content. And it’s links pointing to your site.” Andrey Lipattsev, Search Quality Senior Strategist, Google https://youtu.be/l8VnZCcl9J4
  34. 34. @THCapper Question: Are links already redundant? ●Google: No
  35. 35. End of talk?
  36. 36. Counterclaim: Google is routinely wrong technically correct about how Google works @THCapper
  37. 37. Classic examples: ●HTTPS migrations pre-2016 ●302s are as good as 301s ●Subdomains are as good as sub-folders ●CCTLDs are as good as .com @THCapper
  38. 38. @THCapper http://bit.ly/GaryDA
  39. 39. @THCapper Question: Are links already redundant? ●Google: No
  40. 40. Correlations
  41. 41. Lots of people have found correlations @THCapper
  42. 42. @THCapper http://dis.tl/MozCorrelations
  43. 43. @THCapper http://dis.tl/MozCorrelations
  44. 44. We all know that correlation does not imply causation @THCapper
  45. 45. But causation & coincidence are not the only possibilities @THCapper
  46. 46. We’ve all enjoyed this @THCapper http://dis.tl/TylerVigen
  47. 47. And this @THCapper http://dis.tl/TylerVigen
  48. 48. @THCapper
  49. 49. But how do these happen? @THCapper
  50. 50. Potential Mechanisms 1. Complete coincidence - Nicholas Cage and drownings are in fact unrelated (!) @THCapper
  51. 51. Potential Mechanisms 1. Complete coincidence - Nicholas Cage and drownings are in fact unrelated (!) 2. Linearity - both cheese consumption and bedsheet-related deaths are trending linearly, and thus loosely correlated @THCapper
  52. 52. Potential Mechanisms 1. Complete coincidence - Nicholas Cage and drownings are in fact unrelated (!) 2. Linearity - both cheese consumption and bedsheet-related deaths are trending linearly , and thus loosely correlated @THCapper
  53. 53. Potential Mechanisms 1. Complete coincidence - Nicholas Cage and drownings are in fact unrelated (!) 2. Linearity - both cheese consumption and bedsheet-related deaths are trending linearly, and thus loosely correlated 3. Reverse causation - it is in fact drownings that cause Nicholas Cage films, not vice versa @THCapper
  54. 54. Potential Mechanisms 1. Complete coincidence - Nicholas Cage and drownings are in fact unrelated (!) 2. Linearity - both cheese consumption and bedsheet-related deaths are trending linearly, and thus loosely correlated 3. Reverse causation - it is in fact drownings that cause Nicholas Cage films, not vice versa 4. Joint causation - both cheese consumption and deaths in bedsheets are related to increasing affluence (& effluence) @THCapper
  55. 55. Affluence causes: ●Cheese consumption ●Bedsheet deaths @THCapper
  56. 56. Brand awareness causes: ●Links ●Rankings? @THCapper
  57. 57. @THCapper Question: Are links already redundant? ●Google: No ●Correlation Studies: Inconclusive
  58. 58. So how does brand awareness compare? @THCapper
  59. 59. @THCapper http://dis.tl/MozCorrelations
  60. 60. @THCapper Moz Study My Study 17,600 queries from KWP 4,900 queries from STAT
  61. 61. @THCapper Moz Study My Study 17,600 queries from KWP 4,900 queries from STAT Top 50 results Top 10 results
  62. 62. @THCapper Moz Study My Study 17,600 queries from KWP 4,900 queries from STAT Top 50 results Top 10 results Desktop only (?) Desktop & Smartphone
  63. 63. @THCapper Moz Study My Study 17,600 queries from KWP 4,900 queries from STAT Top 50 results Top 10 results Desktop only (?) Desktop & Smartphone Mean Spearman correlations Mean Spearman correlations
  64. 64. Quantifying Brand Awareness @THCapper
  65. 65. Branded Search Volume @THCapper
  66. 66. @THCapper
  67. 67. @THCapper
  68. 68. Therefore: If you care about DA, you should care about Branded Search Volume @THCapper
  69. 69. & here’s another interesting thing @THCapper
  70. 70. For my main data set, both variables are incredibly statistically significant @THCapper
  71. 71. @THCapper DA significance: 99.99999999999999999999999999999999 99999999999999999999999%
  72. 72. Log(branded search volume) significance: 99.99999999999999999999999999999999 9999999999999999999999999999999999 9999999999999999999999999999% @THCapper
  73. 73. For some clients, including both in the same model knocks DA out of statistical significance @THCapper
  74. 74. What does this mean? @THCapper
  75. 75. Branded Search Volume explains most of what can be explained with DA @THCapper
  76. 76. The reverse is not true. @THCapper
  77. 77. (Yes I will be publishing this data) @THCapper
  78. 78. @THCapper Question: Are links already redundant? ●Google: No ●Correlation Studies: Inconclusive ●My Data: Yes
  79. 79. @THCapper http://dis.tl/MarcusTober
  80. 80. Counterclaim: This might have been true in 1998 @THCapper
  81. 81. Qualitatively, what does ranking flux look like?
  82. 82. Real World Example 1: Flowers
  83. 83. @THCapper Keyword: Flowers Market: GB-en Period: May-Dec 2016 Device: Smartphone
  84. 84. @THCapper
  85. 85. @THCapper What do we notice? 1.Highly erratic
  86. 86. @THCapper
  87. 87. @THCapper What do we notice? 1.Highly erratic 2.Interflora collapsed
  88. 88. @THCapper
  89. 89. @THCapper What do we notice? 1.Highly erratic 2.Interflora collapsed 3.DA 33 site overtakes DA 53 site(s)
  90. 90. @THCapper Old-school ranking factors: 1.On-site 2.Algorithm updates 3.Links
  91. 91. @THCapper Old-school ranking factors: 1.On-site 2.Algorithm updates 3.Links
  92. 92. @THCapper http://dis.tl/2016algo
  93. 93. @THCapper Old-school ranking factors: 1.On-site 2.Algorithm updates 3.Links
  94. 94. @THCapper Interflora.co.uk Flyingflowers.co.uk
  95. 95. @THCapper Interflora.co.uk Flyingflowers.co.uk 40 domains 40 domains
  96. 96. @THCapper Old-school ranking factors: 1.On-site 2.Algorithm updates 3.Links
  97. 97. @THCapper
  98. 98. This is not unusual. @THCapper
  99. 99. Takeaway 1: Google is continuously iterating @THCapper
  100. 100. Takeaway 2: (Users like) Aesthetics & Price @THCapper
  101. 101. @THCapper
  102. 102. @THCapper
  103. 103. Real World Example 2: Fleximize.com
  104. 104. @THCapper
  105. 105. @THCapper
  106. 106. @THCapper
  107. 107. @THCapper
  108. 108. @THCapper Content piece gains 168 referring domains
  109. 109. @THCapper Content piece gains 22 referring domains
  110. 110. @THCapper Content piece gains 191 referring domains
  111. 111. Takeaway: Links move the needle ...sometimes? @THCapper
  112. 112. Question: Are links already redundant? ●Google: No ●Correlation Studies: Inconclusive ●My Data: Yes ●Anecdotal: Mixed @THCapper
  113. 113. So: Are links dead yet?
  114. 114. There is quantitative and qualitative evidence to suggest that links are not always the most important off-site factor. @THCapper
  115. 115. Bringing all this together
  116. 116. An explanation that is consistent with all of this @THCapper
  117. 117. There are now two tiers. @THCapper
  118. 118. 1.At the competitive, data-rich top end, links mean increasingly little @THCapper
  119. 119. @THCapper 1.At the competitive, data-rich top end, links mean increasingly little 2.But, for now, links might be a big part of what gets you into that shortlist.
  120. 120. Has it already happened? What could replace links? What should you do next?
  121. 121. What should you do next?
  122. 122. Win at user testing
  123. 123. User testing for SEO: Places to start @THCapper
  124. 124. User testing for SEO: Places to start 1. Panda surveys @THCapper https://youtu.be/At51X-aZ4Y4
  125. 125. User testing for SEO: Places to start 1. Panda surveys 2. Click-through rate experiments @THCapper
  126. 126. User testing for SEO: Places to start 1. Panda surveys 2. Click-through rate experiments 3. Plain old CRO - especially focusing on initial bounce @THCapper
  127. 127. User testing for SEO: Places to start 1. Panda surveys 2. Click-through rate experiments 3. Plain old CRO - especially focusing on initial bounce 4. All of the above: Mobile first @THCapper
  128. 128. User testing for SEO: Places to start 1. Panda surveys 2. Click-through rate experiments 3. Plain old CRO - especially focusing on initial bounce 4. All of the above: Mobile first None of this is new! @THCapper
  129. 129. Win at brand awareness & perception
  130. 130. (Content marketing, anyone?) @THCapper
  131. 131. (& this has additional benefits outside of digital) @THCapper
  132. 132. Google is trying to think like a person @THCapper
  133. 133. So cut out the middleman: Optimize for people @THCapper
  134. 134. If you want to build links, think:
  135. 135. Would Google value this tactic in a world without links? @THCapper
  136. 136. Closing thoughts
  137. 137. Has it already happened? What could replace links? What should you do next?
  138. 138. Thank You @THCapper

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