The future of link building looks more important than ever for SEO performance.
While we don’t have direct access to the exact weight of Google’s search engine ranking factors, we do know with each algorithm update, more and more emphasis is placed on off-site SEO.
For example, domain-level backlinks and page-level backlinks have the largest impact on PageRank.
According to Moz, a leading SEO insights publication, in 2022 20.94% of Google’s algorithm is based on domain-level, keyword agnostic features like the quantity and quality of backlinks to the domain.
The same article states 19.15% of the algorithm is based on page-level link features such as the quantity and quality of backlinks to the specific page.
Together, domain-level and page-level backlinks account for about 40% of Google’s algorithm.
But what constitutes a good link and how you earn them is worth a deeper discussion. To understand the future of link building, we need to understand PageRank, E-A-T, brand mentions, and other variables. Let’s dive in.
In 1996, Google Co-Founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin developed a PageRank algorithm at Stanford University as part of a research project about a new kind of search engine.
PageRank is a link analysis algorithm for search engines. It assigns numerical weighting to each link a page has to assess its importance within a query.
Because of PageRank, Google’s initial algorithm heavily revolved around inbound links. An inbound link is when any website links to your site. The more incoming links a site had, the more important it was perceived by the search engine.
Under the initial system, companies “gamed” the system by creating spam content to build links. This is thoroughly discussed in our Negative SEO blog.
To combat spam link building, Google responded by altering its ranking algorithm. The new algorithm is the Penguin Update.
The Penguin Update detects and penalizes websites with spam links. So Google now better differentiates between high and low-quality websites.
Experience, Authority, & Trustworthiness (E-A-T)
The Medical Update came a few years after The Penguin Update. And with it, came the Google coined acronym E-A-T.
E-A-T stands for Experience, Authority, & Trustworthiness. In short, Google wants to rank websites that display experience, authority, and trustworthiness higher than websites that do not.
But how do you prove E-A-T? Backlinks.
As discussed, backlinks have always been a key variable in Google’s algorithm. But as Google got smarter, the algorithm got more complex. Today, it’s not just the quantity of links but also the quality and relevance of the links.
When we use the phrase ‘quality backlink’, we mean a link that comes from a website with a high domain authority. If you receive a ton of backlinks from low domain authority sites, they pass on very little link equity (if any). But a single backlink from a high authority site, for example The New York Times, will pass along significant link equity.
The relevancy of a backlink also matters. For example, let’s say you own an ecommerce website that sells jewelry. You receive a backlink from a bakery’s website with a domain authority of 55 (which is pretty great). Unfortunately, because jewelry and bakeries have very little in common, the link does not pass along much equity.
To get the most value out of backlinks in 2022, quantity, quality, and relevancy are all important.
Speculation surrounding the importance of brand mentions first stemed from a Google Patent filed in March 2014 regarding
Google’s Panda algorithm. This patent laid out some telling changes about the future of link building in SEO. The change include determining authority and relevance using:
- Brand mentions
- Historical search data
In the patent, Google acknowledges that every time your brand gets mentioned in a story, that could positively affect your site’s rank. These “implied links” are evidence that Google is examining brand mentions across the web as a measure of authority.
The approach makes sense with Google’s focus on relevancy. It is logical to give a higher rank to a popular brand that is being constantly discussed. As it is more likely to have real engagement and value than a website manipulating the old algorithm.
It’s worth incorporating brand mentions into your SEO strategy. As this could bolster your efforts of your search strategies.
Miscellaneous Thoughts on Links & Brand Mentions
So we know quality, quantity, and relevancy all play an important role in determining the true value of a backlink for search engine optimization. But there’s more.
First, where the link is placed on a page may affect the amount of link equity passed along. For example, a link at the top of a page or blog post will have more value than a link buried at the bottom of the page or in an author bio.
Second, the anchor text of the backlink may affect link equity. For example, if a hyperlink to our article SEO Content Writing Services had the anchor text ‘SEO Content Writing’, it may be more valuable than say our own brand name or something else entirely.
Third, Google’s crawlers respect ‘follow’ and ‘nofollow’ links.
A ‘follow’ link tells Google that it’s okay to follow the link and pass along link equity.
A ‘nofollow’ link tells Google it can follow the link but it should NOT pass along any link equity. While still important to SEO for other reasons, a nofollow link will not boost your domain or page’s performance in a direct way.
Despite the changes, traditional links are still important. Link-building remains one of the most important website search and rank authority signals.
At Pedestal, we provide innovative link building strategies that incorporate brand mentions. Learn how you can help your business with its search discoverability.
Contact us for a complimentary assessment.