Matt Cutts only this week gave the clearest evidence yet that links are still as important as ever.
Here is the video in which he explains that Google tried a search engine that excludes back-link relevancy and the results were as expected:
A user asked:
Does the big G have a version of the search engine that totally excludes any backlink relevancy? I’m wondering what search would look like and am curious to try it out.
And here’s Matt Cutts’ response:
We don't have a version like that that is exposed to the public, but we have run experiments like that internally, and the quality looks much much worse. It turns out that backlinks, even though there's some noise and certainly a lot of spam, for the most part are still a really really big win in terms of quality of search results. So we've played around with the idea of turning off backlink relevance and at least for now backlink relevance still really helps in terms of making sure that we return the best, most relevant, most topical search results.
What is true is the days of lots of low quality links that successfully boosted rankings are gone...they've been dead for a while in fact. Today it's all about quality, not quantity of links via creating engaging content that will earn links, be shared socially and send traffic.
Those link building companies that promise you hundreds/thousands of links will struggle today and are more than likely be inundated with previous clients requesting clean ups and disavow of links they have secured for clients. Those in the know will be hiring high quality link building experts with proper digital marketing experience that can deliver quality. Link building experts that use successful content marketing techniques to attract high quality relevant links are in the driving seat. These are people who've forged strong relationships over the years with top bloggers, websites and publishers in different niches. Their mindsets these days are not so focussed on links but the user and creating engaging, relevant, topical content published on sites with good readership and social following. It's clear this is what Google wants, for SEO's to stop thinking about search engines and think of the user.
This combination of SEO, content marketing and PR that focusses on the user via optimised onsite and offsite by creating engaging content is now key to online success. The question i've been pondering the past few months is should I still call myself a link builder or should I rebrand and call myself an online marketing consultant or digital marketing consultant?
It's undeniable that Google's Penguin and Panda updates have changed the face of SEO and link building. Since this years Brighton SEO conference we've witnessed the industry rebrand itself from SEO to incorporate 'online marketing' and 'digital marketing'.
Whether the term 'link building' will be used much going forwards remains to be seen but my feeling is it will...but will sit under the umbrella of online marketing / digital marketing and be called inbound marketing or similar that incorporates the following: blogger outreach, social media, content writing, info-graphics, product reviews, citations, niche site listings, competitions and PR.