Google’s Link Contradiction: Company Downplays Importance, But Leak Reveals Dominance

Published: July 8, 2024

Google recently downplayed the importance of links in search rankings in its updated spam policy, creating confusion and frustration for companies who have heavily invested in link building to grow their business. However, despite Google’s public messaging, much of the current data shows that links remain a dominant ranking factor.

In fact, the search engine’s leaked documents support this theory, outlining the value of quality over quantity and reinforcing that relevant, high-authority backlinks are more beneficial than numerous low-quality links.

The Google Contradiction

For years, Google told marketers that links were crucial trust signals for brands. The company’s spam policy documentation previously stated, “Google uses links as an important factor in determining the relevancy of web pages.” In its most recent update, the company removed the word “important” to convey that links are just one factor in determining a website’s relevance.

Let’s put this into practice, shall we? During the research phase of a campaign developed for recipe site, Inspired Taste, we discovered that the website’s competitors were outranking it due to a lack of relevant and authoritative backlinks. Through a creative digital PR campaign and content targeting keywords in the “dessert” category, the site’s average SEO ranking increased by 3.6 positions within a matter of weeks. This correlated largely with several authoritative publications linking directly to Inspired Taste’s key product pages, as well as the significant buzz and engagement driven across social channels.

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Leveraging Click Data To Fuel Relevance

Google’s recent leak also unveiled a nuanced tiered approach to link weighting that fundamentally integrates user click data. These tiers — low, medium and high quality — are determined by the volume and authenticity of user clicks, analyzed through data from Chrome and other Google services.

Low-quality links with minimal engagement are ignored in rankings, medium-quality links have moderate influence and high-quality links, which receive significant verified clicks, provide the strongest ranking signals.

Still, Google will continue making core updates to its platform, making it increasingly important for your brand to not only grab your audience’s attention but get them to stay longer and maintain their engagement. When it comes to long term brand loyalty, staying relevant is the most important factor.

Future-Proofing Your Brand

The good news for companies that have already dedicated substantial resources to link acquisition and SEO to reach customers on Google is that these strategies are still important. But, to increase prospects’ time on-site and maintain engagement, your brand must become and stay relevant. Here’s how:

Know Your Audience

Use data and insights that outline who your target audience is and what type of content is going to make them stop scrolling, engage and, most importantly, share with their friends and family.

Be Authentic

Stay true to your brand proposition: All content, whether it’s owned, earned or paid, should have a single thread running throughout that’s aligned to your key messaging.

Tap Into Trends

Monitor trends and sentiment across the news and social platforms to ensure your content is timely and topical.

Ensure It Aligns To Google’s Guidelines

Google has always been transparent with its E-E-A-T content guidelines, which stands for experience, expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness.

Make It Relevant

Create content that’s genuinely useful, timely and engaging. Ensure that it’s written with your target audience in mind but also references your commercial keywords (where appropriate) to help Google rankings.

Make It Shareable

With Google’s emphasis on audience engagement, it is crucial that the content, whether earned or owned, is enticing and encourages searches to click and share.

All in all, it’s clear that Google rewards brands that are putting customers and searchers at the heart of everything they do. Marketers should therefore focus less on chasing the algorithm and focus instead on building a brand. Creating high quality, engaging and relevant content, through earned and owned channels, to inform both a search engine, and their target audience, on what they have to offer by providing the best and most useful answers to their queries.

Beth Nunnington is VP of Organic Media at performance marketing agency Journey Further. With more than a decade of experience, she has garnered widespread recognition in catapulting brands to unprecedented heights of visibility and credibility. Equipped with a wealth of innovative digital PR strategies, Nunnington empowers businesses to amplify their content reach and harness the immense power of organic traffic. 

Posted in: Demanding Views

Tagged with: Journey Further

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