Are backlinks the major part of your SEO strategy? If they are, it may be time to reconsider. Matt Cutts, Google’s head of search spam, said in a recent video that backlinks will become less of a ranking factor over time. This isn’t much of a surprise since, for a while now, we’ve known Google has been moving towards focusing more on content than other factors when ranking sites.
Chances are backlinks won’t ever go away entirely, though. Cutts did say there are still many years left for them to remain a ranking factor, but they will become less important. A few months ago, Cutts noted that Google has tested an internal version of Google that doesn’t use links as a signal, and “the quality looks much much worse.”
Cutts made it clear that knowing the author of the article will be a big factor in determining authority. This is just one more reason that including authorship in your articles is, and will continue to be, important.
He also emphasized the importance of content using “natural language.” Google is working on better understanding actual language and conversational searches so that it can focus more on what someone is saying rather than using keywords and tags alone. Last month, Cutts posted a video where he explained the “importance of content in the body of a page,” not just the header and meta data.
Google is also working towards attributing authority to sites and pages using cues from social, citation based (unkinked mentions) and user behavior (i.e. bounce rate and visit duration).
What does this mean for you and SEO in general? Not much – for now. But as backlinks become less and less important, make sure you’re including other ranking factor elements in your SEO plan and not counting on backlinks alone. Make sure you’re ahead of the game!