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Link building: Past, Present and Future

Link building used to be an easier task in the past, and it was the only way to get a better position in organic search results and capture more target audiences. It is becoming more challenging with passing time due to the increasingly high impact of modern entries to the list of Google technologies.


This blog post shows you the complete picture of link building, telling what was, what is and what ought to be.

Links have been a ranking factor and will always remain one. However, there have been shifts in how Google determines the rank of a page in organic search, but the importance of link building cannot be ignored. So it is the case with the strategies. Google is digging deep into the process of identifying which websites perform better and how pages should be ranked. Many indicators tell Google about the performance of a page and give suggestions for ranks, such as the Penguin update. Google is becoming more aware of the new methods and is refining its results, increasing the relevancy of search results for users.

Growing competition in the future and well-defined metrics by Google will result in high-quality links on the first page. This would demand a high-performing product and a great marketing plan which is efficiently implemented and managed.

We, as marketers and webmasters, must be aware of all the changes Google is adopting and must carve out a way for our product to shine amongst all those standing in the queue. Understanding every update will help us to use the whole system to gain a lot for our product. It will also tell us about the weak areas which need to be worked on.

Past practices

The core problem with Google as a search engine was a lack of understanding of the links. A lot of critical factors were ignored, and unimportant things were given attention. A summary of problems from the past can be listed in the form of the following questions:

  • Is the link relevant?
  • Is the link trustworthy?
  • What is the scope of the link?
  • How much is the link worth to Google? (Paid or unpaid).
  • What is the quality of the link?
  • To what extent is the link good enough?

All these questions have not been answered, and there were no true metrics to test the effectiveness of a page. There was a large audience to select from, and the refining process was slow. Google realized the problems it was facing and started working on them. It was necessary to find the right people from the crowd who deserved to be on the top. The solution to these problems was “Penguin technology,” which in a way revolutionized the whole system. It was able to distinguish between good and bad signals. Good signals remained untouched. However, bad signals were pointed out, and pages were ranked accordingly. The change in the action plan made marketers realize the issues with their product, and they started to work on them. It has changed things, but a lot needs to be fixed still.

current scenario.

Looking at the present, we can say that things have changed. Google has learnt a lot and is applying new methods to improve its ranking system. The system has improved, and Google is now able to address a variety of questions efficiently. Google has learnt the original intent of a user behind performing a search. It may not be what the words seem like. Google uses the search history and preferences of a user in determining the search results and paid advertisements. Thus, a customer is more likely to get relevant answers to the questions asked.

Hummingbird, being the start, was very successful. All query-related problems are resolving slowly, and lots of improvements are still to come. The answering system of Google has improved, and users are getting query-related answers.

An example below shows a complex question not directly indicating what is required. Google, however, was able to identify it and gave the first-page result related to the query I asked.

Ray Kurzweil, the man behind this drastic change, was appointed by Google in 2012. His role in machine learning and language processing cannot be ignored. With his appointment, he spoke the following words:

There have been lots of advancements in the system now as the guy in the lead is focusing on strengthening the answering system of Google. There are no answers available to confusing queries as well, like the one shown in the example.

Googlers are now better understood by search engine management. To build up the network and to give better results, Google is trying to collect as much information about the users as possible. Keywords now play an essential role in determining the organic and paid search results. Google also understands that the keywords may not actually denote the intention of the searcher, and thus the context of the query is considered while considering other factors. Thus, factors affecting the rank of a page are increasing, and the position of links differs from the previous one.

Future predictions

With so much improvement in the system, Google has no plans to stop. It is constantly working to improve the quality of service being offered to customers. Some predictions can be made about the future of the world’s biggest search engine, which is as follows:

  1. Deep linking has a smaller impact:

The page rank algorithm says that links within a website are connected, and deep links are affected by the performance of the main page. It was thought to be the most important step of link building. But it is a complex mechanism that creates great confusion in a few cases, which can be demonstrated through the following example:

An E-Commerce site sells cellphones from different companies. It contains a page of descriptions for each type of product. Cell phones can be categorized in a variety of ways, including the parent company, features and price range etc. This would create a number of deep links on the website. There will be many other sites as well which sell the same products from the very same companies and operate their website in a similar way. Thus, determining the page rank through just deep linking would not be a good choice. They do not inform us about the success of a particular page. Thus, there should be more filtering options available to Google except for deep linking.

Then the intention of a searcher may not be evident from his keywords. A user may search for example, “Smartphone reviews,” which means that he is interested in purchasing but is confused about the exact model. Searching for reviews of a particular company’s smartphones would mean that a choice needs to be made from their variety of products. A comparison question between two competitors will tell you that the person wants a suggestion for the better performing, more efficient one.

With the change in queries, the result of the search should also vary. Google now considers some factors and uses them to determine what the user might actually be interested in. It thinks the location to see where the user might be present and what action he is interested in, for example, a sale or reading reviews only. Search history is helpful as it tells you what the user has been looking for in the past and what action he is likely to take after performing a search on Google. Thirdly, the device used for doing the search is also considered. Usually, a person searching on a cellphone makes fewer sales as compared to those of other devices. Security of the payment page of the site, which is likely to appear as a search result, is also essential. Google also considers user statistics and reviews while ordering pages in natural search results. For example, Wikipedia pages perform much better than those of other similar websites. It is because Wikipedia is considered an authority on information and is a large site that is considered trustworthy by its users. Thus, Wikipedia pages usually appear in the top five search results.

  1. decrease in the importance of anchor text:

Anchor text was thought to be an essential factor in determining the position of a page. Previously, Google paid a lot of importance to this tool and depended on it to give results for a search query. This is, however, not going to work in the future. Google has a massive number of users amongst whom those using exact match phrases are really less. Thus, understanding the context of the query is the feature that helps in determining search results, not the anchor text. Anchor text’s importance has not yet diminished, and it will slowly take the back seat. However, having commercial anchor text can have a negative impact on the positioning of a person’s profile. The content of the page and context of the query will be the determining factors in a page’s position in natural search results, and anchor text will least matter.

  1. Growth opportunities for smaller organizations:

Search Engine Optimization started off as a field where the choice of correct technology could give a much better position to a page rather than the big name of the parent company. Things, however, have changed. Today, organizations need a heavy budget and an excellent product to rank among the top search results.

The future is expected to bring good things back and change the current position. Moving back to the old style, SEO will again be a platform where the quality of web pages and other online material determines the rank of a page rather than the quantity of money involved. I do not support it because I want to see more prominent companies having lower positions; I intend to do it because sometimes posts from smaller names are more relevant to a person’s query and should thus be ranked above others.

Measures to be implemented in the future

There are a number of things that webmasters, marketers, SEO and SEM will need to do with the changing technology of Google. All these actions are extremely important for their survival in the highly competitive industry. Some of them are mentioned below:

  1. Be informed:

In the ever-changing modern world, it is necessary to remain informed of the latest innovations in the field. The choice of users, their expectations, and the style in which the industry operates are all variables. Businesses today cannot survive unless they adapt.”Survival of the fittest” is the statement that best describes the current scenario.

Google is working really hard and is determined to bring advancements in its technology as fast as possible. Good knowledge of all such systems is required to make effective strategies and run a campaign successfully.

  1. Change your marketing strategy: “

A business today can run properly only if they opt for a customer-centred approach. Making an outstanding business move that attracts people at once may not be easy for everyone. But it is surely possible to adopt strategies that are customer-friendly and deliver products that they demand. A heavy-budget campaign is not the only way out. One has to identify the points that matter the most to all potential customers and pitch them accordingly. The approach of marketers should be towards what is mostly loved by users. It is beneficial to experiment with marketing styles and see what best meets the needs of customers while emphasizing product features.

  1. Consider the following:

Questioning is one of the ways of knowing what we want to deliver or what the key goals are. They tell us about the strong selling points of our products and information about the weak underperforming zones. A marketer can ask questions of himself and the company to be sure about what it is that they are advertising and if their product is worth spending time and money on.

A few questions to be asked within the team are as follows:

Q: Why should we get a top link?

Q: What distinguishes our product from others?

Q: What makes us stand out from the crowd?

Q: Why am I using Google to earn a brand name?

Q: What is the value of our customers?

Q: What is the latest trend in the industry?

Q: Am I well informed about every new technique?

There are a few questions that can be asked from potential customers through surveys or direct communication. These questions are beneficial in planning a strategy and implementing it. Some examples of questions to be asked are given below:

Q: What do you like the most about the product?

Q: What would you like to change about the product?

Q: How do you rate our product?

Q: Would you recommend us to your friends and family?

Q: What is your vision of a website for such a product?

Q: Are we delivering according to your expectations?

All these questions start a thinking process. This approach always develops positivity in the team, and they are thus able to identify their weaknesses. It gives them an opportunity to work on such areas and make improvements.

  1. Avoid employing scalable link-building strategies:

Scalable link-building tactics could be one of the worst decisions a company could take and could contribute to heavy losses suffered by the organization. Google, with its technology, is able to identify any such tactic being used by websites, and its automatic system blocks the content from being displayed in search results. Outreach of content should not be worked upon by using such tactics. A great piece of work followed by small-scale promotion could even work for us. Millions of dollars do not need to be spent every time.

Summary of my findings

A review of the past and present of Link building and study of Google’s growing technology has opened new doors for us. In the past, traditional methods determined the position of a web page. This made it easier to use SEO for personal benefit, and better positions were gained by experts. However, with the passage of time, Google realized that it needed to modify its method of determining the positions of a page and include measurable, effective factors. It realized the importance of understanding the content of the page and the context of a user to understand search queries and give relevant results. The language processing ability of the system was improved with a lot of hard work. All these attempts finally paid off, and Google was able to read the minds of its customers while looking into various details. Today, complex and confusing queries also produce relevant results. The future is yet to bring many exciting twists to the story. It is a need of time for all users as well as marketers to remain informed about the advancements in Google’s technology. Companies can only gain a better position in search results without spending millions of dollars by understanding the tactics that would make them successful. This is very important for the progress and success of the businesses that are competing in the industry.


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