Links have always been the backbone of the web. The main building blocks to good SEO, the number of backlinks is an indication of the popularity or importance of a website. Link building campaigns are important for SEO because some search engines, especially Google, give more credit to websites that have a good number of quality backlinks, and consider those websites more relevant than others in their results pages for a search query.
Will links lose their importance?
Matt Cutts says “Yes”. Google’s head of search spam, in the latest Webmaster Help video said that backlinks, over time, will become less important. Links may lose their importance as Google gets better at understanding the natural language of users’ queries. Google wants to provide the best “answer” to the user’s “question”. Cutts admits that links aren’t necessarily the best possible way to find the best “answer” for every search question. The focus is now on working on ways to determine whether a web page meets the expectations of an expert user. It is done currently by looking at the links to the page, the reputation of the site and pages, and the quality of the content on that particular page.
More focus is given for conversational search – the sort of search where you can talk to a machine and it will understand you, so you’re not just using keywords. Cutts says that maybe it is because of links that Google is still so bad at conversational search. An instance discussed was the search expression “ten books that might be poetry”. For this search, Google failed to bring up a particular article by that name. It ignored half the words in the query and just returned a bunch of random articles that included the words “ten”, “books”, and “poetry”. Cutts had to refine the query to include the author’s name to get it on the first page.
It is also said that Google is working on an expert author boost for their rankings. Matt said Google is working on promoting the content of authorities on topics, so if an expert writes on a topic on any site, Google will notice that and make sure the content ranks better than that of non-authorities. Through different ways, Google is trying to figure out when an expert user would say a particular page matched their information needs.
Matt Cutts added that for the “next few years” links aren’t going anyway and will still be used for determining reputation. But over time, Google will be relying less on links.