Tag Archive for: Eric Ward


Since the introduction of Google’s Penguin algorithm many have suggested that links are no longer important for SEO. I’ve even seen some misguided folks suggesting all links are outright bad. As usual the truth is more complicated than that.

It has become such a common issue that veteran SEO writer used his regular column over at Search Engine Watch to attempt to fully answer whether links are important for SEO these days. The exact question he was asked was “do you feel Google is putting less emphasis on links as part of their algorithm?”

The truth is there are a variety of types of links that have been devalued and count very little or are poisonous to your SEO. BUT, these links were almost entirely the type “that never should have been counting in the first place.”

You see, the types of links being devalued are being brought down because they are spammy. Google has gotten increasingly smarter and better at its job of helping people find what they want on the internet without running into spam or low-quality sites. The devalued links come from junk directories, link networks, paid link brokers, article databases, link wheels, etc. The list could go on and on. But, this hasn’t brought down the quality links that good SEO professionals have built.

In Ward’s opinion, quality links matter even more now. Google can tell a lot of information about links in your profile, and they are swift to penalize low quality or spammy links, but they are even more rewarding to those who have the “right” kind of links.

Any SEO professional or online marketer you hire to help raise your brand’s profile online should be able to tell the difference between good and bad links. They know what Google doesn’t like, and they stay out of trouble. However, the best online marketers know that organic search traffic and link building are only a part of a much larger system.

Trash BasketTwo years ago Google unleashed Panda onto the world, and SEO hasn’t been the same since, especially when it comes to link building. Hundreds of thousands of sites have been penalized and some have made their way back to where they were, but countless others have perished or are still trudging along trying to recover.

Some of those sites were mostly innocent and got in trouble for just being a little too unscrupulous or not quite knowing what they were doing with link building, but the wide majority of these sites hit by penalties were flagrantly engaging in cheating trying to get their site’s traffic up by gaining a massive quantity of low quality links instead of a respectable number of solid links.

Still, those penalized have had to try to find a way to get their site restored to its former traffic rates and search rankings, and after two years of toiling away, the question eventually arises: “Should I just give up and start over?” Well, Eric Ward gives a simple question to that. “Are you going to do things differently with the new site than you did with the old site? If not, then it really doesn’t matter.”

Most of the websites unable to reclaim their former “glory” are still struggling because they haven’t wised up. The only way to be able to consistently rank highly on Google and Bing is to run a quality site people will want to visit. You can use SEO to get you there, but you can’t fake a good site.

The amount of talk about SEO coming from blogs and experts help make SEO one of the more discussed aspects of the internet behind the scenes. You won’t see search engine optimization coming up on the news, but just one search can lead to dozens of resources filled with writers offering their opinions and ideas.

In many ways, this is great because it keeps the community up to date with continuous changes, and delivers a wealth of free knowledge to anyone trying to get involved. However, it also creates an echo chamber where misconceptions run rampant, and there is always a need to clear up the bad information out there.

This time around, it was Eric Ward over at Search Engine Land who took it upon himself to dispel the rumors and lies surrounding linking. Links are a hugely important part of SEO, and many don’t understand exactly how they are used and evaluated. Add to this the never-ending changes to search rank signals, and bad ideas grow into monsters.

Many of these bad ideas come in the form of absolute statements, such as “anchor text will stop being used as a ranking signal altogether” in the next year. Google has done work to spot people misusing anchor texts, especially those attached to purchased links that say anything you want. But, as with most Google changes, they haven’t disavowed the practice altogether, they have only tried to punish those who take advantage and misuse the practice.

As Ward puts it, “Are you really going to tell me that if the Library Of Congress site links to Consumer Reports magazine’s site using the words “Consumer Product Reviews” that this would be a useless signal? No way.”

Another preposterous statement is that linking will no longer be the most important ranking signal, dethroned by social media signals. This concept ignores the number of Google searches done without being signed in, and not only that, Google uses tons of signals, and social media is one of them. But, relying on one user generated signal to return results to that one user doesn’t make any sense, when Google considers tons of signals as of now to return results.

The reason social signals will never be the primary signal for search engines is, quite simply, people like to do some things anonymously. They don’t want questions about body hygiene, marital issues, or personal problems being associated with their Facebook.

While linking may not be the clear-cut MVP it once was for SERPs, claiming that it is going away altogether doesn’t make any sense. It is this type of misinformation that leads to confused clients and well-intentioned but misinformed bloggers spreading the information far and wide.