Link building has been a part of digital marketing and SEO since the dawn of the search engine. It is so basic to online marketing that’s easy to take it for granted. But no more!
Stone Temple Consulting recently concluded a study exploring the relationship between links to a page and that page’s Search Engine Results Pages (SERP) on Google. Previous studies conducted by Moz and Search Metrics determined that links, while a significant factor to better rankings, were not as important as other signals. In fact, some in the industry wondered if links as a signal might be fading as a ranking signal in Google’s algorithm.
However, Stone Temple Consulting’s findings flatly contradict this. Using a radically different correlation methodology than either Moz or Search Metrics and incorporating informational queries into the sample, they discovered what they termed a “near perfect correlation” between rankings and links to the page. The relationship is powerful enough to make links the second-most important factor in ranking, a conclusion supported by Google employees.
Eric Enge, CEO of Stone Temple Consulting and author of the study, stresses that the findings should not invite link buying or emphasizing volume of links over quality. He firmly states that the study was based on high-authority links alone and that content is still the number one signal for ranking in Google. His assertion is backed up by Google Dublin’s Andrey Lippatsev, who confirmed that content, link building, and RankBrain, in that order, are the three most important signals for ranking in Google.
“If your content isn’t competitive in relevance and quality,” Enge says, “links won’t help. If it is, links will make the difference.” In other words, content is still king but links are the grand vizier necessary for establishing your website’s authority.
Ultimately, Stone Temple Consulting’s study confirms that internet marketing is not for the isolationist; we need other people in order to succeed. Link building requires us to reach out to our colleagues for substantial links and to be willing to provide links for good content. Through linking to each other the internet truly does become a community, and now’s the time to embrace the community spirit!
How does Stone Temple Consulting’s study change your perspective on link building and SEO? Do their findings surprise you?