Although there numerous ranking signals that go into formulating a ranking (apparently over 200 ranking signals and counting). Much of it has been simplified in to relevancy (of content) and the authority (of the website/writer). Relevancy is normally championed as the most important factor, however I think the reality is that authority is equally important and arguably becoming more relevant [sic] when one considers how Google is limiting the availability of organic search placements for web search.
Think about it, the internet much less the world is not short of writers. A subset would be writers that actually know how to write well and writers who know what they are talking about. Then a smaller subset would be both. Out of the smaller subset would be those that overlap into writers that know what they are talking about and those that know how to write well – i.e. those that know how to promote themselves. Those would be your authorities.
Those authorities frequently get mentioned, read, linked to, shared and all the rest of it. So it’s obviously not all links that make for authority for the web search algorithms of the future. Am I saying stop building links? No, because link building isn’t dead. Buying links for PageRank in my opinion is dead. Is whitehat spam dead? No because everytime Google does a slam, the whitehat SEO community will just find a new exploit and then rampantly abuse it just as they have done with reciprocal links, guest blogging/paid posts, social media shares/link building, infographics, hosted marketing pages on .EDU and .GOV sites etc.
Google can’t predict the behaviour of mad fools all the time and the corporations can’t be slammed into being educated on good web practices into one hit, why? Because they listen to experts and consultants telling them about the new whitehat exploit. Of course the consultants do this for they are motivated into short term results and thus short term thinking prevails.
So yes we all need to look beyond links. Although the Knowledge Graph (Google’s latest innovation in its vain attempt to understand things) is in its infancy, it is a valliant notion. However, plenty of mistakes will get made as it will not know the context of every search, just as in languages there are often multiple meanings for every word or multiple celebrities for every name albeit in different fields. The knowledge graph would require the ability to scan, store, interpret and conversion of ideas into a numerical string to produce a concept in response to a search – which is incredibly difficult to do unless you can recreate johnny 5. Does that mean we should start spamming the knowledge graph or throw the baby out with bathwater by diverting all our budgets into social media? No not all, simple concentrate on the value for your users. It all boils down to the fundemental questions of authority and relevancy:
- Authority – What is my public profile? Why/How am I different? How am I authoritative? Who would I be compared with in the same space? To whom am I an authority to?
- Relevancy – What channels do my audience use/trust? At what stages? What questions do they ask? Where do they search for answer? How/Where do/will they engage with authorities? Using what technologies?
Plenty of brainstorming of the above questions would identify the signals web search algorithms demand.