Matt Cutts: Don’t Write The Epitaph For Links Yet [SMX Advanced 2012 Video]

google-g-logoWill social signals replace links as a primary SEO signal affecting Google’s rankings? Have social signals already replaced links in that way?

That topic came up last month during the keynote conversation with Google’s Matt Cutts at our SMX Advanced conference in Seattle. Danny Sullivan, Search Engine Land’s Editor-In-Chief, asked a series of link-related questions that led the conversation through topics like no-followed links, affiliate links, paid links and more.

For a few years now, some SEO insiders have suggested that social signals are replacing links as a quality signal for Google’s ranking algorithm — and that refrain has become a bit more common, I’d say, in the wake of the Panda and Penguin updates.

But in the video below, Cutts explains that it’s much too soon to say that links are dead.

For more from SMX Advanced, see the Related Entries below.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Google: SEO | Link Building: General | SEM Industry: Conferences | Top News

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About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/benedetto.vacca Benedetto Vacca

    In this video Matt Cutts say and doesn’t say anythings… and onestly I intend this criptical communication form.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mf.gomes79 Maria Fatima Gomes

    There are ways to be cryptic without mispelling and still get the point across. But point taken.

  • http://www.reaseo.com/ Jerry Mosher

    Question for Matt… You say the percentage of links on the web that are nofollow is very small. Makes sense as nofollow hasn’t been around forever. How about the percentage of new links being created.

    What percentage of links discovered in the past 30 days are nofollowed? I bet it’s a whole lot higher.

  • Gary Bisha

    A lot of people use minifreelance to get links. They post something like – I need one link on your  site with PR1 with anchor xyz.

    Post penguine link builders are getting smarter and asking for different anchors. Not sure how google will counter with it. 

  • http://twitter.com/cashforapples Cash For Apples

    Countering what?

  • Alan

    I guess social will have to become more important, Lets say that google wins this war of no follow and every link on the web or even 90% of links become no follow. Then what are they going to use to calculate rank? Well either they will be using social or something we haven’t even seen yet or they are going to be using those very same no follow links they used to discredit. What are they going to do then have a rel=reallynofollowthistime ?

  • David Roberts

    Matt talks about what percentage of links on the web are nofollow and it’s encouraging to think that the concept of links is still a good one. The fact remains that the rise of social signals compared to links has been largely due to the fact that it’s far easier for non-techies to ‘like’ rather than ‘link’. The percentage of your friends down the pub with a website and/or the knowledge of how to create a link is a massively telling factor. I bet it’s a smaller percentage than the nofollow stat that Matt talks about here.

    If links are to win out (and I hope they do ….. but I can’t see it) then it needs to become easier and we need to drop this SEO ‘game’ we’ve created.

  • http://www.elevatemarketing.co.za/ Werner Wichmann

    Thank for posting. I also believe it will be a good while before social
    signals will surpass the value of links. Important thing is to get a
    good balance I think.

  • http://infinitewebsolutions1.blogspot.in/ Anna Smith

    This will surely help to visitor to get correct those result that have organic traffic have famous socially.

  • http://cmsreport.com Bryan Ruby

    The issue with Google using a mix of links and social signals together is that no one, not even Google, knows where social media is heading. It’s like trying to computer model the atmosphere without understanding all the physics that are involved…you’re going to get crap. Google isn’t just adjusting their algorithms here, they’re experimenting with their algorithms on the production server and currently have no real measurement for success or failure.

    I’ll agree, “Space is Big”.  But in this case Google is trying to tell us what direction is “North” when in space…there is no north. Yet like blind mice, we follow.

  • RajeevSrivastava

    Simply as we seen on many more big brand sites and also our own 4000 plus micro as well as big brand site that we uses social plugin on my few sites and really tested them every weak but till end i can say everyday we were posting new pages as well as added more and more friend at my facebook and twitter. But at last i can say that there is no matter you have your site facebook, twitter or google acount or not only you have to focus on your site quality work related to your product and good off page work in seo and you can see good ranking on site.

  • http://twitter.com/RegDCP Reg Charie

    He wouldn’t  write the epitaph for links just yet?
    Then how does he explain Google’s own information that links (PageRank) are not an actionable metric? IF they are not actionable that means they do not count for SERPs.

    Then there is the fact that Google has turned off a major factor in links, which can only be the anchor text’s predictive factor of linked page content.

    I wish that the interviewers would ask the proper questions.
    DO links still affect SERPs?

    My testing shows they don’t.
    I built 70 links for one targeted phrase on a deep link and it’s SERPs did not move up even one position.

    In general, links are not dead. They still affect PageRank and they bring traffic.
    They ARE dead for SERPs.
    Just the fact that Cutts says that nofollow links are a small one digit precentage of all links shows that Google’s nofollow campaign is not a success.

  • http://inn-done.blogspot.com/ mochamad

    nice 

  • http://www.redkingdesign.co.uk/ Red King

    Agreed. One problem for Google is the fact that getting 1000 Facebook likes or 1000 Tweets can be easily done with some black-hat software. Basing an algorithm around any third party social website will be very tricky. Normal backlinks are still king.

  • BergNathan

    My neighbor’s mother-in-law Maḱes $8O hourly on the laptoṗ. She has been out of w0rḱ for 7 months but last Ṁonth her income was $8734 just worḱing on the laṖt0Ṗ for &#97 ƒew hour&#115 ,Go to this we&#98 siṫe and read more.. Ca&#x73hLaz&#121.&#99o&#x6D

  • ChrisKoszo

    Hi Reg,
     
    My recent tests and experiences show that links are still hugely important.

    May I ask you what types of links you built that you didn’t see any result from? I believe you built links that were ignored by Google’s algorithm (perhaps via blog networks like Build My Rank) or simply filtered by Penguin or a similar Google algoritym tweak. If that’s the case, congrats–that is great for SEO! You have just proven various linking methods aren’t liked by Google anymore and that they should not be used (as they might even get you penalized). Would you mind sharing a few examples of these links with the community? Also how about BING, did you see any improvements in ranking in the BING serps after those links were built?

    Reg, regarding you statement about links, “They still affect PageRank and they bring traffic. They ARE dead for SERPs.” I believe the opposite is currently true regarding Google, and that social signals still stuck at this level you described, while links definietly still DO pass both PageRank and help increase rankings in the SERPs.

    Right now in 2012, social signals are still not actively used in calculating most SERPs, but they are used as a trust factor for a domain, and more likely, as a trust factor for individual authors (authorship markup, anyone?). They also send traffic quite nicely :)

    As for the future, as David Roberts commented above us, “it’s far easier for non-techies to ‘like’ rather than ‘link’.” Social liking rather than HTML linking will be the largest driver of search algorithms in the future, there’s no arguing about that, the only question is how soon will it happen… No one knows yet, I don’t think Matt Cutts does either.

  • http://www.yummyimagemedia.com/ Bryan SEO

    I couldn’t agree more. Back links will always be necessary and will always play a huge role in Google’s algorithm.

    However, I do feel that social is going to play a huge role in the future, especially Google+. Guess only time will tell.

  • http://twitter.com/jaroscepka Jaromir Scepka

    By one digit percentage of no follow links… I guess he is mostly talking just about social media links, doesn’t he?

  • http://inn-done.blogspot.in/ mochamad

    he percentage of links on the web that are nofollow is very small

  • http://twitter.com/i_praveensharma Praveen Sharma

    No one can demolish link value overnight. If a business is ranking well on Google due to its natural backlinks, and has very little of zero social presence on social sites, it doesn’t mean Google can drop it out of rankings. If they are loyal to their customer services, having decent backlink portfolio, how can you drop them just because they are not part of social media profiles on internet?

  • http://www.facebook.com/rotapeter Peter Rota

    This is an interesting video because I doubt that Social Signals will ever replace links as a whole. In recent years they have become prevalent but, I would think it will take some time for Social Signals to do this. 

  • Chris Rempel

    Re: Links are Dead… haha. That’s hilarious. I still buy my way to the top with mini-sites on a production line. Works as well as it ever has, even post Penguin.

    Anyone who thinks Google has “figured that out” has their head in the sand.

    Obviously for our real sites we play by the rules, but for small mini-sites – why would we? Google has continually hamstrung webmasters who “do it right”. There’s only so many times you can watch a pure garbage BH scraper site outrank you (over and over again) until you start fighting fire with fire…

    -Chris

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