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20/20 Vision: The Impending End of the Backlink – Jordan Koene // Searchmetrics

Episode Overview: The backlink, a staple of SEO best practices, is trending toward an inevitable end in 2020 and beyond as search giants like Google look to better authority-building practices. Join Ben and Searchmetrics CEO Jordan Koene as they continue 20/20 Vision Week discussing the impending end of backlinks and recommend tactics SEOs should focus on as backlink value decreases.

Summary:

  • Signals from Google indicate they’re shifting their focus away from backlinks, decreasing their prominence and value.
  • SEO services will need to provide robust services to maintain revenue flow as consumer demand for backlinks diminishes.
  • PR agencies and PR content marketing are much better suited to fill the authority-building void backlinks will leave in their wake.

GUESTS & RESOURCES:

Ben:                 Welcome to SEO Predictions Week on the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host Benjamin Shapiro and this week we’re going to publish an episode every day covering our bold SEO predictions for 2020, but before we get started, I want to remind you that this podcast is brought to you by the marketing team at Searchmetrics. Searchmetrics is an SEO and content marketing platform that helps enterprise scale businesses monitor their online presence and make data driven decisions and to support you, our loyal podcast listeners, they are offering a complimentary trial of their services and software. That’s right. You can try the Searchmetrics research cloud suite and the content experience tool to optimize all of your content risk-free, no credit card required, by going to searchmetrics.com/trial.

Ben:                 That’s searchmetrics.com/trial. Okay. Joining us again for SEO Predictions Week is Jordan Koene who is the lead SEO strategist and CEO of Searchmetrics Inc. and today we’re going to talk about our fourth prediction for 2020 which is the death of backlinks. All right.

Jordan:             Oh, don’t be so somber about it Ben.

Ben:                 The death of backlinks. Okay, here’s the fourth installment of SEO Predictions Week with Jordan Koene, lead SEO strategist and CEO of Searchmetrics Inc. Jordan. Welcome back to the Voices of Search podcast.

Jordan:             Hi-de-ho, Ben. Looking forward to the death of backlinks.

Ben:                 The death of backlinks. Jordan, if you think backlinks are going away, how is Google going to tell what the popularity of my content is? How are they going to know how great it is?

Jordan:             Let’s first figure out how these guys died before we get to that so-

Ben:                 I want answers.

Jordan:             I want answers and I want them now, right? Well, I mean look, the reality is that Google has been expanding their footprint in terms of signals for a long time and I fundamentally believe that in today’s day and age, backlinks have massively diminished a set of authority. Actually, I think some of the things that have really increased in terms of their authority is branded search, so how often times people search for your brand and the core domain that you have. I actually think that has a lot of weight in terms of determining whether or not a website has a specific set of authority, but the reality here is that we’re first talking about the death of these things, right? The reality is that a backlink has been misunderstood for many, many years and it has been miss-evaluated by Google for many, many years and ultimately because there is this core misunderstanding in terms of what is the asset and how to value it. I believe that in 2020, Google is going to continue to diminish the value of backlinks and kind of put it to bed, that this is no longer a major signal that Google uses. It is a signal, but it is not a major signal in SEO industry for the past two decades.

Ben:                 The death of backlinks has been widely misreported and even by you here, Jordan, where you’re saying, “Hey, we’re going to see the death of backlinks.” But it’s not that they’re going away. It’s not that the links you have are not going to have some value. It might be diminished, but it still is going to be a signal that Google looks at. When the New York Times starts writing about the Voices of Search podcast. That’s going to have a positive impact on our SEO, right? On our domain authority.

Jordan:             Right, right. No doubt, and I think that that’s an interesting point that you made there, right? I really hope that the New York Times reports on our podcast. Absolutely, but I really fundamentally believe that it becomes a very different focal point. It becomes more about the message and the mention and the connection that these two assets have than it is a pure link that is pointing to a specific URL with a specific aim, with a specific intention, that level of manipulation and detail is no longer as valid as I think many SEOs believe it is and will continue to lose its need as we move into 2020.

Ben:                 I think a lot of SEOs make a lot of money by promoting backlinks as a service.

Jordan:             Indeed.

Ben:                 And I think that’s one of the reasons why it’s misunderstood is when you’re working with somebody, let’s call it the agencies a little bit. When you’re hiring an agency and they say, “Well, what are you going to do to optimize our content?” That’s going to be, “We’re going to go through the content and come through and make sure it’s the right format and you’re using the right words. We’re going to investigate into a technical audit on your site, but then we’re going to do an ongoing campaign to try to drive backlinks because we can continue to do that and the more we do, the more value you’re going to see, the more money you could pay us over a longer period of time.” This is built into the service part of SEO, so if backlinks are going away, what are SEOs is going to do to continue to make money?

Jordan:             Hopefully by this point they’ve made enough money to retire, but no, I think that SEOs need to go back to their core, which is providing different types of services because at the end of the day, selling backlinks is no longer a valid and useful service, in my opinion. I think that there are certain PR agencies and public relations content marketing type channels that can still help generate awareness for your business. That organically provides the authority that you need to grow in surge, but that is radically different than having a backway service that on a month to month basis is churning a number of links that point back to your website. That is not a service that brands should continue to invest in. Quite frankly, that’s been a statement for years now. That isn’t even a prediction. That’s just a reality of where we are.

Ben:                 I have mixed emotions about this prediction. On one side, I understand in the anchor text and the sort of dynamics of a backlink is going to potentially be devalued. On the flip side, having brands talk about and published content and link to your content, I do believe is still going to be valuable, influencer marketing, social media campaigns. The more people are talking and discussing your content, that is a signal that Google’s going to pick up and has to evaluate to figure out how important your domain is and how important a specific piece of content is. So the nature of how Google analyzes backlinks might be changing. On the flip side, getting people to talk about your brand is still going to be damn important.

Jordan:             There is no question getting people to talk about your brand is hypercritical, but I really want to emphasize this point that this is more of a PR and a content marketing exercise than anything else. And I believe that that fundamentally is not a backlink game. I think it’s more about building your brand awareness in order to secure more authority and market share. And I know that those seem like very subjective terminology, but there is ways to measure this and there are ways to provide these services. Many companies, many agencies, do but we’re still stuck in kind of this ice age mentality of, “I need more backlinks.” And it’s very robotic. And quite frankly, I think in 2020 not only are we going to see the quote unquote death of this, but I think we’re going to see more regulation from Google around this. Actually, them coming out and being vocal about it and saying, “This is what we’re looking for. This is not what we’re looking for.”

Ben:                 I think that Google is going to be better and better at knowing which of your backlinks are bullshit, potentially punishing you for the ones that are just gaming the system and not actually providing real value and credibility for your content. And so maybe it’s not the death of backlinks. That’s good copywriting. It makes for a nice podcast title. Maybe we’re just putting backlinks on life support for a little while.

Jordan:             Maybe you make a good point, Ben. Life support might be a more fitting place for backlinks at this time.

Ben:                 Eh, death of backlinks is better copy. Let’s leave it at that and that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Jordan Koene, lead SEO strategist and CEO of Searchmetrics Inc. We’d love to continue this conversation with you, so if you’re interested in contacting Jordan, you can find the link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact him on Twitter. His handle is @JTKOENE, or if you have general marketing questions, if you’d like to talk to me about this podcast or if you’re interested in being a guest on the Voices of Search podcast, you can find the link to my LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact me on Twitter. My handle is @BenGShap. Or you can send us a tweet to our new Twitter handle, which is @voicesofsearch.

Ben:                 If you’re interested in learning more about how to use search data to boost your organic traffic, online visibility, or to gain competitive insights, head over to searchmetrics.com/freetrial for your risk free trial of their research suite and content experience software. And if you liked this podcast and you want a regular stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, hit that subscribe button in your podcast app and we’ll be back in your feed tomorrow to discuss our prediction that there will be more rules to regulate old and low value content. Lastly, if you’ve enjoyed this podcast and you’re feeling generous, we’d love for you to leave us a review in the iTunes store. Okay, that’s it for today, but until next time, the answers are always in the data.