Backlinks: Yes, we’re going back to basics. Evidently, there’s still confusion surrounding outbound links, so here we go again. Look for an SEO or content marketer who doesn’t seek out high-authority sources for outbound linking, and you’d probably come up dry. We all link out to excellent sources, hoping that maybe, just maybe, Google might view us as being in the same company as our idols. Well, fat chance of that happening, as we learned yet again in a Search Central office-hours hangout with Google’s John Mueller on Tuesday.
Remember: the tactic of linking to authoritative sites isn’t something Google itself has ever suggested is an SEO ranking factor – it’s just a practice SEOs adopted themselves. So it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that when a viewer asked Mueller if giving a do-follow link to a trusted site is good for SEO, Mueller said no.
This is an SEO technique that has one foot firmly in the past. Mueller explained that high-authority linking goes back to the early days of SEO when people would create spammy websites then link to authoritative sites on the bottom of the page in hopes Google would deem theirs legitimate by association. But, according to Mueller, that didn’t work then, and it certainly doesn’t work now.
It’s interesting to note that the roots of high-authority linking could stretch back even further. Search Engine Journal’s Roger Montti published a blog that analyzes where this idea comes from and why it has infiltrated so many modern SEO strategies. He traces its origins to 1998, when an algorithm research paper (about an algorithm Google has never actually used) and a subsequent SEO best practices guide were released.
Of course, anyone who thinks SEO isn’t a completely different animal to what it was over two 20 years ago probably shouldn’t be doing SEO, and it’s safe to assume nobody would follow decades-old best practices intentionally. But by obsessing over high-authority outbound linking, we kind of are. The bottom line is that outbound linking, from an algorithmic point of view, does absolutely nothing for Google – it simply doesn’t matter. But, as Montti says in his blog, there’s something to be said about high-quality links from a user experience (UX) perspective.
Linking out solely to subject-matter masters won’t harm your website. It’s not something you have to actively guard against. But don’t be afraid to spread a little of that link love to lesser-known sources who also know what they’re talking about. With updates like Page Experience, link spam and MUM happening in real-time, it’s high time for outdated practices like this to take a backseat.
Google AdSense Moves to a First-Price Auction Model: Up until now, an advertiser bidding on ads through Google AdSense would pay the price of the second-highest bid if they won their bid. But Google announced on Thursday that by the end of 2021, the model will change to a first-price auction: The final price paid will be the same as the first price or the winning bid. This transition will affect AdSense for Content, Games and Video. AdSense for Search and Shopping will remain the same. The benefit is that it will be easier for advertisers to manage their budgets and plan their spending because they’ll know exactly how much they’ll need to pay on their winning bid. But we can’t ignore the elephant in the room: A first-price auction model also means that the cost for an ad will typically be higher than it would have been under the second-price model. So, yes, the update makes things easier – but also more expensive.
Google Rolls Out Eco-Friendly Search Filters, Signaling the Future of Travel: Google’s green initiatives are slowly but surely rolling out, and the company’s new approach directly impacts search engine results pages (SERPs). Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced on Thursday a number of eco-friendly updates. Among them is carbon-emissions estimates being displayed for every flight on Google Flights search results, enabling passengers to factor in emissions when planning a trip. Users searching for accommodation on Google will now also be served information on hotels’ sustainability efforts, such as water conservation and waste reduction. These eco updates extend to Google Shopping, where searches will now be able to look for the most environmentally friendly appliance options while shopping. Kudos to Google for an important move in the right direction.
A Revamped Analytics 360 Is Great News for Enterprise Marketers: Thursday was a busy day for Google! The company released a third announcement – this one for a new version of Analytics 360, a set of tools designed specifically for enterprise companies and built on Google Analytics 4. The new Analytics 360 introduces a bunch of nifty features, such as the ability to customize user roles to control feature access for certain user groups and create product line sub-properties (useful for companies spread across multiple countries). The new and improved Analytics 360 sets higher limits of up to 125 custom dimensions, 400 audiences and 50 conversion types – meaning enterprise-level advertising campaigns can get significantly more sophisticated. With the additional flexibility and scalability this new iteration of Analytics 360 brings, it looks like the tool could be a major improvement in the eyes of advertisers.
Google Officially Ending Support for Internet Explorer 11: Last week marked the end of an era when a software engineer at Google announced on Twitter that the search engine would officially be ending support for Internet Explorer 11 – remember her?! “We did the math. It’s time,” is how the Google staffer justified the decision: merciless, but fair enough. Any Internet Explorer fans out there don’t need to be too concerned, however. Ending support won’t make Google entirely inaccessible. Instead, Google will serve a version of its search engine that is decidedly stripped down – it will be able to return only basic results, and any of Google’s new bells and whistles will be incompatible. Since the market share of Internet Explorer is just over 1 percent, it makes sense that Google would reach this decision. And with Microsoft itself set to retire Internet Explorer in 2022, there’s no point in Google hanging around any longer than it needs to.
Between WWW and Non-WWW Websites, There’s No Clear SEO Winner: In a Search Engine Journal article published Monday, author Winston Burton did a deep dive into whether search engines prefer www URLs (e.g., https://www.example.com) or non-www URLs (e.g., https://example.com) – such a seemingly small difference, but exactly the type of finicky thing that would impact search results. Non-www websites, or “naked” URLs, have increased in popularity in recent years as user behavior has changed. But how do these domains impact SEO, if at all? Burton reaches the consensus that, at the moment, it doesn’t matter which you choose. Once you’ve decided on your preferred version, you just need to keep it consistent across your sitemap URLs and internal links. But there is also the possibility that, eventually, www domains will become obsolete. Desktop and mobile browsers, such as Google Chrome, hide the “www” by default, so this could very well be where URLs are headed in the future.
Editor’s Note: “SEO News You Can Use” is a weekly blog post posted every Monday morning only on SEOblog.com, rounding up all the top SEO news from around the world. Our goal is to make SEOblog.com a one-stop-shop for everyone looking for SEO news, education and for hiring an SEO expert with our comprehensive SEO agency directory.
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