Links Should Die (And The Sooner The Better)

Zombie AttackI’ll bet that when Larry and Sergey developed the new innovative search ranking formula which was based on links in 1996 and eventually changed the way people discovers content online, they didn’t imagined how it would entangled throughout the years. Forgery, trading, corruption, an entire sub-industry dedicated to manipulation.

The old revolutionary link formula which was supposed to die and to evolve to a much better impartial system which will feed our always-hungry need for information has been repeatedly resuscitated by the Google masters with algorithms over algorithms. So far the zombie-engine somehow managed to survive, but now we’re at the tipping point.

It should have been clear that something isn’t quite working when links became a commodity in the SEO industry. It should have been clear that something is rotten when webmasters became more occupied with artificial link building than with creating great content. It should have been clear that something is seriously fucked up when crappy websites received tons of traffic.

It should have been clear years ago. But it hasn’t.

Absurdly, over the course of history links only established their stance as the strongest and most influential search signal. No, I don’t buy this whole recurring statement of “we have over 200 signals and links are just one of those”. Currently, links are still the main cause for websites to rise or fall in rankings.

Google Penguin update which was set to eliminate unnatural link practices, didn’t changed the general state of mind, site owners and marketers are still obsessed with links. If any, it even made the situation worse. Unnatural link-building practices haven’t stopped, but just mutated. Actually, today webmasters are more involved than ever with links and sometimes for utterly messed up reasons.

To be fair, Google aren’t the only ones to blame for this distorted state. Site owners are guilty too, and perhaps even more (disclosure: I’m a site owner). We are the ones who submitted links to thousands of useless directories, posted valueless press releases, published shallow articles and engaged with more dubious tactics for the sole purpose of search “marketing”.

If Google was the original inventor of the system, we crookedly flourished it.

And it’s not like Google’s main competitors are doing things differently. The second biggest search engine, Bing, operates in the exact same link-based way. Perhaps this is why alternative search engines like Blekko blossoming as people seek for other search options to surrogate the existing mainstream possibilities.

I know that many of you already think that I’m just another fucking ranting blogger that likes bitching about stuff without suggesting some solution to the problem. For starters, I do like to bitch about stuff. Luckily, the web offers me almost unlimited amount of awry topics to whine about. However, I don’t bring you here just the decease, but also the medicine.

Social signals.

Yep. Like, Tweet, +1, Share and even Pin can resolve and replace the current search ranking mechanism. Think about it (if you haven’t already), what is a better indicator for a quality website or a page than a positive appraise on the different social media channels? Someone was reading an article, loving it, and expressing his/her appreciation by recommending it on social networks. Simple and measurable.

Social signals also grants EVERYONE the opportunity “to vote” while links only allows publishers this option. Opening up the voting system for a MUCH larger audiences can result a far more accurate search ranking which will surface the real quality websites on the expense of the poor ones.

Sure, people will try to find ways to manipulate the search results through false social signals, and they will probably even succeed to some extent, but it will be much more difficult than linking manipulations. Eventually, the impact of the masses through social signals is a lot better than the current 1% who decides and votes for everybody.

Unfortunately, despite all advantages over links, social signals have yet to be implemented into the search algorithms more significantly and it doesn’t look like it is going to happen on the near future. Just recently, one of Google’s search team honchos, Matt Cutts implied in an interview that links would remain the strongest rankings signal.

Hey Google, I don’t presume that it would be easy, but please change your approach towards links and social signals, because today’s search world is totally screwed up.