We previously discussed how link building has evolved from a primary indicator for search engine relevance, why it is becoming less relevant, and tickled the idea of there being something we don’t quite understand as the future of SEO.
And so we begin…
The Previously-Unspoken Ranking Factors where Content is the Only Way to Compete
As humans, we suffer from Adaptive Bias. As marketers with Adaptive Bias, we suffer from trying to fit the square peg of social metrics into the round hole of search rankings.
What we don’t know – because we’re not looking at it – is how other factors are influencing search engine rankings.
What if there was another set of factors that more accurately predicted relevance to a search query than content relevance, social metrics, or link metrics? What if I told you that mysterious data is incredibly hard to come by? And what if I told you that Google has more of it than any of us probably realize.
It’s my belief that Google does have this data. And it’s also my belief that this data is absolutely critical to being the most accurate predictor of relevance in the future of search.
The data is this: Analytics data.
Page views. Unique visitors. Time on page. Time on site. Referrals. Conversions. Navigation paths.
Sure. As marketers, we’re all familiar with those. But there’s more…
What if Google knew where a user went after your site? What if they knew a visitor went from your site to a search engine 50% of the time after visiting your site, while the average in your industry was only 10%? What if Google knew that 2% of the new visitors to a specific page on your site purchased something…regardless of if you use PayPal, 2Checkout, Stripe, or your own merchant account?
These are the kinds of metrics that I believe they want (and I believe they have it already to a certain degree) and will need in order to offer the most relevant search results imaginable.
How would they get this data?
As cynical marketers, we assume they have this data from Google Analytics. But that only gives them a partial view on a per-site basis. Leaving one site and going to another breaks the user flow if you look only at Google Analytics data.
But Google also owns loads of dark fiber and a public DNS service.
But even with that, it’s only a small slice.
So they give you phones. And laptops. And web browsers. And a publicly-accessible fonts API. And publicly-accessible developer libraries. And all of this other stuff that they can use to deeply track how the internet is used.
All with all of these gifts for “free,” they just may be able to collect enough information about overall usage on the internet and web pages that they can then put together an accurate understanding of what content is valuable…
But they won’t do this with links and content. They’ll determine relevance by actual site and page usage, traffic patterns, etc.
And, if you think this is all some sort of dystopian view, it’s not. It’s just business. It’s just what they have to do to remain competitive in displaying the most relevant search results to their users…so they can collect more advertising dollars and survive as a company. It’s business. And it’s survival.
How Content Marketing Defines the Future of Link Building
If this kind of universal analytics is the future of link building and search marketing, where actual usage of the internet is what is required as a competitive advantage and not just content or link relevance, content marketing is the only long-term solution.
Not links. Not content optimization. But getting your visitors to love your content so much that every new “usage” metric goes up. They stay on your content longer. They visit your site more often. Repeatedly. They bring more people to it by sharing on social media. There are more referrers from a larger number of websites. They go to other search engines less after viewing your content. Yours is a last stop on their search for that information because they don’t later go to other similar pieces of content created by your competitors. Your visitors buy from you and not from your competitors. Your visitors download your ebooks. And they sign up for your newsletters. And they read your blog. And all sorts of other metrics that you can imagine.
The only thing that can do that is content.
And if content marketing isn’t the top priority for your long-term search plan, you will soon discover a competitor whose top priority is.
About the Author
Ben has been creating websites since 1994 and in the career of SEO, link building, and content marketing since 2001. From 2001-2006, he led agency work for over 1,500 clients including multiple Fortune 100s. He is now the CEO of Ontolo, creating content marketing and link building tools that help you research and outreach faster.