Life after Hummingbird: link building strategies

Feb 15, 2014 by
Life after Hummingbird: link building strategies

We’ve previously discussed the impact that Hummingbird (Google’s new search algorithm) would have on the future of SEO. With more focus being put on the semantic meaning behind search enquiries, and less rewards being given for keyword manipulation, the sites that stand to benefit the most from Hummingbird are the ones with genuinely valuable content and effective methods of distribution.

With all these changes afoot, many have speculated on how link building strategies will be affected. For many years, the fundamental basis of almost any successful SEO campaign was the ability to obtain prolific, high value inbound links, resulting in a boost in rankings and search traffic.

While links are still important in the post-Hummingbird era, they have certainly plunged down the pecking order in terms of core SEO strategy. As Earl Wood eloquently puts it, writing for Crowd Content Resources:

“Links have gone from being a prime factor in the SEO equation to a mere supporting player.”

Social signals

While the apparent breakdown in link building sounds daunting, it’s actually a good thing. In the past there were many ways people could use link building to bolster their site’s rankings without putting in the same amount of time and dedication to creating great content. While there is much debate over the extent to which social signals are currently impacting rankings, it can be assumed that their influence will continue to grow.

In the past it might have been possible to mask sub-par content with ‘excellent’ link building, but now that Google are (assumedly) taking social signals into account when determining the value of a site,negative signals such as a high bounce rate, a lack of sharing, and many other factors will all be detrimental to a site’s rankings.

Quality over quantity

Broken linkEver since penguin, Google has been punishing cheap link building techniques such as spammy forum posts and blog comment signature spam. So, since Google’s trend of punishing such unscrupulous link building techniques has been continuing in recent years, it would be logical to infer that Hummingbird also puts a heavy focus on link authority (quality) over link quantity. Although it hasn’t been explicitly stated yet, Matt Cutts, head of Google’s webspam team, corroborated this inference in a discussion on the topic of link building last year:

“Links are still the best way that we’ve found to discover [how relevant or important somebody is], and maybe over time social or authorship or other types of markup will give us a lot more information about that.”

So, provided that your links are coming from within your niche industry, and are the result of natural and organic distribution, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about!

The future: providing real value for end users

With Hummingbird, Google have made it pretty much impossible for you, us or anybody else to use underhanded, manipulative tactics in order to trick their algorithms into giving a site a higher ranking than it deserves. Instead, Hummingbird encourages a more holistic outlook in terms of building search traffic and rankings. Creating awesome, in-depth content is now more important than ever; if your content is under-par, perhaps some market research is in order? Find out what your end users really want so that you can deliver it to them.

Of course, great content is still only the start of the story. Building contacts and networking within your industry is vital to help your content spread organically. Likewise, in the post-Hummingbird era, putting time and effort into maximising the effectiveness of social media is not something on which you can skimp. But that’s a post for another time…

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