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Google Explains What’s Important For Top Rankings

Screenshot of Google's Webmaster Trends Analyst, John Mueller

In a Google After Hours Office Hangout Google’s John Mueller answered a question about links and rankings.

Along the way he demonstrated that sometimes what we think we know about SEO isn’t entirely correct.

He then offered advice on how to fight for the top rankings.

Everyone Knows You Need Links

The publisher started off asking a question by stating that “everyone knows” that dofollow links are necessary for rankings.

And that’s where the publisher was mistaken.

So part of the answer to their question is they need to step back and consider that maybe there are gaps in what they know about SEO.

There is no shame in considering that there is a gap in knowledge.

Everyone benefits from keeping an open mind.

Here’s the question:

Everyone knows that a dofollow link will help to gain rank besides many other signals. So no one is linking to me with a dofollow link as it costs some link juice for them as well.

So how can a newbie like me grow my website if no one is willing to give me do follow links.

And many big sites have implemented sitewide nofollow policies so it’s just next to impossible for me as a newbie to get a dofollow link from a big site.

How can a newbie grow in 2020 or should they write content and wait indefinitely?

Is Google’s system the same like others who favor only big players?

Or will Google come up with new rules for links that will not differentiate between the type of links?

Don’t Assume You Know Everything About SEO

Well, apparently not everyone got the memo that dofollow links are no longer needed for rankings.

Nofollow links can be useful, too.

The publisher asking the question was trying to solve their problem while not being fully educated about SEO, particularly with the state of links.

If you want to be good at search marketing, don’t surround yourself with people who are less knowledgeable than yourself.

Surround yourself with people who can challenge what you think you know.

I’ve been doing search marketing for 20 years and the best company on Facebook, Twitter, forums and in person is always with someone who knows their stuff and can teach me something new.

Even though I’ve been in the business for 20 years, I keep sharp because I’m always assuming there’s more to learn.

John Mueller’s answer began with addressing the lack of dofollow links:

“So for that last one, I think we’re already in that state we’re using nofollow as a signal. It’s not the case that we completely always ignore those links.

Especially in some locations we’ve seen that a lot new websites are only linked with nofollow links and it would be a shame for us not to be able to discover those links and to show them in search.

That’s something where we do try to use nofollow more as a signal.”

What that means is that whatever ranking problems the publisher who asked the quest has, it’s not about a lack of dofollow links.

The publisher is focusing on the wrong thing.

Blaming the lack of dofollow links is an excuse for poor rankings.

It’s not an explanation for poor rankings.

It’s easy to seize on an excuse to explain why a site doesn’t rank.

It’s better to be open minded and explore all the reasons why another site is ranking and why yours is not.

Settling for an excuse closes the door on finding out how to improve rankings and traffic.

Do not settle for the obvious reasons (example: they have more dofollow links).

Because once a person grabs hold to an excuse the war for top rankings is lost.

How to Fight for Top Rankings

Mueller goes on to explain that the battlefield for top rankings exists on a larger area than just links:

In general though I think it’s also worthwhile to think about the bigger picture when it comes to the web and not just to assume that you need to always just get links and then you’ll be shown in search.

But rather you’re essentially opening up as a business as a storefront in a bigger city and it’s both the case that you shouldn’t just wait for someone to recommend your business nor the case that you should just open your business up and you kind of link wait outside and see if anyone will happen to come by and want to visit your business.

But rather you need to do different things to help promote your business.

And sometimes you do things to call attention to your business in ways that kind of encourage people to take note and to notice that this business exists and they’re doing really great stuff and then people will come and over time recommendations will come as well.

So that’s not something that just happens automatically. It might be that you have to do advertising for awhile to get things going.

It might be that you have to do some kind of special activity to kind of like stand out even more than you otherwise would.

But essentially opening up a website it’s kind of the same as opening up a business and you need to do various things to get the ball rolling and at some point if you’re doing really great work, if you’re doing something that’s really fantastic for people then you will get recommendations from various folks.

And those recommendations could be in the form of dofollow links. They could be in the form of nofollow links.

It could be just general recommendations maybe on social media where people are saying, well this business is doing a great job you should check it out.

And you might just get more people coming by.

So with all of that said, I would say that you need to think more than just looking at links and rather think about how you can grow a business in general which involves all kinds of activities.”

Six Takeaways to Help Improve Your Rankings

There are six takeaways from Mueller’s answer:

  1. Google uses new rules that allow nofollow links to count as a link signal. This does not mean that spammy nofollow comment spam is going to work. It means that normal nofollow link from normal websites may count as a link.
  2. This benefits sites that operate in niches where sites tend to link to each other with nofollow links.
  3. Promoting a business is about more than getting links.
  4. Building traffic to a website is about being proactive and similar to building traffic to a brick and mortar. In both cases you have to figure out ways to make your business be different in order to be notable and better than competitors.
  5. Avoid excuses about why you are not ranking. You will NEVER learn why your site is failing to rank by picking the scabs of what’s wrong with your site.
  6. Focusing on what you think is wrong won’t necessarily help you rank better. Focusing on all the ways to get the word out is more productive.

Bonus Insight

In my opinion, focusing on what you think is wrong with your site is not a good strategy.

The better strategy is focusing on why the top ranked sites are top ranked.

But focus on more than the traditional old-time dust covered ranking signals.

Instead, focus on the innovations that make a top ranked site important to users.

What the Google Webmaster Central Office Hours here

Category News SEO
SEJ STAFF Roger Montti Owner - at

I have 25 years hands-on experience in SEO and have kept on  top of the evolution of search every step ...

Google Explains What’s Important For Top Rankings

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