Links Not Always the Best Indicator of Relevance

In Search, Sometimes the Most Relevant Results Are Harder to Find

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In a recent video uploaded to Google’s Webmaster Central YouTube channel, Matt Cutts talks about creating tags and categories on blogs for SEO purposes. Rather, he discusses how there’s not much point in creating them for this reason.

On average, how many tags do you include with your articles/blog posts? Let us know.

"Google is pretty good at saying, ‘You know what? The first time you say a phrase, it’s interesting, and the second time you say a phrase, it’s still a little bit useful,’" says Cutts. "After a while, we sort of realized, ‘okay, you’ve said that phrase, you don’t have to keep repeating it 8, 9, 10 different times.’ So there are certainly some blogs (including some really popular blogs) who have like an entire paragraph full of tags. And they have clearly spent a lot of time, almost as many, you know, minutes writing tags out as they have the actual content of the post. And I always laugh at that because it’s not really that needed."

He notes that a lot of the time, the tags are already words that are used in the post, so it won’t make that much difference.

Matt appears to be discussing how much the tags will benefit the page the actual content appears on. However, he doesn’t really go into the pages that contain listings of the articles contained within those tags, at least with relation to SEO (He does point out that the tag pages can be useful because they can provide a feed for just that category). This is probably because they don’t do particularly well in search engines either, which could be because they aren’t linked to particularly often.

Google is all about providing users with the most relevant results for the best user experience, and maybe the fact that these kinds of sites aren’t often featured near the top of results could be considered an area where Google isn’t necessarily delivering the best results.

For example, If I wanted to find all WebProNews SEO articles, there is no better place than our tag page for "SEO" at webpronews.com/tag/seo. There, any user looking to find WebProNews SEO articles would find all of them arranged by date. If I wanted to see all of the Facebook articles Mashable has, I can do that by going to mashable.com/tag/facebook. Yet neither of these pages are returned anywhere near the top for queries like "webpronews SEO articles" or "mashable facebook articles", at least in the results I get (they can vary from user to user). Instead, you might find indvidual articles and results from other sites, with what I would consider to be most relevant pages nowhere in site.

Links are only one of the many factors Google takes into consideration for its rankings, but they are commonly known to be one of the biggest. These tag pages simply highlight the fact that links may not always be the best indicator of relevance.

Note: Our SEO tag page is crawled, and is even featured as one of our "site links" seen by searching for "WebProNews” on Google.

Would you consider there to be a more relevant result for a query like those mentioned above than such tag pages? Do you think Google’s algorithm could be improved in this area? Are links always the best indicator of relevance? Share your thoughts.

Links Not Always the Best Indicator of Relevance
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  • http://bowi-annuaire.fr/ Dan

    You are right, description must be changed very often and links should point to index and internal pages. If you always point to index and have many links, Google may consider this as spam.

  • http://www.webpro.in Bharati Ahuja

    Totally agree.

    In My opinion everybody has just gone too far thinking only about how to get more and more links. I am sure when the PageRank concept must have been framed, the main purpose must have been to judge the true goodwill and popularity of the website in direct proportion to the no. of inbound links it has.

    But with all these ethical and unethical methods of gaining more and more links the whole purpose is defeated.

    If the site is having good informative content and with ethical SEO practices it ranks high in the search engines then it automatically gets a lot of links from various sources.

    As the main purpose of a genuine searcher is to search for what is available globally and locally. Once the searcher finds that it surely gets added and linked by him in various ways.

    Instead all the energies and efforts should be concentrated on building the website qualitatively in various ways by adding more varied content.

    Don’t run after links. Let them come to your website genuinely.

  • http://www.byfchat.com Chat

    Do links really result in the best sites being shown in the top results? NO!!!!!!!!!!!

    In the chat market I know for a fact that the best sites do not rank well, in fact some of the top sites that rank on top have outdated sites, outdated chat software and unhappy customers.

    The bottom line is having links as a major factor in the algorithm creates SPAM. Millions of sites are spamming the internet everyday just to get links.

    I find it funny how search engines complain about spam yet demand it for ranking purposes.

    Bharati Ahuja said in their article that people would add links naturally if you had a good site. My question is how are they going to be found in the first place? No links, no rankings, cant be found to be added! It’s pretty clear.

    Google is guilty of creating major spam on the internet, simply because they demand incoming links. That needs to be changed. Now they want us to go create blogs with even more spam on the net.

    The search engine algorithm isn’t as sophisticated as some think it is!

    People spend way too much time trying to get links when that energy could be focused on improving site quality for users. Right now quality doesn’t count. It’s LINKS LINKS LINKS, SPAM SPAM SPAM.

  • http://www.craig-west.co.uk Karl

    I’ve always been taught that quality is better than quantity and this just backs up that learning.

    Until about 2 years ago I went after links like crazy, getting as many as possible from wherever I could find them (still not quite believing what I’d been taught). But recently, it has really become apparent that quality is key. I can get the same credibility from a single quality source as I used to get from 20 random ones.

    So, I’m just grateful that this has been settled.

    Karl Craig-West
    My business rantings

    • Shay

      Well Karl Craig-West, this hasnt been one of those quality links! LOL
      Theres a rel=”nofollow” on the links when you post in this forum. It doesnt count as a link.

  • Rob

    Links can be an indicator of relevance, but Google relies on them way too much. The spammers know it, and they exploit it. You can have a lot of great content, but people can steal it, set up networks of very large sites, and outrank you in Google. Why? Links. Google’s other problem is that it relies to much on the size of a site. Big sites are more immune to theft/duplicate content than smaller ones. Between links and site size, Google’s determination of authority is out of whack. Sites that are small and independently run are pretty much screwed in Google, regardless of the quality of their content. You might be ok for a while, but once people realize you have good content, they will just take it and use it against you.

  • http://www.internetandsearchmarketing.com David

    Good point about links being directed toward the main page and how they should be dispersed among the internal pages as well, nice comment bharati. Still from what I commonly see is that if you have content that people want to share, you content and back links will soar like crazy…Maybe it is time for webmasters to concentrate on quality content rather than wasting all their time trying to force links back…Of course manual link building does help, but when is it to far?

  • http://debtconsolidationreviews.org Michael

    I still think that content is the main driver. The question I have is how does Google look at the content and decide if it is content and not just a bunch of links or words?

    But even if you have heaps of content, that does not mean that Google will rank the page/site higher. There still, evidently, has to be other criteria such as keywords, links and backlinks and possibly other factors also.

    One is still working blind to some degree with Google being the one eyed in the kingdom.

  • http://www.laymanwebdesign.com DLayman

    There’s only a few things that I look for to find out whether my website is relevant or not and that is visits, “repeat” visits, and point of entry rather than links.

    If the number of visits is increasing, that’s a good sign. If the number of repeat visits is increasing, that’s a better sign and finally, if their point of entry is the home page, that’s an indication that they’re typing in the name of my website to find me without necessarily using a search engine.

    That’s more important to me than whether or not I have 1,000 external links.

  • Richard Kay

    Over the past 1-2 years we have been learning more and more about SEO which has impacted our web strategy tremendously. I find chasing links to up pagerank is the only tangible way to monitor SEO progress. With other methods like Keyword optimisation, tags, article submissions and PPC I find it difficult to able to measure progress in the same way. However, I find it very frustrating that ‘link building’ simply appears to be fueling more and more submission sites/directories that either have little relevance to our business or are rarely used by ‘true traffic’. With this in mind and with more research (like reading this blog for example) I am trying to adopt a more synergistic web strategy that looks at all aspects of SEO rather than focusing simply increasing links to our site and hope to see well established results in the long term.

  • http://www.poetryofcourse.com Mary Sayler

    Thank you for this reader-friendly discussion and the helpful response above too. As a poet, I prefer pencil and paper but saw a need for helping other writers through my website and blogs.

    Fortunately Google’s Blogspot made the latter especially easy, so I had no problem setting up the blogs, but getting them where people can find them has been a mystery to me. Your posting gives me a clearer picture.

    When you have a chance, I hope you’ll discuss what to do about getting articles and hotlinks “out there” via resources such as Digg. The problem I’m finding is that the better sites seem to be more oriented toward business services, so the primary categories don’t fit well. I’d welcome your thoughts and suggestions. Thanks again.

  • paul

    ‘Google is all about providing users with the most relevant results for the best user experience’

    Really? I thought it was about returning the results from the websites with the biggest budgets – maybe I’ll give it another go see if it’s become useful again.

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