Eric Ward might have been right. “The sites that thrive and survive will be the sites that find ways to create link profiles that provide them with traffic other than from Google,” he said in multiple interviews over the last two decades. His words have begun to prove even stronger as the Google Machine shifts its way toward deeper machine learning in more and ever more query strings. It is this shift that makes it pertinent for every link builder to hearken back to old ways of think. Why? Because traffic is like magic for your SEO/Internet Marketing campaign.
For the purpose of this article I need you to take off your Business owner hat and throw on your Geeky Gray Beanie link building cap then hold onto your spreadsheet.. Done? Alright let us begin.
Not All Link Traffic Is Created Equal or Familiar to All SEO Types
Back in 2012 a certain man with a very well know last name submitted a patent for review that examined ways to determine quality traffic from links to websites from Google (read SERP snippet clicks). This “Panda 2” patent was granted in 2015 after being in play for some time already. Take a gander at the summary below and get ready:
Methods, systems, and apparatus, including computer programs encoded on computer storage media, for determining a first count of unique queries, received by a search engine, that are categorized as referring to a particular site; determining a second count of unique queries, received by the search engine, that are associated with the particular site, wherein a query is associated with the particular site when the query is followed by a user selection of a search result that (a) was presented, by the search engine, in response to the query and (b) identifies a resource in the particular site; and determining, based on the first and second counts, a site quality score for the particular site.
In brief, what this patent says is that Panda and a colleague have designed and document a method to examine the traffic a website receives from a Google link(serp snippet) and rate the website based upon that traffic. Calling it a "Quality Score" makes a lot of sense since this comes from the designer of our favorite black and white bear Google update.
Well how the heck are they doing that you may ask yourself. Simple. The have designed math to analyze and score "navigation queries". These navigation queries are terms people have typed into the search box on Google.com/any tld you like. In theory, Google then evaluates the quality of a website, assigns it a score and modifies it's RankScore which in turns changes where it appears in the search result for any given query.
Don't think that serp link traffic is important? Check this out:
Does The Website That Links To Me Really Matter?
What does this have to do with links and traffic? To answer that we need to examine another patent: Producing a ranking for pages using distances in a web-link graph. This is one of my favorites. It completely changed the way the Link Builders we hire at Planted Tree Analyze link opportunities.
Methods, systems, and apparatus, including computer programs encoded on a computer storage medium, for producing a ranking for pages on the web. In one aspect, a system receives a set of pages to be ranked, wherein the set of pages are interconnected with links. The system also receives a set of seed pages which include outgoing links to the set of pages. The system then assigns lengths to the links based on properties of the links and properties of the pages attached to the links. The system next computes shortest distances from the set of seed pages to each page in the set of pages based on the lengths of the links between the pages. Next, the system determines a ranking score for each page in the set of pages based on the computed shortest distances. The system then produces a ranking for the set of pages based on the ranking scores for the set of pages.
I ask you this question. Would being linked to by Google, Yahoo or Bing's most trusted pages (read SERP) be a indicator of quality? I beg to answer that yes. Yes it would.
So let us examine that very quickly. Google has looked at methods of determine a certain type of traffic they want to see coming from links they point to your website. Interesting you say? Well. Ask yourself why the heck is this crazy old SEO calling my Google SERP rankings a link?
To answer that we need to revisit the second patent mentioned above and ask ourselves who Google would think offers a more authoritative link. Themselves, Bing, Yahoo or the Affiliate selling little blue pill replacements? Open your mind and start look too at every edge/anchor connecting different online documents together as "links" so you can get beyond the mentality that a link only comes from websites like your own.
When we read "The system next computes shortest distances from the set of seed pages to each page in the set of pages based on the lengths of the links between the pages." we should be reading "The less hops to get to the seriously trusted page the better." Taking that knowledge and looking at what websites my be "trusted" by any given search engine we can be pretty sure that Google, Yahoo, Bing and other top level sites like Huffington Post might have pages that are considered seeds.
If they are able to rank documents as seeds then it goes to figure they might judge the links that come from those documents as more powerful than links that come from documents 10 hops away from the seed document.
So. Before we go on to specific patents that have been granted recently regarding "links" with traffic I ask you to comment below with your thoughts on the value of a "link" from Google, Yahoo or Bing. Secret. I left out a specific patent from 2012 that Yahoo was granted. Hint. It has to do with seed sites.
If you are in the habit of "outreach" or "link building" there is one more patent you should pay attention to. It addresses the quality of the links you are building and offers some hints as to what you really should be looking for in a Back Link Page.
How does google assign quality score to a backlink?
Methods, systems, and apparatus, including computer programs encoded on a computer storage medium, for determining a measure of quality for a resource. In one aspect, a method includes determining a seed score for each seed resource in a set. The seed score for a seed resource can be based on a number of resources that include a link to the seed resource and a number of selections of the links A set of source resources is identified. A source score is determined for each source resource. The source score for a source resource is based on the seed score for each seed resource linked to by the source resource. Source-referenced resources are identified. A resource score is determined for each source-referenced resource. The resource score for a source-referenced resource can be based on the source score for each source resource that includes a link to the source-referenced resource.
The above quote is from a patent granted Jan 31st 2017 named: Determining a quality measure for a resource. As you can see it focus on determining the overall quality of a document based upon the links pointing toward that document. Beyond the usual "Reasonable surfer" model of PageRank, this Quality Measure looks at something a little more tangible. Traffic!
To make a long story short the above patent lays out processes to determine the quality of a backlink profile based upon the traffic and user metrics of each page in that profile. If a backlink comes from a page that has no traffic or engagement then that backlink might be used to determine the overall quality of your websites/pages backlink profile.
Picture it this way. Site A has 10 backlinks from websites they created. Those 10 sites do not rank, they don't advertise and are basically the desert of the internet. Site B has 10 backlinks but they come from websites that have their own user base so eventually the pages that point at Site B rank. Now lets think about the three patents above and look at how it might affect this situation.
Now that we have covered three very important concepts that have popped up in various Patents attributed to Google or their employees lets look at how this might be implemented in the trenches. The easiest way to think about this is something that we at Planted Tree Marketing like to call "Tripple T" or Trust, Traffic and Theme.
From the "Panda 2" patent referenced above we know that Google is potentially looking at giving websites a quality score based upon navigational queries in the SERPs. Now I don't know about you but I would much prefer a link from a website Google has given a Quality Score to rather than one it has not. It just makes sense that this would bring more Trust to your target page.
Not only would this Quality Score help but to get that Quality Score the website must be linked to from Google (SERP Snippet) which takes advantage of the distance graph mentioned above. Another RankScore modifier covered and higher rankings to boot. Beyond that distance is the fact that Google is now potentially sending the Backlink page Traffic from a Themed query because the backlink page is on a themed topic.
So while patents can seem confusing, breaking them down into easy to understand concepts such as Triple T can allow us to future proof our link building campaigns and through that ensure we do not awaken to massive ranking decreases one morning when Google decides to implement these concepts across the board.