The answer to the question is, without a doubt; Google is slowly, but steadily, moving away from links to content because the company sees the future of search, which includes an undeniable rise in mobile. Combine this established trend with the fact that more mobile and voice queries are being made, and you arrive at only one conclusion–conversational search.
This certitude comes with a Google Webmasters video in which Matt Cutts states precisely that the search engine is advancing toward content, “I think as we get better understanding who wrote something and what the real meaning of that content is, inevitably over time there will be a little less emphasis on links.”
Of course, this isn’t to say links are going away completely, because they are built into the architecture of the internet, and that’s why it’s called the web in the first place. Links are necessary to facilitating moving from one place to another and backlinks have been key to understanding the worth of a site.
Proof Google Moving Away from Links to Content
Hummingbird is the fourth algorithm to point directly to the shift toward conversational search and user intent. Interpreting context is the very mission that particular piece of sophisticated software is designed to execute. In addition, Cutts cites the fact that ranking authority is another goal the search engine is working towards by putting user needs first. He says that while links can provide some measurable data, it’s ultimately the content on the page that is most important, “For the most part, people care about the quality of the content on a particular page.”
The other three algorithms which clearly show this transition are Panda, EMD, and Penguin, all of which place more importance on content and/or ferret out link schemes and other poor quality material and black hat tricks.
Cutts goes on to name experts in the field of SEO, saying that matching people like Danny Sullivan and Vanessa Fox, for example, helps the search engine to determine the quality of the content. The software engineer remarks that outside those markers, Google is becoming more sophisticated in understanding conversation and context, “Google is getting better at actual language.”
That development is made possible, in-part, with data inside the Knowledge Graph, which is an encyclopedia of 570 million concepts and relationships.
Taking Advantage of the Transition
The good news is, Matt Cutts, and his colleagues at Google, have been telling us for a while that content is king. The reason is obvious, that’s what page visitors interact with, it’s what initiates their impression about a company, brand, service, or product. The better the writing, the graphics, and the entire user experience, the more trust visitors have.
Relevance is another marker, and it’s twofold: content that’s relevant to the industry in which a site operates, and relevant to the present, that is to say, staying current. For instance, if a consumer lands on a site from a search query, that person fully expects to find the best, most accurate, up-to-date information.
That’s where search is heading, so, businesses should place a lot of value on the content they are offering to the public because that’s where Google is undoubtedly going.