Gary Hainsworth

A World Without Links

30th Dec 2013 SEO Blog, Link Building, SEO Blog 5 minutes to read

EarthImagine a world without links and a web without link bulding. It’s a scary concept but what if Google removed link value from their algorithm altogether? This blog post will explore the other ‘off page’ SEO factors (and some new factors) so you can be less reliant on links.

So what else could be considered instead of links?


Citations are often used in local search campaigns but they can also benefit nationwide projects. Citations are “mentions” of your business name, address and phone number (NAP) on other webpages (even if there is no link to your domain).

Unlike traditional link building citations don’t need to be linked to your business’s website in order for you to be credited for the reference. To reap the full benefits of citations you need to provide as much information as possible and make sure you reference the full NAP.

On a local and national level citations are a key component of Google’s algorithm. If the majority of other SEO factors are equal businesses with greater citations are more likely to rank higher.

To make citations work for you it is important that each reference exactly matches the NAP on your website and on your Google+Local page. It is also worth adding your NAP details to Bing Places, Yahoo Local and Apple Maps.

You should not have any duplicate listings as this can confuse search engines. Search for your name in Google MapMaker as this can often highlight duplicate listings.

Verify all the listings and give as much information as possible. Include your company logo and select the correct category.



If Google turned off link value tomorrow (don’t worry they won’t) how would they determine if content is credible? Authorship is their next best way to see if content has value.  It still surprises me how many businesses don’t take advantage of this great feature.


Authorship as a stand-alone feature has multiple benefits.  You can:

  • Add a face to your work
  • Stand out over plagiarists who scrape your content
  • Connect with readers associated to the Google+ account
  • Get content indexed faster
  • Increase CTR for posts with author snippets in SERPs

As well as the benefits above you can also make content rank higher by improving your Author Rank. This is based on engagement and social factors linked to your rel author account. If you have a strong Google+ profile link it to as much of your content as possible. This can include news articles, blog posts or even main web page content. As an ‘off page’ indicator I expect authorship to grow and grow.

You can see from the video below that Google have big plans for authorship and it will become a massive quality indicator in 2014.

Social Signals

‘Social signals’ is one of the great buzz words in modern SEO. Most agree that social is an essential pillar in modern day online marketing but could it replace traditional link building? Watch this space. If Google devalued links altogether you can bet your bottom dollar that social would quickly become one of the primary quality indicators. Social signals are harder to game and show human support.

What is a social signal? Some examples include:

  • Number of Twitter followers
  • Number of Tweets mentioning your name
  • Number of Facebook fans
  • Number of Facebook shares of your content
  • Number of people that have you in their Google+ circles
  • Number of YouTube subscribers
  • Strength of Pinterest account (particularly for Google Images)
  • Strength of LinkedIn company page (particularly for B2B sectors)

One brand who do well across social media is Ben & Jerry’s.

Ben & Jerrys

Again, if the majority of other SEO factors are equal businesses with the stronger social presence should win.

To strengthen your social following connect your blog to your social profiles and populate the platforms with high quality content. Share buttons and connect buttons are essential to allow it to spread.

Custom Short URL

If you are active on social media I strongly suggest your own custom URL shortener. This is a great way to get your brand out there and prompt additional mentions. Here is more information on how to create your own customized short URL.

For example at Koozai we exclusively use

URL Shortener

Although this may never be seen as a ranking signal it is a simple way to gain an extra bit of brand exposure whenever you share links.

Email Marketing

A strange concept but a well-managed email marketing list can contribute to your SEO. Although this won’t happen directly (Google won’t even see your email unless you store it online and make it indexable) it’s all about the quality of your list and the knock on effect it has.

The bigger your list gets the more people tend to Tweet and share your content. This in turn will contribute to social signals and wider awareness of both your content and your brand, in turn generating many other signals.

Become a Brand

When it comes to SEO big brands (almost) always win. This begs the question ‘how does Google distinguish between big and small brands’? All big brands have similar features (other than huge link profiles). They have:

  • Mentions of a brand (with or without links)
  • A high volume of brand mentions in close proximity to certain keyword sets (eg Ben & Jerry’s in close proximity to Ice Cream’)
  • Brand name within the domain
  • Brand name in meta titles
  • Strong social media presence (including engagement and mentions)

So try to act like a big brand whenever you can. Tara’s video offers more tips on this:



So there you have it. A world without links doesn’t sound that bad after all. Google will always use links as a way to qualify websites but evidence suggests this will become less and less dominant as their algorithm evolves.

Citations, authorship, social signals and brand mentions are all credible ways to signify the strength of your content. If you practise the tactics above you can become less reliant on links and be less fearful of the next penguin update.

Image Credits

Earth via Bigstock

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Gary Hainsworth

Senior Organic Data Specialist

Having worked in SEO for over a decade, Gary knows everything worth knowing about search engines and technical SEO. A talented search marketer, Gary has worked for several exciting brands during his career to date, including the likes of the V&A, Warburtons, the NHS and the Lake District National Park. In his personal life Gary has a passion for guitars – be that playing them, modifying them or building them! He relates strongly with the humble and kind hedgehog, who also happen to be as prickly as his musical taste; anything loud, fast and angry.


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