Why Link Building Is NOT the Future of SEO

future of seo

Over the years, SEOs focused all their attention on link building. Why? Because it impacted rankings more than anything else.

Although links still help with rankings, the big misconception in the search world is that the majority of your time and effort should be placed on building links.

So, if building links is not what you should be spending your time on, what is? It’s user experience—because it will impact rankings more than anything else.

Here’s why user experience will impact your rankings more than links will: 

What’s best for users is best for Google

As you already know, Google makes a large portion of its revenue from ads. If users started to see search results that weren’t relevant, what would they stop doing?

Using Google, right?

If Google wants to continually ensure that it stays the leader in the search game, it has to provide users with the best results. This doesn’t come down to links or on-page code. It comes down to user experience.

Sure, having links and an optimized site ensures that search engines can crawl your site, but Google would rather rank a relevant to a search query webpage with no links than one that contains hundreds of links but is only somewhat relevant.

Here’s how I believe it measures the relevance of a search result:

  • Click-through rate – as you know, this metric is about the number of people who see a listing and actually click through to the site. For example, if most of the searchers inputting a specific query are clicking on the second listing and not the first, it should tell Google that the second listing is more relevant.
  • Bounce rate – if users are hitting the back button within their browsers and going back to the search listings page, chances are they didn’t find what they were looking for, especially if they click on another listing after they hit the back button. In an ideal world, Google wants to give you the best result first so you don’t have to keep going through listings to find the answer you are looking for.
  • Time on-site – after users perform a search, they tend to click on a listing. Assuming a portion of those people will hit the back button, Google will eventually (if it already isn’t) analyze the time it took the user to hit the back button. If users do this within three seconds, it will tell Google that the result is less relevant than the result that kept users on-site for five minutes before they clicked back.

In essence, the sites with the best user experience are going to win in the long run. That means sites with good quality content, media, etc. will tend to rank better in the long run.

Plus, the sites that put their users first tend to generate the highest number of social shares and backlinks organically. They don’t focus on manual link building; instead, they focus on providing the best user experience.

What’s an example of a great user experience?

Google the phrase “online marketing.” You’ll see Quick Sprout towards the top.

online marketing

As you can see below, my site has the least number of backlinks compared to a lot of the webpages that rank beneath me. Just look at Wikipedia and Forbes who rank below me. Both of those sites have many more backlinks than I do.

online marketing backlinks

So, what’s the main difference? The page I send users to provides a much better user experience. I spent over $40,000 creating that guide. I know it sounds crazy, but I am now finally seeing the fruits of my labor.

Another great example of how Google values user experience is when it penalizes a site. For example, if BMW gets penalized for unethical link building, Google still has no choice but to rank BMW for the term “BMW.”


It’s such a popular query that users would be really upset with Google if it stopped ranking BMW. Users wouldn’t care if BMW did unethical link building—they just want to get to BMW’s site.

Granted, Google can ding BMW’s ranking for generic keywords, but if it dings them for brand keywords, it will hurt Google’s reputation with users more than it would hurt BMW.

What does this mean for you?

By no means am I saying that you should ignore SEO. Optimizing your code for search engines, building links when you have spare time, and growing your social media channels are all activities you should continually do.

But they shouldn’t be your main focus.

You should be shifting the majority of your focus to building a great product or service as that is what users want. And when you aren’t building, you should be creating great content.

You need to provide content so great that people will want to not only read it but also bookmark it, share it, and tell their friends about it. Your content should be so detailed and helpful that no competitor would dare to copy you as it would take too much time and energy.

In addition, you should be signing up for Google Webmaster Tools and continually analyzing your click-through rates. You can get this data by clicking on “search traffic” in the navigation bar and then clicking on “search analysis.”

google webmaster tools

Your goal should be to get more clicks out of every impression. You can do this by following the tips in this article.


SEO isn’t rocket science. Sure, Google has a ton of PhDs working for it, but its goal is aligned with yours: Google just wants to provide users with the best possible experience.

So, if you can create the best product/service and write the best content out there, you will be helping users. Eventually, Google will see this, and your rankings will climb. You may not see the best results in the short run, but over time things will get better.

What do you see as the future of SEO?


  1. Peeyush Rajput :

    I think click-through rate is most important than link-building or any other SEO factor.A great thanks to you Neil for writing this informative article.

    • Christopher Pontine :

      Hey Peeyush,

      Click-through is a huge one. Means, heck yeah I did a good job with title and descriptions.

      I think also:

      Having a nice bounce rate too is very nice. Letting google know.

      “Hey, when they go to that article, they stay there for a few”

      Let’s boost those bad boys up a bit.


      Christopher Pontine

      • Peeyush & Christopher: Great points. It’s all about creating the best experience for people visiting your site. Click through rates and bounce rates are a good sign that you are doing the right things — it’s the subtle things that make all the difference.

        • Peeyush Rajput :

          Neil I am grateful to you for writing this article.Can you also tell me how to write attractive meta-descriptions to increase the click-through rate because I thinks that meta description matters a lot.

        • Hello Neil,
          These are quite realistic matters one should consider, but we should not forget how Google’s algo works. It works from pages to pages. Google would notice from where people are coming to you and how reputable that site is. Still it’s about link building but it will in decent form.
          It might empower those who can spend more on getting links from high authority websites. Rest will use older techniques, am I right?

          • Junaid– at the end of the day quality content and relevancy will provide the best results. Whether that be in your text or creative work.

        • Christopher Pontine :

          Totally Neil,

          One thing I didn’t really focus on.

          And when I started do that finally, I noticed a nice HIGH Five from Google for doing so.

          Wondering what I did?

          I focused on updated my title to make it more actionable, and a description that gets people wanting to click.

          Of Course.

          Once there, I make sure I create content and not just click bate.


          Christopher Pontine

      • Great post Neil. I’m still learning how to rank in Google. I learned a lot from your blog.


        We can easily use click bots to increase UX right? Is google really going to use user experience as metrics for desktops? I know they announced it in mobile.


        • Argyle, it seems to be the trend — I’ll just stay tuned until then.

          • Anil Agarwal :

            Link building is still one of the crucial things that make or break a blog’s success. When done right, you can also bring traffic from search engines without link building.

            Great share, and I’ll implement your strategies Neil!

      • Question for anyone who can answer – are sites that split their content over multiple pages attempting to game the bounce rate? (I mean content that’d easily fit into a single page, not monsters like Neil’s marketing guide)

        I know they get more ad impressions that way as well, but I don’t see that a user is any more likely to click an ad on the second page than they are the first page.

      • What if I told you… click-rate…. can be easily spammed with a simply scripted and 10000’s of proxies.. Search keyword… find targeted site, click targeted site… Stay on site for random time.. Do it again with 10000’s of proxies.

        Do you think Google would reply on that? Because you can do that.

        • Right @charles, that’s why sites like pandabot are running successfully, Google can categorize backlinks by quality but if it makes UX the most important factor then people would be able to manipulate it more easily because there will be nothing like quality.

          Not a single ranking factor can be important ever, Google will keep adding new ranking factors and the old ones will remain in action, backlinks still work, because it’s natural that something viral will get lots of backlinks and social shares.

  2. Informative post on the future of seo!

    I agree with you that building a great product or service is the way to go.

    My key point on your post Neil is “Your content should be so detailed and helpful that no competitor would dare to copy you as it would take too much time and energy.”

    Neil Q: What do you see as the future of SEO?

    Steve A: Content Marketing for sure but i’m wondering if it will get kind of saturated.

    Have a great day!

    • Steve, market differentiation is very important. It’s vital to make sure that your content and website speak to a segment of your niche that is highly engaged. That’s where all the magic happens.

  3. Now this is some great stuf

    When I started off with blogging, I thought creating backlinks was the game

    The I found out people have to love you stuff first.

  4. I agree that all this stuff is important, but how can you get Click Throughs if you aren’t ranking first?

    CTR is definitely important and will help *boost* you up once you are ranking, but you need to be showing up on the first page of Google before anyone can have the chance to Click Through or not.

    • That’s not necessarily true. I’ve had plenty of sites ranking #11 (at the top of the 2nd page) for a query that got clickthroughs. If you look at any robust site with a lot of content, you’ll find lots of queries where you get traffic even though you’re not ranking on the first page of Google.

      A few years ago, I had a friend who got more traffic being at the top of page 2 for a phrase in Bing than some of his competitors were getting. He had a page that wasn’t ranking as well as it should, but the title tag made it a lot clearer that he’d actually answered the question being asked than the other pages.

      People will keep scrolling through the SERPs looking for answers to their questions. If your title tag and description suck, you won’t get clickthroughs regardless of which page you land on.

      • Randy, thanks for answering Todd’s question — it’s spot on.

        Much like Todd mentioned if you answer user queries precisely you’ll find that they’ll be more inclined to click through no matter where you rank (within reason). It’s important to stand out in the field. I myself will search deep into results if I can’t find my answer on page 1 or 2

        • Thanks for your replies, guys. But that still means getting to page 2 of Google.

          If you look at the numbers, it’s very unlikely you’ll get much visibility if you’re not on the first page, I’ll even give you the second page. Yes, “Internet savvy” gents like us will dig through the SERPs to find what we are looking for (I actually have my Google settings to show 100 results instead of 10), but you can’t expect that from most people.

          So that still leaves us needing to get to “the top”, whether that’s page 1 or the first 2 pages or whatever, but you still need to have your page ranking in the top small percentage of results in order for people to see it in the results and have the opportunity to click through.

          I agree, getting in front of people and getting clicked on will help bring you higher, clicks can definitely bump you from 13 to 7, or 7 to 3. But you still need to be in a position that your title tag and description are actually in front of eyeballs.

          Is the point here that if you rank for a really long tail keyword that gets 10 searches a month and you get 8 clicks, then you’ll start ranking higher for short tail keywords?

          I can see that making more sense. But the premise that “Click Throughs give you rankings” can’t be true because you need rankings before people can click.

          • Matt Auckland :

            Thats true in one way, but it’s those people who dig deeper in search results that help push up your rankings.

            On another note social signals help. Links to your pages from Twitter, Google+, and Facebook can all help towards pushing a page up the rankings.

            Once trust is established, your position in search will be improved, but you can only achieve this by optimizing Title and description fields to be snappy, not too short, and answer a question.

            That’s where my training in journalism all those years ago, really helps 🙂

  5. Great post. Content is king. Please share some tips to decrease bounce rate.


    • One way to decrease your bounce rate is to include links to your other blog posts from within the first few paragraphs of your post. If you look closely at Neil’s posts, you’ll see that he does that a lot from here. A user who clicks through to a 2nd page on your site is, by definition, NOT a bounce. So make it easy for your users to click through to more pages on our site.

      • Keith Bresee :

        This is so true, Randy! Once we started putting links to other posts to the blog bounce rate went down by about 20%

        • Randy, again thanks for the great insights and helping out with this question.

          I do that specifically to ensure I am providing value and more resources — When people are reading through your content a thousand questions may come to mind. If you provide links to clarify your writing it’s helpful and makes people stay.

    • Bounce Rate means they hit the one page and leave.
      So the question is … why are they leaving?

      If the page is slow to load – they may leave.
      If the user is slammed with adverts/pop-overs/beg-requests – they may leave.
      If the user is deafened by an auto-play advert/video – they may leave.
      If the user cannot instantly see where the content starts – they may leave.
      If the user cannot see anything relevant and attention grabbing – they may leave.
      If the user struggles to read the content – they may leave.
      If the user cannot interact with the page properly (device vs code/ads in the way of scroll etc.) – they may leave.

      Lots and lots of reasons to leave a page …
      So – does the page actually show in the SERPs for relevant searches?
      Is there some chance you are ranking for irrelevant searches?
      Do you prevent the user from instantly accessing the content?
      Is the content worth their time/effort to read?

      Then you have little tricks …
      1) Lead-downs … Show them the initial answer to their question/search, then tempt them to read more.
      2) Lead-aways … tempt them to click a link to a different page by an offer
      3) Delay their leaving with a video clip
      4) Link related content – such as at the end of the article, link to 2 others that pertain.

      These can reduce bounce rate and increase dwell time before a bounce.

      • Thanks for these helpful tips. I like the way you broke down the problem then solved some issues through examples.

  6. Gael Breton :

    Hey Neil, great post, I have also seen pages of ours rank without a single link if we went the extra mile and created outstanding content. I was actually discussing with some friends the other days that it’s probably better to invest all link building budget back in content and create super HQ pages only.

    • Fraser Cain, the owner and editor of http://www.universetoday.com/, is adamant that you shouldn’t spend any time “link building”, because that takes away time from the creation of content. He also insists that you should only have as many websites as you have girlfriends who know about each other. (In most cases, that means you should only have one site.)

      I don’t follow that advice, but it’s hard to argue with his success. He gets insane amounts of search engine traffic to his site, and he’ll be the first to tell you that it’s because he focuses almost exclusively on keyword research and content creation.

      I ran an experiment with a site a couple of years ago where I did no link building and just wrote content. As I continued to publish pages consistently, the search engine traffic continued to rise, without any link building. I don’t doubt I could have grown the site faster by building links, but it’s important to realize that link building is just one option among many others that SEOs have available to them, and you can succeed without it if you focus hard enough on the rest of game.

    • I wouldn’t say don’t link build – but smart link build.
      I would say invest in content creation and content promotion.

      So make sure you know your audience(s) and what they are looking for,
      then create content to match,
      then socially post about that content to where your audience is.

      Invest some time building relations on social platforms.
      Identify prominent profiles, identify sharers, identify rewarders … and work it from there.

    • Gael, it’s not a bad idea. I would make sure your site architecture is up to date and that you are doing everything else on the optimization front.

      Randy, That’s a great site and he does extremely well on social media as well — which helps in subtle ways. I agree with what he is saying though. If your content speaks for itself then rankings naturally follow.

      Rogerson, thanks for bringing up the part about relationship building. It’s a big piece of getting your content disseminated.

      • There is a kind of overlap/divide.
        To some, link-building includes Social Media pushing/publishing.
        To others, it’s kind of a separate thing.
        Either way – you still generate a small number of links … and if you are lucky, you can generate a lot more (if popular etc.).

        Relationships are key for social.
        If you don’t interact, you remain outside.
        If you don’t get known, no one will read or share.
        So you have to build some sort of relationship. The question is – just how much time/effort you want to invest, and who with.

  7. Anshul Raghav :

    Will it effect my Technology, Howto BLOG, If I will buy a service to build my backlinks??

    • Cameron French :

      Yes, likely very badly.

      As Neil said, even the most relevant high quality links are losing their importance; Google does not like that you can just pay a load of people to post links to your site, so they’re slowly adjusting the algorithm to take that less into account, and social signals more.

      You can’t compare a few hundred (even relevant) links to thousands, tens of thousands of mentions and traffic from Social sources.

      Google knows.

      Google will know more.

      Your best bet for links is valuable content written for humans guest posted onto relevant blogs that are (preferably) bigger than yourself. Alongside a solid social strategy.

      And as always with SEO/SEM – consistency and quality are key.

      • Cameron, thanks for clearing that up.

        Anshul, Ideally you want to focus all your efforts on being a great content provider and solving problems that people in your community are having issues with. Answer their questions often and in a timely manner and they’ll utilize you as a go to resource. Optimization is key.

  8. Cameron French :

    Been following your posts for a good while Neil, really appreciate the help you provide.

    I recently launched a new website, and am beginning to rank for fairly niche and slightly competitive words.

    I haven’t built a single link yet (excluding social links), focusing instead on having my content optimized, written for humans and fun to read. I’ve watched my bounce rates decline, time on site increase and rankings slowly waddle upwards.

    Aiming to push my rankings up to top 10, and hopefully 1-3 for a good few! Should be easy once I have a few directly relevant guest posts sorted out.

    Keep on keep onning 🙂

    • Cameron — awesome and great to hear.

      I look forward to hearing much more from you as your site grows. Let me know if I can help in any way.

  9. Sergey Lucktinov :

    I think Matt Cuts said somewhere that links will always stay one of the major factors, since they tried removing them from their algo and results were much worse experience for Google users in general. Not saying that you shouldn’t pay attention to everything else, however links are there to stay. The reason why you outrank Forbes is because your blog is considered authority in marketing niche. Try outrank them for some financial terms :).

    • Sergey, great points. It’s all about context and relevancy (which is why I rank above a lot of competitors)

      If you optimize and write great content then the rest will follow.

  10. Neil,

    What would future Local SEO look like sense those sites have lower clickthroughs?

  11. How much do you think social signals play into Googles ranking algorithm?

    Additionally, if CTR and Time On Page are becoming metrics that carry more weight, will SEO Optimized Buzz Feed articles rule the SERPS? 🙂

    • Erik, it’s arguable that they already do rank atop SERPS when you type in “top 10 list”

      Social signals do play a role in the mix — but that’s more a results of the distribution channels at play.

  12. Hello Neil,

    While I so agree with not only rushing after backlinking, I do want to transform it rather into “Relationship building” where we stay relevant to our field of interest.

    Too right that unethical link building doesn’t work now. How it will look if a bakery business linking to sports websites all the time?

    Great copy, great headlines lead to better CTR for sure. Definitely it’s time to leave the traditional SEO and become smart by offering something as in form of services and great contents. And social media is more powerful to build an empire of like-minded people.

    Thank you! Happy to share it on my social life!

    ~ Adeel Sami

    • Adeel, great points. It’s all about context and relevancy at the end of the day. If you are misleading users and SERPs it will be indicated in how well you rank.

      Bottom line: do the right things 😉

  13. Gem of an article. I had completely overlooked these factors. Now i am going to work on these as well. By the way, can you suggest the best on page seo guide please?

  14. William Zimmerman :


    Wow. This is jarring. Just purchased an expensive link building course. Not sure what to do now.

    Thanks very much for forcing me to think outside the box.

    All the Best,
    Bill Zimmerman

    • I don’t think that Neil is suggesting that link building isn’t useful or that it’s dead. But for years, SEOs have treated links as the only SEO ingredient that you need, and that’s changing. I’m sure Neil will chime in if he disagrees. 🙂

      • Randy, I completely agree — I don’t think your link building guide is a complete waste of money. Use it in conjunction with your content strategy and you’ll see the best results, Bill.

  15. Sherman Smith :

    Hey Neil,

    I agree with Steve on your content being so detail and focusing more on the products and services.

    I mean the real reason why you get visitors is that they’re looking for solutions right? And you’ve shown here how Google is aligning their algorithms with this ideology.

    So yes, we should be focus on giving our visitors an experience that they can gain from!

    Thanks for sharing !

    • Sherman, thanks for the feedback and helpful tips. At the end of the day its all about how you make users feel — user experience matters.

  16. Barry Feldman :

    Good stuff. I almost always check out the authority of the listings on page one SERPs and often find some very low ones, sometimes with 0 backlinks. You’ve explained why they’re there.

    Not sure I’m with you on “bounce rate” though. You’d no the process from a search engine POV better than me, but…

    If a searcher finds exactly what they’re looking for that could very well be a one-page experience (or bounce), right? Seems like that would indicated perfect relevance.

    • Barry, great point. However, when it comes to bounce rate Google wants to make sure you aren’t just sending people to landing pages. Deep pages with a lot of great content should rank higher — and do rank higher for that reason.

  17. Adarsh Sojitra :

    Yes sir, Nowadays Link building is just a formality. For my long term blog, I never make backlinks but I AM RANKING ON EVERY TARGETED KEYWORDS WITHOUT BACKLINKS.
    Currently Search engine crawlers are Virtual humans as they can understand meaning of any sentence and also uniqueness of content. So, I believe in content Marketing only. Yes, there might be some role of backlinks but I don’t believe.
    Thanks for this article sir….

    • Adarsh, thanks for sharing — we shouldn’t discount the power of backlinks all together. However, we should focus more on providing value to readers.

  18. Thank You Neil for this incredible insights. I am a regular reader of your blog, and I firmly believe that especially for niche blogs user’s experience and engagement is more important than anything else.

    Seth Godin said, “Don’t focus on getting clients but build a TRIBE of your own.”

    I am running a personal development blog for last two years, and I have been following the same. Last month I touched only 60K page views, but I can happily say over the time the tribe that I have build is awesome. Plus I am making thousands of dollars from my blog every month (ad free blog, all income from courses and services – I am following you on this). My blog gave me the freedom to left my full-time job as a Managment Consultant to help more people and built a bigger tribe.

    Thank you for all your insights and with every post of yours I found I am on the right track.

    Neil, you are AWESOME.

    • Ajay, glad I could help.

      It’s all about having a loyal audience that you provide value to at the end of the day — let me know how it all works out.

      • Thanks a zillion Neil, yes it’s all about having a loyal audience – like I am your loyal reader. I would be glad if I can get your guidance to improvise my blog, may it be through email or on a skype call. I understand your schedule is packed but if you can spare even 15 minutes then also I believe it can help me massively.

        If there is even 1% chance to do this, then let me know how can I connect with you.

        Tons of Gratitude for all your valuable insight.

  19. Hey Neil!

    I am a follower of your blogs. I think you have excellent insights into SEO and IM – Past, present and future.

    I am usually in agreement with you, but not this time…. well, not entirely. I would say that that linkbuilding still has its place in SEO in the short and mid-term future, but perhaps not long-term.

    At Semantic Mastery, we are all about proven results, and we have data that shows that linkbuilding, if done correctly and in the right places, has quite an effect on your overall rankings.

    If you can set aside some time out of your busy day for a Hangout of Skype call, I would love to talk to you about how this fits into an overall ranking strategy.

    At any rate, I think you are on point 99% of the time.

    • Marco, I am not discounting it all together — I am just saying things have changed. Context matters a lot more than link building. Shoot me an email to discuss at neil@neilpatel.com

  20. Hi neil,

    Everytime i read your post, i feel like start building great content. But then i wonder how do i get traffic for indian apparel website ? What should i write ? Do really people care reading stuff about sarees and salwar kameez ? Should i really focus on content ? For google definietly yes, but what about the user.

    We can peovide some good phptographs but what about the content ? Content is always same and boring. I always get confused. None of my competitors are doing content marketing, they are just publishing articles to differrent websites.

    Any advice ?

    • E-commerce and sales sites is usually where the generic SEO advice falls short.
      You have to take the core advice, the main concept, and adapt it to suit you.

      In your case … … you sell clothing.
      Your audience is looking for clothing.

      You split your “quality content” between the actual product pages, and complimentary content pages.

      Product Pages.
      So – what can you add to the product pages?
      Clear titles, quality images that can be zoomed and show different colours.
      Details on the materials, the dies, where the material comes from etc.

      Complimentary Pages.
      Sizing charts (if applicable!)
      Care and Cleaning guides?
      Stain removal?
      What to wear for different occasions (Style, colour)?
      Traditional styles vs modern styles?
      How to tell a quality saree from a knock-off?
      Sarees/Salwar Kameez in the press (famous people wearing them etc.)

      I know it is somewhat limited – but look at some other sites, like shoe or dress sites and blogs.
      See the content they generate – and try to adapt it.

      Also, look through your emails. Surely you could put together a solid FAQ from them.
      Can you build a tool for the site? A Suggestion tool that recommends a product based on the users age, the event/usage of the product, their skin colour/tone, the time of year etc.?
      (kind of a fashion advisor)

      • Rogerson, thanks for your insights here.


        Because your audience is broad you can test and have a lot of options here. Have you tried created a look-book for your audience. A lot of big brands and distributors create look books for hot trends in the coming season — consider doing that.

  21. Assaad Hamzah :

    Hello Neil , I thin you’re good ..

    As you said we must focus on content marketing, building links still works in the short run

    Thanks for the post very informative ..

  22. Imran Ahmed :

    Informative and very descriptive post as always.
    Thanks for sharing.

  23. It’s really hard to disagree with your logic on this one, Neil. Time on site and bounce rate are much more effective ways to gauge user experience over blasting a site with thousands of useless links. This just once again points to the theme that high quality content will eventually prevail over all.

    Along those lines, what’s your opinion on pruning back posts / articles on your site that aren’t quite as high quality as what you’re currently producing and don’t really engage a positive user experience? Should they be removed from your blog altogether?

    • MMD, I think one should always conduct an audit to see if links are still relevant — that’s a big part of optimization.

  24. Palash Kumar Daw :

    Click through rate is more important recent day. I think after few days Bounce rate can be a major effect for ranking. Not only backlinks if we can engage paid marketing with Google then he would be more happy 🙂

  25. Arrington Ken :

    I see user experience as the future of SEO. Thank you Neil for making this powerful post. It’s worth it.

  26. Ismail Bouchaour :

    hi neil,
    I am happy since the day I met your blog
    I learn every day
    I’ll have my doctorate in medicine in a few months(from algeria)
    but my passion for the net led me to create a blog on which I spend a lot of time
    he makes me happy
    just a question:
    on my articles
    do I have to Allow trackbacks and pings or not
    thank you for your reply
    cordially ismail

    • Ismail, glad I can help. Trackbacks don’t really harm anything — so I’d just keep them. Please let me know if you need help with anything else.

  27. Although I do agree with what Neil is saying, I do believe that it is a balance between all the major ranking factors and you should always try and improve on all of them – not necessarily just user experience.

    If you are on page 10, how would user experience get you to page 1?

  28. Peter Gonzales :

    Well as I see it SEO is officially dead. Bye Bye link builders….Hello content creators!

  29. Tonmoy Parves :

    Hello Neil, thanks for your this discuss. Yes i am agree with you about the quality of Products. But you know that very well Link Building Will never delete. And It’s the biggest point of SEO . And I am damn sure that you know this better then me. Honestly i have also an experiment But i don’t see the results. Yes, I ranked with many Keywords (Low competitor as well i am newbie) But i don’t get any good update for my DA on MOZ.

  30. Deane Alban :

    I got hurt badly after Panda and decided that writing the best quality posts I can is the way to avoid getting hurt like that again. When I write my goal is to write a better post than any other I see on the internet on that topic. SInce I write a health blog I’m up against sites like WebMd.

    Instead of trying to build links I work on building relationships with other bloggers — especially ones that are bigger than me. I recently had a very popular blog point to an article I wrote on olive oil fraud which received over 500,000 Facebook likes! It was the first time I experienced “true virality” and it’s a beautiful thing! 🙂

    • Deane, great to hear — it’s all about getting back up when things don’t go right. I have experienced a lot of blogging setbacks in the past and just kept going.

  31. What’s a good CTR for Google? Right now I’m getting close to 11%. Are there any tricks to increase this number with titles and descriptions?

  32. James Idayi :

    Hi Neil,

    Thanks for the awesome post.

    I was just thinking, at what % Bounce Rate can you say consider “Okay” Any post on Bounce Rate and how you can make visitors stay longer?


    • James, glad you liked it. I think it all depends on your content and the type of audience you are reaching out to. Traffic numbers matter as well.

  33. For me, you aren’t ranking at all for that keyphrase! You show up below the image results.

    (I used incognito to test this)


  34. Bruno B @ Geeky Explorer :

    A combination of both good SEO and great user experience is the key in my humble opinion. SEO optimization will give you more immediate results while results from user experience tend to appear a lot after that.

  35. Trevor Gustaveson :


    Glad you finally made this post. I’ve always hated the idea of link building. I would rather develop a great website and use social and display for branding purposes, and your authority will grow naturally. Am I wrong here? Do I still need to manually build links?

    • Trevor, I would still focus on building links — however, you should continue focusing on your content and the experience above all else.

  36. Hi Neil

    Valuable insight as usual – very true about marketers and website owners in general concentrating on backlinks. I think part of the problem is everyone wants results fast and most people don’t want to create long, engaging content to reduce bounce rate etc. All that stuff takes time and effort.
    You can outsource the content generation if you have the funds to do so but as you yourself have found with your nutrition blog Neil – you often get content that you’re not entirely happy with and end up changing it anyway.
    My favourite tactic of yours is the infographic, it can turn the dullest of subject matter into an engaging item when executed well. I’m just about to listen to you on a mcmethod podcast 🙂

    Thanks for the info

    • Mark, it’s tough work to find out what people want to read — that’s why the rewards are so great.

      Infographics are a great way to get through the process and write less. They are still tough to build though.

  37. Great post, Neil. It looks like it’s stimulated some great discussion. I hope you don’t mind that I chimed in on a few comments here with my opinions before you were able to answer the questions. Your comments section is looking more like a forum all the time. 🙂

  38. These are OLD ideas – batted around for many years.
    Further, I hate to say it, that is a fairly simplistic view of things, and uses various confusing terms.

    >>> Click Through Rate.
    Referring to SERP click throughs … is no where near clear cut.
    For starters, some of us happen to open multiple tabs from a single page, then browse/graze from those.
    You also have refinement after initial interaction, as well as complete change.

    >>> Bounce Rate is a term used for Google Analytics.
    It is a metric that indicates people that land on a page and then leave the site.
    That may include using the back button, closing the tab, closing the window/program/app, or going else where (via address bar etc.).
    What you seem to mean needs a different name. In the past, I’ve called it;
    * Return To Search Engine Results Pages (RTSERPs)
    * Bounce Back to Search Engine Results Pages (BBTSERPs)
    Either of those terms is far more accurate than Bounce Rate.
    BBTSERPs can be unreliable an a little noisy (see below).

    >>> Time on page.
    Time on Page (ToP) is another common label, though not confusing like BR.
    The idea is that it measures the time people spend on a page, or can be expanded to ToS (Time on Site).
    ToP is also a rather weak one – and somewhat noisy.

    >>> Weak and Noisy Signals!
    Behavioural signals are more than prone to noise.
    Different habbits produce different signal sets. Different content will do the same.

    Consider searching for the time in Africa when the user is in the USA. They see a title in the SERPs, click it, the page loads … Wham, there’s the answer. They leave and do a different search, of close the tab/window.
    Re-searchers … those that have previously searched, may be looking for a specific page to grab the URL. Again, another example of a search, click, close/bounce.
    Or those sites that take a little to load … or make you wait for an advert, or that you have to scroll a little. Those sites cause tiny-minor delays that add up a few seconds … how is G going to account for those compared to those that are obviously shoddy?

    What about multiple tabs/windows? Many people open multiple SERP listings and read through them all. Some may be satisfied with one or more of those listings – how will G know which of 2+ pages opened were satisfactory?
    What about refinement? More than common, you do a search, see some results, aren’t happy with what you see, so you revise your search terms?

    >>> More advanced than the basics!
    Lets be serious here – G are likely using SERP behaviours … and likely have been for over 3 years. But there are multiple signals, and none of them are strong.
    They never will be strong.
    They will instead be filters and modifiers.

    You search for XYZ … you click through some listings … you go back and refine your search for XYZ in USA … tada! Google now knows that the original listings clicked for XYZ are not that relevant for USA. Magic! Maybe not on small scale – but when they see the same SERP behaviour pattern occurring repeatedly … they get the picture.
    They refine their SERPs for personal, and likely location and such that way – so they can refine it in general that way too.

    There is even a patent for Titles and CTRs. This could have been solely for their auto-generated title/descriptions … or it could have been a way to monitor performance of a page by position. A way to decide what order several very closely ranked pages should appear in …. or whether certain pages should rank at all.

    Then there are the content types. G has to match content and type to query type (as well as location and user). It does fairly well at this. Is it able to ascertain what time people are likely to spend on page-type-A vs page-type-B ??? More than likely. Are they going to rely on it?

    Rather than simple ToP, Time on Site and Page Views of Site offer more information and better signal strength (though still noisy). How about Page Interactions? Would it not be far better to see the interaction level on a page as a signal of quality/interest? (And yes, the concept of comments and social indicators (likes/shares/tweets etc. has been discussed in the past too!). Such indicators are far better than a simple bounce after 2 seconds.

    >>> Mass Scale Please!
    Only by using pattern recognition and seeing things on scale are they going to be able to use most behaviours for any real degree.
    They can take the patterns and apply them to other sites.
    This allows the outliers to be removed. This shows the general consensus and overall reaction concentration point (the majority response).

    This is the point when things like Chrome data and even Google Analytics can come in.
    The data from such sources is Not likely to be used for a specific site.
    Not enough people using the browser, not enough sites using the tool. Not enough people using whatever toolbar or app or whatever.
    But that data is collected, and fed to the machine.
    They then build their patterns. They can see what the average behaviour is for a Gallery page. They can see what the typical behaviour is on a forum. They can test and see the difference in timing and interaction levels between what they flag/tag as a quality site compared to one they tagged/flagged as spam.

    As you can see, that’s a long shot from simple Click Through Rates, Bounce Rates an Time on Page!
    Further – even with the advanced and more detailed views … you still have a bunch of somewhat noisy signals. Worse, you are building an approach that ensures that there is seldom any ranking change.
    Think about it … if G were to base rankings on SERP Reactions … the top slots would remain exactly were they are (more so than Links).

    No, Behaviour is NOT going to replace Links.
    It may, along with several other factors, detract from the power of Links, and gain more influence than it currently does … but won’t replace them at all!

    • Wow! This is another article in comments.

      • Yeah, sorry for that … but it’s not the size that matters … it’s the quality!
        So, did it make sense?
        Did you get a better grasp of how G are likely looking at things?

        • Rogerson — insightful but I have to disagree with placing too much emphasis on link building. Quality content and context matter most. That’s not to say that link building isn’t important there are just a ton of factors that go into the process of optimization. With that being said love the feedback and comments — keep them coming!

          • It’s a nightmare. It’s drives me nuts!

            I wish … I really Wish … that it was simply a matter of creating great content and getting rankings that are richly deserved.
            But it does Not work that way – not at all.
            “Build it and they shall come” is, in almost all cases, an utter fallacy.

            If I could just build a site, create great content, plugin the key phrases in the Title, Headings, internal link text, title and alt attributes etc. etc. etc. – I’d be happy.
            But you’d be lucky to see that get you to page 3 for most words.

            You might, if you target long-tail and low-competition terms, get to page 1.
            But the problem with those targets is they tend to be low-search-volume.

            The simple reality, the simple truth …
            … is links are – still – the most influential ranking factor.
            It’s not going to go away any time soon.

            But – I think the point you are trying to make is …
            … not to focus on links?

            If so – I agree 100%.

            The focus should be on the audience, meeting their needs/wants/desires.
            Creating content that satisfies the audience and converts.
            Then, and only then, should you look at promotion.

            Not “link building” in the spammy, slap them up anywhere and everywhere sense.
            But “link building” as in the sensible, relevant, targeted promotional sense. A few well placed articles, a social post or five that inspires people to share. Enabling the audience to share the content directly etc.
            That is the right way.
            No risk of bad link building biting you in the butt.

            So don”t think it’s a case of we are disagreeing … it’s just that I’m making the point that links are still important, whilst you make the point that focusing on the other important aspects is, well, just as important 😀

  39. What are your thoughts on Google recently announcing that the only algorithm that uses user experience metrics is the mobile algorithm, not desktop? They specifically said bounce rate and time on site doesn’t matter.

    • Hmmmm – you have to be very careful how you read/hear things Google say.
      They do not lie.
      Not ever!
      But they are very very good at careful wording.

      Things like BounceRate is a Google Analytics measure – they do not use it to directly influence a sites ranking.
      Not one bit!
      But that doesn’t mean they can’t use that data to identify commonalities in sites and alter rankings that way.

      User Experience tends to be more about site Usage.
      And if they stated that no algo uses that, they are shielding or twisting … as the algo that looks at above-the-fold was UX based.

      So where’s the reference? I would happily pull that apart 😀

    • Nathan, could you provide the link and reference to that I would love to see it as well.

      While the mobile algorithm does matter — there are a number of others factors that come into play as well.

  40. Thanks for a nice put up niel. Its always been fun and informative reading your articles. But here is a question, won’t the new changes make it easy for spammers and hard for content writers to rank high

    • Rachit — I would imagine they make it much harder. You cant fabricate great content.

      • No, but you can “crowd search”.
        The idea is to get tons of people searching for a specific term and clicking a certain result.

        People have been trying it for what … 2 years?
        Almost everyone that has tried it has reported success.

        Personally, I find it questionable (as most SEOs couldn’t even spell “scientific method”, I hold little faith in their half-baked tests providing data that even loosely resembles accurate).

  41. Great post as alIways.

    I know this was said, and kind of answered… but. User experience seems like the turbo juice. Meaning people have to see the title to click it. So what about getting it to rank initially? Even on page 2?

    Thank you.

    • Yup – the great big Chicken and Egg issue that has been the bane of Ranking since day one.

      CTR etc. can be applied further into the SERPs. The chances of people going to page 2+ is slim, but it does depend on the type of search.
      I do lots of technical searches, and end up on page 10 more often than not.
      So it can/does happen.
      The question is … how would G respond to it?
      If I were G, and I saw listings on pages other than Page 1 getting good signals … I’d be giving them a boost, a substantial one.

      Much like links, it should be easier to move from position 30 to position than from position 4 to position 3 – but it does depend on the strength of the competition.

      As for getting seen initially – still follow the standard steps.
      Quality content, optimised pages/site, social promotion and basic/light link building … then see how the social pans out.

    • Jason, user experience is what will keep people coming back to your site and will ultimately decrease bounce rate. Another metric to focus on is number of pages that people look at when on your page.

  42. Keith Breseé :

    Hey Neil!

    Its not everyday we see an seo super guru (you) say link building isn’t everything! 🙂

    How many products did you create before you knew you had a great one, and have you discovered a formula (in a broad sense) for creating great products?

    Loved the post Neil! Thank you! 🙂

    Be awesome!
    Keith Breseé

    • Keith, it took a while before I found something that stuck — you have to keep up to date on trends and practices to ensure that your passion becomes a success.

  43. Jeff @ SEMBlueprints.com :

    Exactly right, Neil,

    Google is already doing this. And Bing/Yahoo are not.

    Most will be dragged kicking and screaming into the new world of offering actual value or go out of business. Many will never stop trying to trick the algorithms for the short term serp gains.

    One reason why I love your info so much is that you offer real value. As thick headed as many of us are, we should just get it.


    • Jeff, glad you found the post helpful. It’s important to provide great context when doing anything — thanks for the feedback and support.

  44. Jeff Millett :

    Absolutely true.

    I’ve always told my clients …

    “If Google’s tracking it, it’s gotta be important.”

    Looking at your Analytics data with this realization will change the way you optimize your flow, call to actions and everything else you’re doing to monetize your website.

    • Jeff, it’s all about following Google’s guidelines because they ultimately control all of our checks 😉

      With that being said analytics are there for a reason as well as GWMT .

  45. asm hassaan :

    Thank you, quite great article.

  46. Dr. Muddassir Ahmed :

    Hi Neil!

    First and foremost Ph.D. working toward contribution to knowledge and inventing originality is not a bad thing!

    Points you have made are valid, however, I would like to add one more variable in this SEO ranking equation of =backlinks+ awesome product/service+ great content >> which is a site has to be sharing “information”. Eventually it all comes down to Google’s mission of “to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible”….. If the site are not sharing information they won’t come at top, regardless how good the product/service offering they have!!

    Which I believe will give unfair advantage to business sites who create “awesome content”, i.e. information, but may not necessarily have product/service to match that.

    A random example of that is for example if you search “sustainable energy”, no company or organisation who produces “sustainable energy” comes on the first page search, but the sites who have created “information” about “sustainable energy” comes at Top!!

    Google search is all about “information” sharing, not best product/service user experience 🙂

    Dr. Muddassir

    • Muddasir — that’s a good point.

      Google is in essence a repository of information. They want to provide valuable information on topics and hopefully stay away from ranking businesses and brands from the top of rankings. It’s a tough bargain at times but content really does play a big role in how items are placed.

      If companies and organizations want to rank atop search they should inform consumers.

      Thanks for the insights!

  47. Joe Stauffacher :

    The future of SEO remains the same… Google wants real users getting value. What’s a sites reputation socially? Are there comments? How many degrees of separation can a post get via social channels. Example: Share blog on FB, FB user shares on Twitter, Twitter user posts on StumbleUpon, StumbleUpon user Tweets, Twitter user Diggs, Digg user posts on FB, FB user shares on LinkedIn, LinkedIn user writes a blog post with a link to original… Google wants social proof!

    • Joe, that’s true. Google wants to see that there is context to results — the best way to do that is to track engagement through the variables I mentioned in the post.

  48. Maximillian Heth :

    Great article as usual, Neil! Yeah, def makes sense. I would invest my time in building a link that actually drives traffic that I can convert as a opposed to building a link for the sake of a link, and that mindset (I believe) ties into effective content marketing, branding, promotion, etc.

  49. Jeff Williams :

    As someone who is just embarking on this journey I am heartened to hear that content is king. I have no trouble writing content. However, there is the chicken and egg scenario of getting picked up and read, thus bringing up the CTR, which in turn brings the site higher!! I think thats where internal linking is helpful. I am starting to appear for certain search terms as a result. Hopefully now with more and more content I shall see some results!! Thanks for a great article!!

  50. Mohit Arora :

    Thanks Neil for sharing this article 🙂

  51. Hi Neil,

    In essence, link building should be your SEO’s primary focus. But SEO shouldn’t be your main focus. We should focus on user experience and providing value. I think that’s so true, and sometimes we were so focused on SEO and we forgot our customers.

    Great insights, thanks!

  52. Naman Nepal :

    How Google ranks a website? Knowing exactly about his would be more than a myriad of achievement for any blogger as of now.

    But, I’ve to disagree on your post. Because, a site is never judged by Analytics as of today. Here’s a video by Matt Cutts that perfectly says so: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CgBw9tbAQhU

    I now believe that you need to dig a bit more deeper to your research. Good luck. 🙂

  53. Rafael D' Jesus :

    Great Post like always Neil, I like to check always what you write about how to increase our traffic and I want to share something also, when I first started online, I always knew that Google is the best source to get traffic, but some call expert confused a lot of newbies, because they start teaching do this and this and this, and we forget that we need to take more care of our client (Visitor) them focus a lot of doing SEO stuff.

    Don’t get me wrong, optimize your site is also great, but when you provide more value to your client a.k.a visitor, Google going to know that your site is more famous, because you client love what you post in your site and they like to visit you site.

  54. nate johnson :


    Another fantastic article… You continually floor me with the quality of your content. I am currently working on an SEO project and this was indeed the right thing to read at the right time!

    Take care,

    Nate Johnson

  55. Hi Neil

    I read whole post A to Z. You always give me hope of my future. Some people say, SEO is dead. Even my senior says too. But when I read your post I feel SEO still works. You really great Teacher As Well. I need from your side something interesting just like Wao fantastic

  56. Latief Pakpahan :

    First question of newbie is how to get more back links?
    That’s annoying, seems like back links is the only factor to get rank 😀
    Thanks for the article Neil

  57. Martyn Lenthall :

    If your SEO practices mirror what Google is looking for I.e. Quality content to create a great user experience.

    If you ‘silo’ your website, so it makes sense to Google and users and work on the most important ‘ranking factor’ which in my opinion is ‘bounce rate’ (the one factor that measures the users reaction to your content) you will rank higher, which by default will increase CTR etc.

  58. Hi Neil,

    Considering link building over user experience is one of the myths among bloggers. Nice post buddy 😀

    MS Qureshi

  59. Paul Walker :

    The reason is the bulk submission I think people should do seo systematically and the article is very useful to me thanks guys and keep posting..

  60. Absolutely agree with your theory – Google just wants to make sure the best page/site for every search result is served, so all you need to to is let Google know that’s yours!

    That’s the strategy we’ve followed for the last two years since launching our site (we publish seven articles a week) and it’s paid off. Like you we haven’t focused on link building, just great content and our Google rankings and organic search traffic is fantastic, and just getting better. Long may it continue that way 🙂

    Thanks for your useful and insightful blogs by the way – yours are one of the few emails I actually open!

  61. Neil what WordPress theme/framework do you use and do you have in house designer for this blog and your neilpatel.com blog? Are you still going to launch a WP theme with WooThemes?

  62. Thanks for the great article. I will try to focus on building content and blogging on relevant topics to my tie dye site. I enjoy trying to build backlinks but sometimes it is hard, just that there are so many pages out there that have relevant links pages but the owners never update them.



  63. This is the best news about SEO I’ve heard in a long time! And the best thing is, it makes sense. Thanks so much!

  64. Hi Neil,

    Again its nice to read your thoughts on SEO. However, for the first time since I started following your blogs I had to disagree with you (although partially).

    Sure a click-through rate, bounce rate and time on site are important but this heavily depends on the niche you are in. One of my websites has a huge bounce rate of about 86% and a time on site of 55 seconds. The CTR on the other hand is extremely high.

    There is a very good explanation for the high bounce rate and relative short time people visit the site: the landing page gives them the exact information they need. There is no need to look further on my site or on other websites.

    I focus on good content and it seems to pay off as I rank top 5 for all major keywords. So yes Google rewards sites that provide the best user experience but that experience is not always related to bounce rate, time on site and so on.

    Im currently experimenting with your earlier suggestion of making blogs of at least 1500 words. Very curious if i can attract more visitors with that method.



    • Mattijis, you have justified reservations. However, I am saying that link building isn’t going to be as important — it will still be important in the grand scheme though.

  65. Akshay Joshi :

    Really a great stuff again as expected. But neither just creating content is the new SEO neil. you must create remarkable content and share that with the folks who love to try and read new things and spread with the world.

    I think this comment becomes one of the takeaway from the article.


  66. Chris Corbett :

    I guess I would also assert this is also in the business’ best interest. I mean why spend a whole lot of time and money getting people to a store without inventory that people will buy?

  67. Rohan Bhardwaj :

    Indeed, with the example you shared of BMW, it is evident user experience has a higher influence.

    New broad layout, nice.

    Awesome post buddy. Take care.

  68. Another great article Neil.

    Almost 2 years ago our site was hacked and hijacked, and the hackers still create thousands of spammy inbound links using automation. We did and continue to do the disavows, and the site came back to the second/third page for search terms.

    Your article explains an issue I don’t know how to fix. The site has a high bounce rate because people using the hacker inbound links expect something else altogether (Louis Vuitton purses), and they get a video production company – so they bounce.

    Could that be what’s holding us back from page 1, and is there anything we can do about it?

    • Greg — they definitely don’t help with the whole process. If you get enough organic traffic that is valid you can wash them away and their importance will be irrelevant.

  69. Neil, thanks for another great article. You raised a very important point when you mentioned that Google has no choice but to rank BMW for the “BMW” search term. This shows the power of creating a strong brand and its benefit for SEO.
    I will make strengthening my brand my priority this year.

  70. Another great article Neil. As as someone stated – another great article contained in the comments with the back and forth. I lean more to side with R Rogerson – link building is still a major factor and will be for some time to come. It’s great what you do with content creation as well as what I’ve read about Gael (building traffic with zero link building). But the majority of us don’t have the time, resources or skill (or patience) to be able to pump out superb content over and over again and wait for it to produce fruit sometime in the future. I kind of like where SEO is at the moment – you can still rank well using backlinks (with some thought and effort) but you can also rank well with quality content. Kind of evens the playing field somewhat.

    • Pablo — definitely. Leveling the playing field is what’s important for Google. They want organic results to reflect fair trade and practices.

  71. Great post. Thanks for sharing. Since I am new here, I had to visit you beginner guide to online marketing, and I have to admit that it is a great and information series of posts. But the $40k you spent creating it is just mid boggling.
    keep up the good work

  72. Hello Neil,

    Any idea what average CTR percentage we should be aiming for?

    At the moment i have 6.68% for last 90 days but i don’t know if it’s good, average or bad.


    • Chandan — it depends on a number of factors, including your niche. Doesn’t sounds that high though.

  73. Hi Neil,

    As usual, great post. When it comes to SEO, what we really need to do is focus on providing an awesome service to our customers and website visitors. You can throw as much money as you want at the marketing and technical side of it all, but if you don’t offer value, it could be a huge waste of time.

  74. Great article and highly informative. It offer a new perspective that Link Building is not everything in SEO. Well structured informative site with great UI & UX definitely help a lot.

    Often this industry has been tainted with too many questions like “how many high PR links can you build” or “build 50 social links a months”.

    Keep up the good work in the article as always!

  75. Neil,

    A very informative article.I guess SEO is like fashion,will keep evolving.Now it’s getting more realistic,if you have links but no traffic and a high bounce rate,google will notice.
    As a website or blog owner,all of us need organic traffic.It’s better tah paid advertisements,for sure.
    The Kings keep changing,links were king,then content was king and now I guess user experience may be the king.Let’s see,who is the next king.
    Getting an affordable and reliable SEO would be a good option.But the question remains where do you get this service?As it has to be value for money,when you are starting out .Most of the services are beyond reach,as currency buy and sell rates come in.

    Thanks for the wonderful tips.

    Best Regards


    • Ajay, everything should come from a creative standpoint. The best websites have creative ways of keeping people on their site — that’s the challenge and the fun of it all.

  76. Hardik Patel :

    You are write Neil . But for getting CTR we need our website in top 20 result in Google and for This we need back link. What you say?

  77. Alecia Stringer :

    Totally, all about stories, right?

  78. Really Awesome Post Neil Sir.. 🙂 Content is the King. Neil Sir Please share some stuff about Lead Generation 🙂

  79. How did that page cost you over $40K to create? All the information on there are honestly just basic, logical stuff that all the other similar guides mention all the time. I didn’t see any “secret sauce” at all. The images are all nice and original but I can’t see overall how it would cost you that much to create the guide. It surely took maybe 20 hours tops to research and another 20 hours to write the content.

    Would you mind breaking down the cost incurred? Would be helpful for most of us who cannot afford to drop over $40K to create a similar document.

    • JC – there are a number of things that go into a site. The design being one: A custom theme that is optimized and converts well can cost a bit if you want it done right.

  80. Excellent article and I completely agree to the fact that link building or Backlinks are now not the future of SEO and Google ranking factors.

  81. Hi Neil,

    Thank you, for above posting this article 100% right?

  82. Hey Neil,

    You are absolutely correct. Unless the website is giving pleasant experience or the content is restricting to click that back button, whats so ever is done the rank will not be stable on that sweet spot.

    Thanks for the information.

  83. Thank you for that great information. Great SEO is really no different than it was a few years ago. Terrible SEO is what’s changed drastically. Google is shooting down all the easy link building tactics, but if you’re focused on your audience, their needs and building compelling content to support those things, then most small nuances of SEO don’t make that big of a difference to you

    • Evans — your audience will ultimately make or break you. If they bounce from your site it doesn’t send great signals to Google or any other search engine. You want your site to be rich in content.

  84. Bharti Yadav :

    Hi Neil,

    I truly agree with you that we need to optimizing our code for search engines, building links and growing social media channels on regular basis. But this not the end. We need to focus on creating good & meaningful content to engage our visitors. We should spend more time in improving user’s experience on our website because it will impact rankings more than anything else.

  85. Hi Neil,

    Thanks for enlightening us on core SEO concept. Good and useful content always works.
    My website has CTR of 8.9% is it good or I need to improve ?

  86. Previously I had been thinking about this. But by reading this article made me increasingly aware that link building is not a good way. The personal website, I trying to provide the best information and they loved it.

    For ranking? it’s an easy thing when combined with the analysis of the exact keywords. It takes just enough to be able to generate keywords can be entered into the first page of google.

    Thanks Neil.

    • Gereggi, glad you found it helpful. Content creation and context should always be your biggest considerations. Thanks for the feedback.

  87. Quick question Neil. Does google look for organic traffic user experience in terms of user experience and not other channels like Refferal and Social Media [leaving Google +].

    As there is lot of Refferal spam going on where our Google Analytic is getting some traffic but they are fake and even ruins our Google analytic report.

    Though we block these sites time to time…

    • Rajender — great question.

      I think it’s a mix of things — multi channel signals and social do play a part.

  88. ommypanchal :

    I am not fully agree with you that link building not the feature of SEO actually it is, but the way of link building changed and yes we couldn’t ignore the power of content. So in my point of view link building still has its value in SEO with totally new look

    • There are definitely differing opinions — I think link building still matters (it’s just not as important)

  89. Simen Joshi :

    I think content+outreach are the long run white hat link strategy left. whether or not that’s broken link building, resource link building or simply link begging, it is the only thing where there is no exchange of import apart from the content itself

    • Simen — great points. People should take more heed to traditional strategies like content creation.

  90. Ivailo Durmonski :

    Every week I read the new articles with great interest! :)) Keep up the good work, Neil. And wow 180 + comments, nice 🙂

  91. Neeraj Ojha :

    Such an amazing post. I personally think that most of the spam in the internet world is because of link building.People publish one content and build thousands of link to that and mostly unethically. So I hope in future link building should be shut down. If that happens then 90% of spam can be controlled.

  92. Hi Niel,
    I am completely satisfied with your blog. It will be best for us to move forward with best user experience site which you told in your lines “Google just wants to provide users with the best possible experience”
    So what does it means that SEO should be stopped now?

  93. Faizal Nisar :

    Great post Neil. Can you write more about the $100k a month blog challenge? I know readers have been complaining that quick sprout will drive traffic to it, but I’m here to learn. I want to know how the site is doing and what are the strategies you’re using to grow it. Even if you do get traffic from quicksprout, it’s not like we’re going to go on and click ads or buy Ebooks so it wouldn’t contribute to the $100k month goal.

  94. Great input!

    From the other side, I assume links are really very important for getting on the first page of Google, where CTR will have much more impact than anything else. So, maybe it makes sense to split the strategy in two depending on what page site is ranking for a specific KW

  95. Very true…I got to work on a website which has merely 10 DA and ranks in top 20 for almost it’s 70% of keywords.

  96. Hey Neil, I completely agree with you. Link building is worthless now days. Rich content, social media promotion and optimized site is enough to boost ranking on google’s page. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful knowledge.

  97. Akshit Wadhwa :

    Hey Neil,

    Really nice teach… From many days I was just thinking of this title only and now you solved my problem thanks Neil thanks a lot.

  98. Harekrishna :

    Click-through rate and Bounce rate is important for any web sites. Google climb the ranking when the content is quality and helping the users. You are right Neil, we should build the links in a spare time.

  99. Marc Howard :

    This is the article that many SEO’ers will try to hide from their clients because they know deep in their hearts that this is the future of SEO and empowers the client more than some mystical SEO hacks that get clients to keep paying them.

    The SEO consultant or agency that “gets” what you are saying Neil will quickly gain trust amongst clients and at the same time weed out clients that don’t care about quality content and just want to “be #1 in Google”.

    Conversation rate optimization (CRO) is the new SEO–and its a win-win-win for Google, clients and agencies.

    Thanks for sharing Neil!

    • Marc — thanks for reading and providing feedback. Looking forward to hearing much more from you.

  100. Great post Neil. The experiential element alongside quality offering I accept is the key to success, and now I understand that the click through and bounce rates are important factors in blogging.

    Just an observation on the External Link Front. I have to hit the back button to get back to your site whenever I click an external link. Any reason as to why you’ve kept it this way? as I find it a little convenient when the link opens in a new tab.

    • Pearl — I have actually heard a mixed reaction from people. Some like it and some don’t. Thanks for the feedback.

  101. Naval Saini :

    Hey Neil,

    Does website design and UI also matter in SEO and ranking ?

    I should focus on content and quality of services or UI to improve google rank of my site.

    According to what i have learned from this post we should focus on product and service quality as well as on content also .

    Nice post.

  102. Excellent! Google hates “pogo sticking” (clicking on a search result and clicking the back button over and over again). If your Meta Title and Meta Description doesn’t match the “intent” too often, you will probably lose rankings.

  103. Completely agreed with your blog. The goodness of a site is judged by it’s user experience not by the links available on it. Truly said that what is good for user is good for google.

  104. CTR is more important and it’s would be increase, if provide attractive content for users.

  105. Alicia Rades :

    Great article, Neil. I’m a freelance blogger and tend to get requests on being part of link building campaigns. A lot of the time, prospects are asking for me to engage in unethical practices, and I won’t do that. That being said, this topic is important to me, and I’m really glad I read this article. It’s something I can show prospects to help educate them. By the way, I absolutely love the examples you shared to prove links aren’t the most important SEO factor.

  106. Dear Neil,
    Many thanks for the another very great article. It’s a great value and a perfect example for the people looking for the fresh ideas and the new on-line marketing techniques. I think it’s inspiring and revealing and I will add it to my bookmark list.
    Keep up the good work. “The path to success is to take a massive, determined action” – Tony Robbins.
    Thanks and do have a great day!
    Founder of http://www.selfemploymentideas365.com

  107. Great Article,

    I have completely ignored SEO on one of my blogs and today it is my most successful blog. Not because I ignored Google, but because I invest my time in building a brand on Social Media.

    Initially, I used to get 70% Social Traffic, 10% Direct and the rest were from Search. Now It’s 40 from Social Media, 40% Direct traffic and the rest from search.

    So, I would agree with Neil on every point.

  108. Naomi Dinsmore :

    Hi Neil,

    Great post. I wasn’t surprised at the title and content at all. Recently I’ve been a little confused about link building. Sites appearing to be better than mine have less links. Sites appearing to be doing worse than mine have more links.

    I kind of guessed the amount of links was becoming more and more irrelevant.

    But the problem with Google is that it’s easier to find out what is becoming (or is) irrelevant, rather than knowing exactly what is relevant today. I hope I’m making sense!

    Of course, Quick Sprout is always a good resource!

    Thanks, Naomi

    • Naomi, I would leverage a lot of resources and then make the best educated decisions on what is relevant and what is not — that’s what I do when reading 😉

  109. Brahim Zouggahh :

    Great post Neil 🙂
    I always had the same view. Because I know a lot of websites not optimized for search englines with less of backlinks but ranks well on Google 🙂

  110. I really like the focus of some of your recent articles–focus on the customer and on giving them a good experience. It’s definitely changing the way I approach design on my site and how I market with social media.

    Thanks for the good info every time.

  111. Jonathan John :

    Hi Neil,

    Once again, a great post. By the way, are you testing a new width for the content section on your blog? My eyes could be deceiving me, but the text section looks a bit wider than the last time I was on the site.


  112. 200% Agreed.

    and content marketing is the most priority step for having best experience on your site, I think, and Neil did proof that again with this post…

    Trends,Topics, Timing of delivery – are the most important things before to write a quality content.

    Great Neil, Thank You

  113. Ryan Fitzgerald :

    When I first saw the title, I thought no way can this article be accurate let’s see what Neil has to say… After reading it, it makes SO MUCH SENSE.

    User experience is huge. You can be the best back link generator of all time, if people don’t enjoy your website, they are going to bounce.

    Great post Neil!

  114. Hey Neil,

    I really enjoyed this post. Since my site is so new, I am only focusing on creating quality content rather than trying to find sneaky ways to climb on Google. Thanks for this article. I look forward to reading more posts from you.


  115. Kaushal Patel :

    Hello Neil,

    Nice information for the people like us who are doing different kind of link building activities through various techniques. The example of BMW is just fantastic.

    I have a questions,

    1. What should we put in website title and meta description?. Should we go with the keywords or we should include call to action?

    Thanks again.

  116. Michael Karp :

    I definitely see what you’re saying Neil, but for newer sites I don’t think this applies so clear cut.

    If you have a large following, focusing on user experience and the quality of your content will probably bring more ROI for your time than link building — because you already have a sustainable promotion asset (your audience). From my experience, this is where you get the whole “just create great content and you will naturally build links and rank in search engines” idea.

    But if you’re just kickstarting a site with no audience, you need to actually hit the first or second page before click through rate makes a difference to your rankings. And to get there, you need to engage in link building and make it a priority (or pay someone to do it for you).

    Once you have that audience, then I think you can re-orientate your focus over to getting higher click through rates and increasing user experience. However, either way, I think getting higher click through rates and increasing user experience should be two priorities in your content creation process — no matter the size of your audience.

    I wouldn’t necessarily call any one aspect The Future of SEO. I think SEO’s future will combine with internet marketing, content marketing, etc., until it all becomes one universal process. This process will take you from content creation, to traffic generation, to lead gen, to ranking in search engines and getting long-term, sustainable traffic.

    So in the end, I think the future of SEO is also the future of internet marketing in general. Would you agree/disagree?

    P.S. Great article Neil. Very thought-provoking.

    • Michael, insightful reply — I completely agree. I always suggest people take a multi-pronged approach to get the best results.

      With that being said the same principles that have always worked (quality content) will continue to do so.

  117. thanks neil.
    i think i made a mistake. i concentrated more on SEO and less on content.
    I should have concentrated more on content and less on SEO.

  118. Ketan Jawale :

    Hiee Neil,

    Right Said…

    Sharing is Caring…but question is,”How to bring traffic to our site?”,”How to make people like our content?” so on..

    Answer may be like, one should find his niche market and share content creatively related to his market.

    I also like to say,”Relevant link building is still important”.

    I learned lots of things from you…

    Thanks once again .. Take care 🙂

    • Ketan — I think a multi channel approach and a mixed approach (content and links) are what will ultimately yield the best results. Focus on content first though 😉

  119. Another fantastic article Neil, It can definitely be painful in the short term when you see so much search engine fodder ranking ahead of your awesome content but it pays dividends in the longterm.

  120. Hi Niel,
    U always rock! i always learned something new by your blog. well said user experience is the of SEO.
    i would like to ask a question, which toll is best for backlinks analysis.


  121. how solar panels work :

    You blog is wonderful.Its amazing blog. Thanks for sharing.

  122. Alex Sanders :

    Hiya Neil,
    I am a 16 year old web designer and your posts are complete gold to me, looking forward to the next one…
    Also I was wondering if you’d be interested in mentoring me or giving me some advice from your experiences as a young entrepreneur?

  123. Hey Neil,

    As you said the CTR, Bounce Rate, Time on Site & Over all user experience is the essential things what Google measures to show results on top instead of building no of links.

    Also we need to concentrate more on the Title Tag & Meta Description that makes more crisp to the users who search for their relevant things.

    Most of my blog posts ranking well & some of the posts CTR is low, now I need to concentrate on more engaging with Title tags & description.

    Neil, it would be helpful if you guide me on how to make a perfect title that leads to more CTR?


  124. Aditya Aagare :

    Hey Neil!
    Thank you so much for this amazing article.

    Another thing I filled out that form about “free course : double your traffic…” but did not receive any email regarding it. Is that offer over?

  125. SEO is constantly changing

  126. Thanks Neil for this wonderful information. In fact, this type of information was long due. User experience will definitely take you to the next level.
    In fact, I am looking some more information about on-page SEO. Please help.

    • Sanjay, check this article out: https://www.quicksprout.com/2014/11/21/how-to-structure-a-perfect-seo-optimized-page/

  127. One of the best article I have ever read.Full of information. We should keep in mind that SEO is not a constant thing. It depends on situation.Though we should try our best.
    Thanks for sharing this great article

  128. Thanks for sharing, Neil…!

    You know..? The above was a brilliant discussion about SEO experience…

    I agree with you, backlinks is really important but it isn’t means that Google rank the article just depend on its backlinks.

    I found that many lower brand website dropped their traffic, because the realized on just build links to their blog.

    Social media signal and CTR is really important. Google traffic to provided more quality content to users thus they use so many facts to rank an article…

    Thanks for sharing your experience…! 🙂

    • Kimsea, thanks for sharing these great insights as well. I look forward to hearing much more from you.

  129. I noticed that the only time I google something is for factual information (ex. when is Black Saturday) and more often than not, Google displays contextual info before other pages do, so I barely notice the pages below. Or when I’m conducting research for my paper, but then again, doing that takes me even to places where Google search results go to die (page 10+ and more). Everything else I discover via social media or trusted recommendations. Ranking is NOT everything.

    So I’m happy to agree that people ought to start creating content that speaks to people, NOT just search engine spiders. Then everything else follows.

  130. EwenChia.com :

    Don’t totally depends on Google through the SEO. Try to diversity other traffic sources toward your site, then you will get double traffic from the other websites and search engines (that ranked your website through backlinks from the other websites).

  131. Hey Neil,

    I really love reading your blogs. Every time I learn new things. I have a query, if I want to promote coupons website. Which is best strategy to promote the website.? Other active members suggestions are welcomed.

  132. John Romaine :

    I published an article in direct response to this Neil. I’d love to get your thoughts.


  133. The fact that google may rely more on bounce rate concerns me. I’ve been in a firefight with a competitor for some time and he likes to get those fiverr gigs where people get 5 or 10k visitors in a month, and they obviously have a terrible bounce rate. Thanks to him my bounce rate jumped to 89% (from 40%).

  134. I totally agreed with you points because if user will happy with your content which they want to search than don’t need to create link building.when user will be satisfy with your content than google will increase our CTR and bounce rate will be less.

    Great Knowledgeable information, Keep sharing

  135. I liked this article and agree with Neil on user experience and increasing the quality of the website but one point where I don’t agree with Neil is Bounce Rate.

    Google may set some percentage for ecommerce site to understand which page has more or less value because in ecommerce website finally a user has to go to shopping cart page for any query completion.

    But what about Blogs where if I need to know something and I find a website through google and find the same answer in that website why would I unnecessarily navigate on that website.
    Also, even in Ecommerce website If I want to buy something but my kid comes to me and insist with me to go out to get him something it will be bounce rate for Google but in Real I have left the page due to some other reason.
    This is why I believe it is very tough for google to find out user behavior considering Bounce Rate.
    I have given my point of view here may be I am wrong


  136. What about site speed? I seen pages move page 4 to page 1 after improving site speed. Just a thought, You are the expert 🙂

  137. According to my link building is good technique to increase you website traffic.

  138. Thank for a great article!

    Cant agree more and im going to focus more on user experience in the future.

    Love your site, and once again thanks for many great articles on SEO and online marketing.

  139. Hi Neil,

    Nice article, you have the strong ability to hold users attention. Best example is mine, after reading the whole post I curiously clicked on “What do you see as the future of SEO?” post.
    Great Job!!

    Thanks for your regular updates.

  140. Thanks Neil for a great article.
    I just got to know that it’s a myth that you can rank your website only by adding backlinks.
    Wikipedia has more page authority, rank, links but Google showing their results below your link, that’s called ‘results based upon users experience’

    • Shahrukh, you can definitely help grow your website with backlinks but a multi-channel approach is best.

  141. Thank you for great post. I have to definitely agree with your thoughts. In Poland there is something, what people called SWL (Links Exchange Systems), many people pay for it & expect results in few days. There is some type of black SEO, that many people are using. Many SEO guys wrote about it, without results. So many people believe in SWL…

    Personally I’m advising to make SEO optimization + good work under content…
    Alexa metrics shows real user experience.

  142. Andy (Poland) :

    Thank you for great post. I have to definitely agree with your thoughts. In Poland there is something, what people called SWL (Links Exchange Systems), many people pay for it & expect results in few days. There is some type of black SEO, that many people are using. Many SEO guys wrote about it, without results. So many people believe in SWL…

    Personally I’m advising to make SEO optimization + good work under content…
    Alexa metrics shows real user experience.

  143. Neil,

    Do you think 1.5% for CTR is bad for a website?

    What’s your recommendation for increasing CTR?

  144. The Wine Guy :

    People should realize that when Google says “content is king” that’s exactly what they mean. As soon as you build a high quality and useful page, like your online marketing page, everything else, including links, will happen naturally.

  145. Brandon Pennington :

    This is so absolutely true as with anything in life. The more value you add the more you will see the ROI!

  146. I think link-building is a good tactic for SEO but not is the most!

    Also on page seo is crucial!

  147. aswinichinnu121 :

    Thanks for sharing this valuable information. It is great article . It is very useful for SEO. Please provide some more details about link building and how to give links in our article.

  148. Yes, it’s really hard to predict what google is willing to plan for future. I think I should focus on my contents more than anything.

    Sir, I really appreciate your article, really helpful. Thanks.

  149. Nice post Neil. I’m still trying to get good rank on Google and generate more visitors to my blog.

    This post explain my confusion about link building. Previously I thought that link building was more important than making posts because a friend told me that he only wrote 50 posts but could get 1000+ visitors/day to his blog. When I asked how he could do that, he just said that he regularly built links from authority sites. Well … to be honest I still have no clear image about that 🙁

  150. Brian Jackson :

    This is a great post Neil! I wrote a similar post back in September. http://brianjackson.io/reaching-12500-visitors-month-without-ever-building-single-backlink/

    Within one year I reached 12,500 organic visitors a month without ever manually building a backlink or PPC. Fast forward to today, I am now at 40,000 organic visitors a month, and still haven’t worried about backlinks 🙂 Content marketing, quality content, and usability will get you the traffic and rankings, and then *natural* backlinks will follow.

    I am applying this same strategy now for my clients in a way tougher niche (medical niche) and it is working just as well. Slow and steady wins the race.

  151. Neil, thanks for this great post! This post was really useful and I found a lot of information in it. I’ll now focus more on user experience and give even more to my readers!


  152. Cathie Dunklee-Donnell :

    I think blasting the user with too much text and pressure can make them leave too. Teasing them with an answer and then providing the answer is a good way to keep clients around.

  153. I agree with u , but till now , one of the best important thing that google care about is backlink .

  154. I must agree with you Neil: link building is not everything, but still plays a very important role in rankings.
    In the last couple of months I have been trying different tactics on different websites. The very same tactic may work on a website, while on other will not work at all. I was very confused.
    I figured out that domain age is also extremely important, beside all the factors you have enumerated in your article. But probably I’m not telling anything new with this.
    Great article as always! Enjoyed reading it.

    • David, that’s why it’s important to figure out your buyer personas before you begin any content marketing campaign — that’s the most important element.

      While domain age plays an important part in your ranking — it isn’t the only indicator. If you have great content and provide value then you’re on the right track.

  155. I definitely agree that click through rate plays a huge role, as well as time on site\bounce rate.

    My opinion is acklinks are still the signal to show Google that a certain page is relevant to a search query. I feel that no site will have any relevant click through rate stats if not on page 1 for at least some long tail terms.

    And in today’s search landscape, you still need some kind of authority before ranking for long tails without any backlinks.

    • Eben,

      I agree — that’s where a great content strategy comes into play. Also, by diversifying your channels you can extract a lot of value and get the best results.

      Looking forward to hearing much more from you.

  156. I totally agree that links will still be a major factor in determining search engine rankings. Even if you have best content in whole universe you won’t rank without back links.

    • Tanu, that’s true — you really need to provide value and have a great optimization strategy. Thanks for sharing.

  157. Great article Niel. I am new to SEO and still in my research phase. Read lot of articles but most of them focused mainly on “Link Building”. Was always wondering about SEO tactics other than link building and finally I have an article that helps me understand that we need to focus on other aspects as well apart from link building. Will be sharing this article as well. Once again great post Niel 🙂

    • Avinash, glad to help. It’s more than just link building — content is always crucial. There are also a ton of other digital marketing trends that can help you push the needle. Thanks for the support.

  158. In addition to my last comment I would also like to know about some SEO strategies apart from link building. Can SEO strategy not succeed without Link building?

    Will really appreciate your thoughts on this.

  159. Neil, that online markeing guide is crazy. Can you tell me how you managed to spend 40k on that? Did you pay a lot for the content?

  160. I think I read somewhere, may have been the update to ranking factors 2015, that influence from backlinks has actually been turned up recently.

    Have you seen that Neil?

    Would be interested in your thoughts on that…if you’ve read it.

  161. While Google gives an emphasis on links, then more people will continue to chase them.

    The future is based on user experience and quality content. With algorithms, that will only get better and better. Links will continue to become obsolete in favor of time on site, content interaction, and pages read, etc.

    • I’m with you Peter. Links will have value, but ultimately the best site will need to have quality and creative content

  162. Evangelist Usman Raza :

    I am blessed by this post Neil! Thank you so much for such wonderful post. Ultimately the goal is to satisfy user needs, because if users are happy, business will grow.

    • Mostly importantly, the users will develop a strong relationship and bond with you. This will build the foundation of your community.

  163. Simply desire to say your article is as amazing. The clarity for your post is just spectacular and i could suppose you are knowledgeable on this subject.

  164. It would be very hard to say what google think in future but user experience would be no.1 ranking factor in future.

  165. David J Parker :

    Definately building massive link wont help you any more even the chances to get penalise by google will be increased drastically.. So better focus on content and try to be descriptive, informative and interesting for people visiting our site..

  166. Very informative. Building link is good, but the most important is content. I have seen articles on the first or second page of Google without having even a single link.

  167. Rekha Reddy :

    I have seen sites with DA PA less than beating sites like yelp and yellow pages. Any Solutions for that Neil?

    • I would focus on high DA. Low DA links don’t move rankings much… especially from what I have seen.

  168. Aw, this was an exceptionally nice post. Taking the time and actual effort to make a top notch article…
    but what can I say… I put things off a whole lot and don’t manage to get nearly anything done.

  169. Good replies in return of this query with firm arguments and explaining everything regarding that.

  170. links will remain the most important factor.

  171. Thanks a lot for this insight!
    The most important here,as I can see, is becoming the quality of the article that you share.

  172. yes Neil link Buinding is not necessary for some niche but for other niche no 🙂

  173. uthman Saheed :

    Thanks for this. User experience really matters to everything. Sometimes, if by mistake i stumble upon a blog through google with bad user experience, then that would be last time am I visited that site. Even when i see it on search list, I will never click it.

  174. Hi Neil,

    Am glad I found this article. I did have a similar opinion previously, but if backlinks are to bring no effect, then what factor is majorly considered for ranking. 1. Content 2. Age 3. Authority 4. News Sites 5. Random ?

    Thank you 🙂

  175. Hi Neil Sir,
    Great post, I was enjoying while reading. Relevancy and quality content matters a lot for SEO and search engine crawling. Can you please tell me the main difference b/w article and blog with examples? And what is the importance of both?

    Please Sir, give me the answers 🙂

  176. I know this article was written in 2015, but after the Fred update do you still think content is still king? I am still trying to figure out what is going on

    Thanks Neil

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