Keywords and links will be important for years, but Google is looking for better ranking signals via conversational search.

In the latest Webmaster Help Channel video, Matt Cutts said Google will continue to use links to assess the basic reputation of websites, but he reported this is something that will likely be phased out over time. How is that possible when inbound links have become an industry of their own? Google (and other search engines) are developing technology that can determine whether online content is the best result for a given query in a way that’s more reliable than looking at backlinks and keywords.

“I think backlinks still have many, many years left in them. But inevitably, what we are trying to do is figure out how an expert user would say – this particular page matched their information needs,” Cutts said in the video.

Rather, Google is investing a lot of its resources into conversational search technology, or what Cutts refers to as a “Star Trek computer.” Specifically, it would understand:

  • Who wrote something
  • What the real meaning of that content is

Search technology is changing and old tactics won't always be as effective. Search engines would have a better understanding of the words on the page and what they mean to the end-user. For example, Google would understand that when a person asks, “How old is Kobe Bryant” and then asks, “How tall is he?” that they are still referencing the same individual. In the future of search, crawlers would theoretically be able to determine how good the information is before returning results.

It would the writer’s authority to see whether she is qualified to give the best answer on the subject matter, Cutts added. This is the first time Google has made a strong claim that links could become a thing of the past. The search giant previously stood by the assertion that links weren’t going anywhere anytime soon, but it looks like they could fall into the category of ‘old-school SEO’ in the not-too-distant future.

Lauren Kaye is a Marketing Editor at Brafton Inc. She studied creative and technical writing at Virginia Tech before pursuing the digital frontier and finding content marketing was the best place to put her passions to work. Lauren also writes creative short fiction, hikes in New England and appreciates a good book recommendation.