By the recent PR crackdown Google has made it quite clear that paid links can harm both the publisher’s and advertiser’s websites. They can negatively impact a site’s PR and ranking in SERP. But the problem is that paid links are not so easy to identify. If done carefully they may remain invisible even to a human being.
So if Google chooses to continue its anti paid link building campaign, it is speculated that it can completely devalue inbound links as the trust building factor using website internal stats (Google Analytics, feedburner, etc) instead. But would this be easy possible to do?
My answer is no. Links are not dead, nor they are dying.
And here are my reasons:
1. Using Google Analytics Traffic Value to measure website popularity. High traffic can be even easier manipulated than incoming links. People had started to buy and sell traffic even before they started to buy and sell links. And superficial traffic (with no actual people landing) requires even less effort – hm, an old story.
2. Using Google Analytics Number of Pages Factor. The obvious formula is like this: the more, the better, e.g. the more pages one visitor looks through, the more he is likely to be interested in and the more valuable the resource appears. Well, not quite that – what if the resource does not require any reading and browsing?
What if it is designed the way that the visitor finds what he is looking for instantly? Isn’t that even better from the user’s perspective, than above? So this factor cannot be used as the measure of the website value (the same refers to the Time On Site, and Bounce Rate, by the way). Googlers themselves confirm, these numbers are too controversial to serve as the website value measurement.
3. Using Number of Subscriptions of Feedburner Stats. Well, this one can really measure the resource value but can only be applied to blogs.
So my verdict here is as follows: Google will continue using incoming links to measure a website value and to filter the search results. Link structure is the Internet essence; to devalue it would mean the whole web revolution. So I would not expect these global changes to happen in the nearest future…