1. SEO Ninja
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    Post Content or Back-Links?

    My post here is not in reference to the methodological question-- to which a knowledgeable person would answer "both." Rather, my aim is to clear up some misconceptions about the real (material) significance of content and back-links to Google, and to provide those who aren't well-versed on the subject with a more solid understanding of the processes at play.

    People talk these days about several interrelated concepts: "good/original content," "natural language," and "semantics." Most of us know what the first two are, but few really understand semantics. It has to do with the meaning of language. We presume, that in evaluating whether a site possesses the first two, that a search engine uses the third. This is completely wrong. Most basically, when Google initially queries your site to see if it matches up with a search, it's looking for words and strings (consecutive and non-consecutive words) that match the search term(s) verbatim. Now we know that Google has some understanding of "good content" and "natural language" by its ability to screen for keyword spamming. It knows that too high a KW density means you're just looking to rank and not to provide honest information, products, services, etc. But the story ends there. Google's ability to utilize semantics-- to understand the meaning of the language on the page-- is very limited. This is the case with all "semantic" software. In fact, it understands about as much as the grammar check in Microsoft Word. Because of this, what we refer to as good content and natural language objectively mean very little to a search engine.

    Google, therefore, because it cannot truly understand the language on a page, requires some other way of validating it. Enter the back-link, the relevant back-link, the "authority site," the "trust-rank," etc. These are what I like to call measures of content legitimacy. The utility of relevant links in ranking search results is derived entirely from the search engine's lack of semantic understanding. When Google looks at the number of back-links you have, what it's really doing is asking "how many other people on the internet think that this is legitimately useful content?" When it looks at where the links are coming from, it's asking "Do other websites that seem to be related confirm that this is useful content?" When it looks at anchor text, it's asking "Can other websites confirm that this information is what it claims to be?" These and other related factors make up the vast bulk of what Google uses to subjectively determine whether your content is "good" and whether its language is "natural."

    So in asking the question, "Content or Back-Links?" one must consider that content alone has little intrinsic value. It does, however, play a role in what will end up being a self-legitimizing cycle. You write good content, which encourages people to link to you, which in-turn signifies to Google that your content is good.

    Comments on this post

    • ltdraper agrees
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    SEO Chat Mastermind (5000+ posts)

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    I agree. Nice summary.

    Legitimate content can also be gauged by: diverse people bookmarking your page, visitors entering your page from the SERPs and then not immediately returning to the SERPs, content that hits front page on Reddit or other community site. Those are on a page level... on a domain level legitimate content will receive things such as domain queries, feed subscriptions, personalized search behaviors.

    Google has every ability to measure these and they are probably better metrics of site quality because they are what is happening on the domain NOW. Backlinks are an accumulation that might have built over years. However, the action of visitors on your site is a metric of it current acceptance. What was once popular or important might not be right now.

    Which would you bet on? visitor behaviour of semantics?
    * "It's not the size of the dog in the fight that matters, it's the size of the fight in the dog." Mark Twain
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    Seriously! You're an idiot! Big time Spammer!
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    I think, in fresh content has its own value and at the same time quality back link is the real value for google.
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    both are needed for best results but only for choosing one, I choose link because I like optimizing for google...

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