Google Tells Us Links Are Important
Links have always been important. The problem is that it wasn't that long ago that having lots of links gave a big boost to how well your site pages ranked. Not so anymore and this has hurt quite a few sites that had great rankings because they had a lot of links. Then came along Panda and Penguin and Hummingbird, which are Googles labels for some major search algorithm updates. Names matter not. What does matter is that there were and remain some very clear guidelines from Google about what matters when you are striving to build links back to your site from another web site.
Very recently and separate from any algorithm update was a patent filed by Google. This patent goes a long way towards confirming Googles thinking on linking. What the patent contains is some technical mumbo jumbo about brand mentions, implied links and express links. All you need to know as a business owner is that traditional "express" links from other sites to your site may not be enough. But, this needs to be qualified against your own online competitive landscape.
What Are Your Competitors Doing?
In plain speak, you only need to be better than your closest competition in order to rank above them. If you have found your page rankings slipping away it might be because of the items contained within Google's filed patent.
What the patent contains are references to brand mentions, implied links and express links. Express links are what you can click on a web page and these take you to somewhere on the same site or to another site. The links that site owners strive to get from other sites are express links.
Implied links are far more subtle. They're not physical links between sites or site pages. Implied links are when your product, service or your business name is mentioned on another site or in social media circles. It's clear that Google has been able to improve its ability to identify and more importantly give you credit for implied links, hence why they've seen fit to file a patent.
How Might All This Change Your Web Strategy?
The short answer is that your strategy may be fine. As I've said, you only need to be better than your nearest competitors. This of course is a poor answer in as much as being better today doesn't mean you'll be better tomorrow.
The better answer is that you should look at your web strategy and check if it includes sufficient effort to build express and implied links for your site. The reality is that your competitors are unlikely to be standing still so you should have actions within your web strategy that are devoted to continuously growing your online profile. This will be by cultivating links from other sites to your site and by making sure your brand, products and services are getting shared within social media conversations.
Before you go charging off getting links and engaging in social media conversations you need to be conscious of quality. A lack of focus on quality resulted in a significant number of site pages tumbling down the rankings.
Make sure the express links you get from other sites are relevant. For example, if your site is concerned with marketing cars a link from a blog about basket weaving isn't going to pass the Google relevance test. In short the link will be of very low value. In contrast a link from a blog for car enthusiasts is going to be relevant. What will be even better is a link from a car enthusiast blog that's getting lots of visitors.
In terms of implied links the same quality principles apply. For example, casually dropping in a mention about your business in a discussion totally unrelated to the products and services you provide is unlikely to help you. This is why it is worth investing some time in finding who the big influencers are in social media circles relative to your business sector. Then engage in the conversations they initiate or jump into.