Everything seems to be changing, but staying the same. Google’s Hummingbird has changed search by adding searcher intent to the mix. Theoretically, this will lessen the reliance on backlinks to establish relevancy and reputation for Google. But not quite yet, according to Matt Cutts. This is an iterative and slow moving process that requires some more learning on Google’s part. Conversational search and Google’s understanding of natural language will eventually reduce but not eliminate the algorithm’s reliance on backlinks to understand the reputation and relevance of content.
So for now, building backlinks continues to be a significant way for Google to assess the basic reputation of content and websites. The rest will take time.
Speaking of time… Why does it take so long for SEO to take hold? This question is top of mind for most clients and many SEO experts. It seems to be taking even longer for SEO efforts to gain traction these days. Maybe it’s the equivalent of a watched pot never boils.
It has always taken time for SEO efforts to bear fruit. This is partly by design. Link manipulation and unnatural links tend to be short lived, while natural authentic links from trusted industry sources tend to stick and have staying power. So the search engines intentionally keep the process slow to avoid link manipulation.
Domain age also plays a part. This is tough to speed up. Like a fine wine, websites rank better with age, provided other SEO activity is done right.
Think holistically when considering your SEO strategy. It is only one leg of the stool. While your website cooks, make sure to also pay attention to your conversion rate and branding efforts. Get them all firing well and all of a sudden things will start happening.