Stone Temple Consulting has updated a longstanding study on website ranking factors for search engines. The latest update is intended to determine whether there has been a decline in the importance of links since the company first ran its study in May 2016. The second study was conducted in August 2016, and the third in May 2017.
This time around, the tests were done with the same 6,000 queries used in all three studies, allowing researchers to verify changes in the impact of links in the past years.
The study shows why links are as important today as they were in 2015 or 2016, and details why analysts at Stone Temple Consulting believe that links will remain be a major factor in ranking.
Relevance and content quality are major factors. Search professionals know that when a web page isn't relevant to a query it shouldn't rank at the top, but the authors of the study say the discussion requires a close look.
To illustrate the point, analysts provide this example: Take 10 pieces of content that are relevant enough to be considered top rank for a query. They have relevance scores varying from 0.942 for No. 1 to 0.915 for No. 9, ranking the most relevant at the top of the page.
"It's pretty easy to make pieces of content look highly relevant just by stuffing the right words in it, and the most relevant content may in fact be giving very poor information to users," per the study.
Analysts then add a new score called quality score (QS) -- not the Google AdWords version of QS, but an actual organic evaluation of a page's quality instead to see how it impacts the algorithm. In this test, the analysts also added a Link Score. You can find the details from the test here.