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Can You Rank Without Building Links?

A publisher observed that after two years of work their website has started to rank without haveing to build a single link. The question is basically about link building and if building links is necessary, given his experience in ranking without doing any link building.

This is the question:

“A few of my new websites in competitive niches have started to rank without building even a single link, just with pure content.

It took a while though, more than two years…”

Mueller stops here to observe that those sites probably can’t be regarded as new websites.

The question continues:

“Could I have saved precious time by building links from high end websites to reduce this time period?

Or it wouldn’t have mattered at all, it would have taken the same amount of time regardless?”

The publisher doesn’t offer any details about their promotional efforts, other than they haven’t tried to build links.

Something that is commonly ignored by those who are building links is that attracting links is more than just asking for links or paying someone to drop links in articles.

The best kinds of links, those given voluntarily, often happen with non-link focused promotional activities. (Read: How to Build Links)

This is John Mueller’s response:

“We use a ton of different factors when it comes to crawling, indexing and ranking.

So it’s really hard to say like, if I did this how would my site rank compared to when I do this. …those kinds of comparisons are kind of futile in general.

In practice though, when you’re building a website and you want to get it out there and you want to have people kind of go to the website and recognize what wonderful work that you’ve put in there, then promoting that appropriately definitely makes sense.

And that’s something you don’t have to do that by dropping links in different places.”

Activities in which you are in control of the link are the kinds that Google has focused on removing their link power.

John Mueller continued:

“But you can get the word out in different ways. And by getting the word out you’re kind of bringing people to your website and if they like what they see then maybe they’ll link to your website.

And all of these things can add up as signals and it can help us to better understand where your website fits in with the rest of the web. “

I want to point out that Mueller did not say that bringing people to your site will cause Google to rank your site. He said that getting your site noticed and subsequently appreciated is a way to get links.

Here is where Mueller seems to discourage the “build it and they will come” approach:

“So, from that point of view I would not just create a website and like put it up and don’t tell anyone about it and hope that Google finds it and starts ranking it in competitive areas.

They’re really kind of like a normal business. Spend time to build that up and to build an audience.

And to understand what people like, respond to …feedback that they give you and really kind of build things up as you would with a normal business.”

Related: 4 Reasons Why Your Content Isn’t Ranking

User Feedback Can  Help Promotional Efforts

Another kind of feedback is the log file of all the searches people make on your website. The things that people search for and the keywords they use to search for them are invaluable not just for keyword research but for understanding what users need.

It Takes More than Awesome Content

The encouragement to create awesome content is only half the story. The second part of the ranking equation is about getting the word out.

But Google also cautions:

“As with most points covered in this document, taking these recommendations to an extreme could actually harm the reputation of your site.”


If you build it, promote it. Businesses typically don’t become successful by hiding their store. The key to visibility is to get the word out about your site and to listen to what people want or expect from your website.

Watch the Webmaster Hangout:

Related: How Long Does It Take to Get First Page Rankings?  

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Domain Age: Is It A Google Ranking Factor?

Does Google favor older, established domains in its search results?

These are just a couple of the questions surrounding domain age as a ranking factor – a topic that has been hotly contested and debated during the past two decades.

We know that Google at least considered it as part of a document scoring algorithm at one point in time.

Read on to learn whether domain age is really a Google search ranking factor.

The Claim: Domain Age As A Ranking Factor

The claim here is twofold:

The longer Google has had a domain in its index, the more it will benefit your search ranking.

The longer the domain is registered, the more it will benefit your search ranking.

Basically, here’s the argument:

Let’s say you registered two domains, one in 2010 and the other in 2023. Until three months ago, you never published a piece of content on either site.

That means Google will consider the 2010 domain “stronger” – simply because it was registered more than 10 years prior to the second site, and it should have an easier time ranking.

Does that seem logical?

The Evidence For Domain Age As A Ranking Factor

Back in 2007, some folks in SEO believed domain age to be one of the top 10 most important ranking factors.

More recently, some have pointed to this Matt Cutts video as “proof” domain age is a Google ranking factor.


Because in it, Cutts said: “The difference between a domain that’s six months old versus one-year-old is really not that big at all.”

To some, this makes it sound like Google uses domain age as a ranking signal – although perhaps not a very important one.

The Evidence Against Domain Age As A Ranking Factor

The thing is, that video is from 2010.

And here’s what else Cutts actually said:

Registrar data doesn’t matter at all. It’s too difficult to gather and Google doesn’t have access to enough of it for it to be a reliable signal.

What Google was able to measure was when the site was first crawled and when the site was first linked to by another site.

Even then, he stated,

“The fact is it’s mostly the quality of your content and the sort of links that you get as a result of the quality of your content that determine how well you’re going to rank in the search engines.”

A 2005 patent application called “Information retrieval based on historical data” by Matt Cutts, Paul Haahr, and several others gives us a bit more insight into how Google perceived these domain signals at the time.

The patent outlined a method of identifying a document and assigning it a score composed of different types of data about its history.

This data included:

Information about its inception date.

Elapsed time measured from the inception date.

The manner and frequency in which the content of the document changes over time.

An average time between the changes, a number of changes in a time period, and a comparison of a rate of change in a current time period with a rate of change in a previous time period.

At least one of the following: the number of new pages associated with the document within a time period, a ratio of a number of new pages associated with the document versus a total number of pages associated with the document, and a percentage of the content of the document that has changed during a time period.

The behavior of links relate to at least one of appearance and disappearance of one or more links pointing to the document

There’s a lot more, but already you can see this patent was never only about domain age.

There are elements of links and content quality/freshness in here, too.

Domain age may have been a factor back then. But there’s no clear evidence it was a direct ranking factor so much as a weak signal inside of a more comprehensive document history score (and that was/maybe still is the ranking factor… maybe).

In any case, John Mueller has been clear on this one:

Domain Age As A Ranking Factor: Our Verdict

Google has said domain age is not a ranking factor – and we have no reason to doubt them on this one.

How long you register your domain doesn’t matter to Google’s search algorithm.

Buying old domains won’t help you rank faster or higher. In fact, you could inherit junk links or other negative associations that could hurt your SEO efforts.

But again, that’s not purely because of the age – it’s what happened to that domain during those years.

Bottom line: Google does not use domain age as a direct search ranking signal.

Featured image: Paulo Bobita

Advice From Sha Faculty On How Hard

Advice from SHA Faculty on How Hard-Hit Hotels Should Communicate during Pandemic

Easter weekend in the Netherlands normally draws large numbers of tourists to enjoy the beauty of the tulips the country is famous for. This family visiting a field of tulips next to the main road in Lisse on Sunday had little company as all nonessential traffic was banned to enforce social distancing and curb the spread of the coronavirus. AP Photo/Peter Dejong

Public Health

Advice from SHA Faculty on How Hard-Hit Hotels Should Communicate during Pandemic Also in our Coronavirus Monday Roundup: Virtual coffee hour for BU  staff to talk parenting in a pandemic

Quote of the day: Stat of the day:

Coronavirus has revealed that 40% of us can work from home without the world falling apart, and the other 60% should honestly be getting paid a lot more.

— Chad Loder (@chadloder) April 12, 2023

BU News Coping help for BU employees who are parents, via Zoom

University faculty and staff who have children and may be stressed by what’s happening—whether they’re going to campus every day or working remotely—have a place to come together today, Monday, April 13, from 9 to 10 am, on Zoom. The Faculty & Staff Assistance office will offer a Virtual Coffee Hour for Parents, billed as “a low-stress, no judgment zone for parents to talk about the challenges of social distancing, family togetherness, and for some of us, working remotely, with children of all ages.” It’s a place for parents to come together to share ideas, laugh, and get support. Register here.

Checking in with the hospitality industry “Poetry is not a luxury.” These days, face-to-face communication is

Thanks to COVID-19, the Howard Thurman Center for Common Ground will host its first-ever virtual Student-Faculty Forum on Tuesday, April 21, exploring the necessity of poetry and the arts in our lives. The event centers around a 1985 essay by writer-activist Audre Lorde titled “Poetry Is Not a Luxury,” about “moving beyond what is, about envisioning, expressing, and grasping things without names, dreaming, freeing oneself of the power structures in which we live.” Register here for the forum on Zoom, which will run from 6:30 to 8 pm. Prior to the event, students are invited to submit their favorite poems as part of the Favorite Poem Project’s Restoration project.

Boston and Beyond News Living in the city

What will the pandemic’s long-term effect be on America’s cities? After a big move to the suburbs from the post-war 1950s through the 1970s, more recent decades have seen an influx of people seeking what the urban environment has to offer. “The packed stadiums, lively campuses, and vibrant neighborhoods that supply much of the compact city’s energy and charm depend on people being willing to gather,” Tim Logan writes in the Boston Globe, as he wonders how that might change because of the coronavirus and our period of social distancing. “Will it amount to a blip in the decades-long rebound of urban life, or mark the end of an era and the start of a gradual turn to social distancing as a way of life?”

US & Global News How long to heal the economy? Brace yourself

Officials are already arguing about whether we should be reopening businesses in a few weeks—or a few months. But one expert tells the New York Times that getting the economy back to normal could take up to 18 months. This could be a long, hard road that we have ahead of us,” says Neel Kashkari, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, who helped lead the response to the 2008 financial crisis as a Treasury Department official.

Latest count of coronavirus cases

United States, 546,874; Massachusetts, 25,475.

Find BU Today’s latest coverage of the pandemic here. The University’s hotline for faculty, staff, students, and visiting scholars to call for referral of their virus-related medical concerns is 617-358-4990.

Explore Related Topics:

Google’s John Mueller On Ranking Important Pages

Google’s John Mueller answered a question about important of links from the main page.  John’s answered the question and shared how to signal which pages on a website are important.

Site Architecture

Site Architecture, also known as Information Architecture, is a strategy for organizing web pages in a way that is intuitive for users and makes it easy for site visitors to find information.

There are two approaches to site architecture.

Flat Site Structure

A common approach is to create a navigational structure that makes it easy for search engines and users to find all or almost all published pages.

This approach becomes difficult for users when a site is large. It also creates what’s called a Flat Site structure.

What happens is that every page has the same amount of importance and is easily reached by search engines. The downside for a search engine and the publisher is that every page contains a virtual site map of the entire site.

For search engines, this means that groups of related pages are difficult to understand as belonging to a particular topic. That makes it harder for search engines to understand what a page is about and difficult to rank individual web pages.

A flat navigational structure results in an unusable navigational structure. This means that site visitors will have a difficult time finding their content.

Taxonomical Site Structure

The second approach is a taxonomical site structure. Taxonomy in the context of site architecture means a system for classifying information.

A taxonomical site structure divides the site according to topic categories and then keeps sub-dividing these topic categories into ever more specific categories.

This results in a site structure that can easily be understood by search engines and easily navigated by site visitors.

The first approach is motivated by the idea of shifting as much PageRank/Link Equity from the home page to the inner pages to help the inner pages rank better.

But that’s not how search engines rank pages anymore. Search engines TEND to rank web pages that have links from other sites. This isn’t true across for all keywords.

Competitive keywords tend to need links to prove they are authoritative and relevant for a particular topic. This is true regardless if a site is built with a flat or taxonomical site structure.

The key difference between the two approaches is that a taxonomical site structure makes more sense to both users and search engines while a flat site structure makes it easier for a search engine to reach all web pages in a site but at the expense of a meaningful site structure.

This is the background behind the question that was asked.

Related: How to Improve Your Website Navigation: 7 Essential Best Practices

Is it Important for Pages to Be Close to the Home Page?

The question that John Mueller was asked was about the importance of how far a web page is from the home page.

This is the question:

“Is it important that all pages of a site are accessible… from the main page. For example some news from 2023… is accessible in ten plus steps. Is that okay?”

This is John Mueller’s answer:

“That’s perfectly fine. Usually… what happens here (or where this comes from) is that on a lot of websites the home page is the most important part of the website. So we re-crawl that fairly often and from there we try to find new and updated pages or other important pages.”

Many sites have more links to their home page than they do to any specific web page. Google crawls the web from link to link.

So for most websites Google will begin crawling a website from the home page. There’s a little bit left unsaid. The reason Google may start at the home page is because that’s the page that is linked to the most.

Mueller continues:

“So what will happen is, we’ll see the home page is really important, things linked from the home page are generally pretty important as well.

And then… as it moves away from the home page we’ll think probably this is less critical.”

That pages linked directly from the home page are important is fairly well known but it’s worth repeating. In a well organized website the major category pages and any other important pages are going to be linked from the home page.”

Important Content Signals

Mueller then explained:

“So that’s something where you might see things like this where it’s like someone will say, well some amount of steps is… the minimum steps from the home page. From our point of view that’s less about SEO and more about, well we have to discover all of these pages somehow.

So if news articles from 2023 are behind some archive where you have to kind of like find the archive, find the year and then look at the month and look at maybe a category and then find the news article, usually that’s perfectly fine.

On the other hand, if there’s something that you really really care about, you think is really important and you hide it away like that, then probably we’ll think it’s not as important.

So if you think it’s important then make sure it’s really easily findable within your website.”

That’s a great explanation of how to signal to Google that any particular page is important to the site by giving it a link straight from the home page. That link could be to a popular category, to a trending topic or a page that describes a service your business provides.

Clearly not every web page in a website is as important as every other web page. But that’s the signal that a flat site structure sends.

In my experience, dividing a site according to topics then making deeper pages accessible from those topic pages is the best way to structure a web site, both for Google and for users.

Watch the John Mueller answer the question here:

Related: What to Do When Google Is Ranking the Wrong Page for Your Keywords

Is Your Usage Of Google Ads An Organic Search Ranking Factor?

It’s a topic that’s been hotly debated over the years.

Let’s take a look at why people have believed this to be true – and whether Google Ads can really help you rank higher in organic search.

The Claim: Google Ads As A Ranking Factor

This one stems from an ongoing distrust of Google the Mega Corporation. It suggests that if you spend money in one division (in this case, Google Ads), you’ll enjoy benefits in another (Search).

The Evidence for Google Ads As A Ranking Factor

Every so often, an SEO professional pops up to share anecdotal evidence around rankings dropping in correlation with a Google Ads campaign (see an example in the next section).

But that’s just what it is – there’s no evidence of causation there, and the plural of anecdote is not data.

Early in 2023, a member of the search marketing community fired off a series of tweets accusing Google of not only using Ads campaign spend to influence organic search rankings but of attempting to extort business owners with the practice.

In one, she wrote:

As expected, chaos ensued. Those who’d harbored a belief in the Google Ads/organic rankings cheered in vindication. SEO pros shook their proverbial fists at the Twitter sky.

Google tricked us again!

Others argued that it wasn’t possible; that the intent of the sales rep’s message had been lost in translation.

Upon questioning, she insisted it was not a miscommunication and that the Google Ads sales rep had even sent written confirmation that increasing ad spend would improve branded organic rankings.

Was Google caught out with a smoking gun, accepting money in exchange for rankings?

The Evidence Against Google Ads As A Ranking Factor

Google’s Danny Sullivan caught wind of the conversation above and was clear in denying any connection between the two:

Matt Cutts dispelled this myth in a 2014 video, characterizing the ongoing insistence that Google Ads (AdWords, at the time) were in any way related to organic search performance as the stuff of conspiracy theories:

And we sort of feel like we should get those two conspiracy camps together and let them fight it all out. And then whoever emerges from that one room, we can just debunk that one conspiracy theory.”

“We want to return really good search results to users so they’re happy, so they’ll keep coming back. That’s basically it.”

More recently, John Mueller addressed the topic in a Google Office Hours hangout.

Mueller explained:

Google Ads As A Ranking Factor: Our Verdict

Google is a massive organization more than capable of keeping these two divisions separate.

What’s more, allowing ad spend to influence organic rankings would surely result in less useful results and a poorer user experience. It would counteract everything else Google is trying to do with search.

You may not believe everything Google says.

This one is clear: Google does not use Google Ads as a search ranking signal.

Featured image: Paulo Bobita

Apple Translate Vs Google Translate: Which Is Better?

With the release of iOS 14, Apple has introduced a new Apple Translate app that is competing directly with the Google Translate app (Android/iOS). The app features a clean UI with excellent features including a translate mode, the ability to save phrases, offline translation, and more. In this article, we are going to put these two apps head-to-head to see which app you should use for your translation needs. Read along as we bring you Apple Translate vs Google Translate to find out which translation app is better.

Apple Translate vs Google Translate: The One to Choose

We are going to compare Apple Translate and Google Translate on various fronts. We have created sections for each feature comparison. Here are all the points that we are going to cover in this article:

With all that said, let’s get to our comparison, shall we?

1. User Interface

While Google Translate is also easy to use, I found Apple’s design language more pleasant to use. One thing that I like more about Google Translate is the copy button that lets you easily copy translated text. In Apple Translate, you have to hold and select the text as you do anywhere in the iOS UI. It’s not hard, but it’s also not as easy as Google’s offering.

Overall, I feel that anyone can get accustomed to using both these apps in minutes. So I won’t give this point to either service. It’s just a matter of personal preference. I prefer Apple’s execution, but you might lean more towards Google’s design language. The good thing is that both apps are easy to use.

2. Language Support

On the other hand, Google Translate supports most major languages in the world. Currently, you can translate between 103 languages, a feat that Apple will need at least a few years to even come close to beating. That said, there are nuances that you should keep in mind.

Out of 103 supported languages, only 43 languages support bilingual conversations on the fly. While it is still more than Apple’s 11 languages, you should keep this in mind. The 103 language support is for text conversion and not real-time conversation translation.

3. Accuracy

This was a hard feature for me to test. It’s because Apple Translate doesn’t support any Indian languages right now. So, I didn’t know how accurate the translations it gave were. Also, since the accuracy of translation can change depending on the language you are using, it becomes hard to determine the overall accuracy of any translation app.

So, I called my friend who is well-versed in French and German, and asked him to help with the tests. According to him, both Google Translate and Apple Translate were on-par with the results. While both the apps made mistakes, they were good enough to allow you to have a simple conversation with a person in other languages.

4. Offline Support

Both Google and Apple support offline translation. This is a very handy feature as it allows you to continue the conversation without requiring any network connection. Apple supports offline translation for all its supported languages.

You will need to download the language pack by tapping on the download button before you can access this feature, so keep that in mind.

5. Other Features

Since Apple Translate is a newbie, it’s quite bare-bones in its feature set. You can either type or speak text to translate. Google Translate on the other hand has been around for years and offers way more input options.

Apart from text and speech, you can also translate the text inside images by capturing or importing photos (works with 50 languages). It also supports handwriting recognition, thus allowing you to draw text characters instead of typing (works with 95 out of 103 supported languages).

Both Google and Apple Translate allow you to favorite phrases, making it easier to access the most used phrases. But, Google also syncs the phrasebook between app and desktop, which gives it a leg up, as Apple Translate doesn’t seem to have a desktop app right now. I also love the copy button that lets me easily copy the translated phrase.

Also, Google Translate is cross-platform. That means you can use it on your Android and iOS smartphone. You can’t do this with Apple Translate as it’s only available on iOS. If you are going by the breadth of features, Google Translate is certainly on top.

Frequently Asked Questions Q. What is the most accurate translation app?

This is a hard question to answer as accuracy varies depending on the languages that you are using. That being said, Google Translate offers the best translations for the most number of languages, so it might be the one.

Q. Is there a better app than Google Translate?

Currently, there’s no better app than Google Translate. But Apple Translate is very good, and as more and more languages are supported in the future, it will give a serious completion to Google.

Q. What is the best real-time translator?

Both Google Translate and Apple Translate support real-time translation. However, Google Translate works with 43 languages when using real-time translation, while Apple’s offering only supports 11 right now. Keeping that in mind, Google Translate is the winner and the best real-time translator app right now.

Q. Is iTranslate translator free? Q. What is the best voice translator App?

Both Apple Translate and Google Translate, along with third-party translation apps like iTranslate, support voice translation. They all work great, and there is no way to crown an app as the best voice translator app as there are too many variables. Google Translate is the one that comes the closest, so you should check it out.

Apple Translate vs Google Translate: Which One to Choose

It’s clear that while Apple Translate is an excellent translation app, Google is still the king here. It not only supports more languages but also offers more input options. It also works cross-platform which is a huge benefit.

That being said, if you only use Apple devices and your needs are met with 11 supported languages, I don’t see why you need to switch to Google Translate. The biggest flaw of Google Translate is the privacy concerns that come attached with any Google Product.

So, if you don’t want to offer your data to Google, and are happy with Apple’s limited offering, stick with Apple Translate. For the rest of the world, Google Translate will still make a better travel companion.

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