Most online SEO resources play up the importance of link building. In fact, it seems that they put so much emphasis on link building that it’s not a surprise that a lot of people who are not that well-versed in SEO assume that SEO is link building.

Put in another way, a lot of people think that link building is SEO. The thinking is as long as you put in the right kind of work into building links or earning links, then all your SEO needs are pretty much done. According to this line of thought, the traffic will basically appear just because you’ve laid out the right links pointing to your website. Whether you earned links through guest posts, interviews, or press releases, it doesn’t matter. The name of the game, as far as this school of thought is concerned, is that you’re taking care of all your SEO needs by simply taking care of link building.


The bad news? Link building is not SEO

It’s easy to think that link building is SEO because for the longest time, links played an outsized role in search engine optimization. Few people would deny that. For the longest time, Google was, for the lack of a better word, dependent on links. After all, Google technology, originally called “BackRub,” pioneered the use of backlink signals to determine the ranking for websites.

In fact, the people behind Google tried to sell the BackRub technology to Yahoo, but got rejected. To say that backlinks formed the bedrock of Google would not be an understatement but Google has moved on. Google’s search algorithm technology has mutated and grown to the point that it’s safe to say that link building is just a part of SEO and its impact on SEO is continuing to decline.

While nobody’s arguing that link building is completely a waste of time, keep in mind that the importance of link building is declining over time. If you were to base your SEO strategy completely on link building, you’re putting yourself at risk.

First, you can get traffic by ranking higher with link building. But without proper on-page SEO, a lot of that traffic would simply be wasted. A lot of that traffic would not be optimized for conversions. You end up settling for a fraction of the traffic you could otherwise be getting. Even if you were to get people on your website, if your website doesn’t use proper technical SEO, you might not be able to convert much of that traffic.

On top of all of this, if you focus too much on link building, you might neglect technical SEO’s impact on your content quality, as well as content organization. This can be the kiss of death, thanks to RankBrain.


The reality of RankBrain

There’s a lot of fanfare in the online SEO press regarding the role of RankBrain. RankBrain pretty much embodied Google’s transition from a manual-based quality ranking system to a fully automated web content quality ranking system that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning. The technical improvement that RankBrain brings to the table involves tracking user behavior.

When people do a search on Google, they’re obviously looking for a solution. By studying the behavior of people clicking on a link and going to a website, Google makes a certain educated guess as to whether the searcher found what they’re looking for. Not surprisingly, the focus of RankBrain is whether the search result terminated the search. In other words, when somebody saw a search result and clicked on it, they found what they’re looking for so they did not go back to Google.

This is called terminating the search. They ended their search right there. This is exactly the kind of behavior RankBrain is going to reward because it indicates that the searcher found the right information. This has a tremendous impact on technical SEO, as well as the importance of link building for SEO.


How technical SEO worked in the past

Prior to RankBrain, technical SEO focused on making it easy for Google’s crawler software to find websites and make sense of those websites. The whole point of technical SEO is to make sure that the website, as much as possible, is completely visible to Google.

The more pages are visible to Google, the more pages are indexed, and the higher the likelihood that those pages will get traffic from Google. Accordingly, the focus is on ensuring that the website is set up properly, that the right navigation systems are in place, as well as the right markup is employed.


How technical SEO works in the age of RankBrain

While keyword selection has always been a part of technical SEO, it plays a bigger role in the age of RankBrain. You have to understand that since Google is now paying attention to how users behave as they transition from a search result to actually using your website, you have to make sure that you used the right keywords to attract the right attention from the right people.

This way, there’s a high likelihood that they would engage in behavior that would end up rewarding your website. Meaning, you terminate the search. Technical SEO, accordingly, is all about setting the right context. You have to position your content to terminate the search. This means that a laser focus on tight navigation elements, as well as laying out the content and theme relationships found within your website, ensures that searchers stay for a much longer time.

On top of all of this, technical SEO also positions content for conversion. While conversion rate optimization (CRO) is another field entirely, technical SEO is mindful of CRO considerations and incorporates many conversion oriented strategies in positioning content within an SEO context.


Let experts handle your technical SEO

A lot of small business owners, as well as online publishers, think that technical SEO can simply be reduced to following a checklist of what to do and what not to do on their website. While there is a lot of value in a checklist-based mindset, as far as technical SEO is concerned, you need to go beyond that checklist approach because you have to make sure that you terminate the search.
This means that you have to make your content stand up and build loyalty. Loyalty is built one click at a time and one visitor at a time. Also, expert technical SEO enables your site to successfully walk the tight rope between maximizing search engine traffic and ensuring that the people who do show up stick around for a long time and eventually convert.