Sunday, January 15, 2012

The End of Link Building as We've Known and Loved it

The process has already started, and as a publisher you need to make sure you are adapting your marketing strategy to line up, or get left behind.
Google made the link building algorithm popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It was a revolution in its time because it provided search engines with a method for identifying the most important web pages for a given topic. However, as has been well documented, spammers have assaulted the algorithm with a wide variety of methods for buying links or creating them in other ways that don't work for the algorithms.
Even if you generate all your links in a pure white hat way, through reaching out to site owners and requesting them without compensation, or are doing high quality guest posts, you aren't necessarily generating the best possible signal for search engines. Certainly this type of link building done properly would not be a violation of the Webmaster Guidelines, but from the perspective of the search engines it also doesn't represent a groundswell of opinion raving about your product. It still means something, but it is brute force driven through your efforts, rather than resulting from the enthusiasm of your audience.
I don't believe that search engines will penalize people who link build this way, but I think they will value the link profile that is manually built less than one that obtains unsolicited endorsements from the web.
Prior to the emergence of Google, links weren't a ranking factor in a significant search engine. At that time, any unpaid links were implemented solely based on merit, because the publisher had no other reason to link to someone else's page. Even paid ads were based on the advertiser valuing the traffic from the target site enough to be willing to pay for it, since there was no other benefit - so these too went to highly relevant pages as a rule.
Short and simple: links were a better quality signal when the world didn't know that they were a signal. But, those days are gone.
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