SEO has certainly grown up a lot in the last few years. No longer is it as black and white as before – there are now more shades of grey to contend with. If you are confused as to whether link building is dead or still alive and well, and thinking “well come on Google, which is it?” you might have a rather grey answer to contend with – “it depends”.
What’s going on with links?
Inbound links or backlinks (that is, those pointing back to your site from elsewhere) are a bit like ‘votes’ for your site. The thing is, for too long, quite a number of site owners were using cheap tactics to get ahead in rankings – such as through link schemes, or paying for links to make their site look good to search engines. You might liken this to paying people to be your friend in public so you can look like one of the cool kids!
Search engines eventually caught on, and since have clamped down on these sorts of practices. But this does not mean that link building is dead. According to Matt Cutts of Google, it isn’t dead at all, but it has certainly changed.
How has it changed?
While once upon a time, a site owner might be able to fill their site with poorly written content filled with keywords and pay for dodgy links, and it could work well in improving their site’s rankings on SERPs, this is no longer the case – especially in light of Google’s Penguin algorithm.
In this video Matt Cutts says “there is still a lot of mileage left in links”. By this we can deduce that links are still used in determining site rankings. However, he also states that the way to build quality links ethically is through being compelling in your content – posting interesting things that have value for people. He describes compelling content as being the ‘hook’ that will draw people in. And as you post content that has real value for people, they are more likely to share it with others, increasing the number of genuine and quality links or ‘votes’ for your site.
How do I ethically build links?
When it comes to content, it’s all about quality. You need to provide content that is unique, compelling, original, well written, and that provides something useful for your audience, so that you earn links in a more natural way. Of course, it’s also vital that you aim for excellence in customer service, and in all your business activities.
If this all sounds a little too vague, it helps to know that there are ways to build links more directly while still remaining ethical in your online practices. Suggestions for this include:
- Asking others with whom you have a genuine business relationship to share your content if they believe it will be relevant for their audience, and offering to do the same for them.
- Requesting that your employees link to your site on their emails, or on their own blog posts or social media pages.
- Inviting your genuine followers, trading partners and long-term customers to share your content with others if they like it and have gained value from it.
Some of the key words here are ‘genuine’, and ‘relevance’. It’s far better to have a few genuine votes for your site, than a multitude of irrelevant ones from those you have no real connection with.
How do I get rid of old dodgy links?
If you know of some old inbound links lurking about on the net that might harm your search engine rankings, you can contact site owners to request that they remove them. You can also use the disavow tool – which allows you to advise Google that you want certain links to be disregarded when assessing your site.
As children we need clear rules to follow, but as we grow we realise that things are not always so simple. This is similar for SEO – now that it has matured, it needs to be managed in a more grown-up way, through business relationship-building, engaging with others, and providing excellence in every way.