Building links has been a popular, long-practiced method in search engine optimization. The more inbound links a site acquires, the more link juice that is passed to that site. In turn, the “link popularity” drives-up a target site’s page rank and that increases conversions.
In theory, this is true. But in practice, building links must be done with discretion as not every back-linking site has equal authority. That is to say, some sites have little to no link juice to pass and hence, aren’t valuable in building links. What is valuable is earning links as this is seen as organic rather than synthetic–and that’s what search engines prefer.
Build Links, Get Penalized
Let’s take a look at how search algorithms have been changing. The two largest updates Google has rolled out are Panda and Penguin. The underlying purpose of both these changes was to return better search results by returning high quality sites and dis-including spammy or low-quality sites.
…the new way to do this is earn links directly with content. You can earn links very, very directly if you create the kind of content that you know someone wants to share, wants to link to, would embed, would write about or blog about or include in their press or their research… —Rand Fishkin, SEOmoz.org
Along with the EMD or Exact Match Domain update, the direction in which search engines are going is becoming decidedly clear: focus on creating great content and earn links rather than waste time building links.
No matter how sophisticated the Internet marketing tool a site owner may use, the rules of Google link building are changing somewhat drastically. From these changes, one must conclude that link building software is becoming a thing of the past–with good reason. To make a point of it, most of the old methods are now being penalized.
Earning Links is Replacing Building Links
In the mid to late 1990’s, earning links was the way to SEO a site. Building links did not become a standard practice until the turn of the century. And that was because search engines weren’t very smart; now they are. So, trying to manipulate the system (even when playing by the rules) is on it’s way out.
What’s left? Quite a bit, actually. Here are some ways to go about earning links rather than building links:
- Use social media instead of email. Traffic is now driven far more by social media than email campaigns. The reason is simple–everyone is involved in the discussion.
- Produce high quality content that’s useful. This goes back to social media and organic linking. If your site has good content with meaning, it will naturally earn links over time.
- Aim for curated lists, not spam-filled directories. Penguin may have dealt a serious blow to many directories. But it didn’t affect curated lists. Things like the BBB’s list of businesses and Inc.com’s top lists of companies are still very valuable indeed.
- Guest blog for high quality sites. Guest blogging remains a great way to earn links. Discerning sites which only publish informative, quality content are a great source of earned links.