Some topics just never get old.
And some people just never seem to learn.
Here at the official blog of Amplitude Digital, we’ve devoted a good bit of time and space to warning all our clients, colleagues, partners, friends and readers about the many risks associated with the often-nefarious world of “link-building.”
And we feel compelled to continue to do so. Why? Because this particular type – or shall we say, types – of digital marketing operator just continue to give us reason after reason to go on the attack. Or at least fire a warning shot across the bow.
We recently came across a blog post on a popular social media site that once again made us pause…and shake our heads a bit in amazement.
The post was about how a business can and should develop a “link-building strategy,” and in our opinion, the highlight of this article was a quote from Google Webspam Czar Matt Cutts. Cutts and his aggressive yet playful approach to “traffic policing” the internet are also favorite, frequent topics of ours here in this blog space, and his quote here was, per usual, spot on:
“The objective is not to “make your links appear natural”; the objective is that your links are natural.”
After that, however, the blog post basically recommends exactly what Cutts cautions someone NOT to do when it comes to addressing and implementing links for and on your site.
Let’s take a closer, piece-by-piece, blow-by-blow look at this post and its misinformed, misguided advice, shall we? Words from the post are bolded and in italics. Our responses to each point are directly below.
*It Isn’t Easy
“Finding potential link building opportunities might seem simple, but winning the links themselves can be a challenge.”
Yes, indeed, landing press coverage and outside promotion can be difficult. But, guess what? That’s why there’s an entire profession built around securing promotion via media channels. It’s called public relations. Or PR, if you’re into the whole acronym thing. Look into it.
*Your Competition Has One
“If your competition is using SEO services efficiently, they will have implemented a link building strategy. If theirs is better than yours, they are likely to rank higher than you for your chosen keywords.”
OK. Maybe your competition does have a link-building strategy in place. But even if they do, who’s to say your competition actually knows what they’re doing? One of the many reasons we advise our clients at Amplitude Digital to take competitive data with a grain of salt is because competitive data doesn’t provide actual results for the efforts. It just shows that the effort is being made.
*Search Engines Love Links
“There is just no way that your website will survive online without appeasing search engines (and Google in particular). Search engines like a strong and natural link profile because a link from an authoritative site acts as a vote of confidence.”
Yes, that is correct. Search engines do, in fact, love links. But, as Cutts himself pointed out in the primary point of his aforementioned quote, search engines love NATURAL links first and foremost. They always have. And they always will. In fact, the linking part of the Google algorithm comes from the early days of the internet – when scientists used to link to other relevant sources of data to support their research findings. This has always been the case. You were NEVER supposed to be doing the heavy-handed “link building” that some so-called SEOs advocate so strongly. What has changed since then is that Google is now a lot better at catching – and punishing – people who have been “gaming the system.”
“Wikipedia is a prime example of a site that is successful because of links. Each page on Wikipedia links to others internally, as well as external references. People link back to Wikipedia because it can be used to find a huge wealth of knowledge and so it makes referencing very easy.”
Yes, it works. But, again, it works when it all happens…naturally. And when you do it naturally, it works for a very long time – and does so without catching heat from Google. Wikipedia is a great example of this, sure. But not because they have a “link profile” or even a “link-building strategy.” Rather, Wikipedia frequently gets linked back to because the site (usually) has informative and rich content that people willingly and regularly link to as a source of valuable and accurate information.
What’s the moral of the story here, then? What’s the real world takeaway to be derived from all of this talk of links and link-building?
Well, it goes a little something like this:
The only “link-building strategy” a company really needs is to remind their PR agency or department that they are actually “link builders” themselves – and it’s in everyone’s best interest to try and link to deeper content when they’re seeking coverage.
In other words, it’s worth the time and effort it takes to train your PR people about SEO and links. But you should do it so they don’t accidentally (or even intentionally) do anything that can be considered “spammy.” Especially if such a determination will lead to punishment at the hands of Cutts and Google. Which it often will.