There’s quite a debate about link building going on in the world of SEO these days. The debate centers around whether or not focusing time and energy on acquiring links or “votes” from other websites to yours should still be a part of a search engine optimization strategy. A recent article on Search Engine Land suggests that local businesses should forget about link building all together.
I don’t think link building is dead and I believe backlinks are still important; I believe it’s more about shifting the way we think about acquiring inbound links to websites. There still seem to be a lot of “SEO experts” that don’t believe that search is becoming more social and even small businesses need to be focused on content and creating a social presence.
Link building has been one of the cornerstones of an SEO strategy for a long time, and links between sites are still important. In fact, for a long time, the Google Webmaster guidelines stated that the way to improve the ranking of a site was to increase the number of high-quality sites linking to their pages. A link from one website to another is a “vote” for that page. The higher the quality of the linking website the bigger the vote is the more likely Google will view it as a credible source of information.
It’s interesting to note that in May Google updated the Webmaster guidelines from:
“In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by increasing the number of high-quality sites that link to their pages.”
“In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by creating high-quality sites that users will want to use and share.“
My interpretation of this change is that the focus should be on content first and links second, the key phrase is users will want to use and share.” We usually think of “sharing” as a social networking term, in reality if the owner of a website thinks highly enough of the content on another website that they’re willing to link to it (and risk someone leaving their site), that’s a really powerful form of “sharing.”
Link building isn’t dead but it does require a different mind-set, one that focuses on creating valuable content first and on building relationships not links. I’m not certain if an SEO consultant is even the right person to do this, I keep toying with the idea that perhaps that it should be the role of the social media strategist and/or business owner; generally speaking they are the folks that are interacting in networking and relationship building. I know that’s a bit radical, but I can’t shake the thought.
In today’s world of social networking, it’s easy to find and locate good candidates for inbound links and engaging socially with those folks will naturally lead to inbound links. It seems to me that rather than using laborious methods of identifying potential sites, followed by an anonymous request to a webmaster
begging asking for a link, it makes a lot more sense to start with the relationship first and the inbound link will be more likely to materialize.
What are your thoughts on the role of link building in today’s world of search engine optimization?