I don’t have to build links anymore, and I have never felt so liberated. So free. All the years I spent endless hours trying to help content get discovered — and I didn’t realize I didn’t have to do any of it. Those 163 conference gigs? Waste of time. 300+ articles, columns and posts? Digital litter. The massive project I just wrapped up for the Sochi Olympics? I’m sending their check back.
Why? Because it’s been made clear by everyone that link building is now dead, the last nail in the coffin being the guest blog post, hammered in by my friend, colleague, and occasional co-panelist, Matt Cutts, who takes way more grief than he deserves. It’s not his fault you treated Google like a personal ATM for a decade.
So there it is. Stop all your linking and publicity related activities. You now have one single solitary content mission:
Be awesome and the world will find and share that awesomeness — this is the 2014 social version of 1994′s “build it and they will come” approach, or the 2010 version of “just make it an app and they will download it.” Who needs links when likes, tweets, pins and plusses are available? An actual <a href> tag is downright exhausting to create and could get us an unnatural link warning.
Somehow, someway, the web has evolved into this absolutely amazing collection of utterly brilliant content that builds its own links or downloads itself onto your handheld. And to prove that link builders (or linking strategists, or content publicists or whatever we called ourselves) are no longer needed, below are 11 facts that truly illustrate the linkless world we now live in.
1. There are over 5,300 articles that have the words “link building is dead” in their title. See for yourself: http://goo.gl/YatQDI. There is no possible way they can all be wrong — at least one out of 5,300 has to have some truth to it, am I right?
2. Directories Don’t Work. (Not true. Directories with no actual purpose don’t work. Topical, vertical, niche, and highly curated directories are a solid source of traffic and credibility.)
3. Press Releases Don’t Work. (Not true. Press releases about nothing and filled with keyword anchors don’t work. Press releases about something that is actually worth announcing might just get you written about [and linked to] by someone that has credibility. Big difference.)
4. Article Databases Don’t Work. (Not true. Article databases filled with poorly written content covering hundreds of topics don’t work. Much like directories, topical, vertical, niche and highly-curated collections of articles are a solid source of traffic and credibility.)
5. Anchor Text Doesn’t Work. (Not true. If the website that contains the anchor text has produced historical signals that indicate it has been a highly credible source for a long time, then anchor text originating from that source is likely to be quite helpful — and you won’t be able to control it because that’s what made it credible in the first place. Imagine for a moment there’s a college professor who has been blogging about global warming for a decade. He’s an expert. He can’t be bought. He sometimes links to other sources and sites, and he sometimes even uses text that contains what you might call a “keyword.” He has never heard of SEO in his life. Do you really think Google is going to ignore that source?)
6. Link Networks Don’t Work. (Not true. It all depends on how you are defining the term “link network.” Isn’t a nationwide collection of state chapter websites of any national organization a link network? Yes, it is. And if you are a new chapter of that national organization, launch a site, and get your link like all the others have, aren’t you now a part of a link network? Yes, you are — as you should be.)
7. Widgets Don’t Work. (Not true. Widgets that embed and/or require inclusion of source code containing links don’t work. Not all widgets are like this.)
8. Paid Links Will Get You Busted. (Not true. Nothing more to say on this one.)
9. Guest Posts Don’t Work. (Not true. Isn’t this column technically a “guest post”? Aren’t you reading it right now?)
10. Infographics Don’t Work. (Not true. Have we reached the point where every single complex, statistic-driven fact and finding has now been made perfectly clear by infographic artists? No. But we have reached the point where 7,500 charts showing why e-cigarettes are good for you is not helpful.)
11. The exact same companies that you paid thousands of dollars to build links for you are now charging you thousands of dollars to remove the exact same links they so fervently urged you to pursue. (In many cases true, sadly.)
All of what you’ve read so far is both true and false at the same time. How does that help to clear up matters? In today’s linking environment, everything is a matter of nuance. Everything works and nothing works, depending on a variety of variables and intentions.
For every tactic you tell me is good, I can show you how it could be bad. For every tactic you tell me is wrong, I can find a scenario where it could be right. And this isn’t news. It’s always been this way. There has never been a shortage of link builders, but there has always been a shortage of content linking strategists who recognize search is just one piece of the linking puzzle and know what to do about it.
The Right Content, The Right Person, The Right Introduction
Now, below is one reason link building is not dead. Buried deep on a new Sochi Olympics website is content just for teachers. You’d probably never know it was there or find it if you just used the massive navigation menus on the site, so I was asked to help.
If link building is not needed, if link building is dead, if link building does not work, then the person who sent me the below email in response my outreach/link request apparently did not get the news.
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: New Sochi Olympics Educational Content Available for Teachers Date: Fri, 3 Jan 2014 14:56:14 -0000 From: (redacted) School District To: Eric Ward <email@example.com>
Mr Ward, Thank you for alerting us to the instructional materials and lesson plans for the upcoming Olympics. We have shared the URLs with the 500+ teachers in our district by putting direct links to the materials in our weekly e-mail, and will include them again next week.
Thank you for contacting the (redacted) School District.
(name redacted) Director of Communications & Development (redacted) School District (email redacted) (phone redacted)
Wow, telling someone about content and they actually link to it? It can’t be, but there it is. Please ignore this column and accept my apologies. I have to get back to work after all.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.