Everything you need to know about SEO, delivered every Thursday.
Betting On The Link Building Boondoggle Bonanza
I recently read Is Most Of SEO Just A Boondoggle? and the subsequent comments and attacks on the author Jill Whalen, and it’s become my own tipping point. Enough is enough. Every word of that column was right on the money. It’s just rare (and welcomed) for a well known expert to state in a high profile venue like SEL what many of us privately know to be true.
Those of us who have been doing what we do the longest are faced with a choice every time we write about our own industry. Do we ignore the elephant(s) in the room, or bring attention to not only the elephants, but the huge dumps they leave on the carpet?
Through years of experience, success and failure, trial and error, some of us in the SEM industry know exactly when a tool, tactic, or piece of advice is total bullshit. Yet after all these years, we still have companies making a nice living selling tools, tactics, or advice which is just that: total BS. Why? Mostly because those of us who know how to spot the BS have simply ignored it and quietly gone about our own business. No need to make waves. Jill made waves. And I congratulate her for it, and I’m going to try and do some wave making myself, here in my neck of the woods, the neck known as link building.
Link building has so many “boondoggle” services it’s ridiculous. I couldn’t cover them all in a single column here if I had to. I could mention a couple, like press release distribution for link building (pointless), or so-called top tier directories, (which I can count on one hand and none o them really matter either). Sorry Yahoo, you kinda sorta matter, but I’ve got client sites ranked 1st at Google that aren’t listed in Yahoo period.
Any readers who don’t believe me, put up $1,000, and I’ll pay you $5,000 if I can’t show you at least one site I helped build links for that now ranks #1 for its key phrase, and that same site is not listed in either Yahoo or DMOZ for that matter. Take the bet. I’m giving you five-to-one odds, and my kid will need braces soon.
Even these brief comments will have repercussions. I expect attacks. If you operate a directory not named Yahoo! and make money from it, of course it will piss you off if I tell the truth about it being useless. If you sell link building services based on press releases, same deal. You don’t want your clients reading this and asking you hard questions. That’s another reason most of us have kept quiet. Outing a useless service or tool (and believe me link building tools are a boondoggle bonanza) means the person who created the tool could lose their livelihood. Nobody should have that happen, right?
But times change. I have a different agenda now, and motivations that compel me. I wont take up space here every week or two just to go on an attack, but remember Link Moses? I am him, and he’s back for a limited engagement over at Link Building Best Practices. See LinkMoses Resurrected – Thirty Link Building Rants and Commandments.
Back to Is Most Of SEO Just A Boondoggle? Among the tactics questioned were PageRank sculpting, Meta tags, sitemaps, H1 tags, keyword rich URLs, and URL submission to engines.
On the link building side, boondoggles include anchor text, press releases, directories, articles, paid links, and link bait. And I’m just getting started…
Postscript from author: After reading comments below, I realize this is what I should have written to clarify my point. It is my mistake that I didn’t do so in the first place.
When someone says SEO tactics are pointless, it is true. When someone else says they are useful, that too is true. Every single SEO, SEM, link building, content publicity or other attention seeking tactic is either useless or useful. It is not the tactic itself that makes it so, it is the site for which that tactic is employed. Even something as seemingly pointless today as a meta keyword tag will have value in certain instances, like a searchable company intranet. XML sitemaps could be useful for a fee based membership site that can’t be crawled the usual way. So, the reality is I should have just wrote the above, rather than piling on. Now, here’s the other reality. Since every single tactic is useless or useful depending on the site, what I do (and what I wish more people would do) is help clients understand which tactics make sense for their particular site and scenario, and why. I know I could sell bundles of silly services to my clients and make money because they trust me, and will buy them. But I can’t do that, and I don’t think anyone else should either.
Thank you for letting me clarify.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.