Don’t Blame Google For Your Own Linking Failures

Here’s a pair of tough questions to kick Link Week for 2008 off with a bang.

In 2007, many long-practiced link building tactics stopped being effective. Many link building companies and consultants sold the exact tactics/services that are now useless. Why didn’t you see this coming, and if you did, why did you sell those services in the first place and what services will you sell now?

First, I’ll go ahead and gloat. It’s good to be LinkMoses. Why? See for yourself.

OK, done gloating.

Since SES 2002, when I was challenged in a post session Q&A for my tactics being too cautious and unrealistic, to last month when I was told my responses to a link building value factors questionnaire were “retarded“, I’ve spent the past five years basically telling anyone that would listen that the approach most folks were taking to link building were wrong. At conferences, Danny and Chris and Detlev and others have introduced me and then watched as I stood and told the entire room that tactics like mass directory submission or article syndication/submission or indiscreet reciprocal linking or press releases or paid links or even link bait, were all doomed to failure sooner or later. That any web site basing its long term success on such tactics would not be happy.

It would be unfair to point fingers at any one company in particular, because to some extent we have all helped perpetuate the link building myths that Google innocently fueled when they first gave us PageRank. At the same time, I find it hard to believe anyone who earns their living by building links is really surprised by what has happened and is happening. The devaluing of directory links? Please. Are you really going to tell me you are shocked that Google no longer thinks a link from link-o-matic, link-to-my-loo, and are of any value? Please. But if you knew that such links would someday lose value, why did you take money for that very service? And if you didn’t honestly know such links were pointless, how can you call yourself a link builder?

Deep links in articles? Really? You’re telling me you cannot fathom how that article you paid to have hosted at a seven year old abandoned site with just the right keywords linked to just the right page of your client’s site is no longer helping anyone? You are honestly shocked that those automated reciprocal links services you sold to clients are now a red flag? That those blog spam links that fooled Live search seem to be failing now? Let me ask you additional questions. Why did you think that any tactic predicated on a lie would work? Why would you trust any of those tactics and links as being credible in the first place? Did you use those same tactics on your own site, or just for clients?

I have a feeling many link building services confused the steady stream of new clients to be an indicator that they were effective link builders. They believed their own bottom lines. “We have 100 new client inquires a week for our Link-Spanker tool, so it must work, right? Wrong.

Google’s focus on trusted sources is your worst nightmare. At the heart of the trusted link model is the word trust. But the mistake I still see being made is missing the true origin of that trust. It was never the page itself that was trustworthy. Nor was it the domain. Nor was it the IP block, or the number of co-hosted web sites present or some other silly metric. Trust originates with the steward of the content. The page editor. The author. Trust originates from people, and manifests itself on the web as links. The engine that figured that out first was Google, and others followed.

My favorite saying is as accurate today as it was in the nineties. The engines already know how to count links. What they don’t know, and what they will get better at, is knowing which of the links they have counted actually matter. Many of you have had your entire portfolio of clients blown up because you relied on several core link building tactics that were doomed to fail.

Your job now should not be to blame Google for your situation, but to recognize what matters now, what may matter then, and give sound advice to the clients who put their confidence in us and food on our tables.

Agree? Disagree? Please tell me why over on Sphinn.

Eric Ward has been in the link building and content publicity game since 1994, providing services ranking from linking strategy to a monthly private newsletters on linking for subscribers. The Link Week column appears on Mondays at Search Engine Land.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Link Building: General | Link Week Column


About The Author: has been creating linking strategies for clients since 1994. Eric publishes the strategic linking advice newsletter LinkMoses Private, and provides linking services, training and consulting via

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