So what’s your linking strategy for 2007? I mean besides get as many as possible? Maybe you’re adding link bait? Or buying links? Or ramping up your link-loaded "press releases" to six per month? Buying old sites and 301′ing them? Or maybe you want to get to the Digg homepage? Reciprocals? Three ways? Ask your college kid for a link from his .edu page? Outsource it all? Or how about this? Works for me.
Whatever your linking strategy — and there are many — one thing has not changed a bit in the 14 years I’ve been in the link building and content publicity game. Every web site has logical, natural and unique inbound link potential.
There are links that any web site can get, and there are links that your web site can get that other sites will never get. Somewhere in-between lies the perfect inbound link profile for your site, for both algorithms and people.
Over the past few years the mild mannered link has achieved rock-star status, as all major engines included some form of link analysis in their algorithms. The resulting frenzy to acquire links at any and all costs has been sort of fun to watch as well as vindication for me, the lonely link builder who has been at it since before search engines existed to count them.
I remember seeing the now famous PageRank paper and saying to myself "what the hell took you so long?" I doubt that even one single person reading this is now unaware that the search engines pay attention to links as a major part of how they rank pages.
But somewhere between the launch of the first Google Toolbar showing PageRank scores and the launch of the first paid link service (with props to LinkExchange.com), I’ve noticed a loss of appreciation for the “uniqueness” of content that sets one site apart from other sites. In the rush to get links, links become a commodity. Packaged and sold, traded and swapped, in batches. It’s Links Gone Wild!, the unrated version.
Lost in the market frenzy is that real link building is an art requiring a fine brush, not an airbrush attached to a five gallon drum. The more-is-better and even-more-is-even-better approach to link building is doomed to fail. You know it, I know. Everyone but Microsoft Live Search seems to know it. In 2007, I’m hoping, at least expecting, all the search engines get sophisticated enough to recognize the “signals of intent” that almost every link sends out, so the commoditization of link building will stop. Or at least slow down.
My belief is that a smaller number of links will carry a larger weight with the search engines. By that, I mean the search engines will credit links from sites they feel confident can be trusted, as they do now, but will ignore more and more links that are in any way suspect.
There won’t be any absolutes such as “all reciprocal links are ignored” (my favorite insane rumor) or “all paid links are bad,” because search engines will get better at identifying intent and potential intent. A links page about casinos? Algorithmically useless. A links page about dart frogs? Algorithmically useful.
Which brings me back to inbound link potential. Reaching your unique link potential isn’t about numbers or about money. In 2007, will you spend your time chasing the same links as everyone else? Or will you remember what makes your site truly unique and develop a linking strategy to capitalize on that?
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 Ward Report. 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.