Now Is The Winter of Linking’s Discontent

Everywhere you look right now, there’s another headline pointing to another story that in either a direct or subtle way affects link building.

The kicker for me was this story from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Web Reviews Can Spur Lawsuits

On the surface you might not think this has anything to do with link building, but it does, especially at the local level where searchers are often presented with local links and reviews above the organic results.

Whatever value these reviews represent to algorithms has always been questionable in my mind.  There’s never been a genuinely reliable vetting process to determine which reviews are legitimate and which reviews are faked, planted, or created by the company itself or a competitor. Any local steakhouse with a bit of web experience could populate the online review databases used by the engines with glowing and 100% fictitious reviews.  Call it review spam, and spammers, like roaches, look for cracks.

Since the first time I saw them, I’ve been amused that sites which don’t show up anywhere in the organic results can find a way to appear in the local box, with links to their sites, apparently based on filling out a little local info and getting a review.

Here’s one example: Knoxville Dry Cleaners.

The site you see listed front and center at position A in the local box occupies position 16 organically.  They have one single review. That’s insane. Sooner or later expect the engines to fix this hole.

Also in the news was this from Library Journal, I-Schools Announce Reference Extract Web Search Project.

This too has implications for link building, if you know where and why and how.  And can earn them.  I’ve written about the RefEx project in greater detail over on the Link Building Best Practices blog. If the RefEx project takes off, pity the link chasers.  The potential impact will make the devaluation of silly directories a few years back look like a picnic.

Another headline that caught my eye was for this excellent piece from Bill Hartzer, Google Awarded Patent for Language Personalization of Search Results.

Personalized search results have been with us for a while, but this patent is chock full of link building implications.  I’d say this is especially true for web sites trying to do business in multiple countries but offering their content in only one language.   And if you take the time and effort to truly make your content available in other languages, do you also need to host that other language content on a server based in that country if you want to rank well for searches originating from that country?  What about duplicate content? Aren’t French and German versions of a site, if hosted in France and Germany, duplicate? Hmmm.

From a linking perspective, the common thread through all three of these news items is that at the end of the day, when the dust clears, when the results are toggled and tweaked and reshuffled, trust reigns.

No search engine can do anything further with a set of results until they have an index of content from across the web to work with.  That seems so obvious so let me state it differently.  The original index of content from any search engine has already been evaluated for signals that indicate it will be useful, trustworthy, helpful.  Then and only then can the data be further tweaked to provide results for you or me. Before a search engine can give me a result that they feel is in some way more resonant for me than it is for you, they have to trust that content to begin with. Knowing I speak Norwegian and live in Northwest Florida will not make your Norwegian web spam more trustworthy.

It will always begin and end with links.

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 Tuesdays 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 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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