Rules Of Linking Engagement As The Web Turns Twenty

After working in a profession for many years you might logically assume you don’t need to spend as much time learning still more about it. Take bowling.  If you’ve been bowling for twenty years, do you still need lessons, or are you close to being as good a bowler as you’re ever going to be?   You can practice every day, sure, but odds are you are at a point of diminishing returns.

But link building is a strange profession.  Link building is not something you can get lazy about. Yes, it’s true I know more about link building today than I did in 1994.  But… in some ways I know less about it now than I did then.

In my opinion, NOBODY could know everything about link building.  Not even Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who, by the way, invented the web twenty years ago this month. Happy Birthday Web.  One more year and you can finally drink, and we know you need one.

My daily reading list now is proof of how much there is to know. Link building was easy back in the day. There were about 17 places to get links.  It was a thrilling day when a new place launched that allowed submissions.  Cool Site of the Day or Yahoo Pick of the Day or heaven help me Compuserve or Prodigy’s Web Picks were the holy land of link gets.  And you know Soledad O’Brien? The one we all watch every day on CNN?  Back in 1996 she was the host of MSNBC’s The Site, a TV show devoted to the Internet.  I used to email her about my client’s new sites, and sometimes she’d mention them on the air.  I’d strut around my 700 square foot apartment like I’d just won the lottery.  And by the way, this was all on dial-up at 14.4.

If linking campaigns from 1996 were a food they’d have been a Hostess Twinkie.

Today a link building campaign is a seven course meal.  There are so many different ways to seek, chase, inspire, engender and obtain links that it’s mind blowing.  Yes, it’s harder now, but… it’s still easy if you remember this is all just about people.  Connecting people with URLs. The harder part now is taking the the time to learn and understand what “the right way to do it” means, within the many mini-mediums that exist now that didn’t just a few years ago. For example, as shocking as it might sound there was actually a time when there weren’t any blogs.

The “rules of linking engagement” so to speak, vary from medium to medium.  What’s considered an acceptable link drop on your own blog versus a colleague’s or peer’s or somewhere else. What linking behavior qualifies as appropriate at StumleUpon versus Twitter versus Digg versus Wikipedia?

If links are the goal, then is social media still social when your participation is due to corporate goals rather than actual interest in the venue?  How many of us would have social bookmarking accounts if we didn’t happen to have clients who happened to have web sites?  How much of your participation stops when you find out the links are no-followed?

And perhaps the biggest question of all is would any of us do any of what we do if not for the potential positive effect we hope these link drops will have on organic search rank?  Maybe that’s the litmus test of any online medium.  If you knew for sure something wouldn’t help rank, would you stick around and play anyway?

I would.  It would be fun again.

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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