It’s been a long, painful Spring and Summer for a lot of websites and link builders. I took a month away from it all for personal reasons, but I did conduct a couple linking strategy training sessions, and kept on top of things via my iPad.
In this time, I read a few hundred posts about Panda’s and Penguin updates, unnatural link warnings, freaked out Web marketers, and noted a general consensus that the Summer of 2012 is when the scales finally tipped the other way and Google officially became the enemy.
Link building is now the absolute most loathed job on the SEO foodchain.
And of course I disagree completely.
I’m in the camp that wonders why it took so long to stop trusting anchor text so much. Exact match domains? Stupid signal. Blog networks and sitewides? I can spot those without my glasses or an algorithm and I was a C student. Scraped content? Man, people have been scraping my articles since before my hair started turning gray.
In every way and with every change, small or large, everything that has come to pass over the past year and culminating this Summer was destined to happen, and as much as I know this angers a lot of people, many of us have been telling you what was coming for years.
Danny Sullivan’s Oscar worthy rant about links and his subsequent post Link Building Means Earning “Hard Links” Not “Easy Links” was for me an epic moment in the history of our still young industry.
Danny summed up what so many of us have been screaming at link chasers forever, but with the magnitude of his audience and the humor and eloquence he displayed during a remarkable extemporaneous speech, he can reach so many more of you than we can. Please, if you haven’t listened to the audio and read his post above, do yourself a favor and do so.
Doing What Works
I understand it’s hard to make a change when what you are doing is working. You had high rankings based on a manipulated linking strategy all along and you knew it, and you also knew Google was getting smarter and smarter, but you did nothing or as little as possible to prepare for the slaughter.
Why not? My hunch is because you hoped the slaughter would spare you. You convinced yourself what you were doing was fine. You weren’t like those “other” guys.
There’s been no shortage of warnings. Now Is The Winter of Linking’s Discontent and Don’t Blame Google For Your Own Linking Failures are both four years old. Part of me does sit back in my chair with a bit of smug content and wonder why more people didn’t listen.
But rather than write a manifesto (and I’ve been tempted) about what your linking strategies should be today, I would like to try and do something that will in some small way distill down all the anger, resentment, confusion, he said/they said, we said into something that I think turns the now vast sea of link building bullshi* in a two single drops of truth.
Outside of content creation for your own site, everything you’ve done to create links that would help you rank higher at Google is a form of manipulation. You were simply hoping the form of manipulation you were using would not be discovered and discounted.
Any link you could obtain without there being a layer of quality control, selection, or curation between you and that link was a link that could not be trusted, and you knew it.
I have no doubt people will fight me on these two drops of truth, but I’ll stand by them. There’s still plenty of room for bonafide linking strategies for sites with worthy linkable assets that are willing to pursue them. I think it’s time you stop acting like you have been screwed over by what’s happened and is still happening, and move forward.
There are many of us in our field taking brand new sites to great heights, both in rank and click traffic, developing unique linking strategies that are custom designed just for the sites we are working with. It’s time to break free of your self imposed link prison.
It’s time to create something real about something you are passionate about.
Let the right people know what you created and why.
Watch it work.
Just like it always has.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.