Links have always been the yard-stick search engines use to measure and rank the relative importance of a specific website. Of course, some links weigh more than others but the basic principle still seemed to apply: links are the only thing that can save you from drowning in an ocean of websites and content.
An aspect people often forget when trying to build links, is the reason for this weighting is to bring logical and valuable content to web users, based on their browsing habits.
Often websites treat it like a game of hungry hungry hippos, where the one with the most links in the end, wins.
Anatomy of a Link
Link building sounds like it should be a process of construction, and it is, just not the kind that’s done systematically. Often, its a frustrating process of slowly gaining a reputation, reciprocal content sharing and good old fashioned knocking on website’s doors and asking nicely.
The ranking policy made sense, as it was a direct indication of the likelihood of finding a site on the internet. Unfortunately, it was also based on the idea that every website, and the sites it’s linked to, had some degree of value.
The Directory Industry
The emergence of website directories, such as Yahoo Directory, was the next logical step. It took the plethora of pages- that intimidated new web users, selected a bunch that seemed better than the rest and organised them into neat categories specific to general user interests.
Inadvertently though, these directories began to give certain sites, more credibility. Only approved sites were listed so it became a bit like a stamp of approval. Therefore, search engines like Google started to placed more value on the links found in these sites.
Link Juice Rush
Following the success of directories, there came a massive growth of them all over the internet. The problem was that these came up just to satisfy a big market of websites who needed effortless linking of their own. They were a lot less selective – essentially turning into simple link farms. It began diluting the credibility of directories and corrupting the practice of link building.
Link building began to take on other unethical forms, such as:
* Forum spam
* Link exchanges
* Sponsored links
Conversion Trumps Traffic
Bringing the right traffic to your site through logical linking often takes a back seat to collecting links to trick Google into ranking them higher. Even though any business owner knows that it’s not about the foot traffic in your store but about the sales.
Bringing a consumer to your site under false pretences will rarely result in a successful conversion. It will only serve to harm your reputation.
Link Building Moves to Content
Good content is obviously the best way to market your site when link building. It’s time-consuming but getting an inbound link to your content because it appeals to the interests of visitors of the linked site, not only only builds your link profile but also gets the right kind of people in.
The links that have the most value to your site are the one’s that are the most difficult to procure.
Unethical Link Building Will Always Be Under Threat
Just as people come up with new way to trick Google’s algorithm system with linking, the more adept the system become at detecting these. While your linking practices remain unethical you will always be one algorithm update away from being penalised.
This was evidenced in the recent rankings crash of many websites after the release of the Penguin algorithm update. The only way to avoid penalisation is to remove yourself from this equation.
* Make your content rich and relevant.
* Only link with sites that explore similar ideas
* Putting in effort to building relationships with respected sites (Reciprocal linking is always possible if they like what they see.)
* Links to content should be done selectively rather than for commercial gain or just to reciprocate to an inbound link.