Forge Search Marketing
Is Link Building Timeless?
The following is a guest post by Jordan Metts from INetZeal. At Forge Search Marketing, we often emphasize the importance of Link Building and how it can have a monumental impact on your SEO campaign when done properly. We’re glad Jordan was able to take some time out to help us highlight the history of link building and how the search engine landscape has changed over the years. Enjoy the article!
Accomplished SEO agencies and self-taught SEO-minded businesses both understand the value of link building. In fact, MarketingSherpa’s 2011 Search Marketing Benchmark Report concluded that link building is a very effective SEO technique for use by small, medium and large organizations alike. The verdict is that link building accounts for nearly half, 41% to 47%, of the total effectiveness of 10 top SEO tactics, only three of which produce more results than link building. So, link building is indeed effective, but is it here to stay? A brief look at its history is in order.
Rise of the Spammers
In the “good” old days, everyone could upload content to lists and directories, and the links flooded in. Search engine spiders crawled HTML code and occult ranking algorithms determined page worth. Webmasters purchased upgraded packages from host providers to handle the increased traffic and everybody was happy.
Enter the spammers of the late 1990s: thousands of tiny keywords per page that were the same color as the background, stuffing meta tags, page titles and marquees with keywords, and numerous other tricks. Top search results were flooded with irrelevant or objectionable material.
Search engineers at Google, Yahoo and other companies devised methods of ending the flood of spam in their respective indices, cleaning up search results pages and making search more relevant in the process. Then, they set their sights on link building tactics. This focus has only intensified over the years.
Shifting Attack Vectors
Focus eventually shifted from lists and directories to link exchanging – a way for honest webmasters to link with other relevant and related websites. The spammers, however, upped the ante in 1999 with link farming and spamdexing, exploiting the Inktomi search engine’s dependency on the popularity of links. Spammers did this until updated search algorithms took into account the “neighborhoods” of these spamdexers, monitoring spammers’ activity for evidence of abuse. Updated algorithms punished who they caught.
PageRank, introduced in 1998, was incredibly controversial because of its focus on “link weight,” which is a method of assigning value to a link based more on its perceived quality. PageRank remains a bit controversial due to this and other reasons. Like it or not, we must live with PageRank – probably well into the foreseeable future.
Importance of Social Media Links
Matt Cutts stated in a January 2010 YouTube video that Google treats social media links the same as links from standard domains like .gov and .edu. However, Google only assigns PageRank when it’s able to fetch the page a link points to. Links to private Facebook pages cannot flow PageRank, and spiders cannot crawl those pages to determine relevance.
Importance and Velocity
The web’s landscape is changing. With alterations like clustering, XML feeds, and indexing content other than HTML, link building campaigns will have to focus even more on importance and velocity. Importance, because links must be appealing enough to invite a click. Velocity, because staying fresh with updated links is becoming more important.
Link building is not only here to stay, but will increase in importance as search results focus more and more on personalization and the links that people share within social networks. In addition, many people are thinking about devising new ways to continue link building in the future, using new tools and ideas to streamline the process and adapt to the changing web.