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There’s More to SEO than Just Link Building
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Original post found on ASK Enquiro.

Let me start out by saying that to be honest, link building is not one of my favorite subjects.  I have seen way too many examples of webmasters, site owners and so-call SEO people who have abused this idea of link building and used this to try and manipulate the search results.  That’s not what we are about here at Enquiro.  There is more to our SEO services than just link building.

We consult with clients on their linking efforts through items such as link audits and such.  We are well versed in link analysis and use tools to help identify issues with client’s link inventories.  We used advanced link operators such as these to evaluate link inventories for client’s competitors.  We used Google Webmaster Tools to gain insight in both internal and external link inventories for a given site.  We get the importance of link building, but there’s more to SEO than just link building.

The fact is that the search engine algorithms are fundamentally based on link popularity.  Yahoo for example, was started by David Filo and Jerry Yang got together  in February 1994 to organize their favorite sites on the Web.  They began compiling their lists of favorite links eventually turning Yahoo into the most popular destination on the Web.  Since then, most (all?) search engines that have followed have used link popularity as a key part of their search engine algorithm.  I take issue with this a little because based on my experience as a searcher the results that appear at the top of a given keyword query are not always relevant, and knowing that a reason a lot of these site appear is due to link popularity, I would love to see a shift in the algorithm.  For me relevant search results are exactly what I am looking for.  We tend to put a lot of trust into Google in terms of the search results that they present us, but you know as well as I that there are always potentially better results that are not on the first page of Google’s search results.  Why do you think Google is pushing things like personalization and blended results?  Why have they shifted focus to provide real-time search results? Websites that have artificially inflated their link inventories does not always equate to relevant results.  Again this is another reason as to why there is more to SEO than just link building.

Now don’t get me wrong, I understand the importance of link building.  How you go about link building and the types of links you acquire  is your business.  For me, I am more in favor of the approach that the search engines communicate that they would like to see and that is building your link inventory in a natural manner.

A few years back this was referred to as “link-baiting”.  Over the years link building has changed and more recently how link popularity as part of the search algorithms continues to change.  Think about some of the reasons for this:
  • Un-trustworthy link practices are tripping the filters and resulting in more penalties than ever before.
  • There are a ton, most likely billions of non-linked "references" that are on the web through avenues such as social media messages, instant messages, emails, and tweets. There is a lot of relevant content here.  You cannot tell me that someone, at Google or the other search engines, is not evaluating this data to see how they can extract value and relevancy from this content.
  • The ease of setting up a blog or website for the purposes of link building.  The content is being watered down and artificially linked web properties are polluting the search results
  • More weight is being place on brands and
  • The ability to acquire and purchase links has established an accelerated rate of link acquisition causing the engines to take more proactive action to address the volume and new unknown value of these links  
Rand Fishkin had a great piece on how link building is changing over at SEOmoz where he shared some similar reasons as to what he feels has caused this change or shift.  http://www.seomoz.org/blog/link-building-has-changed

So if there is more to SEO than link building, what does this “more” consist of?  Well there are two areas where you should be focusing your marketing efforts on:

The most important piece of SEO?  Where many will say link building and link popularity, we say content.  Content is the key to all that you do with any of your marketing efforts.  It does not matter if you are a B2B site or a B2C site.  Without useful, informative and somewhat unique and timely content, your online efforts may prove fruitless.  When we refer to content, we are not just talking about a traditional web page of content.  In 2010, content is dynamic and can be in the form of various guises including:
  1. Keyword Research
  2. Content
In terms of keywords, all search queries or questions begin with a keyword or a key phrase.  Recent trends show that longer key phrase queries are up with phrases that contain 8 or more words on the increase.  (This data has been supported by findings from Hitwise).  The fact of the matter is, without a sound keyword research process and keyword strategy, link building becomes somewhat irrelevant.  Keywords will always be a part of the search process.  At the heart of any search is a keyword.  Why do you think that the search engines spend so much time compiling user data and learning about semantic mapping? 

keyword-trends


The most important piece of SEO?  Where many will say link building and link popularity, we say content.  Content is the key to all that you do with any of your marketing efforts.  It does not matter if you are a B2B site or a B2C site.  Without useful, informative and somewhat unique and timely content, your online efforts may prove fruitless.  When we refer to content, we are not just talking about a traditional web page of content.  In 2010, content is dynamic and can be in the form of various guises including:
  • Video
  • Tweets
  • Facebook status updates
  • Blog posts
  • Press releases
  • Images
  • Smart phone applications
  • Podcast

The fact is people search looking to find timely information and in case you haven’t noticed, this habit has become social.  Of course Facebook and Twitter are the obvious examples, but think about all of the other environments where people go to find and share information.  From forums to YouTube to popular blogs, information has never been so accessible.  From an SEO perspective ensuring that your site features timely and useful information that can be shared will assist in improving the visibility of your site and web properties links or not.  To state the obvious, you need content to link to and from.  You can build your link inventory with great content. Should your SEO strategy be centered around link building?  We suggest no.  Should it be centered around content?  Our answer is yes.

A third area of SEO that always plays second fiddle to link building is on-page optimization.  Yet almost every site that we look at has missed some of the fundamentals in terms of on-page optimization.   On-Page optimization is a key piece to your SEO strategy that can be easy to address whereas link building can take a lot of resources.  Link building a key part of SEO?  Yes for sure but not the only part and not the most  important part from the way we see it.

What would happen if Google made a fundamental shift with their algorithm and decided to place less value on link popularity?  All of the link building in the world would not help you.  In fact they have done this with past algorithm updates (think of algoruthm updates such as Florida).

The future of SEO will be less about links and more about content, the timely presentation of that content and the social dialogue about your brand.  You decide where you want to spend your time; link building or participating in a conversation with your audience?  The choice seems like an obvious one.

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posted by Jody @ Wednesday, April 28, 2010  
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Home: Kelowna, BC, Canada
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