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As we close out 2010, there are many of us that have been in the search marketing for a number of years, some even into their second decade. We all realize the importance of quality links to a website. Yet many go about “link building” in different ways. Some purchase links, some buy and sell links, some submit to directories, some outsource and let others purchase links on their behalf. Some even outsource and let others submit to free directories and participate in link exchanges. Of course some focus on a combination of the above, while yet others simply create content in hopes of acquiring quality links.
The fact of the matter is that links still matter. The search engine algorithms continue to place a heavy weight on link popularity. While we are starting to see this change, a quality link still goes a long way. Many of you may be familiar with the work of Eric Ward who is a bona fide expert in link building. Eric had a great piece over at the Search Engine Land yesterday where he discussed how to take control of your link building in 2010. The part of the article that I found most interesting is what prompted him to write the piece in the first place. Here is an excerpt:
There is a website I know of, devoted to a very popular hobby. This site has been live since 1997. That’s twelve years. If I mentioned the company behind the site you’d probably know it. This site enjoyed very high rankings for many years, largely due to having such an early presence on the Web, which meant it also had a significant and healthy link profile. Their links were all natural, and they had never engaged in any sort of link building activities at all. A classic case of an older site with a perfect link pedigree.
A while back, they noticed that some of their rankings were slipping. Sites that were much newer, and not as robust, were outranking them. It’s a fairly common thing that many older sites experience. Because they never had to seek links in order to rank well, they didn’t spend much time on it. But the newer sites, knowing what they were up against, were actively seeking links, hiring link builders, doing all the SEO/SEM things that new sites do to fight an established brand site.
The older site responded but made a tactical mistake. They panicked. They hired link builders who used the type of tactics anyone reading this column would cringe at. The older site didn’t do this on purpose. They just didn’t know any better, because they were content experts, not search engine marketers or link builders. Not only did their rankings not improve, they worsened.
Nothing bothers me more than when an old site with a perfect linking pedigree and outstanding content ends up tarnished due to a simple lack of information about link building. While the damage can be undone, it never should have happened in the first place.
Sound familiar? I too have seen this happen with sites and as Eric mentioned while the damage can be undone, it never should have happened in the first place. Take some time to map out your link building strategy. Examine the various link building resources that you have access to. If you are involved in partnerships, sponsorships or vendor relations look at any linking opportunities within those avenues. Link building continues to remain important from an SEO or organic search perspective. You can optimize your site all you want, but without quality external links to your pages, you simply will not perform as well as you should in the results of major search engines.
Is link popularity overrated? Well it is not like “he with the most links” wins. The IBL (In-bound Link) Quality is always more important. Link building is not easy (although there are many who might refute this) but link building is still important. Creating a plan for your link building strategy is where many online marketers need to start. The online space is a vast universe that is hyper-competitive in nature. As you think about where your online marketing strategies are going in 2010, you might want to revisit your link building strategies and the tactics that you’ll want to employ to improve the quantity and quality of the links that are pointing back to your site pages.