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The New Value of Links


Marketing has changed dramatically in the past two years – that is according to respondents in the Adobe study Digital Distress: What Keeps Marketers Up at Night? Based on the rapid changes in the digital landscape, it might seem like digital marketers would be the most likely to say that their field has changed more in the last 2 years than in the last 50, but decision makers and marketing generalists agree to the same extent. One of the areas where these changes are apparent is link building, one of the key components of search engine optimization (SEO).

Align Link Building with User Experience

If link building was on your radar a decade ago, you may recall that all links were equal. That’s not the case anymore. In the past most websites accumulated links using techniques now labeled black-hat SEO such as link farming. Many of these links would seem blatantly spammy today, whether they were articles on directories or non-contextual links posted on forums and as blog comments.

For those wondering why a search engine optimizer would bother to create thousands of non-contextual backlinks to a business website, the answer is simple: it worked. Search engines interpreted these spammy links as evidence of a website’s value and elevated its ranking. With the introduction of the Penguin algorithm, this began to change. Websites benefitting from black-hat link building tactics began to receive Google penalties that caused a dramatic drop in ranking from which it was complicated to recover.

Over time the Penguin algorithm has become stricter and better at identifying sites that attempt to manipulate search engine results. Since a Google penalty has a significant impact on business websites, the use of white-hat SEO techniques is critical. When your ranking drops dramatically due to a manual or algorithmic penalty, competitors are poised to take advantage of the new landscape, and it can take years for you to recover.

What search engines want to see is a steady increase in high quality links over time. This is a signal that your website provides relevant and useful content and is experiencing a natural growth in popularity as a result. Since black-hat techniques are focused exclusively on manipulating search rankings, they undermine search credibility.

The Best Linking Processes

The best link building efforts are aligned with quality content creation, and their new value is the extent to which they encourage businesses to develop content1 that resonates with customers. Consider the usefulness of guest posting on another website. Writing a post or article that is informative and topical serves users and also may result in a link via your byline or reference to related content you have written. If you approach the effort with links in mind, however, it’s likely to fail. Editors are savvy, and they aren’t likely to give you a forum just to support your link building effort.

Back to the Adobe study referenced earlier; the digital landscape has changed dramatically, and marketers and decision makers are keenly aware of this. The way we approach the fundamentals of SEO must keep pace. In this case of links, building efforts should be focused on user experience – providing access to useful information and relevant tools. If you have not done so already, begin to transition some of your efforts to link earning, wherein the quality of your content is the main driver of social sharing and links on external websites. If you would like help or assistance in transitioning your links, feel free to give us a call at (973) 346-8100 or contact our experts.