When marketing web sites on the internet 10 years ago, people “surfed” the web, clicking on links between sites they already knew about, links from directories and review sites. Search engines like AltaVista, Lycos, Hotbot, Excite, etc were around as well. Remember those?
People like Eric Ward pioneerd the practice of promoting web sites editorially resulting in links from these sorts of resources. Links had to come from relevant sources otherwise the traffic was irrelevant.
Google came on the scene with PageRank and boosted the value of bot detected links. Search engine quality improved substantially but opportunistic webmasters and eventually SEOs, identified and took advantage of as many methods of link acquisition as possible. Many of those links being topically relevant and many completely out of context. Think “link farm”.
The ongoing back and forth between search engine efforts at improving quality and website marketers finding shortcuts or even ways to spam links for competitive advantage isn’t going away any time soon. As long as links are important for search engine visibility, web site owners will hire firms and consultants to acquire them.
However, there’s a big difference between link building to content & content promotion that attracts links. Long term, promotion of content that attracts relevant links from those empowered to publish will win. The act of linking is performed, unsolicited, by individual publishers. There is no risk, no tricks or loopholes being exploited and links are contextually relevant.
The rub is, it requires content of value that others are keen on linking to and willing to share with others. Most web sites do not see themselves as content publishers.
The model for unsolicited link acquisition based on content is pretty basic:
Promotion > Awareness > Links > Direct Traffic & Search Engine Traffic
The challenge comes from a combination of:
- The need to create new content that travels and that others are motivated to link to
- Convincing web site owners that they need to create and promote content on an ongoing basis outside of their brochureware corporate site or online product catalog
What it boils down to is marketing. The SEO most consultants practice today isn’t really search engine optimization, it’s marketing web sites online. SEO marketing efforts that focus solely on keyword lists, meta tags and directory submissions are just one small slice of web site marketing.
For content promotion, the good news is that many web site owners are wising up to the idea that they need to provide more value, in the form of information, to their customers. That informational content can be leveraged for promotion to attract links. The most common example would be blogs used as platforms to publish and promote content via RSS, RSS to Email, Twitter and social networks.
Distribution channels are important for creating awareness of content to link to plus they can attract traffic on their own. As a content distribution network matures, it builds traffic simply through publishing new information for recipients to consume and link to.
Does it still make sense to build links through directory submissions, back link analysis link requests, article submissions, etc? A certain amount of traditional link building is appropriate for just about any web site marketing effort. Realizing the advantage of a quantity of quality links takes clever content and clever promotion. Clever like Link Moses.