I started my Internet Marketing career as an SEO trainee quite some years ago, it was the time when e-commerce was a fairly new concept, and businesses were starting to fathom the power of Internet. It was only a matter of time that webmasters realized, that getting on the top of results in popular search engines means that you have made it into the good books of lady luck, and so they tried, by hook or by crook, to reach the top. In its olden days, it was all about On-page factors. Back then, it was possible to reach the top of the results by doing some keyword stuffing, even if the content of your website wasn’t anywhere near the top-quality. Needless to say, searchers weren’t really happy with the results, and it paved way for Google, that became an instant hit by introducing the concept of Page Rank and back links.
Things have changed quite a great deal since then, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the importance of back links, and going by the developments, chances are that back links coming from authority websites will continue to be the cornerstone of Internet Marketing, the pinnacle ever internet marketer would like to achieve. However the subtleties linked with the back links have been changing continuously. Let’s go through the past and present of link building and then we will try to decipher exactly what’s in store for near future.
The Past – Quantity:
When I first started, the top rankings were all about number of back links you have. You’ve had to have maximum number of do-follow links, in order to get anywhere near the top. Quality was important (at least that is what those search engines would like us to believe) but it was quite easy to sidestep and still avoid the penalty. We saw a plethora of web directories (both free and paid), all you need to do was to hire some data entry staff to simply copy & paste the website name and URL to these web directories, giving you hundreds and thousands of links on monthly basis. Same was the case with other link building techniques e.g. link exchange, forum posting (with your links in signatures), blog commenting, etc. Not to forget the article marketing, that was all about writing a dozen different versions of the same article and submit them to a bunch of article directories, resulting in plentiful links. In short, it was all about acquiring links in bulk, and the more you have the better.
The Present – Quality
As you’d have figured out, all that emphasis on quantity resulted in loads of spam. But even that would have been bearable if the search results were acceptable for searchers, but that wasn’t the case. Just like the old keyword stuffing, it was easy for websites having poor quality content to rank higher just because they have had more resources to invest, and the real quality sites stayed low and hidden because they were too upright to indulge in those practices. Those were the reasons; Google came up with one update after another to snub those link building methods by discarding links coming from low quality websites, with little or no efforts involved. And quality becomes the new mantra of link building. When I say quality, it includes everything from relevancy to trust, and from content quality to age of the website. Quality links are hard to get, especially when we are talking about contextual links, but it’s worth the effort, because the consensus is that a back link coming from an authority website can contribute more to your rankings as compared to a dozen links coming from low quality sites. In fact, the term “quality” has gained even more importance after the Google rolling out its series of Panda updates.
The Future – Sociality:
When I say, sociality is the future of link building … I am not actually talking about a couple of years from now. We are actually already into the era where social signals are becoming a lot more powerful than a bunch of useless static links. This development was on the radars, and the veterans had seen it coming almost an year ago, but even those who were a little reluctant in accepting the influence of social media, the recent Google’s announcement about “search plus your world” (http://insidesearch.blogspot.com/2012/01/search-plus-your-world.html) should be able to remove any qualms in your mind. And even though, nobody from Google has officially confirmed, but it’s an almost established fact that social signals like Facebook likes and more importantly Google Plus ones can play an important role in boosting the website’s rankings.
You can look at it this way, a back link was meant to serve as a vote, in other words a website linking to your website was actually voting in the favor of your website. And now there’s another generation getting registered as voters, and these are the social media users. Which means, getting a Facebook like, plus one, or tweet from real people is actually a nod of approval that’s going to affect your website ranking. So, it’s high time that you start trying to cultivate these links along with the more conventional ones.
Natasha Mesty is an Internet Marketing expert, writing mostly on topics related to link building, guest blogging, Link Tracking and how to use link reports to evaluate your Internet Marketing performance.