It’s the 4th of July! And while we’re all enjoying our hot dogs and sparklers Will Smith is off somewhere punching an alien in the face…
Let’s be honest, most American Holidays have evolved into some sort of thematic commercial celebration. But at the root of it, this particular 3-Day Weekend isn’t just an excuse for potato salad, it a celebration of independence.
In SEO most of us are seeking liberation in one way or another. For some it may be breaking free from a constrictive CMS, for others it may be getting relief from a burdensome PPC budget. But for many, it’s about deliverance from the taxing task of building links.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m the first one to tell you that link building is perpetual. Actively thinking about and pursuing link opportunities is a constant process that should never stop. With that said, there’s more to SEO than just links. It’s a common assumption that links equal rankings, which equals profit. Yeah, it’s not quite that simple. It’s one thing to be passionate about link building, but when it comes at the expense of every other area of online marketing that’s not simply fascination, that’s a fixation. But with so many other powerful strategies, the ultimate goal should be the ability to get links even when you’re not really trying.
If you don’t think your content can get links on its own, then you’re doing it wrong. Granted, not all of your content is going to reach Linkbait status. Some of it is standard fare like the internet’s 7000th article on “How to Choose Car Insurance”. I get it. But your article should also be titled well, interlinked properly and genuinely worth a read. If it has those elements and ranks for the long-tail, it should be able to entice someone to link to it; without you prodding them like cattle. Now, the hitch is that no one will find your content if you don’t do any kind of promotion.
If all of your content is basically spider-food buried in a folder somewhere on your site, no wonder you are obsessed with chasing links. They certainly aren’t chasing you. Take some of the time you spend trying to find ways to get more links and devote it to creating better content. A great infographic perhaps, though I mean great, because that market is getting saturated. Anything can work, a really cool widget, a good quality, engaging video, an app, a WordPress template, all of these things are legitimately, linkable forms of content. If your resources are limited, try focusing on creating one single showpiece. Ask most websites about their most popular piece of content. It may have taken a lot of time and resources to develop but when it’s done, you’ve got a cow that just keeps laying links. I may have my animals confused here, but you get the point.
You may not think about it, but your network is actually one of your best resources for getting links. The problem is that growing a network doesn’t produce immediate ranking results. So a lot of times relationship building is put on the back-burner in favor of processes that have faster deliverables. But some link acquisition methods have link builders burning through contacts and opportunities like a cloud of locusts devouring a field. When the reality is that we’d be much better off acting like little Johnny Appleseed’s. That dude, he went around planting trees that grew and over time bore fruit. Instead of scorched earth, he left orchards in his wake.
As a link builder you have to consider what you’ll see when you look back. Is it a barren wasteland or a thriving field of contacts you can harvest? It’s the people who feel some sort of personal connection to you that are, in general, far more likely to read, share and link to your content. Those simple actions by your online allies can result in some direct links, but they can also help get you noticed by other blogs, websites and even news outlets. When it comes to getting links, having a small army of reliable warriors can be far more useful than casting thousands of requests into a sea of strangers.
In link building you hear from people who all want more links. They want higher numbers, they want to target more phrases they want to rank higher for everything but… do they really NEED all that? Maybe… and maybe not. Yes, more links are good, better links are great and #1 rankings are the holy grail But none of them will mean anything if you’re so pre-occupied with getting more links that you miss what’s already going on.
Most sites that have been playing the SEO game at all are getting some kind of traffic. But you can have a million visitors a day and if they aren’t doing anything to make you money then you might as well own a ghost town. So the question is what do you really need? Is it really more links, or better rankings? Or maybe you just need to pay some more attention to how visitors are interacting with your site.
The truth is, you’ll always want to rank higher and links will always be a factor in that. But blindly pursuing down rankings without doing any usability testing or landing page optimization is like fishing with explosives. Yeah you’ll have a lot of dead fish at the end of the day but it’s not really gonna help you eat. We tend to be a bit on the wasteful side as a culture. We waste food, water, energy and human resources like it’s our right. In SEO, we waste plenty of opportunities simply by obsessing over having more instead of making use of all that we have. For example on a landing page, are people missing the call to action? Are people finding what they are looking for quickly and easily or are they leaving unfulfilled? Sometimes it’s these little things that are leaving your money on the table.
If two sites both manage to convert about 10 people a day, does it matter that one gets 10,000 visitors and ranks #1 and the other gets 100 visitors and ranks #9? According to the bottom line it doesn’t. The difference is one site actually does need more links and the other just needs to figure out why users hate them.
Links are a major part of SEO but they aren’t everything. They aren’t a miracle cure, but they can be a crutch. If there’s a problem, simply throwing some links at it probably won’t resolve your issue. Achieving sovereignty in SEO might not involve shirking tea taxes, but we do have something in common with our founding fathers’. Like they did, we need to recognize the importance of a balance of power. No one single entity should dominate a nation without fair and equal representation of the people. And no one single SEO strategy should dominate a campaign without at least fair consideration of other supporting tactics. So maybe when we honor the American overthrow of the British government we can also light a roman candle for link independence. Of course I’d still prefer to celebrate Bill Pullman’s last good movie.
Subscribe to SEJ
Get our daily newsletter from SEJ's Founder Loren Baker about the latest news in the industry!