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Brendan Egan

Building SEO Links vs. Earning Real Links

Over the last several years, we’ve seen numerous Google updates roll out to focus on quality.  Perhaps the two largest quality based updates in Google history were the Panda update in 2011 and Penguin update in 2012.

A Brief SEO History:

From 2002-2008, many SEO companies and SEO experts were simply in place to manipulate rankings. They existed solely to crack Google’s algorithms and find fast, easy, and cheap ways to get their websites and their client’s websites to the top.  It was all a numbers game, who could build more links faster?

As 2009 came around, we started to see more and more types of links starting to appear to lose value.  The days of building thousands of forum profile links and other types of low quality links were screeching to a halt, and now many SEO’s shifted to content-based strategies.  But many of these strategies were also short lived (anyone remember BuildMyRank or the other blog networks that were ever-so-popular?) as they depended on low quality, spun, unreadable content that added absolutely no value to the internet.

The problem during this time is that search engines like Google didn’t place enough emphasis on quality, so this meant many SEO’s who were doing everything “by the books” weren’t rewarded properly with good rankings because others were still easily gaming the system through questionable SEO tactics.  Today, in my opinion, search engines are still able to be manipulated or gamed, but they are a thousand times more intelligent and it now truly is a white-hat SEO’s world.

Building SEO Links vs. Earning Real Links:

As this shift has occurred, we have seen the online world of SEO resemble the offline world in many ways.  Rather than build thousands of low quality links, we’ve seen SEO’s be required to shift to building a handful of high quality links.  This same method applies to the offline world — would you rather receive a handful of high quality referrals from a select few business partners or would you rather try and receive thousands of low quality referrals from thousands of business partners?

The job of any quality SEO agency or specialist has shifted away from trying to obtain mass quantities of links to trying to obtain more targeted, focused links:

SEO Links (Low Quality Links)
Real Links (High Quality Links)
 Building a private blog network or using a private blog network to gain links and drive absolutely no referral traffic  Guest blog posting on relevant, quality, niche relevant websites that will drive real traffic and provide real links
 Trying to get listed on lists of links or gaining links through link exchanges with other websites  Forming partnerships with other websites and blogs to cross-promote one another’s sites and content
 Submitting to thousands of low quality directories to gain large amounts of links from very low quality sites  Being included on high quality directories that actually have visitors, have an editorial profess, and will add value to your business
 Sending out spam emails asking people to link to you or do a link exchange  Sharing content across a social media platform or list of social sites to gain attention and ultimately gain new links
 Submitting spun or junk articles to dozens if not hundreds of article directories to gain low quality contextual links  Guest blog posting on high quality sites or being featured in interviews, news sites, and other types of contextual mentions (PR based)
 Buying links in sidebars, footers, and other parts of websites  Gaining links from these same websites by making them want to link to your website because of your high quality content
 Posting comments/posts on auto-approve websites to gain fast, guaranteed links  Posting meaningful comments on quality, moderated blogs and in quality, moderated forums to gain quality links and quality referral traffic
 Digging into the back link profile of competitors to find their “best” spammy links which you can easily gain  Digging into your competitors content to find their best content that you can put into your own words and make even better
 Rule of thumb: If it takes less than 5 minutes to get the link, it’s worthless  Rule of thumb: If it takes more than an hour to get the link, and even much more in many cases, it’s probably a high quality link

Going forward search engines are going to continue to focus on quality.  That means quality websites, quality coding, quality content, quality links, and everything else about a website should scream high quality.  If you’re still using questionable tactics to game the system, your results will likely be short lived.

Does this mean investing more into SEO to get the same outcome as 3 years ago? Yes it does.  But it also means providing more quality to your website visitors and more sustained, long-term traffic.  Remember, when looking at SEO costs it’s important to judge the ROI on the investment and not just think about the upfront costs.  With a quality SEO campaign and earning real links instead of just building SEO links, you’ll end up seeing a much better ROI through SEO.