Last year we discussed backlink strategy and how Corporate Conversions goes about building an online profile for its clients. Of course, change is the only constant in the online world, particularly with Google. Google wants to be the most natural and organic – the best – search engine online, so it is constantly looking at internet traffic patterns to determine if people are trying to game the system and essentially make Google a sucker. If it does discover evidence of this, woe betide the perpetrator because Google is a harsh taskmaster. A website can overcome a Google penalty, but it takes time, perseverance, and a real willingness to change link-building strategy.
Considering the above, as well as the most recent changes Google has made to its algorithm, what is the current status on backlinking and has it changed from what it was a year or so ago?
Google has put a great deal of effort into making websites conform to their vision of a future, better web and, well, behave in a civilized manner. Backlinks are thus problematic because they leave open a lot of room for SEO manipulation. Matt Cutts, Google’s Distinguished Engineer, said last year that he thought over time backlinks would become less important. They are good for assisting the algorithm in determining site reputation, but they don’t guarantee content quality in any way. Still:
“I think backlinks still have many, many years left in them,” he said. “But inevitably what we’re trying to do is figure out how an expert user would say this particular page matched their information needs. And sometimes backlinks matter for that.”
The important thing to remember is that your backlinks need to grow organically. This doesn’t preclude using careful SEO, but the backlinks your site gets need to seem authentic, and they need to come from trusted places. A mention from a news site is great, industry specific or local directory entries work well, and a handful of backlinks from businesses your company works with are fine. Hundreds or thousands of spammy links from sites thrown up overnight in the Philippines are not.
What Google approves of is the kind of backlink profile that springs from success. In real life, popular people get talked about a lot because they’re interesting. Google wants the web as a whole to be interesting and is willing to do the work of making it so at the individual website level. If you want Google, and the rest of the world to notice you, be interesting and get noticed. Paying other people to talk about you isn’t being interesting.
It is hard work to be interesting, and not all businesses have the kinds of products or services that lend themselves to newspaper reporting. Still, it’s not impossible, with effort. Following a positive, quality content strategy to link building is largely a matter of realizing what Google wants from you and using that as a guideline for what you produce, content-wise. In that sense, backlinks will likely never go out of style.