The SEO and link building world is abuzz this week after Google’s John Mueller mentioned in a Google Hangout that link building should be avoided, as it can do more harm than good.
From the hangout:
“That is a good question. In general, I’d try to avoid that. So that you are really sure that your content kind of stands on its own and make it possible for other people of course to link to your content. Make it easy, maybe, put a little widget on your page, if you like this, this is how you can link to it. Make sure that the URLs on your web site are easy to copy and paste. All of those things make it a little bit easier. We do use links as part of our algorithm but we use lots and lots of other factors as well. So only focusing on links is probably going to cause more problems for your web site that actually helps.”
As frequently happens, his comments have been taken out of context. Let’s look at that last line again:
“So only focusing on links is probably going to cause more problems for your web site…”
Much Ado About Nothing
I hope it goes without saying that, in 2015, if link building is the cornerstone or sum total of your SEO strategy, you’ve got problems. In the event that wasn’t apparent to you, Mueller has kindly cleared things up.
SEO needs to encompass so much more than gaining well-placed links from high-quality websites. Minimally, today’s SEO strategy needs to include:
- creating top-notch unique content
- placing that content on a technically sound site that’s SEO friendly
- encouraging social sharing and other activities that build social proof and credibility
- occasionally posting outside your circle of subscribers online (via guest posts) to expand your content’s reach
Trotting out the same tired techniques to score an anchor text link on a vaguely related website with a page rank of 5 or higher is very 2012. While it may be tempting to always aim for the low-hanging fruit that previously generated results, it’s time to branch out.
Stirred Up About Backlinks
Mueller’s comment has webmasters panicking about everything from organic links to old, out-of-date directories. Questions on prominent sites include “how will Google know if people were genuinely sharing or linking to my content” to “what harm will previously gained links have?”
The fears are missing the point.
In the same Hangout, Mueller also encourages making your content easily sharable, even using a widget to encourage it, and SEO friendly links that are easy to copy and paste. Mueller’s comments are as much in favor of good, old-fashioned organic back links as they are against link building as a strategy to game Google results.
Stop Looking for Loopholes
Google’s algorithm, at its core, is attempting to reward articles and sites that please their human searchers. When in doubt, “make humans happy” is a great keystone of a search strategy.
Today’s SEO strategy needs to focus more on giving Google a reason to rank content and sites prominently, and less on finding a loophole to boost rankings in the short term. With clear trends that began years ago, Google is constantly working to reduce the effectiveness of strategies that look to game search engine rankings. While their results might be mixed, their policies and comments are consistent – focus on great content, find a unique niche, be a guest voice from time to time and keep up on technical aspects that favor great user interaction.