Are Links Still Important for SEO?

The Hysteria Regarding Links & SEO

We’ve all heard the chatter, read conflicting opinions, and seen dozens of blog articles with titles ranging from “Link Building is Dead”, to things like “PR is the New Link Building”, or that “Content Marketing is the Only Way to Earn Natural Links”. We’ve heard things like “building links is bad”, “building links is a violation of Google’s guideline, “building links doesn’t work and “building links is no longer a part of SEO”.

The truth of the matter: the rules of link building aren’t so black-and-white, but link building is alive and well!

Link Building is Still Vital to SEO

Not only is link building not dead, it actually one of (if not THE) largest parts of Google’s ranking algorithm according to Moz’s most recent Search Ranking Factors survey of industry professionals, making up 40% of the algorithm.

In fact, Google’s own  Head of Web Spam, Matt Cutts, stated recently that “backlinks still have many, many years left in them”, and that “[for the foreseeable future], we will continue to use links in order to assess the basic reputation of pages and of sites”.

Here are 3 great articles that discuss why link building is still a vital part of SEO and what tactics & strategies have, and will continue to, stand the test of time…

“Why Link Building Will Not Die, Just Evolve” -Barrie Smith, Search Engine Journal

  • Traffic from organic search is a valuable asset. Google still relies on link signals to determine rankings, therefore, link building is directly affecting your bottom line!
  • Follow Google’s guidelines and steer clear of link schemes.
  • Be sure to leverage PR, SEO, social, and email marketing to build a well rounded and diverse source of traffic and leads.

“11 Reasons Link Building is a Futile Waste of Time–And One Big Reason It Isn’t” -Eric Ward, Search Engine Land

  • 11 myths about link building that you hear all the time and why they aren’t true.
  • The right content, the right person, and the right introduction can do wonders.
  • Link building is more than a method for boosting search rankings, it is a way to drive relevant traffic.

“The {new} Rules of Link Building” -Cyrus Shepard,

  • Quitting on link building is like quitting a sport because officials are enforcing rules.
  • Don’t throw in the towel, it’s a HUGE part of Google’s algorithm
  • When you play by the rules, you can really win!
  • At it’s best, link building is indistinguishable from good marketing.

Moving Forward

The Golden Rule of Link Building

Although link building is as critical to SEO success as ever, the tactics, methods and guidelines have certainly evolved over the years (for most SEO’s at least).

The days of manually “placing” links throughout the internet with blog comment spam and mass directory submissions to boost search rankings are no longer. Google is looking, instead, for trusted, reputables signals that demonstrate the authority of your website. Also, as much as we’d love it, we know that developing “great content” just isn’t enough most of the time. We can’t sit around just hoping people discover our content and decide to link to it; we still have to be proactive about obtaining links.

A rule I love to live by (from Eric Ward, aka “Link Moses”) involves asking yourself a single question when building or pursuing link targets: “Would I want this link if Google didn’t exist”?

Links are a great way to diversify your site’s traffic and lead sources. Instead of relying on search along, focus on building links that will drive relevant web traffic to your website, increase your brand’s exposure and potentially drive leads.

This can be accomplished through a blend online PR (pitching yourself as an expert source in your industry), writing guest posts on quality, relevant sites in your niche (read more about this tactic as there is certainly a good and a bad way to go about it), finding quality directories or industry related lists, traditional outreach to introduce influencers to your content or product/service etc.

Developing Content Assets

While short-form blogs are great for established sites or brands who already have an audience, they often lack to produce tangible results for newer web sites or those who don’t have an existing following. Instead, focus your early efforts on developing content assets.

Whats the difference? A content asset stands the test of time (it isn’t time sensitive), it provides exceptional value to a target audience that isn’t available elsewhere, or, it is more comprehensive and more detailed than existing content throughout the web.

Developing these content assets will dramatically increase the success of your outreach, increase the chances that your content spreads naturally through positive user experience, increase the likelihood that industry influencers will help you spread the word, increase the likelihood of earning links and social shares etc.

Examples of content asset type content include; comprehensive guides, tutorials, tools, interactive games, graphics, charts, studies, surveys etc.

Don’t be afraid to invest some time and resources to develop a GREAT content asset for your site!

Developing Relationships

One of the most valuable things you can do help boost your online presence and earn valuable links & mentions involves developing relationships with influencers in your community and in your industry.

Using social networks like Twitter and tools like Moz’s FollowerWonk can help you identify and organize lists of people that you’d like to connect with. When first reaching out initially, show an interest in their business or work, see if you can help them in some way if possible, and don’t ask for anything in return. Foster these relationships through social media on an ongoing basis! Provide feedback, thoughts etc. on items they share and discuss; this will help you develop a rapport. Be sincere and be yourself. When the time comes for you to ask a favor (reviewing your content, sharing your new tool etc.), you will have dramatically higher success rates with your outreach efforts.

To get started gathering ideas for link opportunity ideas, I would also recommend checking out this great resource for