Among the many elements that affect how a website performs is link building. Many say that it is the be-all-end-all factor that ultimately determines how Google decides who should be on top of searches.
This is, of course, debatable. Most, including Google itself, seem to be adamant about the “content is king” mantra, and insist that, if your content is engaging enough, search engines will pick it up and give it a privileged position in rankings. Others will be quick to point out that the whole point of generating engaging content is to get backlinks, transforming the whole conversation into a chicken and egg paradox.
What’s The Latest On Link Building Tactics?
Back in October, a Twitter poll showed that most digital marketers find link acquisition to be the most challenging area of SEO. Surprisingly, copywriting came in third, right below technical SEO.
If that is not confusing enough, the higher-ups at Google have made incredibly contradictory statements regarding linking.
Back when Google was still in its infancy, Larry Page and Serge Brin´s goal was to create a search engine that analyzed the relationships (links) between websites as a way to determine their order of importance. That’s literally the origin of PageRank.
However, Google has tried to convince us to move away from link building as a way to improve our standings. Just to give an example, we have seen how John Mueller, webmaster trends analyst at Google, has changed his tune regarding link building over the years.
Back in 2015, he seemed to warn us against adopting any kind of link-building strategy, saying that it would lead to more problems for your site.
English Google Webmaster Central office-hours hangout
Then, in 2018, Mueller fired shots against the traditional practice of building high-quality links saying that it was completely against their sacred webmaster guidelines.
These guidelines are famous for suggesting that we should avoid trying to improve search engine rankings and that we basically ought to only apply techniques that would work even if search engines didn’t exist.
In 2020, Mueller seemed to backtrack a bit by saying that not all link building was bad.
Still not confused enough?
Last November, Mueller went at it again stating that we should not be creating links to our websites in general.
Some astute users were quick to point out that his statement would mean that even creating awesome content in hopes of earning links would count as “creating links”. John Mueller quickly diluted his stance and offered an ambiguous non-answer that left everyone scratching their heads.
Can we link to our websites from our social media accounts? Is it ok to create profiles on relevant listing websites that link to our pages? Should we craft engaging content with the intent to attract links?
Well. All those questions seem to have positive and negative answers.
Should You Create Links To Your Website?
The answer to this depends on how you read Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. When they are read by people who are new to digital marketing, or who are just learning the ropes of website development, Google´s guidelines make link-building sound like a dirty word.
However, those guidelines are meant for people familiar with SEO and Google´s terminology. That means people who know the difference between building links and “link building”.
Link Building Vs Building Links
Believe it or not, there is a world of difference between these seemingly identical terms.
Link building means generating links with the specific purpose of manipulating search results. These techniques are generally frowned upon, mostly because it has been, and continue to be, abused by black hat communities.
Building links, on the other hand, means creating and promoting content that offers value to specific audiences in a way that will cause others to voluntarily link to it.
Wait. Doesn´t that mean producing content to manipulate search results?
Those who interpret the guidelines in a literal sense, understand that even when your website “gets” quality links, if they are a product of deliberate efforts, then those links are no longer considered “quality”.
However, let’s pause for a second and focus on an important part of the guidelines most people tend to ignore or misrepresent.
Google recommends that we build our marketing campaign as if search engines didn’t exist. Many say that it is not realistic to ignore the existence of search engines. After all, the existence of SEO is materially dependent on the existence of search engines.
But this is not what Google meant when writing their guidelines, and it is becoming more apparent as the tech giant downplays the importance of keywords and links, to make search intent the main factor that drives results.
Before the advent of search engines, marketers would focus on anticipating the needs of their potential customers. They would promote the flow of their goods and services through the channels their audiences were more likely to use, making sure they created effective channels of communication. In other words, they would generate interest by offering better products and content marketing strategies that sparked conversations, and people would find these products because they had a genuine interest in the products or content they produced.
Understood correctly, what Google’s Webmaster Guidelines actually represent. They are a warning to all marketers to stop focusing on meta-rules deducted from the observable behavior of an arbitrary algorithm. They want us to go back to content strategies that generate genuine interest in audiences eager to find solutions for particular problems and willing to learn more about our products or industries. This is the kind of content that will organically attract links, and will inevitably rank higher.
Does that mean we should forget about link building?
Not at all. That would be like committing suicide. However, you need to stop creating content for the sake of getting links and start producing pieces of content that others will want to link to.
We understand how hard it is to stay atop all the relevant developments in your industry, or how time-consuming it is to write an expertly crafted piece of content. That’s why professional eCommerce agencies and SEO companies exist. Genius eCommerce routinely crafts digital marketing strategies following Google’s best practices aimed at gradually increasing your chances of ranking higher and generating organic traffic.