It’s an extremely challenging time to be a link builder. Whether you see yourself as white hat, black hat, or as most are, gray, there has never been a time in my nearly two decades of being a content publicist / link builder when it was more challenging to keep up with the variety and changing landscape of links.
Ironically, the main reason things are harder now, is that it’s easier to exchange URLs without having to know one bit of HTML.
If you wanted to give someone a link in 1995, that meant you wanted to put their link on your web page, which 99% of us edited by hand, meaning you had to take the time to open up the file, hand edit the <a href>tag, and then more than likely FTP that file back up to your web server.
You had to really want to link to something back then because it meant taking several minutes of time to find the file, edit the file upload the file check the file, and be done with it. I can see why the earliest versions of link graph algorithms could be so much more trusting than today.
Guestbooks were the first place you could link spam without knowing HTML. Then we had Geocities and it was a breeze for the link spammers. Next came blogs (which you may not realize was just a tricked out guestbook app).
Then came bookmarking apps, digging, stumbling, Sharing this and Adding that, Likes, Plus Ones; we now find ourselves at a point where it is possible for anyone of any age or any motive to try to impact the overall link graph with nothing more than a mouse click.
It’s enough to make old school link builders weep.
Don’t. These new methods for sharing and voting are exactly what the web needs to help cleanse the link graph.
People in mass and of all ages are now on the web, which wasn’t the case in 1994. My mother, now 81, didn’t “discover” the web till I forced her to get on via AOL. Now, it’s unusual if you’re not on the web in some form or fashion. People of all ages and interests have Facebook pages, Twitter accounts. At the same time, people are creatures of habit. And web sites are supposed to serve a purpose.
I can completely understand why a social link graph could and should impact whether or not a certain demographic finds the latest news or gossip about Lady Gaga. I get it.
The social link graph is tailor made for such things. Breaking news, shocking events, sensational behavior. Would we give a darn about Charlie Sheen if there was no such thing as social media? How many of those Twitter followers will bail once he’s either sober or dead?
But I digress. Here’s the takeaway. Although much has changed, the the only thing that changes about the link graph is where the engines feel they need to look for signals in order to improve the search experience for each individual searcher.
A 54 year old purchasing agent in Ohio looking for industrial ball bearings for his factory equipment is not likely to benefit from the same algorithmic signal set as an 16 year old boy in Seattle looking for a used skateboard.
That’s where the strategic thinking link builder will shine. The game now is understanding and recognizing which types of link graphs are trustworthy enough to help any given client with both organic search traffic and direct click traffic.
In that sense, things haven’t changed at all. The medium remains the message, but the demographics dictate the tactics.
Game On. +1
Stock image from Shutterstock, used under license.
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