Before Google’s Panda and Penguin updates, the heart of any SEO strategy was building inbound links, aka backlinks. A backlink is any link on another website that points back to your own site.
At the time, this made perfect sense. Google’s search engine was built around the concept of inbound links. The theory went that the more links you had back to your site, the more popular you were and the higher you should be ranked. Content on your site and in the text of the inbound links were associated with keywords that Google pulled out of search queries. This data was analyzed when a Google search took place and generated relevant results. Backlinks were considered to be “votes” for your content.
Unfortunately, what happened as time passed was that people learned how to game the system, to push sites higher that didn’t actually have popularity or even good content. Google’s response to this was their Panda and Penguin updates. These updates completely changed how Google rates inbound links and squashes most of the older strategies.
At Cole Wiebe + Partners, we fortunately never engaged in contrived link building tactics, so our clients were not impacted when the Panda boom was lowered. We have always focused on earning links through content and relationships. But the core SEO tactic on many client sites we inherit, when we take on the account, has become the detection and removal of “toxic” links that are now hurting their rankings.
Some bloggers are saying that generating inbound links is a worthless strategy, and link building is dead. Nothing could be further from the truth. Rather, the focus has shifted toward the authority, relevance, and the naturalness of those links. Instead of playing linking games, the signals are clear that building relationships with others is the key to building quality backlinks in 2014, and content linking strategists are perhaps needed more now than ever. “Fake” link building is dead. Earning links naturally is very much alive and well. And, like it or not, content alone is not likely to develop the number of links required to rank for short tail keywords.
People link to interesting, helpful and informative content, not products and services. So do Google and Bing. We’ve learned how to encourage naturally occurring inbound links to your web pages and blog posts, but also offer manual “outreach” link building programs.