Why you should change your strategy for Link Building in 2018
Link building 2018 style, is different to what many people have been doing for a couple of decades. At the end of 2017, the “Chief of Sunshine and Happiness” at Google, Gary Illyes, told a search engine optimisation conference that if you publish good quality content, Google can find it and use it to help your search engine ranking even if that content is only mentioned by other websites and no link exists. He told Brighton SEO: “If you publish high-quality content that is highly cited on the internet – and I’m not talking about just links, but also mentions on social networks and people talking about your branding” then Google would be able to rank you effectively.
This is in contradiction to what he told another search engine marketing conference a year earlier. In 2016 Mr Illyes told Pubcon 2016: “Ranking without links is really, really hard. Not impossible, but very hard.”
That shows how much has changed in 12 months. Link Building in 2018 is less important than it was in 2016, it seems.
Indeed, Google updates its algorithm regularly, and recent updates allow it to detect the popularity of web content without the presence of links. That was announced in a patent application in 2014, and it now appears that this technology has been incorporated into the latest algorithm update. So chasing links for search engine gains is now a mostly fruitless exercise. Google (and Bing) can find mentions of your site regardless of links.
What is more critical – and always has been – is chasing links for people. Here are three reasons why you should reduce your focus on SEO when trying to gain links and focus instead on what links mean to people.
1. People click on links, not search engines
The very reason you want a link is for a human being to click on it, so they visit the web page you want them to see. Having links on other web pages that no-one clicks on is a waste of time and effort. Yes, I know you will tell me that they will help your search engine ranking. But that’s yesterday’s news. They might help, but search engines are much smarter now; they don’t need a link. Plus, if you are producing links aimed at search engines, then you will be encouraging the creating of links in other websites that don’t encourage people to click. Those SEO links will contain “anchor” phrases that are based on keywords. But when people are reading web pages, they are not in “keyword mode”. Instead, they are in “action mode”, so the wording of the links need to encourage them to take action. For instance, one of the most clicked on link phrases is simply “click here”.
Getting keyword links used to help your SEO, but the value is now lower for Link Building 2018. So, it is better to focus on building links for people, rather than search engines. That’s not actually news. The head of Google’s Webspam Team, Matt Cutts, said back in 2009 that if you wanted links to help your search engine ranking, then they should be natural links, that people would click on, rather than links aimed at search engines. Furthermore, almost three years ago Matt Cutts discussed the role of links in search engine ranking (video below) and gave some heavy hints of the changes we have now seen, that links for SEO will not matter as much.
2. A link-building programme wastes your time
Link building 2018 style is not about links, but about getting references to your content. If you spend time, or money, on trying to achieve links for search engine optimisation, you are wasting resources that could be better spent on content production. Two senior figures in Google, Matt Cutts and Gary Illyes have emphasised the fact that Google can spot good content and it can detect when that material is mentioned in other websites, even if there is no link. If you spend your time and effort on getting links for the sake of it, you will have less time and money to spend on quality content production. Your search engine rankings now depend much more on the quality of the content that you produce than the links to your website. Links mattered in the early days of Google when that’s all they had to go on. They did this with something called “Page Ranking”, which is no longer a significant feature of the algorithm and was publicly switched off two years ago. If you are still running a link-building programme in 2018 just to get search engine ranking, you could usefully use your time on increasing the amount and the quality of your content, as that matters much more.
3. Asking for links shows that you are out-of-date
If you ask people for links, it is a giveaway that you don’t really understand the way that the Internet works. Asking for links is so 20th Century…! Back in those olden days of the web, that was pretty much the only way to gain links. You could use link-building software, but Google destroyed that market when it downgraded the notion of “reciprocal links” where people gave your site a link if you added one on your pages to their website too. Nowadays, you get links on social media, through guest posts, via public relations, on videos or a range of other tactics. And how do you get those links? Well, you achieve them because your material is so good that other people want to share it. You won’t get any mentions on social networks if your content is garbage. Neither will people talk about your content in their videos if your content isn’t good. You won’t be asked to write guest posts, nor be invited to be interviewed in podcasts if your material is poor and weak. So, good content is what other people want to recommend, not your website for the sake of it. Asking them to do that shows you haven’t caught up with the times…! And that’s not good for your reputation.
You want links because you want people to click on them. But you no longer need to focus on getting links for SEO. Google, Bing and other search engines have finally caught up with human beings. All those search engines want to see is good content that gets talked about elsewhere. People notice that and learn to respect and admire what you do. And now, search engines do the same. Forget link building in 2018 and concentrate instead on producing good detailed content. That will give you a much more significant search engine impact than swapping links – and people will like it too…!
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+