I was reading an interesting piece today, on Outspoken Media, in which they presented a number of linkbuilding questions to eleven prominent professionals. The answers were given individually, so as to get independent responses.
After getting my brain jumpstarted by some very thought-provoking answers, I began thinking about the issue. I think most of us have heard a few of our SEO peers make a remark along the lines of, “It’s getting more and more difficult to get enough natural links to do the job these days”. I can understand why. I recently saw an estimate that stated there are currently over 231 million websites. I tried to find numbers for previous years, but I think it’s safe to say that growth has been exponential.
And some would say there are two self-proclaimed SEO experts for every site out there. That’s obviously a stretch. Maybe one for every two sites. ;>)
But back to the point, that’s a hell of a lot of sites that have popped up in a relatively short time-span. Now, I remember in the old bulletin board days, even before web-rings hit their hay-day, when linking to someone was much like a courteous nod when passing a stranger. There wasn’t that much worthwhile content on the ‘net yet, and when we found something decent, we were eager to share it with others. Linking to it was the most common way of saying ‘thanks’. But that seems to have fallen by the wayside nowadays. Courtesy links seem to be reserved for those with whom we’ve established some sort of e-connection, however tenuous. Many will e-mail a link to a buddy, but few will place a link on their site, just out of the goodness of their heart.
I’m not trying to say that natural links are dead. But I will venture to say that were it not for the SEOs that pursue natural links, they’d be on their last legs. Add to that, the fact that a good portion of the natural links that a run-of-the-mill-blogger like me can hope for, are nofollow, and it’s no surprise that some industrious soul came up with the idea of starting the first linkfarm. I’m fairly certain that Eric Ward would disagree with me on this, though, judging by his response to the first question.
In all fairness, I think I understand Google’s philosophy in keeping some level of purity in the link world, and I agree with it. Unfortunately, there are some highly competitive niches in which natural links just don’t cut it. So many SEOs end up advising their clients to buy links, and to buy into the risk of Google-Wrath, if they’re detected. Natural links would be so much cleaner and lasting, and if enough of us go that route, then purchased links will become more easily detected, and thus more easily thinned out. Purity could become more than just a wistful dream.
Erik did say, in response to another question, that there’s still a “tremendous willingness to link to the good stuff”. I would like to believe that’s true. Because if it IS true, and we can rejuvenate the practice, it will make all our jobs a lot easier.
And contrary to what some might think, I believe it would make our jobs more secure, as well. ‘Cause the wannabee SEOs out there will ALWAYS go for the shortcut! And that’s why true SEOs, not gamers, will rise to the top, while the guys that go for the quick bang will fall by the wayside.