Link building versus link earning

As digital marketing continues to evolve and mature, so are the audiences who are exposed to the efforts of marketers constantly looking to get their attention. Brands who once relied on simple pop-up ads and advertorials to buy people’s attention are now flocking to social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+ to earn attention by creating unique content and engaging with followers through conversation.

And search engines, Google in particular, are also developing fast. Google’s Panda and Penguin algorithm updates were designed to target low quality sites relying on black-hat SEO techniques, such as content scraping, keyword stuffing and dodgy link-building. Whilst it was once possible to buy thousands of links and publish lazy copy, the emphasis has now been shifted and marketers have to put in the work to gain visibility in natural search.

It’s all about earning the right for people’s attention rather than simply buying it or gaining it through bad practice.

In last week’s Whiteboard Friday from SEOMoz, Rand Fishkin looked at the traditional SEO practice of link building from a new perspective – link earning.

We’re going back to the good old days!

In the mid-late 1990s links weren’t ‘built’ to fool the search engines into giving sites extra credit. They were generally acquired for the purpose of sending genuine, relevant traffic to one website from another.

But as search engine optimisation began to develop and high authority links (with a good Page Rank) increased in importance as a ranking factor, link-building started to become exploited, to the point where bought links, link exchanges and nonsense blog commenting became commonplace.

But as Google’s algorithm has evolved, particularly over the last 12-18 months, it’s now clear that digital marketers must now place a greater emphasis on earning good quality links rather than attempting to ‘game’ the system through the tired tactics of old.

Anything in life worth having is worth working for

Instead of buying links, earn links by creating great content that others will want to share. Instead of leaving blog comments for the sole purpose of receiving a followed link back, participate in a blogging community and add value in such a way that you’ll be noticed and gain links organically.

It all seems like a lot of hard work compared to the ‘old school’ techniques from the early-mid 200s. But that’s the point. To earn something of value you have to put the work in.

And link building – or link earning – is no different.