The State of Link Building in 2014
Posted on March 27, 2014
Is link building still safe to do in today's SEO landscape? That answer depends on how it's done. But, let's get something clear – links have been and still are one of the most important factors of search engine rankings. Links are the bloodline of the Internet. Links are not only used by search engine bots to find new content, but people also use them to navigate from page to page, and to find new resources. Even Matt Cutts has confirmed the importance of links to the quality of search.
Here is what a user asked Matt Cutts on Youtube's Webmaster Video:
"Does the big G have a version of the search engine that totally excludes any backlink relevancy? I'm wondering what search would look like and am curious to try it out."
Matt Cutts answered with:
"We don't have a version like that that is exposed to the public, but we have run experiments like that internally, and the quality looks much much worse. It turns out that backlinks, even though there's some noise and certainly a lot of spam, for the most part are still a really really big win in terms of quality of search results. So we've played around with the idea of turning off backlink relevance and at least for now backlink relevance still really helps in terms of making sure that we return the best, most relevant, most topical search results."
So, why does Google hate link building so much? Well, it's not so much that they think links are bad. It's how you build the links that Google cares about. From the beginning, Google has expressed their dislike of link building for search engine manipulation purposes. For years, they've applied manual penalties against sites that attempted to use unnatural linking schemes. In 2012, Google released the Penguin algorithm update which put into place an automated way of detecting and penalizing sites that had an unnatural link profile.
The fight continues as Google works to detect unnatural link schemes. In fact, Google has been actively going after link networks. A couple of major networks that were penalized in the past are: iAcquire and BackLinks.com. Google isn't only going after the sites that buy and sell links, they are also going after the middlemen that serve as the marketplaces where buyers and sellers meet. One of the latest victims to get hit by a Google penalty is MyBlogGuest.com. MyBlogGuest is a bit different in that they are not your typical link network; they are actually a network where guest bloggers can find blogs to write guest posts for.
These penalty actions have caused quite a stir in the SEO community. This comes shortly after Matt Cutts' blog post titled "The decay and fall of guest blogging for SEO." Now you have site owners and SEOs scared to even create natural links on their own sites. There is also confusion and anger, as well as a bunch of webmasters requesting unnecessary link removals.
I guess Google has us right where they want us – in a state of confusion. They don't want to be predictable. They want people to be scared of building unnatural links to their sites. Today, there is a thin line between what is safe and what isn't. One misstep can potentially get your entire site penalized by Google.
How do you feel about Google's war against link building for SEO purposes?
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