The question that won’t stop being asked – do links still matter?
Links do still matter and the reason why is simple – they’re woven into the very fabric of the internet. This would be less of an issue if it wasn’t for the major frustration our clients’ experience: seeing their competitors following bad practice and getting away with it.
As Eric Enge lays out, this discontinuity comes from the fact that the value of links takes its genesis from the value of citations and referencing that underpins academic research. Unfortunately, the amount of peer-review required is mind-blowing and Google’s resources whilst prodigious are not infinite in this model; as such, the system is still open to a level of abuse.
However, as Eric (and Receptional’s Barrie Smith) argue persuasively, Google continues to become more efficient and accurate in its analysis so if you want to succeed in the short, medium and long-term, you should follow best practice. Or, to put it more succinctly, you can take risks or you can bet with the house but the house always wins in the long run.
So what have we been learning about Google best practice in recent weeks?
Well, the rollout of the latest Panda update has underlined the requirement for fresh, authoritative content in every arena in which a site articulates itself. As always, the evolution shows an algorithm that is developing the sophisticated of its interpretation of what it caches so that shortcuts are harder to find and the demand is for more intelligent content written for a human audience to use, enjoy and respect.
Generating content is not simply about providing evidence for google to believe your site is worthy of ranking or even for driving traffic to your site for conversions – as articulated here, it’s an element in a longer game where you are focused on developing trust and recognition in what you say, what you offer and, by extension, your brand…
Nevertheless, these intangibles won’t help your argument if your content is not up to scratch – if it’s not authoritative, written with the right audience in mind and marketed effectively so that they see and engage with it. To ensure you’re not falling short in these areas, there are core messages to embrace to ensure you don’t waste your time.
An outstanding Moz slideshow was posted here that highlights the key messages in getting your content marketing right (with added Rand Fishkin hilarity in the images!) and the tenets, whilst simple, bear repeating.
Find topics that your audience want to hear about – whether that be by analysing where your competitors are successful or by mining a variety of sources and getting involved in the conversation with your own viewpoints.
Identify, and talk directly to, the important people in your audience – that is, the people who other people listen to – so that your voice can be amplified. Social media is central, in the 21st Century, to this amplification and whilst social signals are, broadly speaking, not regarded as direct algorithmic factors, they are undisputedly effective INDIRECT factors in that they generate interest and engagement in your site and what it has to say – this, in turn, is the seed of link baiting.
To mangle a treasured movie quote (thereby robbing it of its meaning on all originally intended levels) to answer the question of do links still matter?
“if you build it, they will come… as long as you actually tell them you’re building it; oh, and as long as it’s worth coming for”.
Have a great weekend everyone.