There has been much debate and speculation from industry experts about whether the importance of links for ranking is diminishing. Some say they are, as Google gets to grip with social and sharing. However, for me. I side with Eric Ward. If you think about it logically, over the last couple of years Google has released Penguin and Panda updates, specifically designed to penalise websites using manipulative link techniques to achieve high rankings, and rightly so. However, if Google was relying less on links to ensure it delivered good quality results pages, then why the need to alter it algorithm and push out penalties? If it relied less on links for rankings, then those sites that were manipulating the rankings via links, would see a rankings drop anyway.
I believe Google relies on links now more than ever, that’s why they are pushing out penalties to sites that have unnatural backlink profiles. Google has just got better at determining which links should be trusted and those that can’t. Some also say that its getting more difficult to find trusted links, I disagree with this. I personally don’t think that the pool of authoritative domains is shrinking, I think it’s getting bigger, but at a much smaller rate than untrusted spammy sites.
The answer is very simple. If you are looking to attract leads, enquiries and new customers via the power of search, look to partner with sites that will achieve this and bring traffic to your door via that particular link, rather than placing a link merely for the purpose of trying to achieve better Google rankings. Just make sure you have linkable assets on your site, that will make the user want to click through…There are far too many ‘me too’ websites, so think about what makes you different from the competition, if need be revert to the simple 4 p’s of marketing – product, price, place and promotion. Matt Cutts has been saying for many years now, concentrate on developing ‘great content of a brand building nature ‘ and people will want to link to you anyway.
For the purpose of the examples below, lets assume you are a wedding photographer in the UK.
- Do you partner with a specialist wedding photography UK directory, or a generic directory that seems to cover a vast array of industries?
- You have a monthly special offer. Do you partner with a site offering discounts for those getting married or place a link on 1million-inbound-links.com?
- A local hotel is running a wedding fayre. Do you attend and ask if they would kindly place a link to your website on the page advertising the event, or do you write an article for submission to the hundreds of thousands of non specific article directories?
I think you get the point I am trying to make. Some may frown at my recommendation above about the submission to a directory. Do I recommend directories, yes and no. I see nothing wrong with niche and specific directories that are controlled by experts, and in such case I recommend inclusion. However, if we are talking about non specific directories that are trying to appear to many different industries and sectors, then my advice is to avoid.