At the core of search engine optimization (SEO) are the fundamentals of: keyword-rich content and link building. However, in today’s online marketing landscape, link building by itself is simply not enough to remain competitive.
While link building is indeed a tactic with direct benefits via rankings traffic from search engines and direct traffic from high profile sites, outright link building is only a slice in the overall online marketing mix. At the start of the SEO industry, building links from directory submissions and programs such as web site reviews and web awards sites sent significant amounts of traffic. Google changed all that.
Google’s use of PageRank to determine inbound link popularity for ranking web pages brought the importance of links into algorithmic search. Other search engines followed suit and the value of a good inbound link increased dramatically. Quantity, quality and age of links are all considerations for search engines as they sort relevant search results for users.
Despite the addition of links as part of search engine ranking methodology, an editorial link from a high profile site, like a major blog or news publication, can not only send a strong signal to search engine bots, but also deliver qualified visitors. Discovering the formula for using links to an advantage inspired the popularity of a range of questionable linking tactics.
Always looking for competitive advantages, many web site owners and marketers with an interest in generating high web site visibility and traffic have developed systems for short cutting their way to link popularity through efforts ranging from blog comment and trackback spam to buying text links and pre-sell pages to leveraging networks of blogs to write posts in behalf of advertisers whether the blog is on topic with the article or not. Search engines such as Google have made it clear what the consequences are for gaming their system and it’s left marketers wondering.
There are more SEO Blogs that write about link building than any one person could ever consumer entirely being published by the search marketing community on a daily basis. There are also more than a few businesses, big and small, that are nothing less than lost when it comes to knowing what kinds of productive, safe and sustainable marketing tactics make the most sense for their web site. Increasingly, web site marketers are stepping back and taking a more holistic approach to web site optimization and promotion.
Too often web site owners and search marketers get caught up in tactics, forgetting the short and long term objectives of the web site. For example, generating spikes of social news and bookmarking traffic makes for a good Power Point slide, but it’s not a final outcome and is not always a viable long term tactic for business web sites. Measuring those signals that influence what search engines and users do to arrive at a web site when looking for relevant content are nothing more than short and medium term performance indicators. Rankings, traffic and links are not final outcomes. Conversions, sales and measures of engagement are what feed web site marketing budgets with the best results coming from a long term focus.
What’s important for a sustainable, long term web site marketing initiative is ongoing promotion through channels that make sense for the audience and that are supported with content by the business web site. Measuring the final outcome as well as all the signals that lead up to conversions provides the site promotion expert insight into how content and promotion can be adjusted to maximize results. Search engines are leveraging multiple data formats, media and channels and online marketers should do the same.
The great thing about enhancements like Google Universal search and Ask 3D is that they enable those web sites producing and promoting content in multiple media formats a distinct advantage. At the core of today’s most effective web site promotion strategy is the creation and distribution of content. With a combination of coordinated text, image, video and RSS, a company can dramatically increase its ability to promote its message to audiences that are looking. Leveraging multiple media and data types provide direct marketing benefits as well as augmenting standard search visibility.
Effective and persistent web site promotion drives qualified visitors and also increases the link footprint of a web site. That byproduct of a quantity of quality links over time will also deliver desired visitors. For now, there’s the added benefit of improved rankings on standard search engines. I’m not saying the importance of links for rankings is going away, but as part of a long term perspective on internet marketing, I would consider the effect of links on rankings generated traffic icing on the cake rather than an immediate goal. Sometimes it takes a step back and a look at the longer term trends and web site goals to see what immediate tactics make sense and what to ramp up for.
Making sense out of the mix of tactics, analytics and objectives available to small businesses that want to leverage the web as a high priority channel must involve stepping back and seeing the bigger picture of web site promotion. SEO agencies like TopRank and many of those found at SEMPO.org know that relying solely on link building to meet client web marketing objectives is not nearly as effective short and long term, as a holistic program of matching the right media assets with the appropriate promotional channels.