Since the beginning of SEO, link building is about human connection. people like Eric Ward were building links on the web before search engines like Google existed. Ward and other link building pioneers weren’t building links for SEO and search bots – they were building links for human readers and site owners, helping connect people to the information they were looking for. .
People rely on the internet in their daily lives more than they ever have before, and the web is powered by links. Search engines may be able to track links and even analyze them to some extent, but links are primarily designed to serve people. It takes human minds to create bonds that are truly valuable to other humans.
Link building is a human endeavor.
Google devalues spam and manipulation
Link building is no longer about manipulation.
Google has gotten a lot better at detecting link manipulation and spam — and continues to get better. Gone are the days of automatically generating thousands of low quality links and spamming your way to the top of search results.
Thanks to the Penguin algorithm and the continued efforts of Google’s web spam team, link building has come full circle. Building links today feels a lot more like the “good old days” when people started linking, rather than the Wild West-style antics of the pre-Penguin era.
As Google continues to improve at identifying and devaluing link spam, link building as an industry is moving back towards human value and interaction.
If Penguin updates again, it should switch to a real-time model. This would mean another step forward for Google in the fight against spam, making real links earned through human interaction even more valuable.
Real links require human interaction
The best way to acquire real links that search engines value is through human interaction. This means manual outreach to real people and site owners.
I recently attended SearchFest in Portland and attended Jon Cooper’s session on link building. One of the first points Jon made was that mass linking is dead and links should come from one-on-one outreach with a real person.
Any site that allows you to link without any sort of human engagement or interaction is probably not a site you want to link to. You should be able to find a real human being who is clearly responsible for whatever site you are targeting. Otherwise, the site is probably abandoned, created only for web spiders, or both.
Identifying suitable link prospects also requires a human eye.
Relevance is the most important factor when considering a link prospect, and this can only be determined by human thought and consideration. Additionally, you have to manually examine a site to see if there is a genuine following by looking at blog comments and social shares.
Metrics measured by algorithms and machines (such as Domain Authority, Page Authority, and Trust Flow) are important, but they only provide part of the full picture. It takes a human link builder to combine this information with other factors such as relevance and audience engagement to gauge the true value of a potential link.
Interesting connections don’t happen without a real connection. If a link to your site doesn’t benefit a site owner’s audience, you won’t get a link – and you shouldn’t.
Links are for people, not spiders
Eric Ward was building links before search engines were popular because links are for human users, not search bots.
Links were useful and necessary long before Google existed. Google became the search giant it is today because it recognized the inherent value of online links and harnessed that value for its search algorithm.
Links help people navigate the web. Without links, the Internet would be an unnavigable mess of information and search engines like Google would not be able to function. Consider a human-centric approach when earning links and think about how the links you build will help your audience find your site.
Google will never devalue or penalize links built with a human-first approach, as they are the basis of how its algorithm works.
Links are public mentions. Of course, links signal authority to search engines, but they also signal trust and respect to human readers. If a site owner wants to endorse or recommend another site to their audience, they link to it. A link provides a direct path to the recommended site, and there is no easier or better way to endorse another site online.
Links also improve user experience, especially for online content. Links can be used as citations or references to add depth to content. Rather than expanding on a large and complicated topic, links offer a way to provide important information to your readers without having to distract from your main point.
As a link builder, you need to promote your resources on the appropriate sites because links help connect the web and improve the overall user experience.
Use a “human first” approach to link building
Understanding that link building is a human endeavor is one thing, but putting that philosophy into practice is another.
Here are some general guidelines for using a human-first approach to link acquisition:
- Focus on relevance: Explain to another person (colleague, friend or client) why a given link opportunity is relevant. If you can’t clearly explain why it’s relevant, don’t pursue this link.
- Works with a public-oriented mindset: When prospecting, prioritize sites that your customers visit frequently over general authority metrics.
- Consider the context: Think about where your link might appear on a page and whether or not someone would click on it. If so, would they be happy with where it would take them?
- Human reach: Remember that there is a real (and probably busy) person on the other side of your approach, and treat them as such. Always be polite and considerate.
- Offer value: Earn links that provide a “triple win” for your site, the linking site, and the human readers who find them.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.
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