Future of Link Building: STOP Calling It Link Building!

Link building has been on my brain recently. I did a class at Kent State last night on “applications for media relations and blogger relations.”

That’s just secret code for link building.

But I like their jazzy new lingo. In fact, I really wish the whole “link building” phrase would go away. It kind of reminds of the word “stimulus” in today’s political climate. It has developed a stigma.

Link building has developed a stigma in the eyes of the search engines. Google really doesn’t like this whole link building underworld because it sees it as something search engine optimizers do to manipulate search rankings.

This amuses me because the Google algorithm is so link-centric. It is blatantly clear the sites that do the best in Google are the ones that have done the best job getting links.

But at the same time, Google really doesn’t want you running around chasing down links. It definitely doesn’t want you buying links in hopes of increasing your search ranking. If this topic interests you, you’ll definitely want to check out the Google Webmaster Help page on “Link Schemes.” And then if you can’t get enough of that, definitely check out its Webmaster Guidelines.

Google tries to be as absolutely clear about this as it possibly can. Right on the “Link Schemes” page in bright, shiny bullets it tells you exactly what it does not want you to do. Link schemes are:

  • Links intended to manipulate PageRank
  • Links to Web spammers or bad neighborhoods on the Web
  • Excessive reciprocal links or excessive link exchanging (“Link to me and I’ll link to you.”)
  • Buying or selling links that pass PageRank

Google wants the links to happen completely based on merit. The problem is, this is simply asking too much of the human race. Of course people are going to try to get links any way they can. We love cheap corn, oil, and all the stuff at Walmart. Getting stuff on the cheap is part of our DNA. Earning links is like asking all of us to switch to locally-grown, organic food. Yeah, it’s a good idea. But who wants to pay that much for cauliflower?

The answer to this is moving link building to a public relations project. And that’s who I was talking to last night: PR students in the graduate and undergraduate programs.

Public relations experts have been doing this forever. They go into a company, find something newsworthy, and then spin it up in hopes of having the media cover it.

PR people have always been link builders. Because of their experience, they are better at it than most people who are building links today. The problem is most PR experts don’t have the slightest idea of what goes into actual link building:

  • Anchor text
  • Nofollow links
  • PageRank
  • How to look natural
  • Getting links from different types of sites

So we’re kind of at an impasse at the moment. Link builders don’t know how to spin up a story the right way. And PR people don’t know how to get a link the right way.

Consequently, we have Google yelling at us to not do anything purely for manipulating search listings.

These are just growing pains.

Eventually, all those seedy, back alley neighborhoods where people go to get links will dry up. Link builders will either become public relations experts or PR people will become link experts and they will develop innovative ways to spin up a story.

And at long last, link building will fade away and PR will be the hottest Web marketing game in town.

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