It Doesn't Matter What Kind of Links You Build

on under Link Building, Myth-Busting.

Hey, look, shortly after telling us not to guest post for SEO, Matt Cutts is revisiting the obvious and reminding us not to build links with article directories:

So in my particular opinion article directories and just trying to write one article and just syndicating it wildly or just uploading it to every site in the world and hoping that everyone else will download and use it on their website, I wouldn't necessarily count on that being effective.

(His wording's gotten a bit wishy-washy after the strong stance on guest posts, hasn't it?)

But you know what? Today I'm going to throw my hands up in the air and say forget it. Why not build links from article directories? Or sidebars, or footers, or widgets, or embeds, or press releases? Heck, why not pay for links? (Whoa, whoa, whoa, keep reading before you leave a venomous comment.)

I say this because many SEOs are notorious for complaining that Google is always stripping away their opportunities. Supposedly, what's considered "legitimate" is a continuously shrinking universe because Google has it out for small businesses who are just trying to make it in a tough world.

And that's a bunch of BS.

Because if your sidebar, footer, widget, embed, PR, and paid links are so "legitimate," you shouldn't need Google to hold your hand to the finish line in the first place.

Ok, let me elaborate.

SEO Myopia is Making You a Terrible SEO

So, what does the modern, boilerplate, "best practices" link look like?

  • It comes from "high quality content"
  • It's "useful to users"
  • It's "relevant"
  • It's "do-follow" and "high PageRank/Authority/whatever"

I say throw all of that out the window. A lot of it has a tendency to be true, sure, but there's only one question that makes sense if you're going to try to justify it as "legitimate."

Did you expect that link to make you any money?

I mean without the search engines. I mean if Google just never even indexed it and it didn't do a single thing for your rankings. I mean it might as well be no-followed. What then? Was it still going to make you money?

Yes? Great. Keep doing that. Stop obsessing.

No? Then what are you thinking? You're digging yourself into a hole.

The most unnatural link is the one built to please a search engine.

Have any of your clients earned a purely natural link? If not, you might want to reevaluate things. If so, you should know by now that most natural links on the web aren't high quality, useful, relevant, and do-follow. Links come in every shape and form. If your link profile is made up of a bunch of "high quality" links, that's an anomaly, and it doesn't look good.

If you aren't earning "low quality" links, you aren't getting yourself in front of an audience. You don't have any real exposure. You're just posting links on "high quality" sites. Any halfway successful site is going to attract loads of low quality links.

If you aren't buying an advertorial on a high traffic site strictly because they aren't no-following their links, you've got SEO myopia. If you were doing legitimate link building, you wouldn't even be checking whether the links were no-followed in the first place.

If you aren't emailing influential people and asking them to take a look at your site (with a bit more tact than that, I would hope), strictly because you think outreach is some kind of "gray hat" tactic Google doesn't like, you're missing out on serious opportunities for exposure.

If a widget link could send you thousands of referrals per day or more, would you turn it down?

If a press release was the best way to get your site in front of the media, would you avoid doing it?

If you've been hopping from link building tactic to link building tactic, allowing yourself to be pushed and shoved around by every ebb and flow in the "best practices" of the SEO industry, you were never using those tactics properly to begin with.

"Reciprocal links" still work. Sidebars still work. Directories still work. Widget links still work. It all still works.

As long as you've got more than Google on your mind.

Image credit: Lida Rose

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