Is it an army of link builders? Skilled outreach professionals? No? Then surely it must be amazing content marketers and top tier link bait. No!? What could it possibly be? Let's take a look at the top ten domains SEOmoz says have the most linking root domains. Can you spot what they all have in common?
Did you figure out it yet?
Every single one of them gives the core user something to do.
And I'm not talking about passive reading or video watching, either. I mean these are tools and places that people can use to create something.
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, WordPress, BlogSpot, and Wikipedia all give their core users the ability to create and share their own content. Google allows people to search the entire web for information. Adobe and GoDaddy are necessary tools that many webmasters need to use in order to have a website in the first place.
None of these sites are ranking because they build links. None of them are ranking because they posted fantastic link bait. Wikipedia is not link bait. Every one of these sites is a success because the core user doesn't just absorb "content," they interact with and use them as tools.
Content Isn't King
In a time when content marketing has become the be-all-end-all of digital marketing, this is a scary thing to say. Websites have been penalized for saying content isn't king (usually because they said spammy link building is king). But the record speaks for itself.
You can try to argue that sites like YouTube and BlogSpot and Wikipedia get links because of their content, but I'm not convinced. In my personal opinion, Vimeo's videos are far superior to YouTube's, plenty of blogs beat the content on BlogSpot, and Wikipedia is wickedly informative but not terribly engaging.
If you evaluate these sites as tools and communities that people use rather than absorb, their success starts to make a great deal more sense. And it makes me wonder if us SEOs took a wrong turn somewhere when we started placing so much emphasis on content.
Don't get me wrong, content works, but it's not the only way to attract natural links. It's just the best way to attract links with minimal resources. And as the industry shifts toward enterprise level SEO and resource intensive campaigns, content alone isn't going to be the best way to dominate your niche.
Keep your eyes pealed. You're going to start seeing the industry talk a lot about the following in the years to come:
- Apps, both web-based and mobile
- On-site forums and social networks (not off-site ones)
- Meme generators and similar interactive tools
We are at a stage in the development of the web right now where even the most minimal level of interactivity (that goes beyond blog commenting) is link-worthy. Don't miss your chance.
Image credit: Jim Pennucci