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In the world of SEO, most of us may have recently found an esoteric bond between ourselves and others in online marketing. This bond has become notably more apparent every time we get warning of another Google algorithm update.

Businessman tired from crisis

What’s interesting is the staggering look of dread during these times of uncertainty that I see plastered across all of the faces of those whose lives revolve around search engine optimization. While I’m sure I’m not the only one trying to remain un-affected by the wide-spread anxiety leading up to these proceedings, I’ve finally begun to feel like the message Google has been trying to convey is becoming more visible with each change.

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Facing the Truth

Some of the more recent updates, like Penguin 2.0, have left people feeling exposed and stunned at the realization of just how wrong things had gone over the past fifteen years. The desperate attempts to rank first on Google’s search engine slowly lead to a slippery slope and there seems to be no end to the torment. Buzz about these updates is even more intriguing to me and concerns of how they can be hurting more than helping seems to be misplaced and ill-suited.

One of the leading search engine gurus and founding editor of Search Engine Land, Danny Sullivan, said it best when he said “In much of life, the most valuable things are the things you have to work hardest to get. It’s no different with links. If you find an easy route to obtaining them, there’s an excellent chance you’ve found an easy route to obtaining links that either have, or will have, little to no value.”

My advice would be to take that as scripture. Nothing ever comes as easily as we had been trying to make it, so why the qualms about the update when in reality, we brought this upon ourselves? Online marketers fell into a pattern that worked for a time but that time has passed. Now is the time for a new system to take root, a better system; one that is more ethical, brings about better results and allows the limitless world of ”online” to be utilized as it was meant to be in providing valuable information.

It is important to understand though that it’s not that these methods are all terrible. There is still value in some building processes, for example, alerting a site of broken links or adding valuable comments on a post with intentions of building a relationship. But gone are the days of building links through spamming, link farming, and meaningless, low quality content. We have gone back to our roots when the days of honest relationship based “link earning,” was common practice and seen as the natural way to conduct business online. Jeremy Thorne’s recent article, “Earning Links VS Building Links” lays out a basic composition of this new found process along with the reasoning behind why it can be so effective.

I usually like to stay away from questions of possible negative risk and self-analysis but just for the sake of the integrity of the situation I’ll pose the thought: where would most of us be if we had not lost sight of the real purpose here?

Link earning is the way of the future

It’s time we ask a new set of questions – starting with how we get back on track. Rand Fishkin, in a recent post to The Moz Blog, “The Death of Link Building and the Rebirth of Link Earning,” presents an idea that there is still a relationship between the recent efforts of link building and the more appropriate strategies of earning links. This message can bring a bit of comfort to those who felt that all was lost with that recent update. He draws a parallel between the past and future and builds a vision of acceptance as well as a smoother transition into honest ranking.

The overall message Rand and so many others have been trying to convey is simple; the days of building links are gone. Besides, it’s robotic in nature and there is no room for robots in this world any more (unless you are crawling pages for Google, in that case…by all means).

Earning links is an involved process. It is building relationships, creating meaningful content, actively participating in real conversation, and managing a presence in the right circles.

Questions Answered in this Post
1. What is link earning?
2. How can small businesses capitalize on link earning?
3. Should companies still link build?