What if links aren’t as important as you think?

Links, links, links.  It’s pretty much at the top of any SEOs “must discuss” list of topics.  For a long time, the prevailing thinking was links were the golden egg.  They were what you needed to turn the tide and boost your rankings.  And that was true.

Today, though, it might pay to broaden your thinking.

I am not saying links are dead or links have no value – let’s get that straight up front.

What I am saying, however, is that it can pay to keep the big picture in view and not get mired too deeply in the weeds.  I mean, just watching comments on popular search industry sites from those who work in the industry is enough to convince anyone that link building and managing link campaigns is very much the current “tactic du jour”.  But what if that time were better spent?

It’s easy to get fixated one a single tactic, hoping if you double down on that one area it’ll pay dividends.  Easier for you, easier on the budget (in some cases) and easier to track results.  But it’s a single signal to the engines.  Links.  Just a single signal.  So what are you doing to work with the other signals?

Are you putting equal time into the social side of the equation?  Is your social program ramping up to engage people in a meaningful way?  Or is it on autopilot still pumping out self-serving links to only your own products and services?

Is the editorial side of your house producing the killer content you need them to?  Do they seek new ways to engage readers through not just well written content, but with content that answers questions before they’re asked?

Are your content management system and your page templates sorted out from a technical SEO standpoint?  Still got multiple <H1> tags on the page?  Still leaving <ALT> tags empty? Missing a <meta description>?

The point here is to not get caught up in one single aspect of the complex world of SEO.  Links, while still holding value, have evolved as signals over time.  If we see a sudden appearance of obviously spammy links pointed at your site, and your site is otherwise showing a history of trustworthiness, we’re most likely going to just ignore those links.  Still, while this can cover the obvious instances, tools like the Disavow Links feature in Bing Webmaster Tools enables you to flag inbound links you don’t like.

To be clear, again, this isn’t a post stating links are dying, or you should ignore them, but it is a post saying watch how much time you invest in them.  By and large, building links the right way is beyond your control.  While it’s smart to allocate some time to watching this signal via the tools and data available today, don’t place all of your eggs in one basket.

This isn’t foreshadowing anything either, but what if links ceased to be a useful signal to the engines.  What would you focus on then?

So many times across the industry you hear conversations about shortcuts.  How can I build links quickly?  I need more followers on Twitter, quickly.  Where can I get free content?

If all the time that was spent seeking shortcuts was invested into producing quality, engaging content, more websites would find success.  The main point behind today’s post is to remind you to look around; watch what you invest in and make sure you’re not wasting time seeking shortcuts when the answer to success is right in front of you.

User Experience + Compelling Content FTW!

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