The 800 Pound Gorilla

By John Eberhard

Upon Google’s ascendancy a number of years ago to the number one spot in the search engine wars, they brought with them a new idea in how to measure and rank web sites: your site would be ranked according to how many other web sites linked to yours.

This was a new idea at the time, but has become the dominant factor in how search engines now measure and rank web sites.

Google then cautioned people that they should not try to build up links proactively to their web sites, but should allow a “natural link building pattern” to develop. And they advised people just to put up great content on their sites, and people would naturally link to them.

There’s only one problem with this advice to just put up great content and people will link to you – it doesn’t work! Maybe it works if you are Coca Cola or Fedex. But for small and medium sized businesses, I have seen it too many times that the company put up tons of great content on their sites, articles, advice, etc., and not one thing happened.

I have made analogy in the past that this is like advising a pretty girl to dress up really nice, put on makeup, and then sit in her living room and wait for the phone to ring. Don’t go outside or anything. You can open your front drapes, but that’s it. And for god’s sake don’t make any outgoing calls on that phone.

So the problem with the advice to just put up great content and wait for the links, for a small to medium business, is the same as for the girl waiting in her living room – nothing is going to happen. After 6-12 months of putting up great content you might find you have 100-200 links to your site. And you will find that you do not rank in the top 50 for any keyword except maybe your company name and your site traffic will be poor to non-existent.

But I see in many cases that because Google is the 800 lb. gorilla in the room, that many people just accept what they say as gospel truth and decide to follow their advice unquestioningly. It’s like this propitiating thing, sort of “yes sir, yes sir, great content, whatever you say sir.” I even see this with search engine optimization people, whose job it is to make their clients rank on search engines and should know better.

You may guess by now that I have chosen a different road. I chose to proactively build links to my own and my clients’ sites. I have developed several methods of doing this, including submitting articles to article directory sites, posting press releases on online PR sites, and posting articles and releases on blogs. Using these methods I have built up client links to the tens of thousands.

But Google hates this. They consider that anyone who builds up links to their web site using any method other than people naturally linking because of “great content,” is “gaming” their system.

And they have regularly set out to eliminate any advantage that people might be getting from link building. Several years ago people used to write to web site owners and ask to trade links. This is called reciprocal link building and was the primary link building method used by many people, until Google introduced elements in their algorithm which downgraded the advantage of reciprocal links about 3 years ago.

Then in February of last year Google introduced a new update to their algorithm called Panda. There has been a great deal of talk on the online marketing community since then about Panda, and one of its supposed purposes which was to eliminate the benefits of link building via article directories.

I was concerned of course. But I decided not to abandon my link building program, but to carefully monitor its results.

And how do you monitor the results of a link building campaign? Well let’s backtrack and ask what the purpose is of a link building campaign. You are trying to build up links to your web site, so that it will rank well in the search engine results for the keywords related to your business, so that you will get increased search engine traffic. Sort of indirect, but there you go.

So then the best way to measure a link building program would be to regularly check on:

  1. The number of links to the site
  2. How high the site ranks for a group of keywords related to the business
  3. The amount of traffic coming to the site
  4. The amount of traffic coming to the site specifically from search engines

I have kept close tabs on the above statistics for all my clients where I am doing a link building program. Here we are, a year and two months since Panda was released, and I am finding uniformly that all my link building clients are doing very well in terms of the above statistics. I wrote a case history article on one client recently and will be following up with several more in the near future.

Will I need to change my link building program eventually? No doubt. But has this Panda update impacted my clients? Not yet. Are they still benefiting from the link building program? No question.

The moral of this little fable is that young ladies should not just sit in their living room. Or, as we extend that analogy out to small to medium businesses, you have to promote your business, on whatever channels are available.

And when it comes to search engines, it is necessary to build links proactively and not sit passively in your living room. No matter how many grunts come from the gorilla in the corner.

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