Stop Link Buying. Stop It Now.

Ever been tempted to buy links? Don’t. It’s now clearer than ever that this quick fix to Google ranking is not only a waste of money, but may even damage your ranking longer term.  This post summarises what’s been happening to link buying recently and explains why you should care about ‘social authority’.

In the last month we’ve seen Google become even more firm in its stance towards companies that try to manipulate search rankings.  There have been some big casualties – in the US JC Penney and Forbes.com have been out-ed as trying to manipulate their rankings using paid links, and several large link selling networks have decided to shut up shop.  More websites than ever are receiving warnings in WebMaster Tools highlighting unnatural linking behaviour with a warning like this one:

webmaster link warning

It’s official; the days of lazy link buying are finally over.   The uncomfortable truth is that good websites – those that put care and love into their content and interact with their public – deserve to rank better than those that don’t.  In the past, there hasn’t really been an effective way to measure this love and care, but inevitably those Google boffins were going to find a way.  Here’s what they are saying about link buying and webspam.

This message was front and centre at this year’s LinkLove conference.  There was less talk of ‘link bait’ and more about the power of a website’s content and the importance of social profile, for brands and for individuals associated with those brand.

Twitter, Facebook and Google+ are leading the way with content that is liked and shared by people (with Pinterest and Path amongst others not far behind).  This is measurable, so it’s perhaps not so surprising that Google is starting to factor popularity of content into search results.  What is also measurable is the reach and influence of individual contributors, those people and brands who are putting love and care into the online community.  This social authority, or the ability to influence a wide number of people, is emerging as the critical ranking factor of the future

What does it mean to you?  If you currently pay for links then your supplier is going to be trying to scare you into carrying on.  Be brave and stop it.  Invest instead in great content and building the social authority of your site.   If you are already active on social networks, then you have some social authority already and Jon’s next post will help you understand what it is and how you can do more with it.

(Stop sign -  image creditation, Steve A Johnson)

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