Build Relationships NOT Links!

July 28, 2012

Filed under: Google,SEO
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This week I had the privilege of attending MozCon 2012, the official SEOmoz annual conference. There were so many great sessions, tips, strategies and actionable takeaways (I will definitely be back next year).

For me however, by far, Wil Reynolds stole the show. Outside of his great enthusiasm and magnetic personality, he provided a necessary caption for the entire SEO industry:

Do Real Company Shit!

We often all get lost in optimizing for the latest target Google throws at us, and as such (as a whole) we often over do it. When Google indicated that inbound links were an important factor in ranking, we all ran out to get links in every way possible, some purchased, some traded, some even bribed. Companies created business plans around selling links to other companies and a temporary focus (and industry) was formed. Google realized the change in behavior and how their algorithm was now being abused and they adjusted accordingly.

As a result much of the significant work put into generating links unnaturally was now devalued or even worse penalized. Ranking factors change and as a result we all start chasing the next “carrot” and yes, typically over do it.

Being the adaptive and intelligent creatures that we are, we also know how to evolve, and as Google forced out many link building strategies, new ones were born. Today it is very popular to generate links through content. The more viral the content, the further it spreads and the more likely you are to get a significant amount of links pointing to this content. Infographics have been a great way to achieve this as visual content of value spreads so fast, but yet again are starting to be overused and somewhat abused with embedded link codes etc. It won’t be long before Matt Cutts restricts many of the ways Google values links from “spammy” infographics.

Stop Chasing Carrots

The bottom line is that chasing Google’s “carrots” will have you wasting a lot of time and ending up with frustrated clients and managers as Google  adapts…and they do so often. In 2010 Google made 516 changes to their algorithm. That’s more than one daily! And that’s an average year for them. While some changes might not have as large an impact, all these changes are there to achieve a common goal:

To generate search results that are meaningful, not ones that rank as a result of manipulating the current ranking mechanism!

So while it may take Google some time to catch up and adjust, eventually they do and the only strategies that hold out in the long run are ones involving “white hat” practices (ones that do not try to abuse the current system).

We provide complex platforms for multiple industry leaders and as such have had many vendors approach us to offer SEO solutions to our clients (regardless of the fact that we offer this service ourselves). Many of these vendors are not even in the SEO sector. They package a side benefit of their offering as SEO “magic”. Some are creative, but most revolve around a new plan on how to “get rank quick”. Just like the old (and new) “get rich quick” schemes, they often seem so appealing, but I assure you, regardless of appeal the long term result is typically disaster.

We analyze these offerings thoroughly and if there is no substantial merit, regardless of how hard they try to convince us of the immediate value and it’s white hat nature, we think longterm and more often than not, reject their services. I am very proud to say that when Google released the Panda and Penguin updates, that we (and our clients) did not receive even one warning letter. Better than that, most of our clients gained positions, while their competitors fell below as more of these updates took place. Our clients often dominate Google rankings for many key terms. The results really speak for themselves and I encourage you all to think carefully before ever buying into these “get rank quick” schemes.

More importantly, here is what you should be spending your time on:

  • Understanding your audience
  • Creating great content tailored to your audience’s interests
  • Really taking the time to craft an appealing message
  • Contributing to your community (both online and offline)
  • Growing your reach

Each of the above bullet points can be broken down into several action items and many more can be added (I may elaborate on these in a future post), but for the sake of this post they illustrate the important global ingredients to building relationships, as opposed to chasing the links themselves, or as Wil put it, doing Real Company Shit (RCS). After all SEO is online marketing, and our old school marketing departments have been building relationships as their core strategy for years. With many great relationships you will naturally obtain the necessary factors Google is looking for to rank well for the long haul.

Companies who have already focused on RCS for years while everyone else was out trying to “get rank quick” in their verticals are now so far ahead of their competition that it would seem a near impossible task to catch up with them. A great example of such a company is IMDb.

On behalf of our network, I would like to thank Rand Fishkin and his team for putting on a great show with so much value.

Keep up the great work, we thoroughly appreciate it!



  1. Comment by Wil Reynolds — July 28, 2012

    Thanks for the review of my session, glad you took something away, here’s to creating as much #RCS as we possibly can!!

  2. Comment by Ido Zucker — July 30, 2012

    Wil, #RCS is our new mantra! I just wished you brought it up a few years ago ;)

  3. Comment by John D'Ambrogio — July 30, 2012

    As a long-time “student” of Active Website’s SEO theories, I fully agree! By listening to John Sable’s advice many years ago, I’ve built a strong enough blog presence to withstand any google “tweaking”

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  7. Comment by Haroun Kola — August 2, 2012

    Its almost like all these twitter spam messages and followers that I’m getting promising my 10000 unique followers when they themselves have only a handful.

    Ridiculous, and I just wonder why they all do it. It takes just as much energy to create a crappy offer than it does to create a compelling one, rather put energy into something that lasts and is valuable!

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