Content Is Not King
Some Straight Up Search Talk for the End of 2008
Content Is King!(?) (- !@#&!)
If you’re new to Search Marketing, you are probably hearing this quite frequently. In fact, this is probably said to you over and over again, “Content is King!”. You may have heard this repeated so many times already that you might even be sick of hearing this, (and I apologize on behalf of all search marketers if that is true). If you’re not new to search marketing, I’m sure you are already sick of hearing this, even if you might still believe it.
Content Is Not King?
In regards to search optimization for the web, this is correct. Before I go any further I want to emphasize this. I’m not saying content is not important. Content adds a great (read significant) value to any website, and is consistently undervalued, (but that is fodder for another post). What I am saying is that when looking at ranking factors on web based search engines, like Google for example, content becomes secondary to one thing. What is that? That is links.
The Proof is in the Algorithm
There are millions upon millions of websites on the web, with untold numbers of spammy sites trying to rank well on the search engines. So how do you go about indexing the web with all of this spam and whatever else lies in the great unknown of cyberspace? Simple. You build an algorithm that takes into account many factors, and one good one is looking at how many links a website receives.
These days, an algo is built with other factors, and one in particular being how many links come from “trusted sources”, and how many come from “untrusted sources”. However, built right into the way search engines index the web is how many links does a site have, or in other words, what is its authority (or popularity) on the web.
More Pudding for the Proof
Links to a site being important in ranking factors is no secret. Search Engines like Google have to keep modifying their algorithm because some people have figured this out and use this information to spam the engines. You might see a common thread here, that a change to “clean up” the engines brought about more spam, which brought about yet another change to “clean up” the engines. However, removing links as a ranking factor isn’t going away anytime time soon. It’s importance may be decreased, or devalued in the future, but there are three things that prove linking is alive and well as a way to rank on the web.
Blind Sighted Mice
There are “three sighted mice” that point to the value of links on the web, in terms of the search engines and indexing sites. Google employs a whole web spam team to manually remove spam from the index. They realize that an algorithm alone cannot keep out the spam, and that humans are needed.
In the future, more trust will be placed on the Google user to decide the good content from the bad (see, content is important). Google has also triumphed the nofollow attribute, which even this site has adopted as fair practice. This is a special code that lets Googlebot (Google’s bot that crawls the web, indexing sites) know that you are not “voting for” a particular site, even though you are linking to it. What more proof do you need to believe the importance that Google places on links. Many sites, Wikipedia for one, was an early adopter of the nofollow policy. If links were not an important factor, why would Google be asking the community as a whole to put a value on their own links to other sites?
The last “mouse” deserves it’s own heading.
Bombs and Bowling
Google Bombs that is. Google Bombing is the act of building links to make something rank well in the search engines, unnaturally. This effort can also be referred to as Google Bowling if your competitor is the one doing the Google Bomb. Recent Google Bombs have targeted George W. Bush and The Church of Scientology. Google Bowling can be used for monetary gain, consider it the hubcap stealing and resell of the web. Google insists that Google Bombing doesn’t work anymore. On the surface this may be true, but if you read into the details, they must detect it and act on it (see web spam team, above). Technically, Google Bombing is something that still works, it’s gone stealth, or what some are calling “Google Bomb 2.0″.
Link Building Is King
Linkbuilding is an important part of optimizing your site. If done right (white hat), Google has even sanctioned this practice. When linkbuilding, it is very important to do some checks of the site that you want a link from. Is it a quality site? Would you link to it? Is it Spam free? Are the links contained on the site spam free? These are some of the questions that you should ask yourself when engaging in a link building campaign. What can you do when a shady site links to you? Stay tuned, the answer to that question is coming up in another post.
Update January 14, 2009 AKA Proof #4, Yahoo’s Point of View: Yahoo! recently made a Patent Application at the US Patent & Trademark Office entitled, “Identifying excessively reciprocal links among web entities“. This document doesn’t just touch on recips, but on web pages themselves, hosts (subdomains), domains, and clusters (read chain-gang link networks). This is further proof of the importance of links to the search engine algo. Just imagine if these proprietary engines protected their content like they do their machine learnings against link manipulation schemes.
Hey… Wanna trade a nofollow?