There’s More To Life Than Links & Sex

by on 03/04/2009 • 70 Comments | SEO

There are a few posts I’ve written in my career where I think to myself, “this probably isn’t going to go well. I should just shut up.” This is one of them. Only I’m not going to shut up. Not that this should surprise you.

As people often like to lovingly point out to me, I’m not an SEO. And that works for me. Because I frequently find SEOs to be quite the whiny bunch. Even the ones I like. (See my next post on “How to Win Friends” to be published once I learn how!).

They don’t mean to annoy me, they just can’t change who they are and how they see things. Let me try and explain my recent frustrations.

And that’s all happened in only the past day or two.

Guess what, SEOs, it’s time to grow up.

The search engines are placing less weight on links and its time you start doing the same. I’m not saying to abort link building practices. That would be suicidal. But the PageRank-like obsession needs to stop. The obsession that drives you to pay for links, to create lists of sites that are still dofollow, and the time you spend bitching about how dare Site X not give you credit for your work needs to come to an end.

Let me add this disclaimer: I don’t think sites should nofollow links. I think the Web was based on linking. I think links are sexy and that in a perfect world a link would actually mean something.  However, life isn’t fair and you can’t trust your next door neighbor.

Yesterday, Aaron Wall went on the record to say this:

I am going to cut back on social media for the next year or two…its not worth the effort. It builds no real value. It wastes opportunity. It wastes links. It wastes life. :)

That made me wince. Social media does build value. It’s not a wasted opportunity. Whether or not certain sites pass link juice, they’re still valuable. All this talk about how sites like Twitter “come at a high cost” because they don’t pass Page Rank makes me want to start denting walls again. Just like there’s more to a relationship than just sex. There’s more to SEO and Internet marketing than just links. Even good sex, er, links.

Last week, we mentioned a recent Google algorithm update that seems to focus on rewarding brands for being a brand. I’ve heard from other SEOs who have reported seeing major changes with how their sites are ranking based on that update. And if that’s true, then it’s not links you need to be obsessed with. It’s building your company into a brand. People may disagree with me on this, but I don’t think brands are built through links. I think they’re built through people. The kind of people that you find on Twitter and in social media. The kind of people who don’t give a shit if a link is nofollowed or not because they’re still going to click on it. They’re still going to spend time on your site (something else Google is watching). And they’re still going to learn about you and talk about you and whore you out to their friends.

If you want to serve your clients, it’s time you start thinking about what’s important to them. Stop thinking only links. Links are not your salvation. Not long term.

And I know that as I’m writing this and Rhea’s reading it, she’s shaking her head secretly wanting to lock me in a closet. I know this because we have constant battles about how things should be done. She sees things like an SEO. She sees links. And link equity. I see user experience. I see community. I see brands. And that’s what makes us perfect complements and why we create great experiences for our clients and their visitors. It’s also what makes us take turns wanting to dump cups of coffee  over one another’s heads. But the battles teach us a lot about the other person’s perspective. It teaches us a lot about SEO and what matters.

Search is growing up. A few years ago, links represented relationships on the Web. If you liked something, you linked to it. The search engines caught on to that and it was a rewarded behavior. Then we manipulated it to all hell. Today’s relationships aren’t solely based on links. Today relationships are based on actual relationships. They’re based on the relationships that things like Twitter and Sphinn and social media create. They’re far more trusted. They’re more real.

I may not get my hands dirty with SEO, but I like to think I understand it. I understand that links are not the end all, be all of everything. I understand that as an SEO you better be looking deeper than that if you want to do right by your clients and get them to the point of being outspoken. I’m sorry that Aaron Wall thinks that social media is a waste of his time and that it builds no value. I don’t agree. Not even a little.

But I’m sure y’all will educate me in the comments. :)

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About the Author

Lisa Barone

Lisa Barone co-founded Outspoken Media in 2009 and served as Chief Branding Officer until April 2012.

Get social with Lisa at Twitter

70 thoughts on “There’s More To Life Than Links & Sex

  1. Great points here. Links should be looked at in terms of the traffic/conversion benefit for the site first and foremost. A good user experience is whether or not a link to something is going to be something of interest to them. The user doesn’t give a crap that they are looking at a link that has a high PR and makes a page rank better. And somehow the search engines seem to know this. Surprise!

  2. I wonder if Aaron will give up search conferences for a year or two as well. Seems like those would be no more value than Twitter, right?

  3. Who decided that it was all about links? Are we still stuck in 2003? I thought everyone was concerned about who is or isn’t best at social media? Where did the link fit come from? Seems childish… Can’t we all realize that the internet is like a microcosm of real life? Social media is how we interact with each other, design is how we dress ourselves, SEO is how we present ourselves, and links are who we relate to. All parts are necessary.

  4. You hit the nail on the head. SEO is evolving. Links are becoming less important – I did not say UNimportant – I said LESS important. It’s like we all seem to forget that the purpose of building links in the first place was to rank a site higher, thereby increasing the chances of it being found in SERPs by PEOPLE.

    Last time I checked, Google doesn’t buy your products or services once you hit page one – PEOPLE do. With the rise of Social Media, there is an entirely different avenue by which sites can expose themselves to their target audience. The evolution of Internet marketing isn’t going to rely on search engines alone, as has been much of its emphasis in the past. Those who learn how to use all of the online mediums to their advantage will be the ones most likely to succeed. The rest will be left in the dust. It’s no different than the shift from traditional marketing to online marketing over the past decade.

  5. It’s not all about links, but links matter. Just like sex – let’s be real, what’s a relationship with out it?

    I use Twitter and have gotten some real value out of it, but I do think it can be an exercise in wheel spinning much of the time. It’s fun – but that doesn’t mean spending all day tweeting is justified.

    Some of the time it’s branding, sure. It’s also a popularity contest, and much of the audience is the choir.

    Brian Clark posted his thoughts on this issue recently, and it’s worth reading: http://www.copyblogger.com/are-you-someones-user-generated-content/.

    Twitter does present real opportunities, and where there is opportunity there is value. But at the end of the day if your choice is between building a better website and tweeting, I think the answer is clear.

  6. Todd: Hmm, maybe we both need to get more original? Or actually, the whole SEO world does. All these link condoms, link juice and hand job references. It’s all links and sex.

  7. As long as search engine algorithms are based on links, they’ll be THE important part of SEO. Social media links are relatively valueless (in terms of SEO) because even if they pass PR now, tomorrow, they won’t.

    Where I disagree with Aaron is this: Part of building links is targeting your content to webmasters so that they link to it. Social Media, then, becomes a great way to distribute that content, because that’s where most of these webmasters happen to be (and where they find great places to link to).

    Branding is a huge part of Marketing. And SEO/link building is basically marketing to webmasters. If any part of your SEO/Link building strategy is creating REMARKABLE content, ignoring Social Media is a mistake.

    As for the future of Links in SEO? Is it possible that they wont matter? If so, what’s your back up plan?

  8. I see social media as a way to get links. If you have a twitter profile with 10,000 followers and 1% retweet your links how many people will see the tweet, visit and possibly link to you. This number can be much higher if you actively seek out and follow people who retweet.

    My ultimate goal may be to get people to link to me, but I’m also happy if they bookmark me, tag me in delicious, give me a thumbs up on stumbleupon, or just don’t bury me on digg. I also think it’s great when people retweet me, click the links in the tweets, or email links to their friends. I’m even happy if they subscribe to my RSS or follow me on twitter.

    In an time when the algo is depending less and less on links, I’ll take every opportunity to send google as many signals of quality that come from any of those actions above. I’m very happy when to write a post that may not make me a dime today but makes my URL pass through thousands of google toolbars.

    Links are important and always will be, but links without the other signals are like having 18″ rock hard biceps and thighs that look like cottage cheese.

  9. I glad you wrote this because I have been thinking the same thing! I was even going to come out of hiding and rant about it on my blog, but it certainly wouldn’t have been as well written! It would have been more of a bitchfest, for sure… :P

    I’ll just say that, from what I’ve seen, SEOs seem to have more of a one-track mind and fail to think in more of an actual business/marketing sense.

  10. Graywolf: That’s where I differ. I don’t see social media as a way to get links. I see it as a way to give my audience what they want *where* they want it. Some people go out to the newsstands and buy a paper every day. They put on their coats, bundle up and brave the weather. Personally, I’d rather deliver that paper to my audience whenever possible.

    If I know that people who are interested in me are hanging out on on Twitter, then I’m going to put my content there to make it easy for them to find it. It’s not about links. It’s about marketing and eyes and branding. It’s about all the things that *stick*.

  11. @LisaBarone I get that it’s not just about links, but to say that it’s never about links is just as wrong, your pendulum is just stuck on the other end ;-)

    What we really need to talk about is the benefits over the whole range of of the pendulums swing. Links, traffic, branding, connecting, they all play role.

  12. I think you hit it on the head with this one in a lot of ways. Links are important, but I’ve never seen links as the overall purpose of social media. As you put it, it’s about community, branding, and the exposure. The value of social media is not in the links, it’s in the relationships and the exposure it can give you or your brand. If exposure and community are a waste of time and links are everything then apparently a ton of us in the search industry are doing it wrong…

  13. It’s a balance! You got put SEO love AND have good content along with a GOOD products! You can bullsh*t anymore. You can put all the SEO LOVE AND LINKS in something, but unless you have great and profound things to say and show, then it won’t convert and do much at the end of the day.
    -end scene-
    PS…I agree that social media is valuable and TAKES time to build relationships, but by no means IS it a waste of time!

  14. SEO is not the end result but a medium to achieve it. Fortunately (or unfortunately) link building forms a very important part of any SEO activity. Google ranking algo gives a significant weight to back links making it important for every SEO professionals to go after them. Do they have a choice? I believe not.

    Having read it in one of your posts (probably on WBP) that every ranking signal attains great value for some time but loses it gradually after being exploited. Link building will probably go down the same way but till that happens link building cannot be completely ruled out.

    You are looking at a more holistic picture, which many SEO professionals fail to see due to their short sightedness or over obsession with SEO. They are more concerned about the present and show a complete disregard to what is coming their way.

  15. Lisa, seems like the goal is the same whether you call it branding, marketing or SEO. Social media/networking seems like a crucial if not valid way of getting your message out – seems like a much easier way to build relationships as well and relationships = links (hopefully quality and relevant ones).

  16. This talk about links and sex and relationships… sort of reminds me of the committed wife who says her sexless marriage is great because sex isn’t everything; it’s just something she goes outside of her marriage to get like a banshee once each month to satisfy her needs. Take a step back… re-evaluate reality. Links are essential, they must be obtained somehow, but links are not everything and not all links are equal.

    It took MANY YEARS for the SEO world to realize the importance of ROI and goal-oriented strategy. Many of those selling packaged SEO services are still in denial… because it doesn’t fit nicely with their business model. As an SEO specializes, she narrows her outcome goals and success metrics. Do we really need to generalize those as applicable to the whole world?

    Calcanis said he’d quit blogging, but he’s back. Aaron said he’d “cut back” on conference participation, and now “cutting back” on Social Media participation. These actions are telling for conference organizers, and competitors of these people. Obviously those things weren’t suitably productive for those who chose to drop out. Aaron also said “I think the effort needed to see any real return on Twitter would be better spent building out your own site”. That’s ROI. Aaron’s not converting his social media activity very well, or at least not as well as his SEO projects.

    Many old-school SEOs have said they are now “white hat”… how can we not think they lost their stomach for the game, or their tolerance for the risks? Or perhaps they lost their desire for the rewards, perhaps because they are not as hungry as they once were? Is Black Hat SEO dead?

    The only thing that matters is audience. If it’s there, what is its character? If it is of suitable character, and suitable size, able to be utilized to achieve one’s marketing goals, then a marketer’s performance before that audience should produce dividends. We each get to evaluate risk vs. reward.. ain’t that great?

    By the way, an announcement that you’re over social media is an interesting social media play ;-)

  17. Great article! Every kind of networking (social or otherwise) can do nothing but help. Sure, there is time to be put it…but these relationships cannot be underrated. Twitter and other social networking and social bookmarking sites will make your site visible to more eyes, which works cyclically as far as SEO goes. The more people that go to your site, the more people that will find it interesting and link to your site. SEO is, and is always going to be about traffic.

  18. Carolyn: I actually think the goal is two completely different things. Things like Twitter and social media are about building a brand. Links are all about ranking in the search engines. Rankings don’t necessarily build brand. Or at least it was, maybe with Google’s new interest in ranking brands it is the same.

  19. I think that this post has finally clarified to me your (Lisa’s) role in the SEO community.

    Please don’t get your hands into the trade, not because you would be bad at it, but rather because a community needs a bystander with a short verbal fuse that will spark such interesting discussions and someone from inside lacks your point of view.

  20. What John Andrews said.

    Really…brilliant comment!

    Lisa, I don’t think SEO’s (or anyone else) will stop making sexual references anytime soon :.)

  21. A real world and recent example of the points that Lisa is making can be found with the launch of my and David Mihms’ new site Get Listed

    It has only been around a month and a half or so but has received around 100,000 page views and tens of thousands of unique business queries.

    Want to know how many of those came from search engines?
    Drum roll please…
    318
    The way to spread things is different now then it was before.
    This article talks about links, but what we really are talking about is the value of search engine traffic IMO
    One of the things I said from the very beginning phases of GetListed is…

    “I do not give a poo about SEOing this site”

    And I don’t.
    The reason I do not care is because our goal is to have as many small business owners use our site as possible. The best way to reach small business owners is not through search engines. What keyword am I supposed to go after?
    “I am a small business owner that doesn’t know what I need to do to make my business do better on this internet thing”
    They are not searching for this. They are reading and observing and listening. They do not know what to search for. They are learning through trusted friends and business associations, through people in their field they admire, through Local SEOs who are dealing with the small business owners individually.

    Links have been losing importance for a long time, if you want an illustrated and humorous guide to the loss of importance that links have on Google page rankgo here
    I do not care if a link is followed or nofollowed if it brings me people.

  22. I never looked at social media sites for their link value. Although I always looked at social media sites to make link baits more “baitable” coming up with a fast, quick distribution channel. I look beyond the social media link, and see the deeper value how it can give me more links indirectly. I go beyond sex and does some art of Zen Kama Sutra giving you the ultimate blissful feeling. :)

  23. “I am going to cut back on social media for the next year or two…its not worth the effort. It builds no real value. It wastes opportunity. It wastes links. It wastes life. :)”

    Ok, Aaron wall is a really, really smart dude and I have a ton of respect for him, but WTF?

    I hate the fact that twitter and social media have almost become synonymous with each other. I am neck deep in social media every day, and I use it to build tens of thousands of links and rank for very competitive keywords. My definition of social media has very little to do with tweeting, blogging about what I had for breakfast, or posting photos to facebook. As it pertains to SEO, I think of social media more in terms of leveraging/borrowing/raping giant communities for their links and traffic. In terms of driving links and visibility, twitter is very mediocre. It pales in comparison to what a successful viral marketing campaign can achieve with facebook, digg, myspace, reddit, television, radio, or the millions of blogs that are out there. For example, yesterday a piece of my linkbait got on NBC news, and the day before another piece was written about in the new yorker (that’s a PR8 link, folks). Another piece of linkbait I launched last week built 2000 links in 2 days. Both of those got there via what I consider social media marketing.

    I cringe every time I see someone describe themselves as a “social media guru,” because it probably means they tweet a lot and they have a blog.

    A better way for Aaron to word that might have been:
    “I am going to cut back on Tweeting back and forth about nothing for the next year or two…its not worth the effort. It builds no real value. It wastes opportunity. It wastes links. It wastes life. :)”

  24. Think of SEO (web design, marketing, branding, usability, etc.) as a means to a goal – not the goal.

    If we focus on the customer then we’ll do well. If we focus on one area (link building) and we get 10,000 links, but customers can’t get through the shopping cart or add more products, you’ve wasted your time.

    Businesses need companies to help them holistically, in a well rounded fashion, while still providing the expertise in the area that needs the most attention. Companies owe it to their customers to provide this service and not get hung up on a fad or in just one area.

  25. @Patrick Sexton I hope you don’t feel a need to bash SEO just because what you do gets traffic and you don’t feel a need for SEO. Viral marketing is not SEO… SEO is about search referred traffic.

    I hope this wasn’t a subtle “SEO is Bullsh*t” post by Lisa, either. I have believed all along she knows the difference between traffic, attention, and search referrals, and how they might work together in marketing.

    http://www.johnon.com/427/people-will-always-search.html, but they will also usually pick up trends and follow herds. I hope the Social Media promoters can innovate on their own, and don’t need to bash an existing successful industry in order to get attention.

  26. Lisa – You seem understand marketing principles and the holistic approach necessary for online success better than most. I also love your writing style! (but I may have already told you that)

    Kenny – your quote was the best thing I have read all day.
    “Can’t we all realize that the internet is like a microcosm of real life? Social media is how we interact with each other, design is how we dress ourselves, SEO is how we present ourselves, and links are who we relate to. All parts are necessary.”

  27. I don’t agree with Aaron’s statement but to be fair to him, with everything else he’s got going on, social media is likely a low priority for him and he has less of a need for it than most folks (though I’m sure he’ll get back on board when the need is there).

  28. I’m 100% with Pat on this one (and well done on the success of Get Listed BTW). What we’re really talking about here is the difference between SEO and Internet Marketing. SEO has it’s focus on drawing search traffic by taking whatever steps are necessary to gain high rankings in the SERPs (which still means finding sources of dofollowed links). Internet Marketing allows for a much broader approach. As Pat rightly points out, it doesn’t matter if a link is nofollowed as long as it brings lots of people. The value of social media, whether for you that happens to be Twitter, Facebook or any of the other places where people congregate on the internet, is that when used to properly identify where your potential customers are and then engaging with them on a level they can appreciate, you can bypass Google and the other gatekeepers of internet traffic.

  29. @ John Andrews
    You bring up a good point. I often forget to fill the circle of my train of thought, because I was actually trying to make the point that social media and internet WOM marketing actually do improve drastically your standings in search engines. I believe successfully communicating with people is a core part of a SEO plan. I am in no way bashing SEO, I just meant that it was in no way my first priory in building, marketing or improving that site (getlisted).
    SEO is hugely important and my train of thought is something like…
    create a great resource —> talk to people about it –> improve the resource from what you hear from people –> ensure the resource helps it’s intended audience –> Talk to people about it –> Get the word out —> Identify how target audience can be reached –> Reach them —> SEO site.
    If you do all those things that I listed prior to SEO, your SEO will benefit hugely because you are already exhibiting quality signals to search engine algorithms.
    To be completely honest, and this might sound weird, but I want Google to tell me what is best to SEO Getlisted for, not the other way around. I want to see what kind of traffic Google is bringing to me in the next month or two and use that to help me target particular phrases or what not. The Google algorithm is way smarter than I am, and I have used it in the past to help me identify the best way to go with my SEO (this works well when your site is a good resource).
    Full circle now…
    A well trafficked site exhibiting quality indicators to Google will improve that sites rankings in search engines. It is useful to your SEO, not a replacement.
    I tend to think that if you create a site that can’t get traffic without search engines, then you are facing a much larger challenge than if you create a site that can get traffic without search engines. Both challenges are surmountable.
    This trend has been true for a long time I wrote the article Hitchhiker’s Guide to Linkless SEO in 2007. That spoke of this very issue (that links are not the end all be all of SEO and that factors other than links can positively affect your SEO efforts and rankings)

  30. Hi Lisa,

    “However, life isn’t fair and you can’t trust your next door neighbor.” That sentence in this blog post officially made you an SEO. Welcome to the club.

    Just like I am irritated by the fact that the Google official blog happens to nofollow the blogroll of people they claim to read all the time (and not their own employees’ personal blogs; I am also irritated by the fact that Outspokenmedia.com nofollows its blogroll even though the people on their blogroll donot nofollow their own blogrolls.. What is the point of a blogroll if you are just going to nofollow it? How do you create a social relationship with the people in your blogroll if you are going to nofollow them??? I know I know it was not you. It was Rae & Rhea’s idea. Pleasure to read you as always.

  31. Google knows everything … and they’re getting smarter about what makes a site authoritative, it’s definitely not just links anymore.

    @kenny is right. The web is social because it’s build by us, and we’re social beings. Links have been the best way to represent this to date. As more and more people participate in the web, and new ways of interacting with each other become popular its going to be easier for search engines to establish what’s true and what isn’t.

    @patrick hit a nerve, found a need and executed very well. That’s why GetListed hit the way it did.

  32. Mert – The blogroll does in fact have followed links, but from the root /blog only. The individual posts don’t leak juice from every post and category on the blog. That doesn’t make sense to us, we’re giving the SEOs we respect the best of the blog, the homepage.

  33. Let’s take a step back, most of us here are on the internet 24-7. We see things differently than the average user. Most of my friends “in the real world” have never even heard of twitter, they don’t read blogs and have never commented on a blog. They have a facebook or MySpace account, and use it once or twice a week maybe.

    But when they are looking for something specific they head right over to the all powerful Google and type in their query. They click on the 1st, 2nd or third site. If that’s not what they want they modify their query to something more specific.

    If you are not optimized for that query they won’t find you.

    The point is, search is still dominant in getting qualified traffic to your site and links will be an important factor in the algo for the foreseeable future.

  34. Lisa you say that using social media is about building brand – so in essence you’re saying it’s about selling more of your stuff (socks anyone?). I think you’re right that the emphasis is shifting away from getting better PR, better SERPs positions and on to selling more stuff (perhaps because SEO is maturing) – but that the best way to sell more stuff (all else being equal) is still to be top of Google ..?

    “Twitter [is ...] more real” – maybe, but not for long. The great unwashed (like me) are finding it and using it and flooding it with worthlessness.

  35. Thank you for the explanation Rhea. My stone in this case was to Lisa and not you (as you and I do SEO for a living). I know why you sculpted the site. From the latest blog post quote from John Andrews. Who watches the watchman?”. Social Media addicts (as Lisa claims to be onwe herself) can tell us to grow as much as they want. At the end of the day, every SEO company watches out for the littlest detail (which was Aaron’s point in SEOBook about the PR leak to twitter). To tell SEOs to grow up because they pay attention to detail and to actually be partnering in an SEO Company. I just find it ironic. We are SEOs. We live and die by the details. And yes, I am a marketing MBA. I do get viral marketing, word of mouth marketing as a different dimension also and apply them to every campaign..

  36. Mert: You can actually save your stones. Just because I don’t touch SEO for a living doesn’t mean I don’t understand SEO. I’ve been studying and writing about SEO for more than three years. I’m not completely ignorant. I was actually part of the building process for this site. I understand why Rae and Rhea did certain things as SEOs. That’s one of the perks of partnering with people who specialize in different things. You get to learn from everyone.

    I don’t think obsessing over links is watching the details. I’d actually argue that it’s the complete *opposite* of watching the details. It’s obsessing over one thing and not paying attention to anything else. To get involved with social media for the links and to ignore all other aspects, which is what most SEOs are doing if they’re honest about it, is not smart and I do think there’s a growing up process to be had. But of course, I’m just a blogger. What do I know about the value of relationships and branding in social media?

  37. TheMadHat: Yes, social media has no ROI. Please tell that to the New York Times should they try to write about your Bacon Explosion again (what would that be three times?). We’d appreciate it. :)

  38. Lisa, I loved reading this post, but I have loved the thoughtfulness that went into the comments and the insight that the conversation and discussion it has driven.

    The one thing that I think was touched on a couple times that I really enjoyed hearing was people mentioning “Audience” and that the key to Social Media is your “Audience.” The truth is, when I work on anything Social Media related my goal is my Audience and reaching the community. Social Media is about “Visibility” and not solely about links. Whether or not that visibility drives links is a whole other story.

    Think about the Branding and Mindshare that you achieve with a well thought out Social Media Marketing campaign. Hitting Social Networks, Social News, and creating content that can be Crowdsourced easily is the key. If this is done right, you are going to build links…those are you REAL ORGANIC links. But, at the end of the day it is not just about that, it will come, but don’t make that your sole focus. Make your focus your Audience and the Visibility you can achieve.

    The other thing that I want to touch on was what Pat said…not targeting traffic for SEO…that is, case in point what I said in a tweet yesterday. The goal is not pushing your Social Media and/or SEO agenda. The key is to making smart business decisions with the data that you have in hand. :)

  39. A lovely conversation that says many things very well, from Lisa’s original post down through the thoughtful comments.

    As Michael said, if we allow ourselves to be stuck at the extremes of the pendulum swing, we may well end up like this, a parody of an attitude we’ve seen too often… SEO with the blinders on, sex and links combined: http://www.thelinkwhore.com

    “SEO” without the other ingredients discussed: the multi-faceted approach that makes a successful web presence, is worthless, just like the site above.

    If we’re not dedicated to providing our audience with the ability to be found (on many channels), providing content that is worth finding, and infusing passion into our subject matter… visitors will not return to buy another day.

    Without blending in social media and all the rest, SEO is as meaningful and satisfying – long term – as a night on the town with a paid escort.

  40. I do see your point Lisa, but the search engines are always going to rely on links heavily. They may be taking other metrics into account such as bounce rate and traffic, but at the end of the day, Google is still a dumb machine. No matter how genius the algorithms may be, it can not “intuitively” discern a relationship between two people (or sites), therefore links will ALWAYS play a major role.

    As far as Aaron Wall goes, give the guy a break…I think his time is much more well spent working on conversions and user experience than twitting his life away. After all, I really do not think he has a problem with traffic :)

  41. @patrick perfect… we are in total agreement. Thanks for bothering to clarify.

    @Aaron (themadhat) – I don’t think it’s fair to suggest anyone said Social Media has no ROI. Aaron Wall was quoted as comparing the benefits of social media participation to those of site building, for him. I was the one who equated that with ROI, but also specifically for him. Congrats on the book deal, by the way. When is the BBQ recipe site going live? ;-)

  42. Lisa,
    My sincerest apologies about the worst written comment of all time. Please accept my apologies. Lack of sleep makes people write things they don’t mean. You have my full respect as the top social media person in US.

  43. FYI, re: BluehatSEO AKA Eli Aloisi’s post abt “Black Hole SEO”.
    He coined the term in May 07 in his post at: http://www.bluehatseo.com/100s-of-linkshour-automated-introduction-to-black-hole-seo/

    -
    @LisaBarone
    Like yourself, I don’t make any claim to SEO skills and that’s not a service I provide.

    How this thread came about:
    Rae raised the issue re: Twitter doing an about turn in their dofollow/nofollow policy seemingly after Google’s enquiry, so my concern is what happens below the surface (the intent behind the policy vs just losing one link).

    Was this policy really an issue of possibly “site deterioration” concerns on the part of the CEOs/webmaster, or are there double standards being practised?

    I highlighted in a recent post that there is a ‘social compact’ between an online community and it’s users. [http://www.whoisandrewwee.com/social-traffic/dofollow-nofollow-backlink-dilemma/].

    You put in time in a community, participate, contribute.
    The site “rewards” you with enhanced priviledges, a resource page, some instruments of trust/credibility/rep/karma, etc.

    If you, as a community site owner, are trusting me to include a resource/weblink on your site, yet slapping me with a nofollow tag, that seems like a half-assed compromise. Either block/ban a questionable users accounts outright, or use the opportunity to engender trust.

    I don’t think this is an original issue either, given that forum owners have in the past welcomed users to post quality content, yet denied them a forum signature.

    Is that whiny?
    Maybe.

    Does that violate the idea of reciprocity, exchange and the idea behind a community?
    Most definitely.

    Can users bring their business elsewhere?
    For sure.

  44. Dear Mert,

    I want to apologize for kicking your puppy somewhere in another life. I didn’t mean it. I’m just not smart enough to know that puppy kicking is not proper behavior. I promise to buy you a goldfish sometime to make up for it.

    Just a blogger,

    Lisa

  45. Lisa, before I was dragged, forcibly, into the Twitterverse, I knew absolutely nothing about SEO. And that’s interesting because I am, or was, a web developer. My company was so insular that we just slapped up websites, unconcerned by the impact they would have or the web traffic they would attract. I know, that sounds crazy.

    Now that I am beginning to grasp marketing significance, largely due to following you and the fascinating people you interact with, I think you have the right idea here. The web, like programming itself, evolves so quickly that good SEO must respond in equal measure. Any SEO stuck in a pattern will become ineffective. My own focus has shifted from the failing company that I worked for to, well, marketing myself. I pay attention to you, because you consistently advise me – and everyone else – how to do that effectively. Your wisdom makes sense to me. I really just wanted to say thanks. Writers can live in obscurity for a lifetime. I don’t think I will, and you’re one of the reasons why. Learning to market myself gives me marketing power that can spread to marketing sites I work for, if they tap into it…of course as you and I both know, some prefer anonymity. Personal acclaim can be dangerous. sherry

  46. While there’s definitely something to be taken from this, discounting links to such a degree seems crazy. Links are valuable. Social media is valuable. I would say personally that the degree to which social media is valuable is more debatable than links, as social media’s value to your company depends on what your company does, what services it provides and what products it sells.

    High quality links now are as valuable as they have ever been, perhaps moreso as low quality links seem to be devalued further by Google.

  47. Good post Lisa. IMHO, building a strong reputable brand that people trust is what leads to success. Trust builds happy customers and creates brand evangelists. Brand evangelists bring more sales by pimping your brand to everybody they know. The last time I checked, this is pretty much the definition of social marketing, which cares not if it happens via word of mouth or click of mouse; as long as it happens.

    However, the SEs still rely very, very much on links to help them determine authority. As you know, authority is a huge overall metric for ranking well. So, you cannot blame people for wanting to grab links any which way they can. Personally, I do not have the time or passion to whore any link I can get. Rather, I find opportunities to acquire strong links via posting content that passively garners links and by reaching out to people for links. Again, all very social.

    Social marketing is NOT new. The only aspect of social marketing that is new is the tools; RSS, Twitter, Status Updates and blogs, which help us to more easily become social with a larger like-minded audience.

    With regard to Aaron’s post about social marketing being a waste, I would make the jump that he was really saying that it is a waste when it affects business in a negative way. We all know how much time is being wasted on these sites/tools.

    I also believe that Aaron’s post was a bit of a confession to his own time being wasted on these mediums. He noticed that he was spending a bit too much time on things that were not driving revenue.

    Thanks to the wider adoption of easy-to-use, new age social marketing apps and tools like Twitter, RSS and blogs we are seeing too much precious time being wasted following.

    * Rants and blah blah blah about nothing
    * Less productive employees now addicted to status updates instead of productivity
    * Obsession with one’s “online coolness ratio”
    * Obsession with being the first to post, tweet, digg, sphinn
    * People are wasting time on these tools and missing out on face-to-face human interaction.

    In conclusion, it would be insane to think that one would not want to use social marketing and the aforementioned tools to try to help grow and improve their business. The caveat, is that one should utilize these tools correctly and only when they can see a benefit to their business.

    Note: This post was made thinking solely about the business side of the marketing equation. Obviously, I’m not saying these tools should not be used for one’s own recreational enjoyment.

  48. I couldn’t agree more. SEO is based so much on conjecture, that everyone feels they have to have a bold opinion or complaint about the latest SEO development or argument to be considered an SEO. I actually wince myself when I read the way half of posts are written. I wish we could redefine SEO as a cross between web marketing and technical optimization instead of blogging and opinions. We really let Google control the world.

  49. The term “Bacon Explosion” is quickly becoming short hand for “Viral Marketing Campaign”, and let’s all hope it replaces that term permanently. The Bacon Explosion was the brainchild of two of the top internet marketing minds around; Aaron Chronister and Jason Day. It was a simple idea: put a recipe for an explosively delicious BBQ dish on their site and then promote it through social media. What was not typical was the clever strategies Aaron and team deployed and which resulted in coverage in the New York Times, Good Morning America, Fox News and Air America Radio. Since launching the recipe, the BBQ Addicts website has received close to 1.5 million visitors and continues to spread all over the internet.

    How do you do this for your company? Learning the ins and outs of social media marketing can be daunting and has a steep learning curve.

    Luckily Marketbright and BBQ Addicts have teamed up to bring you this informative webinar in which you’ll learn:

    - The steps BBQ Addicts took to launch their Bacon Explosion
    - Which social tactics performed and which did not
    - Detailed traffic and search stats and results from the campaign
    - How to use Marketing Automation tools to help track and execute your social marketing campaigns

    http://www.marketbright.com/go/erik-bacon

  50. Good post and interesting blog – found you on Lee Odden’s page.

    Well agree .. or hope … links have a declining influence on rankings.

    As goes for Twitter the SEO people are really into this at the moment, and “spamming” with content and links to content.

    Steen Ohman
    Öhman Research – online marketing

  51. Let me give you my take on this from an SEO’s perspective.

    First of all social media is a great means of building links. Now I don’t mean submit your site to Digg.com and you have an instant high PR backlink. The true link building value comes from when great content goes popularor goes viral on a sites like digg.com, reddit StumbleUpon, Twitter etc. and thousands of people are exposed to it. Then the links come naturally. So in other words I’m not concerned about the platform itself giving ma a backlink. The true link building value comes from people that are compelled to link to your content because the quality is high.

    Now that being said I also agree that social media has enormous value other thank just link building. Such as building a brand, networking, getting your name out there and so on. I have so many great friends from around the world due to my involvement in social media. This is much more valuable to me than a high PR backlink.

    In summary the benefits of social media can be enormous and many. I can’t imagine someone shunning a particular social site because it is no follow. I think that is a pretty narrow viewpoint. Not to mention even no follow links can hold some value. Maybe not from a page rank perspective but as you said the obsession with page rank has gone too far.

    Great article! I tweeted to my 11657 followers just now. @the_gman ;-)

  52. Lisa,

    This article is a superb example of why you’d make an IDEAL SEO.

    Most of my clients who are on the first page of Google are there even with a smidgen of links. One of the reasons I am as successful as I am is because I come from a broader business management background. I’ve never given links the credit Aaron and half the SEO geniuses do because to me it’s always all been about the quality of the content, and the brand identity.

    Like the dot-com bubble, and the economy bubble, focusing so much on links is a doomed strategy based on falsely believing “the tricks that work today work so well, I don’t need to consider whether the model will change tomorrow, and thus I can put all my focus on this one…”

    Instead, the longer term history of business success, financial success, have always been about the core value. And the core value for any company on the web is their offerings and brand identity, which can today only be communicated through quality content and as of late, social media.

    Properly evaluating keyword phrases goes so much futher because of that very fact- those phrases are a snippet out-take of what the offerings are or the brand identity is all about, and it’s going to take a massive paradigm shift in how the internet works (if ever) to get away from that reality. And social networking is to the web what out in the world events are from a brand building perspective.

    You keep doing what you’re doing – or alternatively, if you want to one day become an actual SEO, call me – I’d hire you in a heartbeat!

  53. I agree with you – SEO is about staying ahead of the competitors and working with the search engine traffic to get results. Focusing on the tactics instead of the big picture can leave you in the dust.

  54. 1. Social media can get you lots of links, and contribute to link profile, although not effective alone for raning.

    2. Social media links are much more expensive in time/labor/money than other link types.

    3. Social media traffic is worthless unless you are exceptional (which is what I think Aaron was referring to).

    4. No damn person in the world is going to be loyal and socially commited to my viagra/diet pill/casino site, so unless you are making millions on SEO across numerous websites, I don’t want to hear about your “social media for SEO” crapola. Again, proving the point that those who know dont talk, and those who talk ….

  55. Ok. So where do we go from here. This article may have been prophetic in the light of recent Google algorithm changes. But I can’t trust social media either.

    Browse outsourcing/crowdsourcing/microworker sites – you’ve gotta admit that a lot of social media is gamed as well. Or should I say “manipulated to hell”? Ok. Maybe not quite as much as linkbuilding.

    But… using microworkers to build fake buzz? Gotta ask… what’s honest, what’s real?

    If only Joe Consumer knew…

    Z..

  56. Lisa,

    Good post and seriously LOL’d at the puppy kicking reply. Most of my LOLs really aren’t ‘out loud’ IRL…this one was.

    “I want to apologize for kicking your puppy somewhere in another life. I didn’t mean it. I’m just not smart enough to know that puppy kicking is not proper behavior. I promise to buy you a goldfish sometime to make up for it.”

    I want to nominate this for the mythical coffee table book on ‘best blog or forum comment responses ever’

    :)

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