There’s More To Life Than Links & Sex

March 4, 2009
By Lisa Barone in 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.

  • Aaron Wall, who I happen to think is one of the smarter people on the planet, announced he is giving up social media for a year because it builds no value and wastes links.
  • Andrew Wee uses coined the term “blackhole SEO” for sites like Twitter and eBay that pass no link juice. (Thanks to Streko for pointing out that BlueHatSEO may have coined the term. Not Andrew. Apologies.)
  • I went to bed last night listening to people all in an uproar about how Craigslist now nofollows their links as well.

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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