Google Webmaster trends analyst John Mueller was asked in his latest Google+ Hangout whether link building was, in any way, good. The response was “In general, I’d try to avoid that.”
Although John’s answer to this question was nothing new on the topic, and similar to answers previously provided by Matt Cutts, this hasn’t stopped it being discussed widely within the industry press - in fact, it even made a column on Forbes.
John’s full response in Friday 13th's Hangout video (at 55min 40sec) was:
“That is a good question.
In general, I’d try to avoid that.
So that you are really sure that your content kind of stands on its own and make it possible for other people of course to link to your content. Make it easy, maybe put a little widget on your page - ‘if you like this, this is how you can link to it’. Make sure that the URLs on your web site are easy to copy and paste. All of those things make it a little bit easier.
We do use links as part of our algorithm but we use lots and lots of other factors as well. So only focusing on links is probably going to cause more problems for your web site than it actually helps.”
What we know, and confirmed in John’s comment, is that while backlinks are still very much a central part of the algorithm, Google are progressively getting better at discovering which links are ‘natural’ and which ones have been built with the specific aim to make a site rank higher in Google.
The key message is that if you are still attempting to ‘build’ links as opposed to ‘earn’ them, then sooner or later your site performance is going to suffer as a result.
If you want to find out more about best practice for SEO, and getting the best from your campaign, we can help - just get in touch.