Quality Sites Are the New Links and Santa Exists

santa-is-here*

Accordingly to Google and Search Engine Land the decade old practice of link building has just been replaced by “building quality sites”. No, that’s not a joke. This is official:

“In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by creating high-quality sites that users will want to use and share.”

instead of

“In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by increasing the number of high-quality sites that link to their pages.”

At first I was like “cool, now I can get back into the Google index, they will finally acknowledge that I have a quality site here” but then I was like “wait a moment, no way, this is just to mislead noobs to believe they can’t improve their ranking by building links anymore”. I told everybody about it including the author of the SEL article but nobody really cared about my comments and social media messages. After all, who am I, just a weirdo from Germany while what Google says and SEL confirms must simply be true.

My weirdo status at least allows me to argue with big Google.

I don’t care, I don’t have to cuddle with Matt Cutts on the next search conference so I can tell you something: Google doesn’t want you to get links, but they still work, at least they work much better than quality sites. You can have indeed the best quality site and still rank nowhere in Google. I have experienced it myself by failing to make quality sites rank LOL.

 

Quality sites do not rank

Yes, I have some great quality sites that do not rank simply beacuse they have no incoming links.

I do not want to expose myself here a bit too much. After all it’s a bit embarrassing to admit that I didn’t succeed with a site or even more than one. Let it be said that I just didn’t have enough time and resources to make it succeed. Simply said: I didn’t have the time and resources to make the quality sites get enough link by link building.

I do not mean old school link building with directories, link exchange or paid links when I talk link building. I mean high quality earning link. I just use the old term because its meaning is changing all the time to the better.

True, decade old link building schemes still are all over the place but Google is smart enough to root them out by now.

Just last week I witnessed the SEO agency by one of the largest German publishing houses getting their link network aka “portfolio of 2000 sites” busted. It was really sad to witness because they have made a client of mine believe that such a linkfarm can still work despite my advice not to use it under any circumstances. I even told him that this scheme can blow up any time. A few weeks later most of the sites got de-indexed.

 

Great content and UX doesn’t suffice

So I am not talking about such artificial or in Google’s words “unnatural” link building by setting up networks of fake sites just to get links from those. When you read on Google says that you need to look up the “Webmaster Academy” for more insights. There under the subheadline “Create great content” they write:

“One key element of creating a successful site is not to worry about Google’s ranking algorithms or signals, but to concentrate on delivering the best possible experience for your user by creating content that other sites will link to naturally—just because it’s great.”

It’s true to some extent, I have been telling you for 6 years to create flagship content to make people want it. So don’t get me wrong, I am a big proponent of quality content and sites, after all I publish content and optimize sites for 15+ years now. Sadly, just because you create “great content” doesn’t mean it will rank on Google. There’s a whole lot more to it. Even in case you have created great content you have  to compete with myriads of other sites that also have great content.

So are quality sites with a great content and the best possible user experience a bad thing? Of course not. Will quality, content and UX make you rank on Google by itself? No.

 

Santa does not exist

I still remember the day when my mother told me that Santa didn’t exist. It was not only the fact that the mythical figure disappeared so suddenly. It was also about trust. I was like “whoa, my mother and everybody else has been lying to me all the time”. From the one I not only stopped believing in Santa, I also stopped believing everything people were telling me, even the people I trusted. I knew that you have to read between the lines from then on despite no knowing that idiomatic expression.

Reading between the lines is easy. You simply have to know who says something and what the motives are behind saying that.

For example when I know Google says something and their main motive is profits then it doesn’t have to be true, it just has to reflect the most profitable strategy. What is the most profitable strategy for Google? Getting and controlling as much content as possible and also analyzing user profiles (via cookies and authorship) and interactions (via Google+ and different Google services). They want your content and relationships for free and under their control.

What Google doesn’t want anymore are open standards that create on open Web the competition can use also against them. That’s why they abandon RSS for example and dump Google Reader.

Discounting hyperlinks and replacing the free Internet with a more proprietary Facebook-like walled garden is another huge part of their strategy as I noted already. That’s why they don’t want people to build links or even establish links via legit relationships. The only relationships that Google really appreciates are those controlled by them via Google, authorship and the likes.

 

It’s OK Santa

I know that Santa does not exist for a while now and that’s OK.

I’m afraid there will be enough naive webmasters out there to believe Google and SEL that Santa exists over at Google though and all you need is to create a nice wish-list as a website in accordance to the “build it and they will come” philosophy but the only Santa will be yourself. You will be giving the present of free content to the Google machinery. It will work, for Google.

You will need to

  1. reach out to like-minded individuals
  2. establish relationship with peers
  3. create a community and ideally a hard core tribe of supporters

and much more so that your quality site gets the attention it deserves. At first Google won’t even notice, it will take months. The good news is though that you don’t need to wait for Google. Once you have followed through all the SEO 2.0 steps you won’t need Google anymore. You will have an audience all by yourself independently of the gatekeeper and you can even put Google behind a paywall.

 

* Creative Commons image by Dee.