Stop Link Building, Links != Traffic

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Do you think that link building is the most important part of SEO nowadays? You may be right if you refer to SEO as search engine optimization for Google. In this SEO world you get your links, Google assesses them and sends you traffic after a while if all of your site is optimized and you target the right keywords.

In SEO 2.0 you do not have to take the indirect way. You can get traffic directly cutting out the middle man, in this case Google.

Basically just a handful of sites or blogs have the ability to send traffic in any relevant numbers. If you check your web stats you will notice that most links bring something like around 5 visitors, or if you’re lucky more like 20-50. Only really popular publications can bring you many visitors, meaning more than 100.
Then there are of course social media or rather social news sites like Digg and Reddit and of course many topic specific or international Digg-like sites. There also a few lucky webmasters get much or some traffic or rather those who are prominent enough in the first place.

With great link baiting articles you can get popular there too but it takes lots of know how, luck and perseverance. Besides people will hate and offend you and will be calling you names like “Digg spammer” (Smashing Magazine) .

My new SEO 2.0 blog does not rank well at Google, or at least not where some traffic might come in like say in the top 10 for SEO, or even SEO blog. Nonetheless I get between 300 and 3000 visits daily. Some of you already know where I get those, at my favorite advanced social medium: StumbleUpon. StumbleUpon is the most successful social browsing service, it’s not just a site. If you visit the front page of SU you will only see the same old links for weeks or months, like Cool Hunting e.g.
You can use StumbleUpon to it’s full effect only if you install the toolbar and start stumbling. Or if you browse people’s SU blogs, like mine over here, but without the toolbar it’s a little tedious.

So what do I do to get traffic? Almost nothing. I just offer StumbleUpon buttons on my respective posts. This measure by itself, combined with perfectly targeted content for the StumbleUpon audience already brought me hundreds and thousands of visitors. This made me really curious so I started to use SU myself. I found dozens of like minded people, hundreds of interesting sites and my traffic grew even more as active stumblers will more likely notice you if you are stumbling yourself. But do you know what? I did not even get links in significant numbers, I just got lots of traffic and only some links. Those brought me only a tiny traffic trickle in most cases. Even reknown or rather prominent weblogs did not bring significant traffic. So while all in all I was linked quite often there were only a few cases where I got more than 100 visitors by a link from a blog while in contrast I got at least 200 visitors each time someone submitted my posts at StumbleUpon. So let’s repeat once again what we found out until now and add some info I wrote about elsewhere:

  • Google brings no traffic if you are not targeting important keywords or your site is too new to have the authority to rank well for those.
  • Direct links from blogs or other normal websites bring seldom significant traffic, if they do, they do for only a short period of time.
  • Social news sites like Digg and Reddit only bring traffic to the chosen few and for those they amount to a denial of service attack and can bring down your server if you’re on shared hosting.

In contrast StumbleUpon brings you direct immediate traffic if you’re content is targeted enough for the highly demanding StumbleUpon audience. My content is enough though, at least for a few hundred visitors although you might imagine that SEO is not even at SU the best topic.

If you want to please the stumblers rather choose something less commerce oriented to write about (in alphabetical order):

  • activism,
  • art,
  • bizarre,
  • blogging,
  • design,
  • graphic design,
  • photography,
  • software,
  • tutorials,
  • space,
  • ZEN

I do not mean to say that you should add a page about art to your SEO blog, make a site about something that matters in the first place to get the attention of the stumblers.

Then use a big StumbleUpon button and wait or engage in the community. You don’t need Google. Links from other blogs are nice but they can’t be your sole traffic gaining strategy. Of course you can wait 6 or 12 months until Google accepts you an the links start to work, but then of course you have to do on page optimization for popular keywords and what blogger does like that?

If you want to have visitors right away, take the direct way and optimize your content for the StumbleUpon crowd. They’re a great audience. The traffic is the best I have ever seen.