link-building-minneapolisI know SEOs who are scared-yellow. One night, during the early days of Google’s paid link jihad, I personally woke up in Manhattan to a 3AM cold sweat.

It had finally registered that over half of the links we’d procured for clients would, not only cease to have value, but potentially cause penalties. Google was going door to door in a vicious pagerank-killing pogrom.

Gnashing teeth that night, it was clear that our many months of intensity, whilst delving deeper into the social media universe, would pay. I quietly thanked the stars for our team’s social media acumen, planning, and luck. With certainty the golden path was clear. The line between organic search engine optimization and social media is evaporating.

Everyone knows that the black box organic ranking machine, especially in this day of personalized search, is all about links, links, and better links. Now linking patterns need to be (or appear) honest and “natural.” Paid links screw up Google’s authority ranking system. Eeeek!

True Participation
While ad nauseam Dofollow bookmark-site Link building can be useful, the “new” SEO is to a significant extent about making friends and participating in niche’ communities like Metafilter, Mixx, Hugg, Sk*rt , and Stirr’dup. We’ve made long lists of social news sites and DoFollow blogs. Participation in comment threads about stainless cookware, music school, Chicago airport parking, bagged cereal, and Duluth hotels is mandatory. It’s hard to fake that level of participation. Bloggers, community members, and algorithms will cut you to shreds.

Client Pushback
Social media is often in the jurisdiction of the PR agency or in-house department, separate from SEM. This partitioning is sometimes a tough barrier to crack. Convincing the VP of marketing that online PR and reputation management has become a key component to being properly indexed in Google can be a difficult sell. That’s not how most companies are tooled. The thin yellow line is fear of rapid change.

Links Take Time
Link building is less and less a direct response medium. Now we engage readership over time, make loyal friends, and the links come in reward for relevancy. Think of a link for what it really is: A true recommendation from one site to another.

Link building has gone underground and techniques have to change. The majority of effective link building now must bring elements of actual value to web users.

“As the engines have improved detection of the junk, the better link builders continued to thrive while those who sold crappy services to crappy content ran for cover. At least three of the most dependable link building tactics started wobbling and in some cases failed completely in 2007: article marketing/syndication, directory submission, and paid links. It’s not that these tactics aren’t potentially still useful, but rather that the approach you will have to use for each will have to be modified, in some cases even abandoned.”
Eric Ward

Adapt or Fail
Everyone knows link building is vital for organic success. Now manufactured links are much harder to mask as they must be craftily embedded in relevant content. Personal relationships gained by authentic social media participation are one of the easiest paths to “honest” inbound linking profiles.

There is fear on the street as the yellow line between SEO and social media evaporates. Some SEO firms, not tuned to social media vibrations, may cease to exist.

Recent Notable Link Building Posts
Top 5 SEO and Link Building Challenges for 2008 Justilien Gaspard, Search Engine Watch

2008 Link Building Guide Earnersblog

No Recession For Link Building SearchEngineLand, Eric Ward

Worst Link Building Email I’ve Ever Received Loren Baker, Editor

Building Links For Fun And Profit Vanessa Fox Nude

Link Building Campaigns That Work Arnie Kuenn,

Five Link Development Experts: A Group Interview Sugarrae

What’s Your Link Building Marketing Mix? – Part 2 Eric Enge, Search Engine Watch

The Ultimate Guide to Building the Perfect Link Small Business SEM

  • Michael

    Great post.

    Since the google pimp hand came down & the fact that a lot of the sites that I do link build for are almost hard to consider NOT spam on any form of social media – I have turned to article writing. I have found the article submission sites in the correct category on a useful subject has been my best way to build good targeted inbound links. being the one that I use the most.

  • Marty Weintraub

    @Michael: Please share the mechanics of how your execute the Ezine campaign. It won’t be the first time we’ve learned from you.

  • Michael


    Ezine is ranking well in google an yahoo. If you produce a good content targeted article & Ezine accepts it your article gets published on their network in the section.

    Now I am going to use a fic. example for a bit of anonymity with my clients – but lets say you need to promote a website for a company that sells chocolate gift baskets. So you find a category that is close to your topic.


    This is the relationship anniversaries – Holy crap – its a Page Rank 5.

    So write a nice article called “My anniversary was perfect with Chocolates to match.” (Notice – Subtle keyword in Story)

    Write a nice story or article about an anniversary with chocolates – NOT being spammy.

    Now, after I am done, I have the Ability to give a little bio on myself (the writer) – So what I do is this

    “Brian Smith is a helpless romantic – Who enjoys getting and giving Chocolate Gift Baskets(Anchored Text Link to Site) for his anniversaries with his wife. Being Married for over 14 Years to the same woman makes his anniversaries(Anchored Text to Site) a special time of year”

    So wait a few days usually in about 4 the article will get approved – almost the instant it is approved it appears on Big G. – I then do a stumble upon of the article and let the magic work – I just build 2 Anchored Txt Links from a good authority site – with time under the belt that page’s rank will grow & Bam – Good Anchored inbound link.


  • Tad Chef

    I already proclaim it all the time. SEO 2.0 is all over.

  • theGypsy

    Ok marty, U know I love ya… but I have more thoughts on this than I can fit here…. I am off to scribble something together.

  • Marty Weintraub

    @Tad: What is SEO 2.0 by your definition?

  • Marty Weintraub

    @Gypsy: When I was writing this, I expected to be crucified. 🙂 Thus the Jihad and pogrom imagery.

  • theGypsy

    Man, I won’t even touch that one. I saw what happened over on TechCrunch when that term was used… ugh…..

    I think it is a good discussion actually, no need to crucified (jeez, we’ve offended the Christians and Muslems in one felled swoop huh?)

    Anyhoo…. I put my thoughts n my blog (of course).. just don’t like link dropping, you know where to find me :0) – If you want to annotate and put the link – go nuts.

  • Marty Weintraub

    @Gypsy: Crucification is a historical reality of various eras of human society. It is SURE not mean as commentary on any religious faith.

    Cutting off peoples’ heads, gassing them, etc…folks have been killing innocents, criminals, & and messengers for forever. No need to be queasy about the analogy or metaphor.

  • Chris Cree

    I’m right there with you Marty. I think the two are blending together. I’m coming at it from the social media side. And quite frankly most of the PR types don’t yet have a good understanding of how social media really works. They’re still trying to push the message into the social media world instead of doing the work to build relationships and sharing value with communities.

    But with big traditional organizations like Fast Company embracing true social media mindsets I think change is inevitable now.

  • Marty Weintraub

    @Chris, thanks for the insight.

  • Marty Weintraub

    @Michael: Thanks for being so generous with your thinking Michael. Cool beans.

  • George Cleanthous

    I think it is important to distinguish between article marketing and social marketing. Some people (as can be seen from the comments) seem to believe that they are the same. Article marketing, in my opinion, has far more value than social marketing, since the content on the pages you will receive links from is far more related to your particular website than it would be on ANY social marketing site. In addition, when submitting articles, you can have multiple links referring to your site and you are far more likely to get links back to your article in the directory than you are to get a link back to your bookmarking entry.

    I definitely agree that the line is disappearing, but as more and more social marketers begin using this method, I am certain Google will either lower the value of spammed social marketing or, if they cannot differentiate, social marketing altogether. So keep using it now, but remember that this should never be your only marketing strategy.