Come On, Google. Let the Little Guy Earn a Link!

Some would say that the Internet is the great equalizer, that every business, large and small, has an equal shot at page one rankings and with that, web traffic, leads, sales, and growth. But, larger, more established businesses have the benefit of people searching for them by name. They’re going to get organic traffic and they’re going to get organic links by just being there.

The Google mantra: “Create great content and it will earn links,” works for big business, but not for small ones.

According to Google, the best way to get other sites to create high-quality, relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can naturally gain popularity in the Internet community. Creating good content pays off: Links are usually editorial votes given by choice and the more useful content you have, the greater the chances someone else will find that content valuable to their readers and link to it.

Greater the chances? That’s hilarious. Small business owners realize that doesn’t really work and they’re not laughing.

Google’s False Premise

Small businesses are not going to get links just by virtue of having good content. Google policies are seemingly oblivious to this reality: without links, small businesses get no traffic and without traffic, they get no links. A chicken and egg scenario. A conundrum. An impossibility.

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So, Just Sit There and Wait?

Wait for something that’s either not going to happen or will take years to happen? We’re talking about someone’s livelihood. Small business owners have to do something to start the ball rolling and that something is content marketing. Google should be OK with content marketing.

All the hard work that goes into content marketing should “earn” links. Not build, but earn. Google should acknowledge the difference.

When Matt Cutts said, “Okay, I’m calling it: if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop. Why? Because over time it’s become a more and more spammy practice and if you’re doing a lot of guest blogging, you’re hanging out with really bad company.” He should have continued on to say, “but I know that small businesses can’t really get links from great content on their websites. Here’s what they can do so they don’t get run over by the big businesses that don’t have to do much to get links.” We’re still waiting.

When small business owners – or the SEOs who work for them – spend hours upon hours networking with bloggers and looking for and guest post opportunities in an effort to get a link – yes, an obvious effort to get a link – they have earned that link.

Google: Consider This

In my post from earlier this month, “The Collateral Damage of Google’s Link Policy,” I included quotes and opinions from small business owners. My sources were well-researched and each one of them contributed a thoughtful response to this question: “Have you been denied a link?”

All of the individuals who were quoted in the article understand the value of a link from a high-authority website. They actively seek out opportunities to be quoted as an authority for the sole purpose of getting a link. Though no promises were made, certainly all of them hoped for a link.

At first, the links were left out, which led to an interesting debate in the comments. But in the end, they all got links. Is that manipulative? Are those natural links? I believe so. There was no monetary compensation and the links were certainly reviewed by the editorial staff for appropriateness to the audience, as Google would have wanted. Sources quoted in online articles are guest experts, no different from a person who gets publicity from an appearance on CNN.

Consider this scenario: a shark attacks two people in North Carolina – which, of course, really did happen earlier this month. An expert in shark behavior contacts CNN and offers an educated opinion on why the shark may have behaved in such an uncharacteristic manner. CNN invites the shark expert to appear on a primetime show. The host conducts the interview but refuses to mention the person’s name, credentials or anything about his or her background…nothing.

It’s hard to imagine because it wouldn’t happen. It wouldn’t happen because CNN has vetted the person, believes the person has value to the audience, and has no problem giving credit where credit is due. Additionally, the interviewee expects a little publicity for his or her company, charitable organization, recently-published book or whatever. It’s give-and-take for both sides.

Sources get credit. Sources in online articles get links. Sources earned those links.

Conclusions

Lest anyone think rankings happen without links, a Moz ranking correlation study found that out of the top search results, a full 99.2 percent of all websites had at least one external link and more links correlate with higher rankings. In his blog post about the study, Cyrus Shepard wrote, “If you want to rank for anything that’s even remotely competitive, the chances of finding a website ranking without external links is very rare indeed.”

A small or new business can have a flawless website with spectacular content, a zillion times better than any Fortune 500 company, but it doesn’t matter at all because no one is going to find it. Ipso facto, no organic links for the little guy. Ipso facto, the little guy needs to promote his content with the intent of improving his rankings. Google should be OK with that.

As Josh Rubin, suggested in a comment on my last post, “The rule should be, generate content that doesn’t suck and then ceaselessly promote the heck out of it.'” That sounds about right.

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