Does Content Bring Links?

Partha Bhattacharya

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For about a year, as one would have noticed, there has been a tremendous growth in web-articles. It would appear to be a case of just too many. This begs the question, ‘Do all contents make qualified reading?’.

If the answer is a qualified ‘No’, I feel prudence demands we revisit our skill as content writers and look closely at our ability to improve thereupon. Putting it mildly, it is almost incumbent on us to do so. Lest readers of this article suspect another instance of ‘know-all-arrogance’, let me confirm that I do not intend to cast aspersions. Instead, I just want to let some light enter through the cobwebs of contents mushrooming around us.

How it all started – the keyword game

Not long back, search engine optimizers had their eyes riveted on meta-keywords, and every seo expert worth his salt rushed in to stuff keywords there. Word went around that this would guarantee top rankings, and soon enough we came to see ‘mile-long’ keywords jostling for space in the meta-tag. Thereafter opinions surfaced that there should be commas between keywords. Some said commas were not needed. Others felt to the contrary and suggested further that there must not be space after commas, and so on.

To be true, this tactic did pay for a good length of time, till search engines awoke from slumber to take note of this ‘wise’ misuse. Instances were often where websites stuffed completely unrelated yet highly popular keywords to catch eyeballs. Those were days when search engines were supposedly weak in their algorithms, and as a result, websites with overstuffed meta-keywords had a field day.

Things were to change soon. If Google was thought to have taken lead to totally wean away from the importance of meta-keywords, others quickly followed suit. This dramatically altered the game for good.

On to incoming links

At the time when meta-keywords was slowly fading into oblivion, in came the next avatar, namely ‘incoming links’. For all that followed, Google has a fair share to contribute. Why? First, Google declined to crawl a new website unless it is linked from at least another website which is already in Google’s list. In its opinion, a new website is considered an orphan (and not to be crawled) till it is recognized by another ‘known’ website.

It is a good logic. But that did not seriously dampen a newbie’s spirit to come into being. In the process, locating a known website, where to link from, became the first step before coming alive. What though did alter the eyeball game was something more that Google announced.

Google frankly said incoming links do weigh a lot in its consideration of a webpage’s importance (and ‘popularity’ by corollary). No sooner Google’s preference became apparent that a no-holds-barred game started. Link farms cropped up in every nook and corner of the web. Businesses that only offered links flourished like there would be no end to good days. It was indeed fortuitous that Google’s ‘noble’ intention could give birth to thousands of link-related ventures all over the web, many of them spurious.

Links turning sour

Here is a perfect example of antithesis – you want one, get something completely different. No doubt when Google stressed on links, what it had in mind was to help surfers shuffle unhindered between related topics across a wide section of similar web contents. What happened instead in many cases was chaotic intermingling among websites that were as disparate as chalk from cheese. Not that Google cared for them, but the idea persisted that a link is a link, no matter where it came from.

Feeling about, one is tempted to surmise that Google’s algorithm was structured in a way that gave preference to links between related topics, yet not factoring in the possibility of unrestrained quantification. As if that were so, Google started altering in sporadic spurts the way search results are presented. The screening continues and each time this happens, the search results assume different hues.

Predicting Google is a zero-sum game, and I am not one to hazard a guess. Yet looking at stories around, I can’t help saying Google has probably relegated importance of incoming links. If indeed that proves to be true, what emerges is building reciprocal links will shortly become passé.

Content to rescue

This brings us to links from contents. Here was where the web started. To recall old days, it was for content that we began referring internet. Content then was more in the shape of quality information. There was a ring of authenticity in what we saw on the net in the sense that people who published pages in those days seldom resorted to misinformation. Once commerce entered the scene, the entire picture transformed and degenerated into what we see today. Perhaps that was inevitable given the fact that no public domain can ever remain free of litter.

In a way therefore, the coinage of the term ‘Content is king’ is indicative of returning to roots. Or, is it? Coming back to where I started, one can’t help being suspicious of this new-found love for content. For, if you look around, you’ll find there is no dearth of content per se, but rare are those contents that offer you quality information.

Overflowing supply

I happen to receive hundreds of articles everyday. Sifting them is tedious and after I devote couple of hours each morning, I am more often than not left utterly disappointed. To be sure, most articles, barring a few, will pass the test so far grammatical perfection is concerned. But only a handful offers new insight or some sense of analytical thinking. A frightening majority is dull, boring, repetitious, and easily predictable. If I were to post guest articles in my website (which I don’t for other reasons), I would have had tough time selecting the right ones.

Why such proliferation of contents? The reason is not far to seek. Since content became ‘re-important’, for many websites the game shifted to acquiring large volumes of it, quality being of no concern. No wonder, there is a huge need of ghost writers these days, for how else would you expect to gain prominence double-quick! Prominence for what? If it is only to fetch links (through author bylines) or to impress search engines, luck may soon run out.

The reason is simple. Accumulating quality content is an ongoing effort, not something you do off and on. Top information sites like SearchEngineGuide, Clickz, Travelwriters, WilsonWeb and others are doing it for years. It thus follows that any effort to attract search engine’s attention, whether by sheer number of keyword-enriched articles or by garnering author back-links, has to be planned for longer term.

It’s not my case to prove or disprove any point, but who knows an overdose of content may not after all be to Google’s liking! Better to be trim than fight to become fat overnight.

A freelance web designer and content writer, and an avid web watcher, Partha Bhattacharya owns and operates WebInfo , a free internet web marketing and webmaster resources. Ideal for both start-ups and regulars alike. Dealing mostly on current topics, Partha's blog is a good primer to understand tricky issues on search engine marketing. For content writing assignments, view Partha's Elance Profile .


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