by John Eberhard

Last week I discussed a book I am reading called “Inbound Marketing, Get Found Using Google, Social Media and Blogs” by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah. In it I discussed how I felt that the authors’ assertion that outbound marketing, or what they and others call “interruption marketing,” which includes things like display advertising, direct mail, cold calling, radio and TV ads, is broken and that the era of outbound marketing is over.

In that article last week I said that that assertion doesn’t work in practice and that you have to have a combination of both inbound marketing (search engine traffic, pay per click, blogs, social media) and outbound marketing in order to be viable.

Now in fairness I do want to say that I think the book has good stuff in it such as how to run your blog and how to put calls to action on your web pages and so on, but there is another glaring falsehood in this book which I think has gained some widespread agreement in the Internet marketing field.

This is a falsehood that is promoted by Google, and in this case the authors have taken up the baton and are promoting this falsehood.

The idea is that in order for you to gain lots of links to your web site and thereby gain good search engine rankings, you should create “remarkable content” and put it up on your site, and then wait for people to notice it and then link to it. Here’s what they say:

“Remarkable content attracts links from other web sites pointing to your web site. In other words, you want your content to prompt other content producers on the Web to ‘remark’ about your products and services and link back to your site.”

“It’s important to recognize that spending lots of time creating content on other people’s web sites with the sole purpose of getting SEO (i.e. link building) doesn’t work very well.”

“You should avoid SEO practices that rely on tricking Google and distorting search results. Here’s out rule of thumb: if a given technique is not improving the experience for a user, and it can be detected by a human doing a review, then it’s probably a bad idea.”

I’ll translate. What they are saying is that you should create really good content and put it up on your web site and/or blog, then wait for others to notice it and link to it. You should not engage in any proactive link building of any kind, such as article marketing or press releases or putting links on your blogs to your main site. This is what Matt Cutts of Google has been promoting for 4-5 years. He stresses that this creates a “natural link pattern.”

(Actually the authors do recommend one type of proactive link building, called reciprocal link building, which Google discounted the value of over two years ago. They spend a whole page on that. Book was published in 2010. Hmm.)

While this idea from Google and that the authors of this book (and quite a few other Internet marketing consultants) have adopted and promoted may sound appealing or make some sort of sense, I will explain why it is COMPLETELY FALSE and does not work in the real world (where we all live I think), and will actually hurt you and your company if you follow it.

I think that the only way this strategy would work is if:

  1. You are already a well known company or person, or
  2. Your company is in an industry or field or niche that contains less than 10 competitors

ALL of my clients are in competitive markets, some with hundreds or thousands of competing companies. How about you? Do you have less than 10 competitors in the whole country?

If you are in a competitive market, and you follow their advice here regarding link building, putting up remarkable content on your web site and then waiting for people to notice it, I can say with fair certainty that no one will notice it and no one or hardly anyone will link to it. Certainly not enough people to give you a competitive number of links.

I have drawn an analogy to this idea before. It is like telling a pretty girl to dress up really nice and put on makeup, then sit in her living room. Don’t go outside. Don’t use the phone. Guys will start calling you up and asking you out. Maybe they will see you through the living room window or something.

Not only have a lot of Internet marketers adopted this crazy idea, the idea has to some extent been equated with “ethics,” like it is ethical to do this and unethical to do anything else, like proactive link building. Some “experts” don’t even ever question anything Google says, as if to say that Google says it so that makes it right.

A few years ago I saw an article by someone who discussed this issue and said that you have to differentiate what is ethical from what is good for Google. I think that the reason Google has disseminated this idea is that it is good for them. It is easier for them if a few companies make it to the top, and nobody tries to mess with that by adding a lot of links through various techniques themselves. Because if people do things to add links on other web sites to their sites, it sort of upsets the apple cart and Google has to decide whether they should do something to discount that technique.

But is it good for you? Well, I have seen companies put up lots of great content, and literally nothing happened. I suppose we could discuss whether or not the content was “remarkable” enough, but I think you get the point. My point is:

You have to be proactive with link building if you want your site to have a competitive number of links, to rank well for keywords and to get traffic.

And that’s good for YOU.