QUOTE(BathGems @ Jan 24 2006, 08:58 PM)
Why do you say links are not the issue? What is your reasoning?
Well, hopefully I won't bore Ian out of the discussion, as I like what he wrote. But my reasoning is quite simple: I know better than to believe all the nonsense that gets posted about links and linkage in various SEO forums and tutorials.
The people who write about links today were not around when I got involved in SEO in 1998. By 1999, I understood pretty well where links fit into the big picture. I didn't understand how staying on the good side of influential people mattered a great deal.
I know better, now.
In the meantime, I've spent years playing both sides of the fence: links here, content there. Content wins every time because, frankly, I don't have the resources to play with the links. I do have to go up against a lot of sites that have several times more links than I do.
I can live with being in the top five for targeted search expressions. I'll accept being in the top twenty for experimental expressions.
Ian is right when he says that you can reach a point in your optimization where the obvious stuff is balancing out. Links are obvious stuff. When everyone has 20,000 inbound links, another 1,000 links aren't going to help you. Then you need content.
Content, as some people have noticed, can be both on-page and off-page. I prefer working with on-page content, but there are people who work with off-page content.
Off-page content includes (but is not limited to) link anchor text (I've used as few as ten links -- out of thousands -- to adjust rankings in highly competitive expressions simply by changing their anchor text), directory listing titles and descriptions, RSS/XML listing titles and descriptions, and text surrounding links. I've also experimented with text in which I've embedded non-linking URLs with inconclusive results.
You won't find any linkmeisters propounding their theories today doing anything that I haven't done a lot of in the past. When they catch up to where the curve is today, the curve will have moved on.
And that is strictly by their own choice.
When you compete against people who are every bit as knowledgeable as you about search engine optimization, who have at least equal resources to bring to bear, if not more, you will fail every time if you depend on links.
It is that plain and simple. You cannot rely on links when you go up against the heavy hitters. I'm not talking about spammers. I'm talking about the huge honkin Web sites with 100,000+ pages of content, where the title tags are unique, where they have every imaginable type of content in play, where their inbound linkage comes from across the board, where they get major media exposure.
Amateurs think of links in situations like that, and I assure you none of the linkmeisters are successfully competing in these arenas -- unless it's strictly by fortuitous accident, and they won't admit to that.
You have to tweak anything and everything at your fingertips. What works today won't work tomorrow because there is someone on the other side of that SERP looking at the same stuff you are and tweaking everything at his fingertips. Sometimes, there are ten other guys doing it, and they're all experimenting as furiously as you, and they're all reading the SEO forums like you to see the "weather reports" (the screaming that accompanies major updates, the gentle upsurge in queries that accompanies minor updates).
The real masters of SEO rarely speak up, and when they do they say things so profound most people barely react. You get wrapped up in the "Is to/is not!" arguments over links-versus-content and you don't learn from the sweet gleams of inspiration that squeak through the clutter of noise.
I don't read Matt Cutts because I believe everything he says is exactly like things really are. I read his blog because the most valuable information he discloses is the incidental stuff that people rarely respond to. They're watching data centers update. They're looking for vindication of the Unified Link Theory. They're exchanging meaningless pitter patter and flames with each other and anyone they think is vulnerable to their bullying.
Don't do that. Don't follow the crowd. Be the leader. Look ahead. Take some risks. You'll be wrong more often than you're right. But learning from your own mistakes will teach you what works faster than learning from other people's mistakes, just as learning from other people's mistakes will teach you faster than your own.
Like links and content, they go hand in hand.
If you got no content, you got nothing to link to.