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Links And Content Need Each Other, For Now

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I can’t help but think this is a silly discussion, like an argument about whether or not Lois Lane could really have Superman’s baby, but I’m diving in anyway to wrap my head around it and, in the process, take you with me.

Links And Content Need Each Other, For Now
Links And Content Need Each Other, For Now

Over at Media Post, David Berkowitz (of 360i, not Attica prison) writes about a Web where links don’t matter in SEO. You can read that article here, if you don’t mind a half an hour of the third degree to get the content (Media Post hasn’t ascribed to the concept of registration-free content, yet).

Berkowitz writes:

Content is SO 2006, as far as search engine optimization goes.

Everywhere I turn, the SEO discussions center on linking and link development…

Instead of just extolling the value of links, I started to wonder what would happen if links weren’t so highly valued. Imagine if, in this “Twilight Zone” exercise, you woke up one day to find that the major search engines no longer used inbound links as a way to rank Web sites or other types of online content. The effect would be calamitous, on par with the Department of Treasury one day saying that greenbacks would no longer be valued as currency.

From the first line its difficult to tell if Berkowitz is downgrading the role of content or criticizing the SEO world for not focusing on content enough. The concept that inbound links are a sort of online currency is a fascinating one, but as a content creator, my knee-jerk reaction to naysaying the role of stellar content is, hopefully, forgivable.

That first line was troubling enough, but in his summarization of "Content" and its sudden importance in the absence of valuable links was a lid-flipper:

Content would really become king. Keyword density, the imperfect science of including just enough of the most important keywords on any given page without spamming the search engines, becomes more important than ever.

Now here, we have a fundamental conflict in regards the concept of content, what it is, its purpose, and understanding what readers/viewers/listeners seek as opposed to what marketers (who ensure the bills are paid) want them to seek.

Berkowitz is a strategist. I am a writer. And the two of them, writers and strategists, in the real world, must work together. We could get into a philosophical discussion of backgrounds and approaches to content (I’m the indignant artist, pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in Writing, hoping all of us can join hands in a haze of patchouli and sing the praises of perfect prose), but that’s a discussion for later.

The real truth here is: one doesn’t exist without the other.

What good is content if nobody can find it? What’s the purpose of linking if there is nothing in which to link? Content drives linking and linking drives content, the two of them working in perfect symbiosis.

And all that’s great until the crafty weasels (strategists excluded) out there muddy the pure waters of relevance with keyword stuffing, link spam, et cetera. Suddenly we’re reminded why the brick-and-mortar world needs law, and why the Web needs Google as a police agent as much as organizer. Penalties are instituted, and concepts like link quality are born. Suddenly it matters who links to your content, and why.

So this is where SEObook’s Aaron Wall pipes up:

But links are openly gamed today and there are an increasing number of affordable marketing techniques that allow virtually any site to garner hundreds or thousands of quality links.

One day Google might come up with better ways to determine what to trust, but if they do, it is going to be based on who humans trust more, and who amongst those trusted sources does the best job of providing editorial value and noise filtering on their site.

Shorter, Google’s going to have to get better at understanding intrinsic end-user desire. They’re working on this, according to some patents and recent forays into personalized search. When that happens – when digital robots suddenly understand your innermost thoughts – the power of the link is not destroyed, but it is weakened.

And what do you think is left when that artificial intelligence revolution takes hold?

Content, content, content, forever content, driving the masses online to find it and share it with each other. Everything else, the noise that prevents those masses from finding what they want, either disappears or is pushed to the periphery of the page, the frame of the content. And then, quoting Berkowitz, "Copywriters’ salaries skyrocket."

Or at least, such is the hope of the content creator.

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Links And Content Need Each Other, For Now
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