I've been in the "SEO industry" for a long time, relative to the industry. Over time, the industry and the perception both externally and internally, has changed. I guess that happens with all industries, but quicker in more evolving and newer industries, like SEO. A few years back, I doubt many people would consider "link building companies" as being on the side of "black hat" techniques. So when has that shift been declared?
Jim's WeBuildPages company is trying to change their name from a "link building" company to a "internet marketing" company. In Jim's most recent post, he wrote that one of the most visible link building companies has stopped buying links. Yes, a link building company has stopped buying links. Do I believe it? I think so. Of course, a paid link is not always black and white. So, in order for Jim to change the perception of his company, he must of felt, let's take the extreme alternative and say, we no longer buy links. If we no longer buy links, then we must not be a link building company anymore.
If you want to make the argument that link building companies are not on the "black hat" side of things, then fine. But as Jim said in his post, "I don’t want to risk my business’ future by buying links…and if you’re worried about your site’s future, and you’re buying links, you might want to think twice." Google has come out against paid links and artificial links, with penalties. So it is hard to say that today, a link buy is not something more on the dark side of things, even if you don't believe it or I don't believe it.
But why and when did this happen? Clearly a milestone is when Danny posted Official: Selling Paid Links Can Hurt Your PageRank Or Rankings On Google on October 7, 2007. If that wasn't enough, on November 12th, the first penalties hit sites selling links, including this one. And the penalties continued. So by then, I would think it was clear, link building companies might have shifted over to the dark side.
Before October 7th, 2007 - a link building company, to me and many others - would have been considered white hat. But that has changed, changed with the nofollow attribute in 2005, changed with the October 7th announcement and changed with the real penalties coming down.
Looking back, I just find it interesting it has come to this. We Build Pages, one of the most well known link building companies decides to send out a press release that they are no longer building links. They hire top names in the industry to blog, make widgets, and get social, but do you hear of We Build Pages letting employees go? They can be retraining all their "link ninjas" in the art of getting non-paid links. But how? Link exchanges don't work, three-way links aren't as good, you can't buy links anymore - are you training them in content development. Jim said they are still going to be getting links, but they won't be buying them. It just seems very odd to me.
Some are as skeptical as I am at the Sphinn thread. Don't get me wrong, I really like the folks at We Build Pages, really. But something just doesn't seem right. I hope this transition works for them and it is sad to see it come to this, on some level.
When did it all come to this?
Forum discussion at Sphinn.