1. Link Earning isn’t a process or goal
Our goal is almost always direct or indirect profitability. Where organic search marketing is concerned, profitability comes from qualified traffic, and qualified traffic comes largely from favorable search engine positions. Favorable search results are achieved to a significant extent by acquiring links from diverse high-authority domains.
Nothing above looks too controversial yet, but why then should we not focus on links? If links lead to higher rankings and eventually to profitability, we should build links, right? This makes sense until we expand the diagram.
Direct link earning is a process that only a spammer or link buyer can do. We prefer “link earning” — a phrase we borrowed from Danny Sullivan’s legendary rant and Rand Fishkin’s Whiteboard Friday — but I see no reason why our efforts and successes should be constrained by links. Some online marketing tactics may also contribute directly to rankings, and some definitely contribute directly to traffic.
Even those who neither spam nor buy links have become so focused on link acquisition that many de-emphasize or even ignore what comes before or after. We heard some amazing forward-thinking talks at Mozcon, almost all about real, legitimate, and sustainable marketing. Even then, we heard far more about the number of links obtained than we did about rankings, traffic, or profitability.