In the early days of the internet, when almost everyone had their own personal blog, linking was perfectly natural. If you saw some great content and wanted to share it then you would link to it from your blog and then all of your readers would follow the link.
Even blog comments were a natural way of connecting with like minded people and discussing a topic you’re interested in. You could even add a link to your comment and no one was cynical about your motives.
However, in 2012 things are a little different. Links are no longer given so easily on blogs and established websites; just because it is no longer necessary. The same is true of blog comments and blog comment links, it is out dated to discuss an article on site via comments and they are even seen with a certain amount of disdain.
So what has changed in the last 20 years? How have links become obsolete? And why may Google one day turn off their link algorithm? The simple answer is social media.
In 2012 instead of posting a link on your blog you are much more likely to send a tweet or post a Facebook comment. Think about it how many internet users actually have their own site or their own blog? Not many. Now think about how many people are on Facebook or Twitter? Almost everybody. Now that we have social networks we no longer have to create links or post blog comments, instead we just tweet or comment on a Facebook post.
In fact, many sites have realised that social media is the way to get people to comment on their content, so instead of having a comments section on site they install social plugins and allow people to comment via Facebook.
All of this means that it is now much harder to interact with site owners on their own site, as it is all done via a social network. As new sites start to realise the shift from on site comments to off site comments, the blog comment technique of acquiring links is being surrounded from all sides and is doomed to retreat into oblivion.
Acquiring links may still be great for SEO purposes but if you want to get people to read your latest post or view your latest video then you’re no longer going to rely on links. Instead you will engage with potential readers on a well established social network.
The status of link building today, is how it should be. Links have had their time but social shares and posts have now replaced links as the dominant way to connect with a community online. I’ve created a graph to illustrate my point.
The decline of links is also present on business directories as well. Facebook has become or is fast becoming a resource for finding businesses in your area. As such, users rarely use paid directory sites to find a business, instead they use social media.
I must note that even though I believe link sharing has declined and will continue to do so, that does not mean that I think links now hold no value. Links still hold value but at some point they will be devalued to correspond with their prevalence and usage (or lack there of), and at the same time social shares will be given more authority. In fact this has already started to happen, see these articles: Google+ Social Search Strategy and How Twitter Helps Your SEO.
Let me leave you with two questions: if you read 50 good articles this week that you wanted to share then how many of those would you link to? And how many of those would you tweet about?