While Google attempts to scare SEO aware webmasters to link out to other sites, average people link and share more than ever.
Will Google finally subdue the Web as we know it or will the people prevail by spreading link love naturally?
Which one of the two trends has better chances? Will the current summer of link love last?
Creative Commons image by Martin Fisch
The Web is different now
Did you notice? The Web is different now than it was 15, 10 or even 5 years ago. Yeah, of course, it’s the impact of blogging and social media. 15 years ago blogging started. 10 years ago the first generation of social media sites were becoming prominent (think Delicious and StumbleUpon).
Five years ago Facebook was already successful but still mostly consisted of hidden private profiles.
During the recent 5 years sites like:
went mainstream to the point where sharing links on social media is the new normal. Facebook pages and profiles went increasingly public and even Google attempted to get a share of the promising social sharing pie with Google+.
Sharing is linking out
The simple act of sharing online is indeed about linking out. While you share what happens on the technical side of the equation is the addition of an “a href” link to a profile on Facebook or Twitter. While Google claims not to count social shares as ranking signals they can’t ignore them altogether. They notice all public links.
You can look your site up in Google Webmaster Tools and so called “nofollow” links from social media sites will be listed there.
Image bookmarking sites like Pinterest or Weheartit that use nofollow are a good example of this. The content sharing community Tumblr doesn’t even use the “nofollow” attribute when crediting source links. You get a link each time someone shares your content on Tumblr. Posts often get shared dozens, hundreds and sometimes even thousands of times on Tumblr.
Shared content is findable
Social networking is the most popular online activity these days at least the most time consuming one, especially compared to search usage. At first Google complained about Facebook not sharing their data, then they paid Twitter for their “firehose” of user activity for a while and until recently they attempted to get that data themselves by pushing Google+ where they could.
Now that Google+ didn’t meet expectations, at least when it comes to usage statistics and actual content popularity there Google will be forced to reconcile themselves with other major social sites to still stay on top of what’s going on the Web.
Pinterest and Tumblr already fare pretty well in Google search results, especially for image results. Twitter shares can be found as too increasingly. Also public Facebook pages and profiles show up in Google results more frequently these days.
Of course social sites often do not even need Google to make their content findable.
Pinterest is even planning to compete with Google directly some pundits suggest. The current search feature is still rudimentary and a user experience nightmare but it’s already quite an improvement to the initial search features of Pinterest where the most keyword stuffed items would appear on top like back in 1999.
The sharing economy takes over
Creative Commons image by Joe Van
In fact the trend of sharing and connecting with other people goes way beyond the Web with the appearance of the so called sharing economy. People do not buy everything individually but use things shared by others, be it for free, as part of a cooperative or simply for a fee. You most probably have heard of car sharing for example or couch surfing (where you exchange a flat with strangers to get free accommodation).
Some extremely successful business models exploit the sharing economy to some extent while others rather fuel it. The next Facebook and Google’s will be about the sharing economy while Google and Facebook are frantically attempting jump on the bandwagon.
When it comes to sharing links or connections between people are the fabric the “web of trust” is made of.
On the Internet these links are reflected by “a href” hyperlinks just like 5, 10 or 15 years ago. It’s just that no one who is actively sharing needs to know how they look like. Links, connections and relationships are all the same thing in a Web-based culture.
The mobile Web is still the Web, it’s just moving around
Creative Commons image by mjs
In reality the Web is just becoming all encompassing while in the early years only an elite was able to take part due to technological barriers to entry.
Nobody has to type in “a href” like I had to 15 years ago when building my websites in a text editor.
So sharing and thus linking is the new standard, both online and offline while the two are merging especially since the dawn of smartphones and tablets.
Google can’t turn back time, they can only grapple to adapt. Already they are falling behind in mobile despite controlling the market via Android.
For a while it seemed that proprietary and often paid apps would be the new Internet on mobile but by now the Web made a come back with the responsive web design wave.
Mobile screens are large by now so that viewing websites is no problem anymore. The summer of link love will thus prevail. Apps will act like software on desktops and notebooks while the open Web and thus links will proliferate faster than ever.