When it comes to Links, the question for new site owners always remains "so... where do I start then? where do I go get them?"
Are they asking the wrong question?
Well, the first question could be "why would someone link to me". I'd look at the major competitors backlinks, and find what pages on their competitors site are getting backlinks, and then they can find out why other sites link to their competitors... then they will have a lot of ideas on how they can make their site/information better than their competitors.... to get links, you have to have something that is worthy of someone linking to it.
Once you have great things, links will follow.... though usually slowly over time... unless you do things to promote those great things.
If you're going to promote those great things, then look to those who link to your competitors, and do things to get their attention, so they will notice your site and hopefully link to you.
At WeBuildPages we write wonderful resourceful content, and then push it to the sites we feel could benefit if they linked to that content.... but one could do this themselves... if they can find out what things they needs to write, how to write it, and who to contact about that content that might link to it... this can be done by anyone with the time and resources to study what is working for the competitors and can do it better themselves.
Everybody in this business has played with the idea that someday Google must rely less and less on links.
What alternative have you come up when you try to imagine how that might work?
Great question, and yes, I think about that a lot.
I'm watching the signals that Google appears to be looking at, and I still see links as the biggest influencer compared to all other ranking factors. So today, I still focus on links but there are other things I believe Google is looking at and that I can imagine will become increasingly important in the future are things like traffic, social signals, bookmarks, mentions, news, and so on.
About alternatives to links... well, I think Google will try to give the 'common user' a way to 'vote' for a site.
In the past, the only way someone could vote is if they had a website and they linked to another site... but the common user doesn't usually own a site and can't vote via linking...
I think Google is looking to other signals as well... I was just looking over a client report today showing that a few of their competitors had a presence in the social media space - only a few had Twitter and Facebook accounts linking to/from their site, and so forth. I knew that if this client could capture a percentage of this kind of social space, they may just increase their rankings in Google. This is because Google would recognize that the client site is social as well. Social means 'fresh' and often 'real'...it's often a good signal for engines to add to the ranking formula.
I also think that overall traffic to a site plays a role in ranking, so I'm always trying to come up with ideas for building as much steady traffic to a site as possible, by adding more content, widgets, link bait, trust bait, etc.
This is in an attempt to try to get as much traffic from any industry as possible, even if it's for phrases that don't convert, i.e., 'free widget tools', because I feel that the more traffic a site gets from the more sources it gets traffic from, the higher it's likely perform in Google.... but again, for today, the biggest ranking factor I see from my view is "links".
You had that first lucky call way back when a lady found you on AltaVista (ed.: now doesn't *that* bring back memories!). From there on you moved forward.
If all that played again *today* -- how would that look different? What would you need to do different?
In some sense, I think I got lucky. I got in at a great time, I worked my a** off, and was able to establish a name for myself.
If I had to start from scratch today...hum...I'd do the same things I did 11 years ago... I'd start local, and market locally.
While doing that, I'd work for years to become an expert in field. I'd then start to write about it and, hopefully, be able to contribute back with ideas or tools that people could use.
I'd try to get my name known and trusted, and I'd try to be a friend to everyone....I'd make mistakes, ya gotta, but I'd never give up...never... to get to the top...be it of Google search results, or life itself, you have to want to be the best at what you do....I wanted that more than anything, and along the way I got pretty good at SEO and links in particular.
You don't consider social media optimization a replacement to link building. How do you position it in our universe then? What function does social media and social networks have or can have?
I think social media can be great for traffic but right now but I think that for most industries, traffic from Google far outweighs traffic from social media for conversions...not all...but most industries.
"It takes hard work" is something we hear from people who've built their sites. But can one person working hard from home still make an (affiliate/ad) living or are those days over; has the Google game changed so much newcomers can only hope for crumbs of peanuts?
It is harder for affiliates in some industries.
The branding updates that Google put into place certainly affected many industries... Google has been making it harder for affiliates to succeed in other ways as well but, one person working hard from home can still make a great living.
I think when you try to be the best at anything including having the best site, the best information, the best resources, the best writing, the best tools, the best name, the best service, and so forth, that you can create great things, and by putting forth the proper effort, can make some great affiliate income.
If you have a thin affiliate site - a site with nothing special/unique on it, then you probably will not make any money.
Is working online the "way out" for people stuck in the recession? Why or how?
It can be....but again, I do feel that to get great traffic from Google, you have to be great, you have to be special and unique, you have to have a reason for why people would link to you.
However, if you're not ready to be the best in the world at what you do, then you're not ready to be in the top spaces of Google for phrases that are competitive.
You can be 'great' from home, working alone, or you can be 'great' working with a big company. It doesn't matter where you do it, it matters what you do.
What's the last Stephen King book you read? Which is your favorite?
Ha, man, it's been years to be honest! I'm much more into business books now....
Currently I'm reading the updated version of The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris.... Of course, I work more than 4 hours, but with the amount that I manage, this book is filled with great tips for getting things done.
Are your children living in a better world now then you did at their age?
I'm not sure to be honest... I know that as a kid I spent a lot of time playing in the forest and being very independent in my early life... kids nowadays can't be as independent as I was.
I think that independence helped me in becoming an entrepreneur. I think it's too early to tell if they're in a better world. Ask me in 20 years.
With all the changes thrown in -- computers, Internet, mobile, etc. -- has anything *really* changed compared to when you were a kid? Is this a different world, a different society -- or just a different time?
I think people are the same, but it's a different world and a different society now.
Some is good, some is evil.
Are you where you want to be and just keeping on -- or do you still need to go somewhere else?
I am where I want to be, but I like to go other places, and then come back to where I'm comfortable.
I always enjoyed traveling, and now I travel about 18 times a year...but I like to come back to my home and my office.
I'm very happy where I am, but I always like seeing what else there is.
Next time we talk, what do you hope to have changed or improved for yourself?
Well...I've done a lot this year...eating way healthier, lost 40 pounds, and a few other habits I've changed to make my body healthier.
I always want to improve my mind, and my interactions with others, and my role in life, and on Earth.
I just hope that I continue to grow in the directions that are important to me as a person, as a father, as a boss, as a business owner, as a friend, as a boyfriend, as a person who cares for the earth and everything on it.