If there’s one thing about automotive SEO vendors that really chaps my khakis, it’s when they spread the disinformation that inbound links are bad. They’re not. In fact, they can be very, very good for rankings. It’s important to know the difference between good links and bad links.

Here’s the backstory: the Google Penguin update of 2012 went after low-quality and/or automated links. This included footer links, sidebar links, links that were built in bulk, and really any links that were “build” for the intention of improving search rankings, period. As the wave of penalties and Webmaster Tool warnings started flooding in, many in the industry who were hurt by it started declaring that links were dead.

Those who were doing genuine link-earning by creating powerful content and promoting it to gain exposure and natural links didn’t see the same effects from Penguin. We moved up. In many cases, we moved way up, depending on how many competitors were in the area using the old-school link-building techniques.

Today, the vast majority of SEO companies in the automotive industry shy away from links altogether. The concept of earning inbound links is challenging because it’s not scalable for big companies and it’s not easy to implement for smaller companies. The result: an unfortunate employment of scare campaigns to make dealers believe that all links are bad. If they can’t build them, they don’t want dealers catching wind that there are those of us out there who have the ability to earn the types of inbound links that Google and Bing like.

There may be a time in the next decade when the search engines are able to position their algorithms to not include links, but it’s not going to happen any time soon. They need them. The outside indicators are required to help the search engines get an understanding of who should rank where based upon authority. The concept that content and technical SEO can solve all problems with rankings is absolutely asinine. Think about it – if telling the search engines what your site was about was enough to get you ranked at the top, wouldn’t more people be doing it? More importantly, wouldn’t SEO people be taking over the search engines with their own websites if all it took was text and relevancy?

Bad links are bad. They always were, but before the Penguin update, many got away with breaking the rules. Today, there are only a handful of companies employing it properly. If you think that your SEO provider is good at automotive SEO, do a search on Google for the term “Automotive SEO”. Depending on when you’re reading this, you should see a few companies at the top: my former company and my current company should be among them. It will take time to get my current website to rank better than the website I optimized for 7 years, but we’ll get there. In the meantime, we’ll have to settle for #2. That’s okay. Our focus is on our customers, not our own rankings. The only good part about it is that it shows we practice what we preach, even on our own websites.