You were an early adopter and got your website set up years ago.
Over the years, you’ve hired the occasional search engine optimization (SEO) specialist to help you improve your ranking, typically through building (questionable?) backlinks to your site. Maybe you didn’t even know how your ranking improved, but odds are good it did so because someone linked to your site from their site.
A comment left on a completely irrelevant blog here, a paid directory submission to a site that hasn’t been updated since 1986 there, maybe even a footer link on a site you wouldn’t want your grandmother to know about.
To this day, backlinks are still one of the most important aspects of SEO, but they are also something we’ve been moving away from for a while due to their likelihood of abuse. When one source gets abused and Google finds out, everyone who used that source gets penalized.
Article directories, second-rate business directories, sitewide links, link exchanges, and even guest blogging have all been penalized over the years. Now Google’s own Matt Cutts has this to say:
He’s not saying backlinks will go the way of the Baiji White Dolphin (it’s considered extinct) because a link from WhiteHouse.gov will always be valuable, but he is saying they will become less important.
When you started your site 10 years ago (if you did), it was super easy to get links. These days, the links you’re getting are in the forms of Facebook Like’s, Tweets, and +1’s because they’re easy for your visitors.
We’ve said it before, but a blog with regularly updated content is key to long term survival in the organic search results. Of course there are natural ways to build links to boost that, but you need to start at home.